As a cold brew enthusiast, I found it mandatory to cover what nitro coffee is. Hence, I wrote this guide.
I’ll cover the following areas:
Keep reading to learn more.
- Nitro cold brew is cold brew coffee infused with 40 psi of nitrogen gas.
- Invented in 2012.
- Doesn’t contain alcohol, but has a similar body to beer.
- Only differs from regular cold brew in texture & mouthfeel.
What Is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?
|Taste||Smooth, mellow, & creamy|
|Aroma||Sweet & creamy|
|Mouth feel||Creamy & foamy|
|Caffeine level||280 mg|
|Color||Rich, dark color with a warm golden hue|
Nitro cold brew coffee is cold brew coffee infused with 40 psi (pounds per square inch) of nitrogen gas. This gives the coffee a smooth, creamy texture and a cascading, foamy head, similar to draft beer. Nitro cold brew is typically served chilled, as ice would damage the foamy top.
It’s smoother and creamier and has a slightly sweeter flavor than regular cold brew. I’ll cover more differences later on.
For now, let’s see whether this drink has any variations.
Variations of Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro cold brew itself is a variation of regular cold brew. The only “variations” of this drink would include adding flavored syrups.
Though it doesn’t have variations, you might want to know how nitrogen will affect cold brew.
How Nitrogen Effects Coffee
Nitrogen can have a profound effect on coffee, particularly in the context of nitrogen-infused coffee, like nitro cold brew. Here’s an explanation of how nitrogen impacts coffee.
1. Texture & Mouthfeel:
Nitrogen, when infused into coffee, creates a creamy and velvety texture. A sensation similar to that of a well-poured stout beer.
2. Crema & Foam:
The introduction of nitrogen generates a thick and cascading head on the coffee. This foam contributes to the coffee’s appearance and adds to the overall sensory experience.
3. Flavor Enhancement:
Nitrogen can enhance the flavor of coffee by highlighting its natural sweetness. It can mellow out the acidity and bitterness, resulting in a smoother and more balanced taste profile.
4. Aroma Preservation:
Nitrogen helps preserve the aroma of the coffee. This is beneficial for cold brew and nitro coffee, where the extended brewing process might lead to the loss of aromatic compounds.
5. Longevity & Freshness:
Nitrogen can extend the shelf life of cold brew by up to 8 months. It helps maintain the coffee’s freshness and flavor for a more extended period.
6. Dispensing & Presentation:
Nitrogen gas is essential for creating the iconic cascading effect when dispensing nitro coffee from a tap. This unique presentation adds to the visual appeal of the coffee.
Folks will use nitrous oxide or nitrogen to make nitro cold brew. Keep reading to learn what the differences are.
N20 vs. N2 for Nitro Cold Brew
- Texture & Creaminess: It imparts a creamy & velvety texture to the coffee. It also creates the signature cascading effect & produces a thick, creamy head or crema.
- Enhanced Sweetness: Nitrogen enhances the natural sweetness of coffee & reduces perceived acidity & bitterness, resulting in a smoother & more balanced flavor profile.
- Longevity: N2 is stable & doesn’t dissolve significantly into the coffee, which helps maintain the coffee’s freshness for a longer time.
Nitrous Oxide (N2O):
- Carbonation Effect: It creates a fizzy quality in the coffee, making it resemble a carbonated soft drink.
- Different Texture: N2O imparts a different texture compared to nitrogen, with more of a sparkling or effervescent quality.
- Flavor Profile: Doesn’t enhance sweetness in the same way that nitrogen does.
- Foam: You’ll have more head with your foam.
The choice between N2 and N2O for nitro cold brew depends on the desired outcome and the preference of the coffee maker or coffee shop.
Nitrogen (N2) is the traditional and most common choice for creating the classic nitro cold brew experience with its creamy texture and enhanced sweetness. Nitrous oxide (N2O) can serve as an alternative for those looking to experiment with a carbonated or fizzy nitro coffee.
N2O cartridges will cost less and require 1 per use. N2 chargers will require 2 per use and cost double the price ($2 per use) than N2O. N2 chargers are also much harder to find than their counterpart.
Now that you know what canister you want, check out the different types of nitro cold brew makers.
Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Makers Compared
You have a couple options when it comes to cold brew makers:
- Canister-Style Nitro Cold Brew Maker: This hand-held device works best for making smaller amounts of drinks since it can hold a small amount of cold brew & not much gas.
- Key-Style Nitro Cold Brew Maker: Works better for making batches, but isn’t ideal for small refrigerators due to its bulky size.
Lower-end canister-style makers are more accessible to those without as much disposable income. However, I’ve seen some affordable keg brewers. Regardless of the device chosen, you’ll need to buy N2 or N2O chargers.
You have your charger and coffee maker. You’ll now want to learn how to make nitro cold brew.
How to Make Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro cold brew recipe & equipment:
- 1 cup extra coarse grind coffee
- ¼ cup coffee per 1 cup of concentrate
- 4 cups cold, filtered water
- A canister, nitro cold brew keg, or whipped cream dispenser
- x1 N20 (nitrous oxide) or x2 N2 (nitrogen) charges
- N2 charges will cost more, but produces less foam & a more creamy beverage.
- Make cold brew coffee by steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for 12–24 hours.
- Strain the cold brew coffee to remove the grounds.
- Pour the cold brew coffee into the canister or keg.
- Screw on the lid & charge the dispenser with N2 or N2O cartridge/s.
- Shake the dispenser vigorously for 30 seconds.
- Let the dispenser sit for 30 seconds to an hour to allow the bubbles to settle.
- Dispense the nitro cold brew into a glass.
What’re the differences between cold brew and nitro cold brew? Let’s learn.
Nitro Cold Brew vs. Cold Brew
|Cold Brew||Nitro Cold Brew|
|Caffeine (16 oz cup)||205 mg||280 mg|
|Taste||Smooth & mellow||Smooth, mellow, & creamy|
|Way it’s Made||Steeping in cold water for 12–24 hours||Cold brewing infused with nitrogen gas|
|Texture||Smooth & slightly syrupy||Creamy & foamy|
Cold brew and nitrogen-infused cold brew are similar in all areas except for taste and mouthfeel. The latter will have a more creamy and foamy taste. The former will taste a bit syrupy, yet smooth.
Ignore the differences between the caffeine content of both drinks. I pulled the amount of caffeine from these beverages from Starbucks’ website. The reason nitro cold brew has more caffeine is because there’s more cold brew in each cup.
Regular cold brew usually has ice, which means there’s less coffee.
Some speculate that nitrogen affects caffeine absorption, but that’s false.
The only other differences between these drinks are where you can get them and the cost per cup. Not many places serve nitro cold brew. Whereas, most chains will serve their gasless counterpart.
Nitro cold brew will cost more to make at home than its predecessor. That’s because you’ll need an additional device (keg or whipped dispenser) and nitrogen canister refills.
What if you don’t want to make it at home?
Where Can You Get Nitro Cold Brew
I’ve only seen nitro cold brew at Dutch Bros, some Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, and 7-Eleven stores in Asia. You may find this drink at niche cafés or coffee stands. However, these will vary by location.
Hopefully, as this drink gains more popularity, more chains will sell it. But for now, you’ll need to settle for ordering regular cold brew from most coffee shops.
The same doesn’t apply to store-bought nitro cold brew, though.
Nitro Cold Brew Store Brands
Here are all the store-bought brands you’ll find that sell nitro cold brew:
|Starbucks||Ferris||Great Lakes||Seattle Strong|
|High Brew||Lavazza||La Colombe||Rise|
|Sail Away||Drive Coffee||Stumptown|
Availability of all these drinks will vary. Most websites should have these brands available. And if not there, try e-commerce giants like Amazon. I’ve mostly seen brands like Starbucks and La Colombe at grocery stores like Walmart.
Are these nitro cold brew drinks good for you, though?
Health Benefits of Nitro Cold Brew
Here are some potential health benefits of nitro cold brew:
- Lower Acidity: Gentler on the stomach, making it a more suitable choice for individuals with acid reflux or sensitive stomachs.
- Reduced Bitterness: The extended brewing process of cold brew coffee can result in a smoother & less bitter taste.
- Contains antioxidants: These help combat oxidative stress in the body & may contribute to overall health.
- Potential Cognitive Benefits: Caffeine can enhance alertness, concentration, & cognitive function.
- Enhanced Mood: Some folks experience improved mood & a sense of well-being after consuming coffee.
The added nitrogen doesn’t add more health benefits. Thus, this drink shares similar health benefits to regular cold brew and hot-brewed coffee.
Let’s see whether it’s not great for your health.
Is Nitro Cold Brew Bad for You? Potential Health Risks
Nitro cold brew contains caffeine, and excessive caffeine consumption can lead to negative effects, such as increased heart rate, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. It’s essential to be mindful of your caffeine intake and ensure it aligns with your personal tolerance.
Most institutions recommend consuming a maximum of 400 mg of caffeine daily . The maximum recommended intake may vary by individual, though. For instance, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, you could handle much less of it.
Where did nitro cold brew even come from? Keep reading to learn more.
History of Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitro cold brew coffee was created in 2012 by baristas at Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas . It quickly gained popularity and is now available at many coffee shops and grocery stores.
From there, Starbucks introduced the beverage to 500 of their stores in 2016. And when 2020 came around, Starbucks offered it at over half of their locations in the United States.
It doesn’t have that much of a history, but it has been growing over the years.
Keep reading to find commonly asked questions about nitro cold brew.
FAQs for Nitro Cold Brew
Keep reading to find frequently asked questions about nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee.
What Gas Is Used for Nitro Coffee?
The gas commonly used for nitro coffee is nitrogen (N2). Nitrogen is responsible for creating the creamy texture and frothy head in nitro coffee when dispensed from a tap or added to the coffee.
Does Nitro Cold Brew Have Alcohol?
No, nitro cold brew coffee does not contain alcohol.
Nitro cold brew coffee is cold brew that’s infused with 40 psi of N2 or N2O gas. The gas infusion gives the coffee a smoother taste and can make your cold brew last for months in storage instead of weeks.
Learn more about different types of coffee-based drinks by exploring a huge guide we wrote.