Nitro coffee is a trend that caught on really fast and has been popular with coffee aficionados ever since. But did you ever wonder what this drink really is and how this magic potion comes to reality?
To put it simply: Nitro coffee is a cold brew mixed with nitrogen gas. Since the gas itself is colorless and odorless, you can’t feel the presence of gas in the brew.
The idea of putting gas in morning coffee might sound weird, but think about it; we’ve been doing that for a while now. All the “carbonated” beverages are just standard drinks infused with carbon dioxide. The gas is what gives a soda pop the fizzy, bubbly character.
Nitrogen gas is commonly used in some beers, calling it “nitrogenated” instead of “carbonated.”
Like the beer in question, nitro coffee is also available only “on tap” since holding onto it for too long makes the brew lose the gas. The rarity makes it a specialty coffee.
The nitro-infused cold brew gets released through a pressurized valve full of tiny holes, which creates a creamy effect on top of the brew.
Nitro brews are drinks with low acidity and high smoothness. But the unique mouthfeel of the nitrogen in the coffee separates it from a cold brew.
This extra taste is because of the characteristics of nitrogen gas. It doesn’t dissolve in the coffee as well as carbon dioxide does in soda drinks. Nitrogen gas creates a much smaller size of bubbles on the drink that affects the smooth texture of the coffee but not the taste.
Due to the already existing creaminess of the nitrogen, most nitro-coffee fans drink the coffee straight-up black or sometimes by pouring it over ice. But if you’re someone with a sweet tooth, you can amp up the sweetness with vanilla syrups or sweet creams, creating your personal flavor combinations.
The journey for nitrogen-infused coffee started back in the early 2010s through third-wave coffee shops, but there’s a lot of debate about where it really started.
Esquire credits the draft coffee at The Queens Kickshaw, New York, in 2011. Men’s journal states that the coffee originated back in 2013 at Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas, and Stumptown in Portland, Oregon.
Cuvee Coffee first offered nitro brew back on August 14, 2011. After that, they got cited as the first company to put cold brew in a can by The Ball Corporation and awarded BevNet for “Best Packaging Innovation.”
Cuvee was offering their canned beverages with a nitrogen disc. It’s a hollow piece of plastic compressed with nitrogen that pressurizes the can.
Starbucks introduced nitro coffee in their menu back in 2016, and it’s been a staple item on the menu ever since.
Some wholesalers offer nitro cold brew as well. The best example is Rise Brewing Co., which claims they can fill up to 1500 kegs a day.
Though high in popularity, the dispensing system of the drink is what makes consumption difficult. But despite all the odds, Dunkin Donuts, Tim Hortons, and Starbucks offer nitro brew for mainstream consumers.
Don’t feel like going out to grab a cup of this goodness? You can buy at-home nitrogen infusers too! So you can get a mini-keg or a whipped cream nitrogen canister for your daily needs.
Since cold brew is the core component of nitro coffee, brewing a fine batch of cold coffee can take up to 24 hours in itself.
Once the coffee grounds are steeped in cold water properly, the coffee gets put in a bottle or a keg at room temperature.
The cold brew is charged with nitrogen while pouring to create a creamy foam topping like beers. It’s generally served with ice afterward, so the foamy top doesn’t get damaged.
Nitro brew coffee is less acidic than regular hot brew coffee or cold brew, but there is a higher activity of antioxidants than cold brew.
Though low in acid, Nitro cold brew is pretty high in caffeine count, containing 280 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce cup, whereas regular coffee has around 182 mg of caffeine in the same amount.
The reason for the higher caffeine amount in the nitro cold brew is the recipe for the cold brew itself. Cold brew recipes are modified to compensate for lower temperatures to put out a higher bean to coffee ratio.
Is Nitro Coffee (Nitrogen Infused) Safe to Drink?
And now for the detailed answer.
For hundreds of years, nitrogen gas has been used in several beverages, like beers. Nitrogen is a safe alternative to carbon dioxide since it’s safe to drink.
Nitrogen gas works better than carbon dioxide in drinks in most cases. It gives the beverage a creamy, smooth feeling; it also enhances the natural sweetness of the brew.
Similar to carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas also creates bubbles in the drink. As we mentioned earlier, the smaller nitrogen bubbles enhance the drink in terms of the flavor profile.
Plus, it looks great aesthetically in a glass, which adds visual appeal to the overall experience.
And now we discuss an important drawback of nitro coffee, which is the price tag.
Even if you grab a nitro coffee on tap at the local coffee shop, it can cost you around $5 or even more. Even gas stations are stocking up on nitro brews to attract more customers, and it costs around the same.
Though readymade nitro black coffee is available in shops, the high production cost drives the prices up, starting from $38. But even then, you can’t have the most of it since canned coffee lacks the quality that freshly made nitro coffee contains.
Hey, Why not check our piece on how to save money on coffee. It will be useful for you.
Is Nitro Coffee (Nitrogen Infused) Better For You?
Though the idea of infusing a gas with your coffee can sound weird and a bit unhealthy, nitrogen coffee has the surprising title of a healthy coffee alternative.
Reasons why nitro-brew coffee is healthier and better than regular coffee:
- Lower Calorie Count
- No Need For Extra Sugar
- Great Alternative For Lactose Intolerant Coffee Drinkers
- Low Acidity Count
- Caffeine Count Can Be Reduced
- Even Gyms Promote Nitro Brew
But if you’re looking for a sweet brew while constantly watching your calorie count, you can count on a nitro brew. Since you don’t need any form of additives, it doesn’t add to the calorie count of the brew itself.
Nitrogen amps up the coffee it’s mixed in, making it sweeter with a creamy texture without the need for any form of additives.
If you are sensitive to caffeine, nitro brew may not be the thing for you. But you can use nitro coffee to cut back on caffeine.
The recipe for cold brew requires the coffee beans to be steeped for a longer time. While it extracts more caffeine, it also takes more acid out of the coffee. If you’re a coffee lover with digestive issues and low acid reflux, this can help you.
You can brew a cold brew that is steeped for a minimum required time, that is, 12 hours, which can reduce the overall caffeine content present in your cup of coffee. However, the regular nitro cold brew method requires the coffee to be steeped for 24 hours, where the high caffeine count comes from.
Anyone before and during a workout session needs an energy boost, and that’s where nitro brew comes in. Gyms consider it a healthier, alternative source than regular coffee for its low-calorie properties.
Many high-end gyms even offer instant, on-tap nitro brew for the coffee enthusiast gym-goers.
Despite its fair share of disadvantages, the health benefits and the overall appeal make it better than regular coffee in more than one aspect. So it’s not surprising that many are trying to replicate this fine coffee beverage at home.
Yes, you can make nitro brew at home! But, you need the proper setup to achieve the best results.
Coffee shops have fancy, commercial-grade infusing equipment that can deliver a nitro brew on demand any time of the day. However, you can achieve a smaller output scale by using a kettle system. I say small scale since it infuses one cup at a time.
Keep in mind that the cost will be even higher since you always need to keep supply at hand if you want to get the freshest brew, and the air compressor required to infuse the coffee can cost you a pretty penny.
Though high in cost, fewer consumable nitrogen cartridges make the process more environmentally friendly.
There are several reasons why nitro coffee gets confused as an alcohol-based drink, which it’s not. Here are the main ones:
- Since the coffee is infused with a gas that is regularly associated with beers, many believe that nitro coffee is an alcoholic drink.
- Both Nitro brew and beers feel highly similar in terms of the mouthfeel and the textures.
- Some beers get infused with coffee, which technically makes some beers a form of caffeinated beverage.
- Like beers, nitro coffee is also served straight from the tap to ensure maximum freshness and effectiveness.
Had fun reading? You’ll love to read our piece on everything about white coffee.
Unconventional yet highly effective is how you can summarize nitro coffee. This coffee’s properties and aesthetics have stapled its position on the hype charts at a higher rank, and you can be sure it isn’t going away from the coffee industry anytime soon.
If you’re planning to brew nitro coffee at home, we hope you have a fun experience.
Nitro cold brew tastes like regular coffee with extra creaminess and a sweeter flavor.
Though debatable, the trend of nitro brew first started back in 2011.
A single cup of nitro cold brew contains 280 mg of caffeine.
If you’re trying to get started with a basic home setup, you need a nitrogen tank to supply the nitro, a nitrogen regulator, a keg, a beer shank, and a stout faucet.
Nitrogen coffee is absolutely safe to consume.