The first time I had a cup of nitro cold brew coffee, I was amazed. How could coffee have the same foam and creaminess as my favorite pint of beer? I almost couldn't believe the barista when she said the drink was non-alcoholic.
Is there alcohol in nitro cold brew coffee? No, nitro cold brew coffee does not contain any alcohol. However, both nitro coffee and beer are infused with nitrogen gas. This gives the drinks a creamy flavor that goes well with the dark notes of coffee and the bitter notes of strong beer.
The same nitrogen gas that's responsible for the creamy froth on your beer is also used to create the delicious foam on a glass of nitro cold brew. Once you know how the process works, you'll be as hooked on nitro cold brew as I am.
How Nitrogen Infusion Works
Nitro cold brew gets its name and taste from the nitrogen gas that's used during the brewing process. Nitrogen is also used to make some kinds of beers, which is why many people think that nitro cold brew tastes like alcohol.
Infusing beverages with bubbly gasses is nothing new. If you've ever poured yourself a drink from a soda machine, you've already seen this delicious process in action.
Whether you use a whipped cream dispenser or a dedicated nitrogen keg, the infusion process works almost exactly the same way. When the button is pressed, liquid and nitrogen gas are released through the same tap or spout.
As gas is flooded with liquid, it gets trapped as tiny bubbles. This is very similar to blowing bubbles of air into a tub full of water; the gas is trapped by the liquid around it.
Gas and liquid have very different weights, so the nitrogen immediately starts to rise to the surface. This creates the cascading effect that nitro cold brew is known for.
Why People Love Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
People love nitro cold brew because of its unique taste and texture. However, there are are a few distinct reasons this drink is so popular.
Nitrogen is popular in both coffee and beer because it has a smooth, sweet, and creamy taste. Expect a cup of nitro cold brew to be gentle on the tongue and extremely easy to drink in large quantities.
Cold brew coffee has less acid than coffee brewed by traditional methods. Acidity is an important part of the coffee flavor complex, but too much can result in a sour or bitter drink. Instead, cold brew tends to have a sweet and subtle flavor.
Nitro cold brew coffee is usually served black. This is because the nitrogen adds sweetness and creaminess without needing milk or sugar. Many coffee drinkers prefer nitro cold brew as a low-calorie alternative to iced coffees or lattes.
Cold brew coffee is usually made stronger than normal coffee. Although brewing methods vary, most cold brew coffee usually has more caffeine per cup. Some people love that they can get their caffeine fix while drinking less coffee throughout the day.
How to Make Nitro Cold Brew at Home
The best nitro cold brew coffee is consumed immediately after it's made. This means that if you want to truly experience the nitro cold brew taste, you might want to make it at home. Luckily, the process is easy and only requires one new piece of coffee making equipment.
The Best Beans for Nitro Coffee
Although you can use any type of beans for cold brew coffee, most people tend to prefer a dark roast. This is because the cold brewing process doesn't pull as much flavor as an espresso maker or a drip coffee machine.
Dark roasts tend to have strong flavors that go extremely well with the nitrogen infusion. Look for chocolaty and earthy tones that remind you of beer.
Light roasts can also be delicious in cold brew coffee, but they might take longer to prepare. Keep an eye on how long your coffee is brewing, and check the flavor to see if it needs more time.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee
Cold brew coffee is actually very similar to iced tea. Instead of running hot water over the beans, you'll be steeping the beans in cold water for several hours. This will pull out the best flavor notes while leaving most of the acidity behind.
There are plenty of cold brew coffee makers (see Amazon) on the market that will help you get a perfect drink. However, you can also make cold brew coffee with nothing more than a glass container and a cheesecloth.
- Grind your beans. A coarse grind will be much easier to strain, but fine grinds will give you more flavor.
- Pour the ground beans into the jar. Coat the bottom of your container evenly with coffee grounds.
- Pour cold water over your grounds. Fill the jar up completely. Pour slowly to avoid disturbing the coffee too much.
- Let sit for 18-24 hours. Making cold brew takes time. The longer your coffee sits, the stronger it will taste.
- Strain slowly through a cheesecloth. Your goal is to separate the flavors while leaving the grounds behind.
- Cover and store for up to 2 weeks. My cold brew never lasts for more than a few days. If you let it sit for more than a week, the flavor will slowly start to change for the worse.
The amount of coffee you need to use depends on the size of your container and the desired strength of your final brew. In general, use more coffee than you think you need; you want your cold brew to be as strong as possible.
Infusing Your Coffee with Nitrogen
Nitro cold brew coffee is infused with nitrogen in much the same way that soda is infused with carbon. In order to get that bubbly effect, you'll need to purchase some kind of nitrogenating device. Most coffee fans use one of three different options.
- Whipped cream dispenser: Nitrogenating whipped cream dispensers (see Amazon) are surprisingly accessible and perfect for a few rounds of cold-brew coffee. You can buy nitrogen refills online or from a local grocery retailer.
- Nitro keg system: Any nitrogenating keg system intended for beer should also work for nitro cold brew coffee. Think about the size of the system compared to how much coffee you want to make at one time. You can have a look at Royal Brew Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker Home Keg Kit System on Amazon
- Nitro cold brew machine: The rising popularity of cold brew coffee has filled the market with taps designed specifically for nitro cold brew. If you can find one, these machines are the easiest to use and will give you the bubbliest results.
Once you have the machine, adding nitrogen to your brew is simple. Fill the main chamber with coffee, load the nitrogen charger, and pour the brew from the tap. Your coffee should now be full of delicious nitrogen bubbles and foam.
Pouring Nitro Cold Brew
From lattes to beers, the secret to an amazing head of foam is all in the pouring technique. With enough practice, your nitro coffee will look like it belongs in a commercial.
First, choose your glass. The ideal glass for nitro cold brew should be tall and slim with a wide mouth. Try pilsner glasses, pint glasses, or tumblers. If you don't have any of these, don't worry – nitro coffee tastes great out of any container.
Place your glass directly under the cold brew tap. Pull the lever down so that the tap is completely open. This will fill your glass while generating as little foam as possible. You may want to experiment with holding your glass flat or at a 45-degree angle to avoid popping the bubbles.
Once the glass is about two-thirds full, slowly start closing the tap. This will release foamier brew and give your drink a nice, fluffy head.
As soon as you're done pouring, take a look at the coffee. You should see the nitrogen bubbles start to cascade through the liquid, creating a stunning visual effect. Enjoy your beverage quickly while the bubbles are still active and the flavor is at its peak.
Flavoring Nitro Cold Brew
Nitro cold brew coffee is known for having a naturally sweet and creamy taste. This means that you probably don't need to add milk and sugar to your coffee. But if you're like me, you don't always want black coffee – and that means you need mix-ins.
The problem with adding cream to nitro cold brew is that stirring will pop the nitrogen bubbles and change the taste of your drink. You wouldn't stir a beer, so you shouldn't stir nitro coffee.
Instead, add your sugar and milk to the cup before you pour the coffee in. The two liquids will mix together on their own while leaving the nitrogen bubbles intact.
Coffee syrups also taste amazing in nitro cold brew. Add a few pumps of syrup to the bottom of your glass, then pour the brew on top. If you like, you can top your foam with a pinch of cinnamon or a light drizzle of caramel sauce.
Can you store nitro cold brew for later?
You can't store nitro cold brew after it's been infused. The bubbles immediately start to evaporate, and after about half an hour, you'll be left with normal cold brew coffee again.
Do you need special equipment to make nitro cold brew?
Nitro cold brew can only be made with a nitrogen infuser. These infusers are often included on beer kegs, but you can also use a whipped cream dispenser.