Foamy, creamy, silky, soft. No, we are not talking about a body lotion or Guinness beer, but about a coffee trend - Nitro Coffee. This is not a special roast or a new coffee brewing method, but cold brew coffee mixed with nitrogen, a colorless, odorless gas.
Nitro coffee is based on cold brew, which is charged with nitrogen. This changes the mouthfeel as well as the taste of the coffee and without any further additives gives cold pure black coffee a completely different appearance. Nitro is often served in a beer glass.
Nitro cold brew coffee is made by placing the previously extracted cold brew in a pressure-resistant container and adding nitrogen. With the help of a hose we let in the gas under high pressure. If you now draw the resulting mixture through a tap, similar to a beer tap, you will obtain a very delicate, creamy drink with a foam crown, the nitro coffee. Similar to Guinness, narrow stout beer faucets are used to achieve the desired rich creamy body.
The nitrogen infusion makes the coffee very creamy and soft on the tongue. Well chilled it is incredibly refreshing and tastes slightly tart and sweet on the finish. Although the detailed nuances of the nitros naturally depend on the specific beans, all nitrogen-based coffees have one thing in common. They taste mild, sweet and creamy like coffee with milk, and are at the same time cool and tangy. This can be explained by the solubility of nitrogen in coffee and its interaction with the taste buds.
The full-bodied texture results from the fact that nitrogen is poorly soluble in water, resulting in many small gas beads. The bubbling starts immediately and develops the durable foam. The sweetness of the coffee is in a way a delicious illusion. The nitrogen beads interact with the taste buds on the tip of the tongue and we perceive a sweet taste.
On hot summer days it is an ideal refreshment and its voluminous consistency is reminding of an Irish Guinness beer, but much more fruity, without alcohol and less bitter.
Nitro Coffee was discovered in 2015 in Portland, USA, and from there it quickly spread around the globe. The refreshing drink is now enjoying great popularity also among smaller and smaller roasteries and cafés around the world. By using their own coffees, they give every nitro coffee a personal flavor.
The quality of the beans is important for the cold brew and thus also for the Nitro coffee. A bad or too dark roasted bean tastes good with this pure product. Because possible weaknesses of the coffee are not concealed later by sugar, flavored syrup or milk. Nitro coffee is plain, black and pure. This explains the comparatively high price per cup. In addition, relatively many beans are needed for each cold brew. About 5.6 oz (160 g) of coffee beans per 1 quart (1L) of water is necessary. Especially with high-quality beans, this determines the price of the end product.
Authentically, nitro coffee comes out of the tap in the same style as beer, and if you have your own tap, you can try it out right away.
The first alternative could be a nitro coffee maker, which has similarities with a professional system. Small nitro coffee makers comprise a mini 64oz beer keg, a stainless steel spear, a stout faucet and tap handle. One of these can charge your cold brew with nitrogen and make it feel like you're standing behind the counter at one of the Portland coffee shops. Instead of nitrogen gas (N2), used in the coffee shops or when serving stout beer, nitro coffee makers of this design use a compound of nitrogen and oxygen — nitrous oxide (N2O). With the price of around $140-200 nitro coffee makers are not the cheapest option, but if you are really into nitro coffee, you may want to try this out.
Common mistake people make when using mini nitro coffee makers or whipped cream dispensers for nitro - they don't shake it. Shake it after charging and before serving for about 30-60 secs to achieve good results. Second tip - make sure there is enough gas inside. This means you should use one charge per batch or 16 oz per quart (1L).
Second option, which is less cost-intensive, is to use whipped cream dispenser or a cream siphon. These foam cream using N2O and use same charges as the mini keg option above. Although they have been invented for a different purpose, we can also fill them with cold brew coffee, which turns into creamy nitro coffee thanks to the nitrogen. You can get one for as low as $50 and start making your nitro coffee at home. If you decide to go the professional way and be able to use pure nitrogen with a creamer-like device — go with Nitro Press. It has been designed to make nitro beverages on pro level and has a special nitro nozzle to produce delicious nitro-enriched creations. Nitro Press can work with N2, N2O and CO2 charges. The price is $170, which is fair for a barista grade tool.
Liquid nitrogen (N2) is not toxic. The air we breathe contains about 78% of nitrogen. At the other hand, N2 has very low temperature and could burn your skin if not used with care. Besides that, we shouldn't forget that N2 is a gas, so when working with N2 or N2O charges - take care, remember about high pressure.
Unlike classic iced coffee or cold brew, Nitro Coffee is consumed black. In addition, nitro coffee does not require any other ingredients. It is served as it flows from the tap. Neither sugar nor milk goes into the glass.
As cold brew concentrate is usually used as a base for nitro coffee the drink may have higher levels of caffeine compared to regular coffee and other coffee drinks. If it's based on ready to drink cold brew or dissolved cold brew concentrate - the caffeine level may be the same as regular coffee. So, everything depends on a specific recipe.