Nitro Coffee is the foamy caffeinated result of Nitrogen and a keg of coffee. And in the last year, nitro coffee has gained popularity in the world of coffee drinkers.
It’s nothing like Iced coffee, which is usually coffee brewed in a hot and tub and subsequently cooled and served over ice. It’s fizzy. Gaseous. Tongue tingling.
And the smooth creamy taste and fizzy beer-esque look make it a completely new coffee experience.
Brewing The Beans
Todd Christy of Chilmark Coffee Company has the scoop on how this caffeinated bubbly is brewed. “Nitro cold-brew is really a fun delivery system for cold-brew. We steep our cold brew and then keg it like soda or beer. We push that liquid with nitrogen in place of beer gas or CO2, as those can add a flavor that is undesirable to the cold-brew. We use a stout tap to add more diffusion and micro bubbles, so the coffee pours like a stout beer and has a sweet flavor!
“It’s a really fun way to have cold-brew, and it’s been a huge success for us. We plan on a nitro system in every town by next summer!” So while this summer may be winding down, we already have a reason to look forward to the next one.
Who Came First, Though?
According to Mike McKim, founder of Austin’s specialty roaster Cuvée Coffee, “as far as I can tell, we were the first to serve nitro coffee on tap, at the Slow Foods Quiz Bowl, here in Austin on August 12, 2012.” But McKim didn’t stop there. Cuvée went on to debut a nitro coffee in a ready-to-drink could format.
“We absolutely were the first in the world to launch nitro coffee in a ready-to-drink can,” states McKim. “Our nitro cans hit the shelves November of 2014 and the other guys launched theirs April of this year.”
While Cuvée was likely the first, in the three years since they launched the brew, others have entered the nitro ring. This past April, Portland, Oregon roaster Stumptown rolled out its own nitro cans inspired by the success of its nitro, which hit taps in select cafes two years ago.
Cuvée’s 71 Classic blend goes into their nitro taps and nitro cans, and McKim says that he went with a nitrogen-infused coffee because “Mouth feel, and visual appeal. The coffee tastes creamy, and let’s face it; the cascade just looks badass.”
Bubbly Caffeine Serves
Like regular coffee, the way people choose to drink nitro is personal. But McKim prefers the drink over ice, while others like it straight up. “At the shop we offer a drink with the dairy/non-dairy of your choice and vanilla or simple syrup, to satisfy the sweet tooth,” he continues.
According to Stumptown rep Diane Aylsworth, “things on tap are really a hot trend, now you’re seeing wine, cold brew coffee, kombucha, sparkling tea—all on draft. In addition, nitro coffee “is a great gateway for those who think they want/need cream in their coffee to drink black coffee. The texture and what that does to the flavor is really appealing to many people’s palates. Plus it looks really cool,” she continues.
While nitrogen-infused coffee is a novelty in itself, it’s not novel enough for some, like Manhattan’s pop-up coffee shop Mighty Brew Bros. Proprietor Josh Kim offers up a drink called the Nitro Pop, basically a glass of nitro coffee with a coffee popsicle garnish, and also a Nitro Float with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
“At Mighty Brew Bros, we aim to surprise and delight our customers by reimagining familiar drinks,” explains Kim. “Since nitro is still a relatively new concept for most people, it was an easy decision to take the ubiquitous cold brew and add the nitro twist that makes it special. Not only is it visually intriguing, but it also gives the cold brew a rich, creamy texture and natural sweetness without the need to add milk and sugar.”
Out in the East Bay area of San Francisco, Highwire Coffee Roasters’ nitro-infused cold brewed Howling Wolf has been appearing in both cafes and bars. Brand Ambassador Tony Serrano questions, “Why not? It’s just a matter of time before coffee geeks try a different preparation of craft coffee. Or, just a matter of time before old preparation approaches are utilized and trending again; soda fountains used to have a myriad of house-made beverages on tap and with different gasses or conditioned service styles.”
Serrano explains that Howling Wolf is brewed specifically to emulate the flavor profile of a Stout beer, with notes of chocolate, barley, malts, and a hint of orange peel for brightness. He says that he drinks it black, but that the nitro coffee is flexible: “How about some of our amazing ganache on the bottom, draft the Wolf on top, splash a touch of cream, and enjoy the taste of an old fashioned chocolate soda. The sky is the limit.”
In Serrano’s opinion, the nitro frenzy is another stop on the long road of coffee experimentation. In which case, we can’t wait to experience the rest of our journey!