It’s a caffeine craze you may have heard whispers of in the last few years but are still unlikely to have ever actually seen with your very own eyes.
When it has been mentioned, you’ve probably even smirked to yourself, given it’s somewhat ludicrously cartoonish name.
It sounds like a beverage that’s been plucked from right out of a children’s sci-fi movie, it’s advertisements plaguing every spare billboard in a Times Square-esque metropolis.
But far from a fictitious brew of the future, ‘nitro coffee’ is in fact now officially a cult summer beverage, which could come to rival beer in the coming years should java hipsters have their way.
If most coffee shops decide to embrace the technology needed to make it… it may even become a year-long mainstay.
But what exactly is it?
To give it its full name, Nitro Cold Brew Coffee (NCB) is in essence a normal cold brew coffee, except rather than leaving it there, it has then been infused with nitrogen gas.
Hence the nitro.
But why anyone would want to pump their coffee full of an odourless, colourless gas we hear you ask?
Well, as it turns out, the human race actually loves a nitro-powered bevvie and a lot of you will have already unknowingly sampled the many beers which use nitrogen to thicken texture and smooth out taste.
The most famous of these is Guinness, who’s unmistakable creamy, bubbly head is completely down to the fact the stout is nitrogenated.
Ever since the emergence of cold brews, it was only a matter of time before we started putting them through every cold drinks process known to man and we’re probably just months away from some form of coffee soda.
However for now, it’s Nitro Cold Brew which has undeniably caught the imagination of the coffee crowd and we for one are excited to see how it’s popularity progresses.
How Nitro Coffee Is Made
Similar to beer, Nitro Coffee tends to only be served at it’s best when ‘on tap’ with many coffee shops purchasing kegs of cold brew to then filter through their draft systems. (If they have one!)
When the nitro-infused brew is pushed through the pressurised valves and miniscule holes, it results in a frothy and creamy effect which even creates a sweet foam head which you would more commonly see on stouts.
This gives it a silkier and smoother mouthfeel, which when combined with cold brew’s already sweeter, less acidic coffee flavour, makes for a fantastically finessed and refreshing drink.
The reason this happens is because nitrogen does not easily dissolve when placed in liquids, and so when pushed through a draft system, the gas sits in hundreds of thousands of bubbles which naturally affects the texture.
When you compare this to our more commonly gas-infused carbonated drinks, it’s a completely different reaction, as carbon dioxide begins dissolving in liquids almost straight away, with bubbles rising and escaping from a concoction until it goes flat.
Another part of NCB’s appeal is that not only does this nitrogen reaction add texture but it also creates a uniquely tantalising appearance that could quench the thirst of even the most hydrated individual.
As the bubbles do not easily evaporate, they remain within the thick dark liquid, creating cascading cloud-like patterns which can be manipulated and enhanced with a mere stir.
This makes it the perfect order for the day dreaming coffee drinker who enjoys getting lost in the swirls at the bottom of their cup!
Nitro Coffee Benefits: Is It Better Than Normal Coffee?
If you’re a bit of a cynic at heart, you’re probably already wondering what exactly the real point of making coffee look and feel more like beer is.
But aside from being a funky new way to sample a cup of joe, there are plenty of qualities to Nitro which could make it a more enjoyable way to get your caffeine fix than regular piping hot brew.
Some have even gone as far to suggest it’s superior to normal coffee and when you look at what it has to offer… it’s difficult to disagree.
Great Taste For A Smaller Waist
Most nitro brew is served black, on it’s own or with ice and it’s rare you would ever have to add sugar, cream or milk to enhance the taste.
This is because nitro coffee is naturally sweeter and creamier than normal brew and so there really isn’t any need to add any of these common waistline affecting additives.
It’s also meant to have an enhanced natural coffee flavour and a stronger, more appetising aromatic appeal.
As a result, coffee cravers looking to lose weight could avoid the wealth of empty calories that come with sweetening up your coffee by switching to nitro, as it’s unlikely they’d be disappointed by it’s more naturally creamy tones.
For sufferers of common gastrointestinal issues such as GERD, heartburn and indigestion, a severe love of coffee is unfortunately more of a curse than a pleasurable indulgence.
This is due to the fact that when coffee is brewed at incredibly high temperatures, natural acids found in coffee grounds are released, giving your java a high acidity level and potentially causing irritation and digestive issues for sensitive stomachs.
However, as nitro coffee is a form of cold brew, it never reaches those higher temperatures in it’s brewing process. That means there is no catalyst in place to cause the chemical reaction needed to release those unwanted acid compounds and as a result cold brews never take on those acidic properties.
In turn, this is also a key reason why cold brew is sweeter in taste, as the bitterness that these acids can cause never comes to pass either.
Therefore, it’s truly a tastier and more comfortable java option for those who usually have adverse stomach reactions.
More Supreme Caffeine
Let’s be honest, for some of us, a daily dose of coffee is more about getting those cogs whirring as opposed to an enjoyable early morning beverage.
In this sense, caffeine is queen and so it doesn’t really matter to you how your coffee tastes as long as it’s a healthy serving packed with enough stimulants to see you through to 5 o’ clock.
However, caffeine content is yet another category in which nitro brews excel over regular coffee, offering a great tasting vibe with often nearly as much as twice the caffeine content!
This is because nitro brews utilise a higher coffee grounds to water ratio, as there’s no longer any need to dilute down that offensively strong bitter coffee taste.
So if you’re looking to get seriously amped up, nitro coffee certainly lives up to its power-boost style name.
Admittedly, this is not a bonus for everyone if you’re not good at knowing your caffeine limit.
Plenty of us have suffered at the hand of one coffee too many and horrible side effects such as anxiety, irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure can occur with frequent ‘overdosing’.
How much caffeine you’ve had is obviously more difficult to track when you’re guzzling down nitro and so sticking to one or two a day is probably more than enough.
But of course, we shouldn’t forget about the positive aspects of caffeine in moderation either, with reduced risk of diabetes and increased metabolism being just some of the health benefits it’s associated with.
Where Can I Buy Nitro Coffee?
So you’ve read the pitch and now you’re sold, nitro coffee is the best thing since sliced bread.
Now where can I get some?
Well, for the authentic ‘on tap’ experience, you’ll need to find yourself a local coffee shop which has a working draft system and offers the service.
Even if you don’t live in the most adventurous or hip and swinging area in the UK, it’s becoming such a popular form of java that it’s likely there’s at least one nitro brewer in your vicinity which will allow you to sample the seductive appeal of a NCB.
It’s worth noting though that getting into the habit of ordering a freshly pulled pint of nitro coffee everyday isn’t the best of habits to get into, as it’s a fairly expensive lifestyle choice.
Even regular cold brew is more expensive than normal coffee as the time taken for the grounds to successfully steep in water plus the need for a higher coffee to water ratio means it’s a time consuming and costly process.
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that infusing this with nitrogen only complicates the brewing process and so it’s price in coffee shops reflects this hassle.
However, incredible advances in science have meant many coffee companies have been able to bring the rare delights of the nitro brew to a wider audience.
If you’re desperate to sample it’s flavour, canned nitro coffee can now be found at many supermarkets or available to order online and amazingly manages to retain that smooth, creamy texture in a can – for a much lower price.
But as any lager lout will tell you, a can of beer is never as good as a pulled pint from the pub, and the same sentiment applies here.
Not only will a canned brew be unable to replicate the unique visual aesthetic, but it’s likely to also affect that silky mouthfeel too.
Can I Make My Own Nitro Coffee?
If you think you might fancy nitro brew but are just simply unable to find anywhere that sells it, you might have considered gathering up the necessary tools to create your very own.
Many DIY coffee experts suggest purchasing a whipped cream dispenser, the kind which relies on nitrous oxide charges to power it and act as a whipping agent.
But of course, you wouldn’t be putting cream in them… you’d be putting your cold brew in.
The idea here is that by using the whipped cream dispenser, you can create a similar homemade effect to that of a pub draft system, with the dispenser effectively infusing nitrogen with your brew.
So if you’re already something of a dab hand at rustling up cold brew concentrate, updating your recipe to a nitro edition can be an interesting experiment.
Unfortunately though, it doesn’t really work that well.
For a start, nitrous oxide is not the same as nitrogen and in more common circles is known as ‘laughing gas’.
As you can imagine, this creates the potential for some side effects after drinking.
Whipping dispensers in general also don’t really create the same effect as a stout faucet, which is the key to creating a smooth head and perfectly infusing the elements in nitro brew.
Some whipped cream dispensers have attempted to accommodate nitro drinkers by creating nitrogen only cartridges, but it still doesn’t come very close to replicating the real thing.
Nitro coffee may have had a successful take off, but it’s still got lightyears to go before it breaks the coffee stratosphere that is our homes.