What is Nitro Coffee?

You’d be forgiven for thinking nitro cold brew was some sort of whack-a-doodle science experiment dreamed up by teenagers in a basement. Quite the contrary, though, it’s a logically sound way to put a spin on the now-classic cold brew to make it a bit more complex, heavier on the tongue, and gloriously free of ice.


It is, actually, a science experiment gone gloriously right.


Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

Stripped down, nitro brew is cold brew. But, importantly, cold brew is not necessarily nitro coffee. 

What is nitro cold brew: The cold brew is the first and main ingredient of the nitro beverage that ends up in your cup. The cold coffee is then charged with nitrogen—an unreactive and odorless gas that’s a coolant—to create a fuller body with a foamy, frothy head. In appearance and feel, it’s not unlike a Guinness beer. 


Pressure is applied to the drink during an injection process that fills the drink with the gas, which creates a dense area of small bubbles that creates the mouthfeel nitro coffee is known for. At a coffee shop, you’ll find this drink served on tap from a keg. 


The nitrogen prevents oxidation and, thus, means the coffee can be kept for several weeks without spoiling. 


How is Nitro Coffee Different from Other Iced Coffees?

The main difference between nitro cold brew coffee and other iced brews is, naturally, the nitrogen. Beyond that, though, the nitrogen cold brew doesn’t require milk or sugar, because the nitrogen provides the illusion of cream and has a slightly sweeter kick on the end. Because of the mouthfeel, it also doesn’t need water, as the water would negatively alter the heaviness of the drink. And, unlike a standard iced coffee, it’s a much stronger, less acidic taste that’s much closer to the standard cold brew.

It could be thought of as halfway to a beer, minus the alcohol and plus the delicious chocolate notes of any cold brew. 


How to Make Nitro Coffee

How is nitro cold brew coffee made? It starts with the right recipe for cold brew. 


For that, assuming you’re not using a pre-purchased kit for cold brew and want an easy method, find a large glass jar or take out a French press and then mix together coarsely ground coffee with cold water. The ratio should be approximately one cup of water per 28 grams of coffee, realizing that the grinds will absorb quite a bit of the water and leave you with a strong concentrate that can be cut with a 1:1 ratio of water to coffee concentrate. Filter the mixture after 12 hours have passed and immediately refrigerate until ready to make the nitro brew. 


The nitrogen-adding process would typically entail a tap system akin to how beer is made. For an at-home trick, though, it works to use a whipped creamer. Pour the cold brew—already cut with water—into a cream dispenser, enclose it, and attach a nitrogen cartridge. Shake it until the signature foam head starts to appear and pour into a glass to be enjoyed immediately. 


In truth, the bulk of the nitro cold brew making process comes with the cold brew itself. So, just be sure to focus on using a coffee that lends itself well to the creamier, richer, silky mouthfeel of that nitro cold brew that has—for good reason—become so trendy.