What is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?

  • Date: October 28, 2020

Just when you thought cold brew couldn’t get any, well, cooler, a new way of making this trendy coffee enters the scene. Nitro cold brew is causing waves in coffee shops from Berlin to Brooklyn, and has even been featured on certain Starbucks menus in recent years. But what exactly is nitro cold brew?

Nitro cold brew is cold brew coffee that has been infused with nitrogen gas. The resulting coffee is velvety and thick, with the nitrogen bubbles forming a foamy, creamy layer. 

So, what makes nitro cold brew so special? What does infusing nitrogen into cold brew actually do to the coffee? Read on for our complete guide to this hot new drink!

What is so special about nitro cold brew?

Dedicated followers of nitro cold brew will tell you that there are several factors that make this drink special. From its superior texture and mouthfeel, to its striking appearance and pouring techniques, nitro cold brew is certainly the cool, enigmatic cousin of the coffee world. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the common denominator that underpins nitro cold brew’s cool factor is the nitrogen itself. The infusion of nitrogen into cold brew results in the formation of tiny microbubbles that give nitro cold brew its distinctive taste and texture, elevating it beyond any other type of coffee.

In terms of taste, infusing nitrogen into cold brew makes it sweeter and creamier, without adding any sugar or milk. The nitrogen microbubbles give the cold brew a thick, velvety texture with a luxurious mouthfeel.

As with other bubbly beverages, the nitrogen gas in nitro cold brew transforms the way that the coffee hits your tastebuds. The creaminess and sweetness that typify nitro cold brew come from these nitrogen infused bubbles. Not only is there a bit of chemistry in every cup of nitro cold brew, there is a great taste too!

Beyond the way that nitro cold brew tastes, there are other factors that really set this coffee apart. The pouring technique for nitro cold brew is one such factor – it is certainly much more exciting than pulling your standard espresso shot!

In larger coffee shops, nitro cold brew is poured from a keg using a tap, much in the same way as a beer is poured at a bar. Home baristas can use a handheld nitrogen infuser, which looks very similar to a whipped cream dispenser. The infuser disperses nitrogen gas throughout the cold brew, then dispenses that signature frothy, creamy nitro cold brew. 

What does nitro cold brew look like?

Given that the technique for pouring nitro cold brew is very similar to the technique for pouring beer from a keg, it is perhaps not surprising that at first glance, a glass of nitro cold brew could easily be mistaken for a glass of stout or Guinness. 

The nitrogen bubbles create a foamy, milky layer, very similar to the head on a glass of stout beer. Once poured, this foamy layer sinks from the top to the bottom, much in the same style as Guinness. 

When the foamy layer on your nitro cold brew sinks, this is called a “cascade”. For many nitro cold brew drinkers, witnessing the cascade is one of the best parts about drinking this coffee!

How much caffeine is in a nitro cold brew?

The caffeine content in a cup of nitro cold brew coffee is much the same as the caffeine content in a cup of standard cold brew coffee. In other words, the addition of nitrogen gas has very little impact on the amount of caffeine contained in your cold brew.

The actual caffeine content can differ quite widely, depending on how much coffee the cold brew was originally brewed with, and by how much the cold brew concentrate was diluted. As nitro cold brew is made with diluted cold brew concentrate, it is probably fair to estimate that a single cup of nitro cold brew contains the same amount of caffeine – around 200 milligrams per 16 ounces.

Is nitro cold brew good for you?

There are no additional health benefits conferred by adding nitrogen itself to cold brew coffee, but it still packs quite a punch in the health stakes. 

Coffee is well-known for its anti inflammatory properties, as every cup of coffee is chock full of powerful antioxidants. These antioxidants can provide a whole host of health benefits, including helping with anti-ageing, fighting free radicals, and even improving cognitive and metabolic function.

One indirect health benefit of transforming your standard cup of cold brew into a cup of nitro cold brew could come from the way that the infusion of nitrogen microbubbles transforms the taste of your coffee. 

Nitro cold brew is naturally creamier and sweeter, even without the addition of any sweeteners or creamers. For many people who love cold brew, but need to add sugar or cream to make it palatable, drinking nitro cold brew can help them save significantly on their daily calorie count. 

As nitro cold brew is essentially black coffee, albeit very smooth, velvety black coffee, it clocks in very low on the calorie scale at around 5 calories per cup. If you’re trying to wean yourself off sugar or milk in your coffee, then nitro cold brew could be a good option for you!

Why does nitro cold brew coffee have lower acidity?

Cold brew coffee typically has a lower acidity than most hot-brewed, espresso-based coffees. This is because cold brew is usually made with medium to dark roast coffee beans. 

Darker roasts have lower acidities, as the longer, hotter roasting process removes the natural acidity present in raw and lightly roasted coffee beans. 

The cold brewing process also boosts these effects. It is harder for bitter and acidic notes to be extracted when coffee is brewed at lower temperatures, as cold brew is. 

This means that cold brew and nitro cold brew are more suitable than other types of coffee for those who suffer from acid reflux, or even those who find that normal coffee doesn’t sit quite right with them. The additional benefits of nitro cold brew’s natural sweetness and creaminess also make it much easier to swallow – quite literally!

Is nitrogen safe to drink in coffee?

While nitro coffee is still firmly in the new wave, it can be a bit disconcerting to see your average cup of joe transformed into a foamy, creamy stranger. It also begs the question – is it safe to drink nitrogen?

Happily, the answer is yes. Nitrogen gas is non-toxic and safe to consume – just don’t try and breathe it in

As anyone who has drunk a beer or a glass of champagne will attest, gases have been used to make drinks more fabulous for many years. The difference with nitro cold brew is the use of nitrogen, and not carbon dioxide, to make this particular beverage bubbly. 

So why don’t nitro cold brew makers use carbon dioxide? Well, unfortunately carbon dioxide doesn’t pair very well with coffee. It produces bigger, more aggressive bubbles, instead of the fine microbubbles that result from using nitrogen gas. Carbon dioxide also creates carbonic acid, which is not an ideal outcome when trying to brew a less acidic cup of coffee!

Is nitro cold brew coffee with sweet cream keto-friendly?

While there are no hard and fast rules around how many carbs are too many carbs for a ketogenic diet, daily carbohydrate intake on a ketogenic diet typically ranges from as little as 20 grams up to 50 grams per day. 

By adding sweet cream to your nitro cold brew coffee, you can expect to consume 4 or 5 grams of carbohydrates. While this might not seem like a huge amount, if you are dieting on the lower end of the keto spectrum this could comprise a quarter of your daily carbohydrate intake. 

While you might be willing to budget a nitro cold brew with sweet cream into your daily allowance under a keto diet, such a step is not usually recommended. 

You may find that you are struggling to consume adequate fiber under a ketogenic diet, and spending your carbohydrate allowance on a coffee with sweet cream will not help this situation. Made of cream, milk, and vanilla syrup, sweet cream contains exactly zero grams of dietary fiber. 

If you are after a keto-friendly coffee option, then you need look no further than nitro coffee itself. Without the addition of sweet cream, nitro cold brew contains no sugar and no carbohydrates, making it perfectly suited to anyone on the keto diet. 

Most keto guidelines insist that you stick to Americanos or bulletproof coffee. For many, these options can be too harsh and bitter, or completely unpalatable. If you are a caffeine lover on the keto diet, but can’t stomach the thought of an unsweetened, acidic black coffee, then nitro cold brew could be the best option for you. 

The natural creaminess and sweetness of nitro cold brew is one of its biggest selling points, and nowhere is this more suitable than for followers of the keto diet. A creamy, sweet coffee without any sugar or milk? Nitro cold brew is like a keto dream come true!

Besides, who can resist a cup of coffee that looks as cool as a cup of nitro cold brew does?!

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