If you’re unfamiliar with nitro cold brew coffee at this point, it must be because you’ve been living under one of those vacuum-sealed bricks of mediocre coffee that you find on the bottom shelf of most grocery stores.
We say this not to take a dig at your cultural acumen (we’re sure you’re super hip when it comes to other things), but to emphasize the gargantuan surge in popularity that the beverage has seen over the past eight-odd years.
When nitro cold brew coffee first broke onto the independent coffee shop scene way back in the early 2010s, it ignited a full-blown revolution. Kind of like Beatlemania, only instead of four handsome, musically-gifted Brits, people were losing their minds over delicious coffee full of tiny bubbles.
Since then, its ubiquity and dedicated following of adventurous coffee connoisseurs looking for something different have only continued to grow. So what’s all the hubbub about?
Um… What Do All Those Words Even Mean?
Honestly, we get it. “Nitro cold brew” sounds like one of those alcoholic energy drinks people chug to get hyped up for monster truck shows. But in that string of extreme-sounding modifiers lies the secret to the beverage’s widespread acclaim, and it all starts with the “cold brew” part.
The Art of Cold Brew
Cold brew coffee is coffee that’s brewed cold (*insert that Emoji with the exploding brain*).
To expand on that a little, the preparer leaves coarse-ground coffee to steep in cold, fresh water for around 12-24 hours. In that time, the coffee imparts its full range of complex flavors to its liquid medium. It leaves behind most of the less desirable tasting notes that are ordinarily unlocked by prolonged exposure to heat—namely acidity and bitterness.
The resulting decoction is certified smooth AF, with almost none of the lip-smacking, eye-squinting afterbite of regular hot brew joe. Adults love it, kids love it, even pets love it (disclaimer: the operators of Sip Coffee & Beer do not condone serving cold brew coffee to dogs, cats, gerbils, teacup pigs, myna birds, iguanas, or any other animal companions).
With us so far? Good. There’s only one more ingredient in this word salad, and it’s the “nitro” bit, which is the real crowd-pleaser.
Just like soft drinks are carbonated, nitro cold brew coffee is nitrogenated. And just like nitrous oxide will supercharge a muscle car, it will also supercharge your morning mug or afternoon pick-me-up, transforming it into an indulgent treat that has all the appeal of those naughty dessert-in-a-cup coffee drinks with none of the dietary complications.
How can that be possible, you ask? By a subtle sensory sleight of hand. Allow us to break it down for you:
We have our cold brew, and we’re ready to get funky like a disco junkie. Here at Sip, we take premium made-in-house-daily cold brew coffee and use a nitrous oxide charger to zap it with a hearty dose of nitrogen gas. What starts as a somewhat mundane cup of dark-brown bean juice comes out a thickened, semi-opaque elixir with a color gradient and frothy head, not unlike that of a freshly poured draft beer.
If this all sounds a little strange to you, it’s because, frankly, it is. But isn’t it remarkable how often strangeness and genius seem to go together?
What Does Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Taste Like?
We’re glad you asked.
Imagine sipping a fiery bronze sunrise over the snow-dusted peaks of Denali in a Rolls-Royce made entirely of rare gemstones while pre-1995 LL Cool J spits a freestyle about what a great friend you are. That more or less sums up what it’s like to savor your first mouthful of cold brew nitro.
In terms of tasting characteristics, nitro cold brew coffee sits somewhere between a latte and a lager. It’s got a rich body and unmistakable creaminess to it, as well as a faint, playful sweetness that delights without overpowering. However, these qualities come not from the addition of cream or sugar but from the effervescent nitrogen shaking hands with your tastebuds.
You see, unlike carbonation, which creates large bubbles that tend to play up the harsher notes of black coffee, nitrogenation imparts millions of velvety bubbles that only enhance the smoothness and nuance that cold brew is already known for.
Nitro cold brew coffee is best enjoyed straight from the tap without ice. Serving it this way ensures that the beverage’s unique sprightliness is in full effect and prevents the cubes from interfering with the fizz or watering down the coffee itself (seriously, is there a bigger bummer?).
It can be a lot to compute if you’ve been drinking your coffee the same way since there were only six Star Wars movies, but we can say with firsthand experience that in no time flat, it will grow on you to the point where nothing else can scratch the itch.