Not Naughty But Nice: Your Essential Guide On How To Make Great Nitro Coffee

by | Jan 23, 2020

Remember learning the Periodic Table of the Elements? Remember how you thought it probably wouldn’t affect your life much once you were grown up unless you chose to go into a science-based profession?

Well, think again! It’s at least part of the reason we now have nitro coffee or nitro cold brew as it’s also called.

What Is Nitro Cold Brew?

Wondering what nitro coffee is? Put simply, it’s cold-brewed coffee with nitrogen added. It’s sometimes called nitrogen-infused coffee or even nitro cold brew coffee. It might not have made it to the local coffee shop menu just yet, but it’s already appeared on menus of a couple of major coffee shop chains, including Starbucks.

The idea for nitro coffee first took shape from about 2012 to 2013. Food scientist Nate Armbrust was working as a food scientist at Stumptown Coffee Roasters when he hit on a successful method for making nitro coffee. (He was also skilled in the art of home brewing.)

Nitrogen infused coffee was served at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Food Expo; North Carolina based S&D Coffee & Tea Extracts & Ingredients company discussed their patented extraction process. And explained the effects of the extraction process on the coffee.

As is so often the case with coffee, innovation, and expansion then continued on the West Coast of America. Starbucks introduced nitro coffee to selected outlets in 2016, with Dunkin’ Donuts adding it to their menus in the summer of 2019.


What Does It Taste Like?

If you’re wondering what nitro coffee tastes like, it tastes like your favorite cold brew. Just with a richer, creamier, fuller texture. The concept of nitro brew coffee, and indeed the joy of nitrogen, have both long been known in the craft beer industry. And in the hallowed halls of a certain Irish brewery.

What is a nitro beer? Well, several beers incorporate the gorgeously rich flavors of coffee and the bubbles of nitrogen into their recipes. We’ve also heard rumors that nitro coffee works well in cocktails.

What does nitro cold brew coffee taste like? Well, one patent describes it as being “refreshing cold” and “foamy and creamy”. Those who’ve indulged in nitro coffee already describe the mouthfeel as on the silky side. Due to the method of making the coffee, it tastes less bitter too.


What Should It Look Like?

One of the things that makes nitro coffee distinctive is the lovely creamy texture. You’re probably already familiar with carbonated drinks, in the form of sodas or spring water with bubbles added. Well, time for another mini science snippet: nitrogen bubbles are smaller than carbon dioxide bubbles. That’s what results in that creamy, Irish stout texture.

When nitro coffee is being poured, it looks beautiful. It’s gloriously theatrical, producing a mini-waterfall of bubbles and foam (or should we say coffee-fall?). This all comes back to the bubbles. They’re so small that the liquid pushes them around the glass with ease.


Is Nitro Coffee Healthier?

A few aspects of nitro coffee arguably make it healthier than some other coffees. One is to do with the calorie count. We all know that a cup of black coffee has barely any calories. Nitro coffee is so creamy that you might be able to dispense with the dairy (or almond, or soy, or coconut…)

The nitrogen also gives the sensation of sweetness even if you haven’t added sugar, or syrup, or other sweeteners. (Did you know that, for most people, the tongue is thought to be capable of detecting five to seven different types of major taste, by the way?)

Then there’s the fact for nitro cold brew, the acidity is usually lower than in many coffee drinks. A lot of this is connected to the brewing method of the coffee since it’s often the temperature at which the coffee is brewed that raises the acidity levels.


Does Nitro Coffee Have More Caffeine?

While we’re on the subject of health, you might be wondering if nitro cold brew has more caffeine than other types of coffee? The answer is yes: caffeine levels are often higher than coffee made via other methods.

So most folk will be able to enjoy the great health benefits of caffeine from just a small serving of nitro coffee. And if you need that extra boost before an exam, or an interview, or a workout session, it’s great for that too.

Of course, the usual caveats apply about whether nitro coffee (sometimes called “Caveman Nitro”) is healthy or not. You still need to make sure you keep your consumption levels within the official recommended “healthy” doses. While these vary slightly around the world, the maximum remains around 4 small cups a day, with 1-2 servings being well within the “safe” zone.


Can You Make Your Own Nitrogen Infused Coffee?

Right now, most of the nitro coffee out there is dispensed via pressurized pumps with tiny holes. Combined with the cold brew coffee making method, it means it’s not exactly the most inexpensive item on the coffee shop menu.

So can you make nitro coffee at home? You bet.

As with pretty much everything in life, you need to know the techniques and have the correct equipment and ingredients. You’ll need ground coffee of your choice; cold, clean water; a vessel with a lid for the cold brew, and a cold location where the coffee can rest.

You’ll also need a nitrogen cartridge, a whipped cream dispenser with a nitro charger, and additives of your choice, like syrup or cream. The final pieces of your home nitro cold brew kit are a coffee filter and some attractive cups or glasses. (We like to make sure we check every now and then to see what type of cup is recommended for the best coffee experience.)


How to Make Nitro Cold Brew Coffee at Home

Now you’re all set up. There are a couple of ways you can make your own nitro cold brew coffee at home. If you’re time-poor, as they say, or just feeling a little lazy, some manufacturers and coffee shops now offer nitro coffee in cans.

If you choose this convenient option, we recommend turning it upside down and pouring it into a (preferably transparent) coffee cup or glass for maximum enjoyment.

But if you enjoy a more hands-on approach, then you’ll get more joy out of the do-it-yourself method. We’ve already listed the equipment and ingredients you need for the basic recipe.

nitro cold brew


Can You Make Your Own Nitrogen Infused Coffee?

We know we keep saying this, but great coffee always starts with the beans. And the grind. For nitro cold brew, you need coarse-ground coffee. Add the ground coffee to your jar or pitcher, and add water. The suggested optimum ratio for cold brew is around 10 parts water to 1 part coffee. Stir the solution until it’s well-mixed, add the lid, and leave it in a cool location to brew. For around 18 hours.

Once your coffee is ready, filter it. Then pour it into that whipped cream dispenser you prepared earlier. Make sure the lid is firmly closed, attach the nitrogen cartridge, and shake the mix until the foamy texture becomes evident. Then pour into a drinking vessel of your choice, add sweeteners of your choice, and simply enjoy.


How To Make Nitro Coffee: Nitro Coffee Recipes

While you can pretty much add anything to coffee (within reason), try nitro coffee with sweet cream, for instance. Or how about salted caramel, cherry, orange syrup, peppermint or spearmint? Buy your syrups pre-made, or boil and blend your own.

For the last option, recommended proportions are 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar, and around ¾ of a cup of the chopped ingredients of your choice. Turn the heat to medium, and gently stir the mixture until it boils. Take it off the heat, put it somewhere cool overnight (ideally the fridge). Before adding to your coffee cold brew, strain out any fruit or herbs.

Some of our favorite ingredients include cassis, mint, raisins, or rosehips, although not all at the same time! We’d suggest adding around 3 to 3.5 tablespoons of your home-made syrup to your cup or glass, before pouring your nitro coffee over the top.

If it’s a grown-up tipple you’re looking for, we’ve heard nitro coffee tastes great with a dash of Baileys, or Kahlua, or Tia Maria, or even Cointreau. We’ve also been known to melt a little chocolate in the microwave or on the stovetop and then stir it into the coffee – the darker the better on this one.


Happy Endings With Nitro Boost

You know our love of coffee means we’re always looking for new ways to enjoy it. And nitro coffee definitely fits the bill, however you drink it.

Savor a Starbucks nitro cold brew, or take a pit stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. Or take a trip to a super-cool cocktail bar, staffed by expert mixologists. Or why not drink your nitro brew on the move, from a convenient can? Or even in the comfort of your own home…

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