Nitro coffee brings a beer-like experience to coffee drinking. Minuscule bubbles of nitrogen or nitrous oxide give the brew a head and make it go down smooth.
A recent phenomenon, nitro brew coffee is a popular drink in third-wave coffee shops but rarely made at home, until now.
If you would like to know how to make nitro cold brew at home, you have come to the right place.
In our step by step guide we show you how to make nitro coffee using two different methods so you can enjoy the best cold brew on nitro at home.
What is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?
Nitro cold brew coffee is cold brew coffee that’s been infused with nitrogen or nitrous oxide.
The nitrogen in coffee creates minuscule bubbles that give the coffee beer-like qualities.
A head forms when the coffee is poured, and the mouthfeel is incredibly smooth and creamy when drinking.
Also like beer, cold brew on nitro is only enjoyed cold. Heating it would dissipate the nitrogen bubbles.
Cold Brew vs Nitro Cold Brew
The actual brewing processes for cold brew coffee and nitro brew coffee are identical.
The key difference is that nitro cold brew is made by infusing the coffee with nitrogen after brewing.
The exclusion or inclusion of nitrogen gives the two types of cold brew substantial differences.
Traditional cold brew coffee is rich and smooth, and its body makes the coffee well-suited for adding cream.
Sugar can also be added, and the coffee can be sipped directly from a cup or through a (preferably compostable) straw.
Cold brew is typically served over ice to keep it cold, although a cold brew concentrate can be mixed with hot water to create a hot cup of cold brew too.
Nitro is even smoother, as the nitrogen bubbles create a mouthfeel that no standard brewing method can replicate.
However those nitrogen bubbles don’t go so well with cream, and stirring in sugar will disturb the coffee’s head.
For these reasons, cold brew nitro coffee is primarily enjoyed black.
Another key difference between nitro vs cold brew is that nitro coffee is served without ice and always served cold. It can’t be served hot, for the bubbles would dissipate.
When Was Nitro Cold Brew Invented?
Like much of coffee’s history, the origins of nitro coffee are hidden in legends and lore.
What is definitively known is that the beverage was invented sometime in the early 2010s. Then by the mid-2010s multiple companies had it available in cans.
Men’s Journal credits Cuvee Coffee (Austin, Texas) and Stumptown (Portland, Oregon) with creating nitrogen cold brew in 2013.
Esquire reported on a nitro-like predecessor from The Queens Kickshaw (New York, New York) in 2011.
Regardless of who had the very first nitrogen infused coffee, it took the third-wave coffee scene by storm.
Both Cuvee Coffee and Stumptown had canned nitro cold brew just a few years later, and Starbucks put it in 500 stores by 2015.
Today, numerous coffee shops throughout the United States and world are offering the beverage both on tap and in a canned form.
How to Make Nitro Cold Brew at Home
One of the primary reasons home baristas are keen to learn how to make a nitro cold brew is the cost.
Store bought nitro cold brew is pretty expensive and the cost can really add up over time.
While nitro coffee kits are still not that cheap, they are far more affordable in the long run than a regular trip to Starbucks or the supermarket for canned nitro coffee.
So let’s take a look at how to make nitro cold brew coffee.
Make cold brew coffee
Making nitro cold brew begins with making traditional cold brew coffee.
The basic steps to make your own cold brew are as follows:
- Grind the coffee beans on an extra coarse grind (coarser than a French press).
- Measure out coffee and room temperature water using a 1:4 coffee-to-water ratio.
- Allow the grounds to steep in the water for between 12 and 18 hours in a French press, mason jar or cold brew coffee maker.
- Remove the grounds from the water, using a sieve, cheesecloth or cold-brew kit.
- Combine the cold brew concentrate with water for desired flavor and caffeine levels.
In order to turn traditional cold brew into nitrogen infused coffee, the next step is to infuse the cold brew coffee with nitrogen or nitrous oxide.
There are two ways you can do this. You can either use a whipped cream dispenser or a nitro cold brew keg. We cover both methods in detail below.
Making Nitro Cold Brew With a Whipped Cream Dispenser
A nitro coffee dispenser is by far the quickest and most affordable way to make your own nitro cold brew at home.
To make nitrogen brewed coffee with a handheld dispenser you need:
- A 1-quart nitrogen whipped cream dispenser
- One nitrous oxide (NO2) cartridge or nitrogen cartridge (depending on the model).
Although pint-sized dispensers can also be used, a quart-sized one will use cartridges more efficiently.
Once you have the necessary equipment, follow these steps to infuse it with nitrogen:
- Fill the whipped cream canister ⅔ full with cold brew.
- Close the canister and put on the NO2 or Nitrogen charge.
- Shake the canister for 30 seconds.
- Dispense, and enjoy immediately.
Regardless of whether you use this method or a keg, dispensing the nitro cold brew against the side of a frosty glass will yield the smallest head and best result.
Any remaining nitro cold brew in the canister should keep for several days. Store in the fridge.
Compared to using a keg, making at home nitro cold brew with a whipped cream canister has the advantage of being more affordable and producing smaller amounts of the beverage.
These canisters are readily available from retailers and restaurant suppliers at reasonable prices.
Plus they’ll generally make enough for one or two people to enjoy over a few days.
The best nitro dispenser for the home is the Hatfields Nitropress.
The biggest downside is the limited amount that can be made at one time if you’re entertaining.
So if you want to make a large batch of nitro cold brew coffee, the other option is to use a nitro coffee keg.
How to Use a Nitro Cold Brew Keg to Make Nitro Coffee
If you love the idea of having nitro cold brew on tap, a nitro cold brew system is the way to go.
You’ll need a specialized nitro mini keg in order to make nitro cold brew this way.
It is important to follow any specific instructions that are included with your keg and pay particular attention to the type of charge it requires.
The steps will broadly go something like this:
- Fill the keg ½ to ¾ full with cold brew coffee.
- Install the faucet or spigot if not already on the keg.
- Put on the nitrous oxide or nitrogen cartridges.
- Shake the keg well.
- Refrigerate the keg for at least 1 hour.
- Dispense, and enjoy immediately.
The nitro cold brew will keep well for several days, and pouring drafts directly against the side of a frosty glass will yield the best results.
The best nitro keg for beginners is the Royal Brew Nitro Cold Brew Keg.
Using a nitro cold brew machine requires a larger financial outlay, but the keg will make larger batches of nitro cold brew at once.
If you entertain frequently, this is a very cool way to make coffee for your friends.
Ready to make nitro coffee at home?
We reviewed all the best nitro cold brew coffee makers for home to help you choose.
Nitrogen vs Nitrous Oxide for Nitro Coffee
Both nitrogen and nitrous oxide (NO2) will work when making nitro cold brew at home, but nitrogen is preferable.
The gas that’s used in pubs to make draft beer is commonly a mixture of 75 percent nitrogen and 25 percent carbon dioxide, and nitrogen will provide the most beer-like traits.
Also, nitrogen is tasteless and inert (stable). It’ll easily dissolve in cold brew, producing fine bubbles that have no effect on its flavor.
Nitrous oxide on the other hand has a minorly sweet taste and creates slightly larger bubbles.
It’s frequently used in whipped cream cartridges because the gas is highly soluble in fatty liquids and has that natural sweetness.
In cold brew, though, the sweetness can mask a coffee’s inherent traits and the bubbles aren’t quite as fine.
So if you’re looking for the most pure-tasting nitro coffee brew and your nitro cold brew kit accepts nitrogen charges, take full advantage of the setup by injecting coffee with pure nitrogen.
If you’re looking for an easier way to make nitro coffee and/or usually sweeten your coffee, nitrous oxide is more accessible and is perfectly suitable.
How to Drink Nitro Cold Brew Coffee
Nitrogen coffee is most often drunk black, although sweet cream, foam, sugar and flavorings can be added after infusion.
Try the coffee before you add anything, as it has a smooth, creamy taste that is different from any other brew method.
Also, consider using whipped cream rather than cream if you normally would use dairy.
Flavored syrups may be good in nitrogen cold brew, but nutty ones are especially well-suited for the coffee’s profile.
Experiment with hazelnut, toffee nut and french vanilla to see how you like them.
Alternatively, go with adult-themed flavors of Irish cream or amaretto for a different kind of caffeine kick.
How to Sweeten Nitro Cold Brew
DIY nitro cold brew can be sweetened with a sweet topping or sugar, and any flavored syrup will add its own sweetness.
If you want to add sugar, create a simple syrup and add it to the bottom of your glass.
The syrup will dissolve easily as you pour the nitro cold brew, not interfering with the bubbles or head that’s created.
However you choose to sweeten nitro cold brew, only add sugar after infusing the cold brew with nitrogen.
Adding sugar before nitrogen will make your nitro cold brewer harder to clean.
How Much Caffeine is In A Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?
A common question is how much caffeine is in nitro cold brew.
The caffeine in nitro cold brew is the same as an equivalent amount of traditional cold brew.
The nitrogen bubbles will deliver the caffeine to your body’s neurologic system faster so it may seem stronger.
Plus there may be more caffeine in a glass of nitro coffee because it’s not poured over ice like a cup of cold brew.
The actual amount of caffeine in a cup of nitro coffee depends on many factors including:
- The beans used
- Roast level
- Degree of dilution.
Even with variance, though, this is one of the most caffeinated forms of coffee.
How Does Starbucks Make Their Nitro Cold Brew?
Starbucks nitro cold brew is made with a keg system that infuses the chain’s standard cold brew with nitrogen.
Starbucks nitro brew is available in a range of sizes, and it can be flavored with syrups or topped with cold foam.
Ready To Make Nitro Cold Brew Coffee at Home?
If you’re a fan of cold brew nitro and regularly order it at coffee shops, don’t just limit your enjoyment of the beverage to visits to cafes.
Now you know how to make nitro coffee, you can begin making your own homemade nitro cold brew.
Not only will you save money, you can enjoy the smooth, caffeinated beverage anytime you want!
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