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What is Nitro Cold Brew?

Nitrogen cold brew coffee is all the rage in Seattle. Our guide to the frothy summer coffee drink that's all the rage.

There’s a new sheriff in cold brew town, and her name is Nitro. This summer, nitrogen-infused cold brew is all the rage in Seattle. The frothy drink is served cold (for other great chilled coffee ideas, see our post on 5 tips to brew great iced coffee), and features a sweet taste and a thick, almost cream-like body topped off with a head reminiscent of stout beer. If you look closely, you’ll see streams of tiny cascading bubbles (the nitrogen) in the brew.

As for what goes into a nitrogen cold brew coffee, it’s pretty complicated. Our own Bean Box recipe (we serve this in the Beanery every chance we get!), starts with high-grown, low-acid coffee: freshly roasted, of course. So far, we’ve had the best success with coffee from Guatemala and Colombia. We grind the beans slightly finer than for a commercial cone brewer, and then use a Filtron to brew a super-dense concentrate, a process that takes 11+ hours.

We dilute the concentrate inside what’s called a Corny keg (usually what you see holding beer), and then store the brew under high pressure nitrogen for a few hours. As the high pressure nitrogen enters the coffee, it adds body by way of introducing very tiny nitrogen bubbles. The added gas also helps articulate the sugars already present in the coffee.

Finally, nitro cold brew is served just like a stout beer: through a tap that has a “restrictor place”. The plate forces the coffee, kept at high pressure in the keg, through five tiny holes, which further agitates the nitrogen, adding a thick head to the whole business. Throw in a little ice, and it’s one of the sweetest coffee drinks imaginable, without adding any sugar at all.

If you can find nitro cold brew locally, we highly recommend sampling it. It’s a great example of a relatively recent innovation in coffee brewing, and if you have the good luck to become hooked, making your own is an incredibly fun science experiment.

What You Need

  • Cold brew gear: toddy or filtron
  • 1 pound of high-grown coffee beans, freshly roasted
  • Corny keg
  • Nitrogen regulator (try welding or home brew supply stores)
  • Pure, food-grade nitrogen gas
  • A stout tap with restrictor plate

Using the Filtron to “cold brew”.
The contraption. Kegs and regulators can be purchased through home brewing equipment suppliers. For the gas, try your local welding supply.
The final product.


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