What is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?

Unlike the origin stories of many other coffee recipes, nitro cold brew coffee has a relatively simple history. The invention of the drink can be credited to Portland-based food scientist, Nate Armbrust who created the frothy and mellow sensation whilst working at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. 

Armbrust had been dreaming about how to make cold brew coffees more frothy for many years already and had originally experimented with the use of carbon dioxide, but found that it destroyed the flavor of the coffee. So, he went back to the drawing board. 

Armbrust then began to remember his days home brewing Guinness and was inspired by the frothy texture that came with the drink when poured from a tap. Inspired by this, Armbrust began experimenting with injecting nitrogen into the cold brew. After a while of experimenting to find the right balance of texture and flavor, he came up with the nitro cold brew we know today and presented it to his colleagues at Stumptown. 

Luckily for Armbrust, his colleagues loved the nitrous drink and in June of 2013, the drink was being sold directly from the tap at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Thus, nitro cold brew coffee was born. 

What makes Nitro Cold Brew Coffee different? 

Just like the name suggests, nitro cold brew coffee is a chilling, caffeinated beverage just like cold brew coffee and iced coffee, however, the drink has some noticeable characteristics which differentiate it from these two

The first comparative difference between nitro cold brew coffee and iced coffee is that iced coffee is just simply hot coffee poured over ice. This brewing method, unfortunately, leaves the customer with a diluted and acidic drink due to the melting ice cubes. Some coffee shops try to mitigate this by using a brewing style known as the Japanese Method which involves the use of a pour-over like a Hario V60. Though this does remove some of the drink’s acidity, iced coffees are generally a frowned upon approach to serving cold coffees. 

A better alternative when serving cold coffees is a cold brew. In order to make cold brew coffee, the grounds of the coffee are soaked in water anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. Once this is done, the coffee can then be mixed with cold water to make a traditional cold brew or can be mixed with milk to make an iced latte. This is often one of the more common and flavorsome methods when serving cold coffee. 

Now what really differentiates nitro cold brew coffee from both of these methods is that it involves the injection of nitrogen directly into the drink. In order to do this, the drink is served from a stout tap. This also results in the drink having a head of foam, emulating the look of a freshly poured pint of Guinness. 

How to make Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

There are two ways in which you can make nitro cold brew coffee straight from the comfort of your own home. The first method is relatively simple, though is quite expensive. This method simply involves buying a nitro cold brew coffee machine that hovers around the $300 mark on Amazon, however, some machines sell for around $250, as well. 

This will allow you to easily and quickly make nitro cold brew right at home, but since we won’t be diving too much into this topic, we have included a video below that takes you through a step by step process on making nitro cold brew coffee from home using the machine.

The alternative method of making nitro cold brew coffee at home is much cheaper and can be done with the use of a cream whipper and compatible nitrogen cartridges. Rather than putting milk into the cream whipper, you will instead be using a cold brew concentrate to pour this delicious drink. 

To start, add nine ounces of finely ground coffee to a one-liter tall cream whipper. Afterward, add 3 ½ cups of cool tap water, then begin to stir until the ground coffee and the water are combined. Now seal the whipper, and begin to charge the nitrogen cartridges. Insert the first nitrogen cartridge into the cream whipper, after you hear a discharge of gas, insert the second nitrogen cartridge into the cream whipper and repeat the process. 

Now that the canister is charged, shake your cream whipper for about 30 seconds, before letting it settle for five minutes. Discharge the cream whipper by placing a cup over the nozzle and squeezing the lever of the cream whipper gently. This will result in a tiny amount of coffee being released. 

Complete the previous step once again by charging the cream whipper with two more nitrogen cartridges before shaking it for 30 more seconds. After you’re done shaking, let the cream whipper sit for an hour in order for it to finish brewing. 

Once an hour has passed, discharge the coffee again with a cup placed upon the nozzle of the cream whipper and a gentle squeeze to the nozzle. 

Subsequently, filter the coffee ground from the cream whipper through a coffee filter into a measuring cup. Now that you have your cold brew concentrate, mix it with equal parts cold water, and pour it back into the cream whipper. 

With the use of a single nitrogen cartridge, shake the cream whipper for 30 seconds, before discharging it one more time. 

Now you can pour yourself a refreshing glass of nitro cold brew coffee, made right from the comfort of your home. 

This recipe was provided by America’s Test Kitchen

Ishfar Munir
Ishfar Munir is a Business and Computer Science Double Degree student at Wilfrid Laurier. His journey into the world of coffee only begun recently, but he has already begun to fall in love with the delicious drink. In his free time, he likes to watch basketball games, write songs, and read the New Yorker.

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