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What's all the fuss about nitro coffee and can I make this at home?

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Nitro coffee is coffee with added nitrogen to the coffee to change the mouth feel of the coffee and to somewhat mellow out the taste. Adding nitrogen is not the same as carbonation and is not done with CO2. Carbon dioxide (CO2), used in sodas like Coca-Cola® would add a bitter taste and acidity to the coffee. Not cool!

Nitro coffee is a cold beverage served on tap. At the time of this writing, nitro coffee is mostly found in independent coffee shops, not chain coffee shops. The tap handle used to pour nitro coffee is similar to a draught beer tap. The nitro coffee product looks similar to a Guinness when poured. Nitro coffee begins with cold-brew coffee, not a standard hot water process, and is a cold coffee product when served.

The typical nitro brew coffee process introduces nitrogen into the cold brew coffee at a lower pressure than CO2 is introduced into fountain soda syrup. This lower pressure does not permit the nitrogen to permeate the coffee like CO2 does with soda.

This writer purchased a nitro brew coffee today at a local independent coffee shop. Several items are of interest.

First, the nitro coffee was not on the menu and not on the coffee shop’s website. Upon request, the barista acknowledged having the nitro coffee product available. Not seeing the nitro coffee on the menu was a bit strange because the shop had to invest time to make the cold brew, space for the nitrogen tank, refrigeration unit, and draught tap. One would think that since it is new, or at least somewhat cutting edge, that the shop would give the nitro coffee product some level of signage or promotion.

The second item of interest was the fact that the shop used pure nitrogen to create the nitro coffee from their cold brew. CO2 (in addition to nitrogen) can be used to create the bubbly froth without passing bitterness into the coffee if the CO2 is introduced immediately before consumption and doesn’t get time to spend permeating and affecting the coffee negatively. Pure nitrogen is the method of choice.

The third item of interest with this specific cup of nitro coffee has more to do with the coffee itself. If you do not like the coffee bean or the roast profile, you are not going to like it any better when it is served to you as a nitro brew coffee. So a tip may be that if you try nitro coffee somewhere and don’t like it, consider the underlying cold brew coffee. Ask the shop what type of coffee and roast that they use for their cold brew and find out more about it. You may enjoy nitro coffee with your bean of choice.

Here's how they create nitro coffee at an independent coffee shop in Seattle, Washington.



What? You're telling me that I can do this at home?

Well, yes. However, it is gonna’ cost you. Here’s a home version of a commercial product – around $350.



Last but not least, there’s a DIY method for making nitro coffee that’ll set you back less than $100. Not nitrogen, but NO2 and a whip cream maker. This system is food safe and used by private individuals and professional food servers to make many types of specialty drinks and desserts.

No guarantees that this will work as well as the real nitrogen systems, but here’s a video from Unboxing Experience that shows what could be the ultimate DIY nitro coffee hack.



Here is a whipper similar to the one used in the video.

Just add your favorite coffee from CoffeeAM.com, and you may have an exotic option to impress your next guests!

Happy nitro-ing!
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