Smooth, frothy, rich, refreshing….coffee? Nitro coffee hit the American hipster coffee scene in 2011 or 2012 (depending on who you ask) and has since grown to dominate the cold brew market. Keep reading to learn what makes nitro coffee unique in the world of specialty coffee drinks, along with the pros and cons of choosing a nitro coffee over a traditional iced coffee or regular cold brew.
Nitro coffee is cold brewed coffee that has been infused with nitrogen to give it a rich, creamy texture and upper layer of froth — similar to what you find with nitro infused draft beers. Infusing cold brew with nitrogen creates a much thicker, heavier mouthfeel than could be achieved naturally with any cold brewed coffee. The tiny nitrogen bubbles also give the normally dense cold brew a refreshing lift by creating a broader range of sensations in the mouth. Most often, nitro coffee is served on tap, out of a keg, and drunk without a straw or lid, reenforcing the beer-like quality of this coffee drink.
For those who love beer, this is a smooth, frothy cup that gives you that ‘best of both worlds’ happy vibe. Cold brewed, nitro coffee has little to no acidity, a thick, heavy mouthfeel, and tends to be naturally sweet given the absence of bright upper notes. For cold brew or iced coffee drinkers, nitro coffee adds a new element to your favorite drink thanks to that exceptional frothy texture. It also just looks cool.
Nitro coffee is caffeine-packed — and not necessarily in a good way. With the standard 16-ounce cup containing 280 milligrams of caffeine1 (compared to 95 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of regular coffee), regular nitro coffee drinkers run the risk of ingesting too much caffeine. You heard me right, too much caffeine! While coffee boasts many health benefits, consuming too much in too a brief time can lead to a host of unwanted maladies, including increased anxiety, hypertension, and heart problems. It can also lead to insomnia and counteract the wonderful mood-boosting, calming effects coffee can and should have on the drinker. Chain nitro drinkers (we know you are out there!) also increase their risk of suffering a caffeine overdose.
If you love a crisp, clean, complex cup of coffee with nuanced upper notes, I would pass on nitro coffee as it fundamentally changes the coffee’s innate character. If you are a cold brew drinker and / or beer lover, nitro coffee is definitely worth a try. The rich texture, froth, and coffee’s natural sweetness when cold brewed will give you the impression of drinking a chocolate beer — which, let’s face it, sounds pretty delicious!