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Nitro cold brew coffee is subtly sweet with a velvety texture and a creamy head thanks to infusing cold brew with nitrogen gas. And you won’t believe how easy it is to make at home!

close up of velvety smooth microbubbles on nitro cold brew coffee

I don’t know about you, but I’m not usually one to jump on a trendy bandwagon. Mostly because I know what I like and when I like it, I usually love it. So it took me a really long time to try nitro cold brew coffee!

But I have to admit, it’s actually a pretty cool thing. It looks more like a Guinness stout than a coffee. And the roasty flavor of Guinness with notes of chocolate and coffee and its creamy head isn’t far off the mark when you’re describing nitro cold brew coffee.

Nitro coffee is known for its cascading microbubbles, velvety texture, subtle sweetness, and creamy, dense foam head. No need to add sugar and cream!

There’s a good deal of food science behind it, especially chemistry, but who doesn’t like playing with their food, right?! I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about this coffee trend.

What is Nitro Cold Brew?

Nitro cold brew is cold brew coffee that’s infused with nitrogen gas.

To make it, you first need to make cold brew coffee.

Starting with cold brew means that the coffee is naturally sweeter and less acidic than coffees brewed using traditional brewing methods with heat (such as drip coffee or French press). With cold brew coffee, you might find there’s no need for added sugar.

To make cold brew coffee, steep water and coffee grinds for about 24 hours. Then strain out the coffee grinds. It really is as easy as that!

If you’re wondering what the difference between nitro and cold brew, nitro takes cold brew one step further. Once your cold brew coffee is made, you’re ready to infuse it with nitrogen.

A pressurized valve (which looks like the setup you’d see when you order Guinness on tap) infuses cold brew coffee with nitrogen gas (aka, nitrogenates the coffee). This creates microbubbles that give the drink a smooth, velvety, and creamy cascading texture with a foamy head. Without the addition of dairy!

The resulting coffee is a sweet and creamy drink that feels decadent without adding sugar or cream.

If you’re a dark stout drinker, you’ll find that nitro cold brew looks very similar to a Guinness on tap. The nitrogenation process creates the same microbubbles in a rich, velvety Guinness as it does in a nitro cold brew coffee.

nitro brew in glass

Is Nitro Cold Brew Carbonated?

First we have to look at what carbonated means. Carbonated refers to a bubbly or effervescent drink that contains dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2). This type of carbonation causes the big bubbles that you find in soft drinks.

On the other hand, you can use other gasses to infuse drinks. For example, nitro cold brew! This drink is nitrogenated instead of carbonated. This means that instead of being infused with CO2, it’s infused with pure nitrogen gas (N2), which is a colorless, odorless gas.

Why Not Carbonate Cold Brew?

Carbonated drinks are acidic because carbonic acid forms, which has a sour flavor. Nitrogen is a better choice because it doesn’t create this unpleasant flavor. The natural flavor nuances that are created when you cold brew coffee shines through when you infuse the coffee with N2 instead of CO2.

Also, infusing drinks with nitrogen creates tiny little bubbles instead of the large bubbles that are associated with carbonation. These microbubbles are responsible for the full-bodied, velvety smooth, almost creamy cascading texture of nitro coffee, as well as a foamy head.

glass of nitro coffee with cascading microbubbles
N2 creates microbubbles that make cold brew look cloudy as they cascade.

Should I Use N2 or N2O to make Nitro Brew?

When you’re making nitrogenated coffee at home, you can use a whipped cream dispenser or a nitro cold brew coffee brew maker.

Nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas, is used in whipped cream chargers. Using N2O creates large foamy, frothy bubbles and adds a sweet flavor. N2O is commonly used in whipped cream dispensers to make whipped cream. People sometimes also use it for coffee.

However, if you use a specialized nitro brew dispenser, it uses pure N2. The benefit of using N2 instead of N2O is that pure nitrogen creates a much denser, creamier foam head with microbubbles and a smoother, velvety body to the coffee. Additionally, N2 doesn’t add a sweet flavor; instead, it lets the flavor of the coffee stand out.

Coffee shops such as Starbucks use N2 for their nitro cold brew on tap.

If you want cascading ribbons of microbubbles and a dense, creamy head, go with N2!

How Much Caffeine is in Nitro Cold Brew?

You might be wondering if nitro cold brew is more caffeinated than regular coffee. Nitrogen itself doesn’t affect the caffeine.

However, if you use cold brew coffee to make your nitro brew, your cup of joe will likely have more caffeine than a cup of regular iced coffee. This is because cold brew coffee is made with a higher concentration of coffee grounds than regular coffee. Cold brew is actually seen as a coffee concentrate, and is typically watered down before serving.

A 16-ounce serving of cold brew contains 205 mg of caffeine, while the same size serving of iced coffee only has 165 mg of caffeine. (You can read more about the caffeine in coffee on Healthline.)

Is Nitro Brew Healthier Than Regular Coffee?

One of the best things about nitro cold brew coffee is that you don’t have to add sugar or dairy to get a sweet, creamy drink. It’s luscious all on its own! This means you can enjoy your coffee without adding fat and calories.

If you’re wondering how many calories are in nitro cold brew, it’s the same amount that’s in the coffee itself. Infusing the drink with N2 doesn’t add calories.

According to the USDA, an 8-ounce serving of coffee has just 1 calorie and 0g carbohydrates. This means that nitro cold brew is a good option if you’re looking for a carbohydrate-free, almost zero-calorie drink that still tastes indulgent!

Because of this, some people use nitro cold brew coffee as an energy drink before a workout. Remember that coffee is a diuretic though, and even though it might be good for an energy boost without added calories, it won’t help with hydration. (And of course you should check with your medical doctor before changing your exercise routine!)

velvety microbubbles on nitro cold brew coffee

Can You Put Ice in Nitro Cold Brew?

Ice in nitro cold brew coffee is the topic of some debate!

Starbucks serves their nitro cold brew without ice to “further enhance the smooth, creamy finish”. I can definitely see how getting chunks of ice, or having ice melting into the drink would dilute the flavor and velvety texture of a nitro coffee. It could be seen as a vibe kill, I’ll give them that.

However, just because Starbucks does something doesn’t mean you have to do it! You can serve your coffee the way you like it, lol.

I live in Florida and it is dang hot here. It’s so hot, you’d have to consume your entire beverage without leaving air conditioning, or quickly chug it outside to avoid it getting warm. I’d rather have a cold coffee served cold, even if that means getting an occasional chunk of ice and risking the drink being slightly watered down.

Where Can You Get Nitro Coffee?

It’s so mainstream now, you can get your fix in a ton of different places, including:

How to Make Nitro Coffee at Home

You’ll be surprised at how easy nitro brew is to make at home! And if you frequently make it at home, you’ll save a ton of money by investing in a nitro brew coffee maker rather than paying coffee shop prices.

Step 1: Brew Coffee:

If you want nitro cold brew, you first have to cold brew your coffee (see this post for directions on how to cold brew coffee). Of course, you can buy pre-made cold brew coffee at the grocery store instead if you prefer (and Starbucks cold brew is available on Amazon).

Step 2: Nitrogenate the Coffee:

When you’re making this coffee at home, it’s common to use a portable brewing system with a canister. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Add coffee to the canister. (If you don’t drink the coffee all at once, store the dispenser in the fridge to keep the coffee cold, and wait to dispense the coffee until right before you want to drink it. It should keep its charge for at least up to 3 days, if not longer.)
  2. Seal the canister, and then charge it with a nitrogen cartridge. (Note that each N2 cartridge is a single use.)
  3. Shake the canister for about 30 seconds.
  4. Turn the canister upside down and dispense the coffee into a glass.
  5. Watch the gorgeous cascading ribbons of microbubbles as the foamy cap forms on top, and enjoy!
dispensing nitro cold brew coffee into glass

Different Types of Nitro Coffee Makers

There are different nitro brewing systems available. They have different functionalities and different price points, so you can decide which one works best for your needs.

Let’s talk about a few options! Note that with all of these brewing systems, the nitrogen chargers are sold separately.

Lower End (aka More Affordable) Canister-Style Portable Nitro Coffee Maker

Lower End (aka More Affordable) Canister-Style Portable Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker

If you’re new to making nitro coffee at home, this brewing system will work just fine. It’s a handheld canister-style system that’s easy to use. This particular model also comes with a cold brew steeper, which is essentially a mason jar with a lid and a filter inside that you can use to make cold brew coffee.

Higher End Canister-Style Portable Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker

Higher End Canister-Style Portable Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Maker

If you like the ease-of-use of a canister-style nitro cold brewing system, but you want a step up in terms of quality brewers, this portable system is a good option. It also comes with a 1 year warranty.

Keg Style Nitro Brew Coffee Dispenser

Keg Style Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Dispenser

This tabletop keg fits in your fridge and you can use N2 or N2O chargers.

Keg Style Integrated Cold Brew Coffee Maker and Nitro Dispenser

Keg Style Integrated Cold Brew Coffee Maker and Nitro Dispenser

The beauty of this system is that it makes cold brew coffee and then infuses it with nitrogen! With this type of kegerator, you can skip the step of having to make cold brew separately.

More Coffee Drinks to Try

smooth and creamy foam head on nitro coffee

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Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Recipe

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time0 minutes
Other Time12 hours
Yields: 1 serving
Nitro cold brew coffee is subtly sweet with a velvety texture and a creamy head thanks to infusing cold brew with nitrogen gas. And you won’t believe how easy it is to make at home!

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Ingredients
 

  • 12 ounces cold brew coffee (or more if you want depending on your nitro coffee maker's size)
  • Sweetener and/or milk of choice to taste (but you might find you don't need it with nitro coffee)

Instructions
 

  • Add coffee to the canister.
  • Seal the canister, and then charge it with a nitrogen cartridge.
  • Shake the canister for about 30 seconds.
  • Turn the canister upside down and dispense the coffee into a glass.
  • Watch the gorgeous cascading ribbons of microbubbles as the foamy cap forms on top, and enjoy!

Notes

  • Cold Brew Coffee: If you don’t have time to make your own cold brew concentrate, you can use store-bought cold brew instead. Starbucks cold brew is available on Amazon.
  • Storing Undispensed Coffee: If you don’t drink the coffee all at once, store the dispenser in the fridge to keep the coffee cold, and wait to dispense the coffee until right before you want to drink it. It should keep its charge for at least up to 3 days, if not longer.
  • N2 Cartridge Use: Note that each N2 cartridge is a single use.

Nutrition

Calories: 3kcal | Protein: 0.4g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 7mg | Potassium: 167mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.03mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Nitro Brew, Nitro Brew Coffee, Nitro Coffee, Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

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nitro cold brew coffee pin

References and More Information

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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