Have you heard about nitro coffee yet? No, it’s not some canned, super-caffeinated concoction marketed to frat boys and hyperactive teenagers. It’s a new way to make iced coffee, and it’s becoming the next big thing among black gold connoisseurs.
Here’s how nitro coffee came to be: Portland-based coffee chain Stumptown hired a food scientist who also happened to be a home-brewed beer enthusiast (this is Portland, after all). At the time, the company was searching for a way to transport large volumes of cold coffee over long distances. They also needed it to arrive at its destination fresh and delicious. Cue the light bulb moment. “Why not put coffee in kegs with nitrogen?” the food scientist mused, while thoughtfully stroking his beard.
So that’s what they did. And as it turns out, other coffee cognoscenti were simultaneously tinkering with similar processes. Great minds think alike, apparently.
The Beneficial Side Effects of the Nitro Coffee Process
While the stated goal may have been the smooth transportation of cold coffee, the finished version had an extra perk. Nitro coffee is smooth and creamy, with a foamy head. It’s less acidic than a toddy brew, and more velvety than an iced Americano.
Unlike its trendy cousin, coffee soda, nitro coffee is less fizz and more foam. And it has more than a little in common with another nitrogen-infused beverage, the ever-popular Guinness.
How It’s Served and What It’s Like
Like the popular Irish brew, this type of coffee is served from a tap, if you’re fortunate enough to live near a forward-thinking coffeehouse that serves it. The barista pulls the lever, and out it pours from a highly pressurized nozzle, with tiny bubbles dancing through the rich and silky umber.
So what’s it like to drink it? It has a chocolaty richness, a luxurious mouth feel, and a wonderfully complex bouquet of flavor. It’s not quite as cold as a toddy or iced Americano, but cold-brew enthusiasts who’ve made the switch don’t seem to mind.
By now, you’re probably eager to try it for yourself. If your local baristas happen to be staunch traditionalists, don’t fret. Stumptown and other brewers have begun to distribute this new take on your old favorite in cans, so nitro coffee should soon be available at fine grocers in your area.