Nitro coffee vs. Cold brew coffee – What are the differences?

The most recent craze in cold brew coffee is nitro cold brew. Even thought we focus on the production of cold drip coffee only we receive many inquires about nitro coffee vs. cold brew coffee. Therefore we’ll try to highlight some frequently asked questions about this topic.

Nitro cold brew comes both a drafting systems and in cans. The term Nitro cold brew is used for a coffee in which very tiny bubbles have been dissolved. Drinking nitrogen cold brew is completely safe when food grade nitrogen is used. The coffee will taste less strong when it would be compared to the same cold brew served with the nitrogen. A frequently heard misunderstanding about nitro coffee is that it has been carbonated. Carbonated drinks hold CO2 and are a lot more acidic. Nitro cold brew refers to being pressurized with Nitrogen (N2). Nitrogen bubbles are smaller than Carbon Dioxide and therefore give a more creamy sensation. There are two different ways to get nitro cold brew.

Nitro cold brew from draft

Nitro coffee can be drafted under pressure of nitrogen. The drafting faucet is different to the ones that are used for regular carbonated beers as the faucet used for nitro cold brew should hold a restriction plate. A restriction plate is a small disc inside the faucet with tiny holes. As the nitrogen pressure presses the coffee through these holes the nitrogen dissolves in the brew in the shape of tiny nitrogen bubbles. These nitrogen bubbles give the cold brew a very creamy mouthfeel similar to a pint of Guinness. Nitro cold brew is great for people that are looking for a dairy free creamy cold brew.

Batavia Cold Drip Coffee Tap
Batavia Cold Drip Coffee Can

Nitro cold brew cans

Nitro cold brew cans work a bit different than the drafting system. In order to give a canned cold brew the same foamy and creamy texture a small plastic ball with a hole inside is added to the cans. This small ball is called a widget and was invented by the Guinness brewery. The cold brew is then filled using the pressure of nitrogen. Before sealing the can the cans are further pressurized. Due to this pressure a bit of coffee (and nitrogen) is forced into the widget. When the can is opened the pressure in the can drops. Because the pressure drops faster above the coffee than in the widget it “shoots” a stream of foamy coffee agitating the brew and giving it a fresh foamy top.

Nitro cold brew coffee vs. cold brew coffee. Which tastes better?

As with all flavour related questions this one is impossible to answer for everyone. If you’re wondering whether you would like it there’s a couple of things to keep in mind. When you love the taste of pure coffee without milk and sugar this craze probably isn’t for you. Especially since a lot of the complexity of the coffee is used. This can’t be avoided and is a sure trade-off for the foam you get in return. Sure it is fun and exciting to try something new but if you prefer your coffee to be bold it is a likely scenario the velvety foam will put you off as it will direct your mind to drinking milky coffee. An association most black coffee drinkers don’t necessarily like.

This being said, if you are a big fan of milky or creamy coffee but want something healthier, with less dairy or if you want to move to drinking black coffee for a different reason this might be a nice introduction to drinking black coffee. The creaminess of the dissolved nitrogen trick your tongue into experiencing a smoother flavor more similar to drinking milky coffee. Therefore you might like this coffee whereas you might not have liked this coffees served without the nitrogen.