Nitro coffee is not a new concept, but it is still a niche one. Invented in 2013 by Stumptown Roasters’ Nate Armbrust, the discovery began as a labour of love and became a full-blown quest to aerate coffee into something simultaneously creamy and slightly bubbly, but not at the expense of flavour.
Taking his cue from the beer brewing process, Armbrust first tried pumping carbon dioxide into the beverage, but the overpowering sourness from the acidity in the gas rendered the drink unbalanced and completely unpalatable. From here Armbrust took inspiration from Guinness with its smooth, frothy head from the nitrogen infusion, which imparts a silky finish to the stout and coaxes out the natural sweetness of the crop, whether Guinness’s barley or the humble coffee bean.
Going back a few steps, and up a few notches in coffee nerdiness, cold brewing was discovered centuries back in Japan and is the process of steeping grinds in cold water for 24 hours to allow the bean’s natural flavour, fruitiness and earthy notes to materialise. The use of cold water allows oil bubbles full of acidic compounds to escape unscathed, rather than being emulsified into the drink as happens when heat is added to the equation.
Combine this cold brew with a double-charge of nitrogen and hook up to a tap for a concoction that remarkably resembles its muse: a frosty glass of deep malt-coloured liquid with a thick head. Once poured, the nitrogen bubbles create a waterfall effect that tumbles down the glass as the drink settles. The real magic happens, however, upon the first sip, when the smooth yet light consistency allows the flavours of the grind to speak for themselves. Add milk or sweetener at the peril of sacrilege and the despair of your barista.
Served super-chilled in all its simple glory, Nitro coffee caters not just to the purists among caffeine chasers but to anyone in search of a light, refreshing beverage during scorching summer months. Nitro’s caffeine to water ratio is ramped up considerably, and this bonus of packing a serious punch seals its fate as a morning essential.