Nitro coffee is a delicious way to enjoy your cup of joe.
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY EDIE BAKER
Nitro coffee is an ingenious drink. Take iced coffee that’s been kegged and infuse it with nitrogen. It’s poured from a tap and looks strikingly like a Guinness beer.
Nitro coffee is an experience as much as it is a beverage. Watching the dark brown liquid pouring from the nitro tap is hypnotic, with the tiny bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass and melding into the creamy froth on top. What’s most amazing is that it’s only coffee in the glass. It’s a mind trick because it looks like a beer, but once you’ve tasted it, you know it’s coffee.
Our friend, Mike McKim of Cuvée Coffee Bar in Austin, Tex., invented the drink a few years back. We worked on our own version at Chocolate Fish Coffee with the help of local beverage master Chris Tucker and released it for Beer Week here in 2014, dubbing it Morning Beer. It’s caught on like wildfire in coffee-loving Sacramento.
Tapping into taste
It can be made by two methods: cold brew or flash brew. For cold brew, coffee grounds are soaked in cold water for 12 hours, which then delivers big body and an almost liquor-like flavor. For flash brew, a hot concentrate of coffee is brewed directly into ice. It delivers clean, crisp flavors of sweetness and fruit acidity with a lighter body. When the nitrogen is fully infused into either one (that’s the magic part), it adds a creamy mouthfeel.
The most eye-catching way to serve nitro coffee is in a Belgian-style tulip glass. Some prefer it over ice; others like to add vanilla syrup or an orange peel if the coffee’s not sweet enough. To reach nirvana, try it with your favorite ice cream to create a nitro float.
Creative nitro cocktails are delicious and can be found around town. Several mixologists are experimenting with the different coffee flavors and teaming them up with liquors, syrups, and creams to create unique coffee experiences. Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co. makes a nitro cocktail with rum and cream, and Malt & Mash Irish Pub delivers an extraordinary take on an Irish coffee using cold nitro coffee.
If you want to make this at home I suggest brewing coffee by the cold or flash method, and placing it into a metal whipping cream dispenser. Infuse it with a nitrogen cartridge and dispense. You’ll have a great time experimenting with different coffees or adding flavors to create your own take on the drink.
Not all nitro is created equal. The brewing method affects the flavor, but more importantly it’s the actual coffee that imparts most of what you’ll taste in the cup. Ours is made with a coffee from El Retiro Del Quisaya farm in Guatemala and has caramel sweetness and red grape acidity.
Sacramento has plenty of varieties of nitro coffee on tap at coffeehouses, bars, and restaurants. Get out on the town, sample some different takes on this drink, and stay cool while you look cool sipping your nitrogenated coffee.
Edie Baker owns Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters with her husband, Andy. A coffee lover for life, she's always learning more about coffee from the seed to the cup and is eager to share this knowledge with everyone. Her motto is "drink the best and drink often!"
Try nitro coffee at the following locations (and more):
Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters
Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.
Fish Face Poke Bar
Malt & Mash
Quality Boutique & Bru
Temple Coffee Roasters
The Niche Ice Cream
Vibe Health Bar