Nitro Cold Brew vs Cold Brew: What's the Difference?

Gracie Tidwell
Table of Contents
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    Cold coffee drinks are more than a refreshing seasonal menu item or the newest trend in coffee. Drinks like cold brew, and its variation nitro cold brew, are popular drinks year-round. 

    They are often served by the best coffee roasters and coffee shops in the country. Cold brew coffee offers a unique drinking experience. The flavor, texture, and brewing method make these beverages special. 

    Many people don’t understand the difference between nitro cold brew and cold brew coffee. While both are cold brews, nitro coffee has a few key differences. Read on to learn more about these growing coffee trends.

    Understanding Cold Brew Compared to Nitro Cold Brew

    In order to understand the differences between these drinks, it’s important to understand the basics of cold brew. The process to make cold brew starts with steeping coffee grounds in cool water for up to 24 hours. This process is different from making traditional iced coffee. 

    A normal iced coffee uses coffee brewed with hot water and poured over ice. Brewing the coffee with cold water rather than hot impacts the qualities of the drink. The cold water extracts a different flavor, giving the cold brew a unique flavor profile. 

    Steeping cold brew can take between 12 and 24 hours. The longer the grounds steep, the stronger the flavor. Steeping time and temperature aren’t the only factors that make cold brew different from normal coffee. The grounds used for cold brew are much coarser than the ones used for traditional coffee. 

    These techniques give the cold brew its flavor and texture. Cold brew is less acidic and has a subtly sweet flavor. Cold brew is a great coffee option for people who don’t like the strong flavor of traditional coffee. 

    Over the past few years, cold brew has become a trendy drink and is one of the popular beverage trends. You can find it in local and chain coffee shops, coffee of the month clubs, and even offered by private label brands

    Key Takeaway: Both nitro cold brew and regular cold brew are popular cold coffee drink options. Steeping cold brew for long periods of time results in a distinct flavor profile. The cold water used for brewing impacts the flavor and texture as well. 
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    Intro to Nitro

    Now that you understand the basics of cold brew coffee, you may be wondering what makes nitro cold brew different. The process of making nitro cold brew is the same as regular cold brew, with one key difference. Nitro cold brew undergoes a nitrogen infusion. 

    Kegs are filled with cold brew, then nitrogen is added. This infusion causes small nitrogen bubbles to form in the drink. 

    The nitrogen causes the appealing visual effect of a foamy head on the coffee, similar to that of draft beer. Appearance isn’t the only difference. Nitro cold brew also has a distinct texture due to the bubbles. 

    The carbonated frothiness from the nitrogen offers a mouthfeel different from any other coffee and a velvety smooth feeling. Nitrogen enhances the subtly sweet flavor of the cold brew base. 

    Nitro Cold Brew vs Cold Brew

    Now that you understand the basic differences between nitro cold brew and cold brew, let’s dive into the specific differences. Read on to learn more about this current coffee trend

    Flavor Comparison

    Cold brew has a distinctly different flavor than other coffee, making it a popular choice for retail coffee. The heat used when brewing traditional coffee can cause an acidic taste and some of the flavors get lost. 

    Brewing the grounds in cold water retains the delicately mild and sweet flavors of the coffee. Cold brew tastes much less acidic than normal coffee. Rich, deep flavor characterizes cold brew. 

    Even though it’s sweet, cold brew can also have a strong flavor due to the long steeping process and amount of water. Nitro cold brew holds these same flavors. Just like cold brew, nitro cold brew is creamy and sweet. The nitrogen infusion adds additional creaminess and sweetness to the drink. 

    Texture Comparison

    The desirable texture and mouthfeel of cold brew coffee contribute to the increasing popularity of the drink. Compared to traditional coffee, cold brew has a thinner consistency. 

    The nitrogen bubbles of nitro cold brew differentiate the texture from a normal cold brew. The bubbles give a unique creamy and frothy sensation. Many people compare the texture of nitro cold brew to that of some types of craft beer

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    Serving Style & Presentation Comparison

    The serving style of cold brew coffee is typically over ice or diluted with cold water. Because the drink is often strong, it’s common to add milk or other sweeteners to the drink. 

    In comparison, the serving style of nitro cold brew is usually straight from the tap. The visual presentation of nitro cold brew is another distinguishing feature. The nitrogen causes a creamy, frothy layer on top of the drink, as well as cascading bubbles. This appealing visual effect makes nitro cold brew a popular item at specialty coffee shops. 

    Caffeine Comparison

    The caffeine content of cold brew is higher than regular coffee. The higher caffeine content is a result of the extended steeping process. 

    Regular cold brew and nitro cold brew generally contain similar amounts of caffeine. The brewing time, amount of water, and type of beans used in an individual batch of cold brew determine the caffeine content of the drink.  

    Brewing Process

    The brewing process for cold brew involves several steps and is different from normal coffee brewing. It starts with coarsely grinding the beans in order to optimally extract the flavors. 

    The grounds and cold water are combined and left to steep in an air-tight container for up to 24 hours. A filter or a specialized cold brew machine acts to filter out the grounds. This is the most basic and popular method. 

    There are other brewing methods, such as the immersion method and the slow-drip method. Each method brings out different textures and flavors. 

    Nitro coffee uses the same brewing process, with a few added steps at the end. The cold brew base gets infused with nitrogen. The nitrogen gets infused by a keg or a pressurized can of nitrogen. 

    Both of these methods ensure a fresh, creamy drink with its signature foamy head. Making nitro cold brew requires more specialized equipment than normal cold brew, but both undergo a similar process.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Nitro cold brew and cold brew are trendy coffee beverages with distinct qualities. Understanding the differences between the two can help you better understand today’s coffee trends. 

    Can I make cold brew at home without equipment?

    Yes - you can make cold brew yourself without equipment. All you need is coffee grounds, cold water, and a container. 

    Combine the coffee grounds with water, and let steep for 12-24 hours. Strain the grounds out, and you have your own homemade cold brew. 

    There are also many cold brew coffee makers available for purchase. Another option for cold brew at home is a cold brew subscription delivered right to your door. 

    Does nitro cold brew have more caffeine than regular cold brew?

    Nitro cold brew has the same amount of caffeine as regular cold brew. The process of adding nitrogen to the cold brew base does not change the caffeine content. 

    Both cold brew and nitro cold brew tend to contain more caffeine than normal coffee. The caffeine content of coffee ultimately depends on the beans used, the water-to-coffee ratio, and steeping time. 

    How long does it take to make cold brew coffee?

    It takes between 12-24 hours to make cold brew coffee. Cold brew steeps for an extended amount of time in order to develop its full flavor profile. Nitro cold brew also brews for 12-24 hours, but takes extra time to do the nitrogen infusion.

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