What The Heck Is

What the heck is… Nitro Coffee?

By Kitty Knowles 9 May 2017

Explaining the buzzwords of the moment: what is Nitro Coffee and how's it going to supercharge your summer?

Our weekly series What The Heck Is… exists to shed light on the strange unexplained acronyms and unfamiliar buzzwords that creep into our everyday lives.

From ‘copreneurs’ to ‘teledildonics’ we’re on a mission to explain the difficult to explain.

Now, as we start fantasising about sunshine, we’re dreaming of hot days and cool beverages.

‘Nitro coffee’ sounds like a crazy science experiment – but it’s going to give your coffee a boost this summer…

What is nitro coffee?

Ice-cool coffee infused with nitrogen.

It’s easiest to think of nitro coffee as the beautiful bastard child of coffee and beer. It’s made from steeped cold brew coffee, but comes in a keg, and is poured on tap using a beer pump in cafes or bars.

You can also get tinned versions.

The result?

Enhanced taste and texture.

Nitro coffee is a little crisper and sweeter. It’s also creamier than ever – even black coffee comes out with an impressive Guinness-like head.

Chilled coffee with ‘champagne bubbles’ might sound bizarre, but it’d fast becoming a global (caffeine) hit.

It also tastes great mixed in a coffee cocktail.

Stumpton's nitro coffee in a can.

Where did it come from?

The American coffee scene.

Inspired by nitro beer, the US roaster Stumptown first started serving nitro coffee in its cafes in 2013. This went down so well the brand started canning it, with competitors like Cuvee Coffee and District Roasters hot on their heels.

Indie coffee connoisseurs were quick to jump in on the act, with nitro brews booming across US hipster coffee shops. Even Starbucks eventually got in the game selling its own ‘Nitro Cold Brew’ last year.

Pic: Nitro Coffee makers Frank and Earnest.

Coffee-maker Sandows was the first to embrace the trend in London in 2014, with the likes of Yorkshire-based Artemis, Suffolk’s Frank and Earnest, and Edinburgh’s Brew Lab bringing the beverage to other parts of Britain.

And now, Starbucks has launched ‘Nitro Cold Brew’ in Britain, with Costa due to follow suit.

It’s only a matter of time before you spot nitro brew on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Why should you care?

We’ve been enjoying coffee (as we know it) for hundreds of years, but nitro coffee shows that even much-loved traditions have room for innovation.

Plus, we (as ever) are praying for sunshine this summer. And if that doesn’t play out, we plan on cheering ourselves up with bubbly coffee instead.

Or potentially, a bubbly coffee cocktail.