HOW TO MAKE
Nitro Cold Brew
AT HOME

One day I got a call from my friend who owns a local coffee shop. He told me about some new coffee drink that was like Guinness beer. Being a fan of Guinness too, I had to find out what this was. That day we drove nearly 35 miles to Austin, Texas to try a Nitro Cold Brew coffee. And I haven't been able to get over it since then. See more about what nitro cold brew is.

I'm not a rocket scientist, but my friend and I did a little research and testing to figure out how to make the best recreation nitro cold brew at home. This article is deticated to our journey and providing you with a step-by-step process to make your own nitro brew today.

where nitro coffee came from

About Our Brewing Method

Back in 2013 is when the very first nitro cold brew coffee was made. It was a guarded secret that the owner of Cuvee Coffee in Austin Texas wanted to keep from everyone. Just like every good chef keeps their secret recipe from getting out, Mike was not giving up his secret so easily. All we knew is that it has been infused with nitrogen to get that creamy texture. But there was something more that we didn't know, so we did some digging and found out some facts. Unlike regular cold brew coffee, there was an ingredient that we didn't want in our coffee that was making it taste different.

The Problem w/ Home Brewing

What they did was to brew their coffee under factory-like conditions, keeping their coffee that's brewed at 36 degrees. So naturally, we thought that the coffee just needs to be cold. And that's where we started to find out what happens when you try to brew cold brew coffee at home. We were missing the whole point of something that got in the way. It turns out that air is an ingredient that shouldn't be in your coffee as it cold brews. This is why cold brew coffee is a hit or miss in my opinion. The amount of time that air gets into your coffee, the more time that flavors begin to lose their punch. So we had to do a bunch of experimenting to solve this taste problem.

How to Fix the Problem?

As mentioned before, the problem is with oxygen getting into your coffee as it sits for a whole day. It has to have a container that can be purged to there is no air inside your cold brew vessel. This was a tough choice since we didn't have a lot of money to spend on factory equipment. Not until we discovered something unexpected. We found that using a large wine jug to store our water and coffee grounds were perfect for this. To get the air out, we used a wine vacuum hand pump that has a stopper at the top. It was perfect for pumping-out all the air inside the jug. Our jug was large enough to have one gallon of cold brew coffee. It also fits into the fridge without taking up much room.

When the coffee was steeped for a day or so, I could then pour the remainder of the coffee into a container with a filter a couple of times. The result was amazing and preserved more flavor than I could ask for. After that, it was only a matter of how to get the nitrogen into the coffee. In the next section, I'll tell you more about what experiments we found that worked best.

How to Make Nitro
Cold Brew At Home

As the saying goes, "there's more than one way to skin a cat"; while you can make coffee at home, Nitro coffee is no different when it comes to making a cold brew coffee than any other. Here are some sure-fire steps to getting the right kind of flavor.

Basic Brewing Method

Nitro coffee is based on a cold brew process. This all starts with the coffee grounds. You need to have a medium to coarse grind. This should look like fine gravel or coarse sand. Once you have this you are ready to start a cold brew.

1. Have Large Glass or Plastic Container
You need to have a large glass or plastic container that is big enough to put in your fridge.

2. put your coffee grounds into the container first
You put your coffee grounds into the container first. For any size container, you'll measure at a 1 to 5 ratio for each batch. This is essentially one measuring cup of coffee grounds to 5 cups of water.

3. Your water needs to be filtered!
Your water needs to be filtered! Any kind of clean filtered water is good, but I prefer a water filter that's attached to my kitchen sink. Bottled water is fine but it often tastes different than freshly filtered water.

4. add 5 cups of filtered water
After putting one cup of course coffee grounds into the container, you'll then add 5 cups of filtered water. That's it, no magic spell and no time spent, that is until the coffee grounds have reached their maximum steep.

5. Your course coffee grounds and water need to be mixed with a plastic spoon a little and then the container should be covered.
Your course coffee grounds and water need to be mixed with a plastic spoon a little and then the container should be covered. If the container has a lid, then use that. I like to use a large wine jug to store a cold brew coffee. This is so I can use a special wine cap that sucks out air from the jug. This keeps oxygen from affecting the steep process. If you have a wine bottle pump, you can't go wrong with this method. And if I could make one more recommendation, you could look into getting Hario’s cold brew bottle. Okay, now that we’re clear on containers, let’s move on.

6. You put the mixture into the fridge and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours.
You put the mixture into the fridge and let it sit for 24 to 48 hours. They say that the best cold brew coffee is made when it sits for a week. But you don't need that much time since the maximum is 24 hours, in my opinion. After 12 hours you should stir-up the contents by shaking the container. This just helps the coffee gets mixed into the water.

7. You need a second container and a fine kitchen filter screen.
After letting the coffee steep for a day, it's ready to be filtered. You need a second container and a fine kitchen filter screen. If you don't have a good filter you can use some pantyhose pulled over a standard strainer. I do this a lot when filtering soups to get out little spices and bits that shouldn't be cruising around in the broth. Make sure the pantyhose are clean first! Or, I guess you can just go with a basic cheesecloth or traditional coffee filter.

8. After the first filtering, you might need to do it again
After the first filtering, you might need to do it again if there are still little bits of coffee ground left-over. You don't want these in your coffee, so make sure that it has all the ground pieces taken out of the liquid.

Infusing with Nitroxide

After your coffee is filtered, it's ready to be transformed into nitro coffee.

The magic of Nitro Cold Brew, its creaminess and frothiness, indeed lies in the tiny nitrogen bubbles. When nitrogen gas is forced into the cold brew under high pressure, it creates thousands of tiny bubbles, smaller than the bubbles formed by carbonation. These tiny bubbles are what give nitro cold brew its distinctive velvety texture and mouthfeel.

Nitrogen is largely insoluble in liquid, which means it doesn't dissolve but forms these minute bubbles. These bubbles are so small that they remain suspended in the liquid for an extended period, creating the characteristic cascading effect when the nitro cold brew is poured.

When the nitrogen-infused coffee is served from a tap, the high pressure forces these bubbles to move upwards, resulting in a frothy head, akin to a pint of stout beer. The bubbles also subtly alter the taste perception, making the coffee seem sweeter even without added sugar, enhancing the overall sensory experience of consuming a Nitro Cold Brew.

You nitro brew is best served cold, but there are some people also like it served hot too. Simply pour the cold (or hot) brewed coffee into your mini-keg or whipped cream container  and prepare it to be poured.

whipped cream dispenser for nitro cold brew
nitrogen cartridge with nitro maker
pouring nitro cold brew coffee into a cup

Whipped Cream Dispenser VS. Mini-Keg

Whipped Cream Dispenser
The downside to the whipped cream method is it use nitrogen gas cartridges to add the gas to your coffee. This is a cheap and simple method but it requires one or two degassing purges to make sure that air is not inside the canister when you serve the finished coffee — not to mention that those little gas cartridges don't last long.

Mini-Keg
Alternativity, a specialty brewing system like the At Home Mini-Keg is a better and more reliable solution that can hold more gas and coffee. Devices like this allow for preservation and can be stored away in until you use it. The advantage is that oxygen is eventually purged-out the first time you use a gas cartridge and seals in all of that nitro cold brew that flavor. The next cartage will no doubt be more amazing than the first. There are many of these models on the market now, unlike the early days. While they cost more up-front than investing into the whipped cream method, if you plan on doing this more than a handful of times you’ll be better off with splurging on a mini-keg brewer.

making cold brew with french press

Alternative Cold Brewing Methods

Cold brewed coffee has a different taste than freshly brewed coffee that uses hot water to steep the grounds. Cold brew coffee has less acidity which most people know is the bite of fresh brewed. The amount of acid that is removed from the bean makes coffee taste brighter. Cold-brew is often smoother and sweeter, which is why nitro cold brew has such a mellow and smooth taste. To be honest, there are a few methods to make brewed coffee at home. You can have a pour-over method that is more ritual-like than anything else. A standard coffee machine that uses course coffee grounds, an espresso machine, or a French Press.

The French Press

Those who do it the French way like to have a French Press coffee maker. What makes this similar to the pour-over method is how the coffee grounds are nearly identical. The French Press has a built-in filter that pushes the grounds to the bottom of the vessel. Then it can be poured. But unlike the Pour-over method, some small bits of coffee can end-up in your cup if the built-in filter doesn't catch them in time.

The pour-over method

This method is very popular and makes the art of making coffee nearly scientific in many circles. But the method is simple to follow. It's simply pouring hot water (198 degrees Fahrenheit) over medium to coarse ground beans that sit inside a filter vessel. The hot water filters through the vessel and drains into a second vessel underneath.

A standard coffee maker

Nearly the same method as above except coffee grounds can be finer. It's an automatic function, so there's nothing to it except that coffee is filtered into a glass container.

The espresso machine

Since espresso is different than coffee, coffee grounds always need to be ground into a fine texture. The pressure that's used to force hot water through ground coffee grounds produces a strong coffee that has a distinct flavor. It also makes a fine crema that has sweet tan-colored foam that sits on the top of a freshly made espresso

nitro cold brew background 2

Final Thoughts

Making your own nitro cold brew coffee doesn't take expert equipment to make. These bonus tips should help you to get better results making nitro cold brew at home. And ever since I started with that first experience so many years ago, I would rather share my secrets. Instead of paying nearly 4 bucks for a nitro brew at Starbuck, why not start saving some money instead. Now you can invest that money into a decent micro-keg that does the same thing. You'll be glad you did since you can now get the maximum flavor from making it yourself at home.

And since most of us are spending more time at home anyway, what better reason is there? You can invite close friends for those lazy afternoons, or hot evenings without ever needing to go out to the coffee shop. You won't be sorry you did.

Shake Well

Since a micro-keg has gas inside after a cartridge is spent, you should always shake the keg before every use. This allows the coffee and gas to mix together more evenly. When the tap is opened, you'll hear that gas escaping before the frothy liquid starts to flow out of the tap. Shaking makes sure there's more evenly distributed froth to each glass that's poured.

Purging when you add more cold brew coffee

Just like your big wine jug full of cold brew should have the air vacuumed out, so does your mini-keg. As crazy as this will sound, this will help preserve the flavors for longer periods. You need to add new cold brew coffee to the keg and screw on the lid, nice and snug. A fresh nitrogen canister will charge a vessel but not remove excess oxygen, so it needs to be purged for that air. Put a cup under the tap and slowly pull it allowing the gas and air to escape. You mustn't shake the mini-keg since this will include oxygen into the coffee.

When you can see that no gas or air is escaping anymore, the keg is purged. Then a new gas canister can then be added to the keg. Only after that should you shake the keg to mix both the coffee and the nitrogen together. This makes your nitro cold brew coffee make a distinct cascade effect after its poured. When oxygen is still inside your mini-keg it just looks like beer foam. The cascade effect only happens when oxygen isn't mixed into the coffee allowing it to flow down to the bottom of a cup, like a waterfall instead of rising.

Adding Garnishes

With all of that in mind now you can finally concentrate on making your own variations at home. But keep in mind that you don't want to add anything into your cold brew coffee to disrupt the flavors already there. So only things that you add to these coffee recipes are recommended after you add nitro cold brew to a cup.

For that sweet tooth

Here's a fun one with endless combinations. Stick with me for a second -- breakfast cereal -- that leftover milk at the end of a bowl of ceral. Why not strain the content into an unbleached coffee filter and add that flavored milk to your coffee. Imagine the kind of flavors like cookie crunch or cinnamon toast crunch added to your morning cup? Why stop there since only you know what tastes good. You can try fruity flavors that include Trix or Lucky Charms... Or if you like that familiar flavor of Apple Jacks, go ahead and give it a try.

Add some alcohol or cream liquor

There's something about adding a shot of anything with alcohol to coffee that is magical. But it doesn't have to end with the everyday blends you see out there. Irish coffee is fine but gets boring after a while. Why not spice it up with some spiced rum instead? If you're feeling exotic there is also a good reason to add a small bit of absinthe to your nitro mix. Or perhaps conventional liquors like Midori with a splash of ginger ale. Those of you who experienced Farrell's Ice Cream parlor might remember the Green River' soda. Try adding that to your nitro coffee next time!

Make it refreshingly different

If you have to be in the mood for a refreshing, a mint julep is hard to beat on a hot day. Top this off with cold brew nitro coffee and you've got something wild. How about making a Mai Tai mix that adds some tropical flavors into a classic Tiki mug? You might think that adding fruit juices into cold brew coffee is a nasty thought, but think again. The natural sweetness of fruit enhances coffee since we all know what coffee is made from. Oh, did you forget already? Coffee is made from the coffee cherry, and as it grows on the tree, the fruit that's produced is from a berry! So yes it's never a bad idea to mix fruit flavors into the coffee.

9 thoughts on “How to Make Nitro Cold Brew at Home”

  1. I have a Soda stream which uses co2. If I use it instead of nitrogen, will my “nitro cold brew” taste or look differently from coffee with nitrogen?

    Reply
  2. I’m a chemist that worked in the industrial food industry and and additionally organic and inorganic chemical industries. Oxygen is a potent element. Controlling oxygen in processes is often critical to achieving optimum color and flavor stability. Oxygen readily reacts with, or oxidizes, many of the compounds associated with flavor. I had often though about this same type process for home brew. I have several process improvement suggestions. Keep your coffee in a vacuum or under CO2 or N2. Purge the O2 in the water, about 8%, by bubbling nitrogen(N2) for about 30 seconds. when transferring from the brew container use CO2 or N2 pressure to push the cold brew through a stem filter submerged into the container bottom. The brew should be transferred into a purged CO2 or N2 blanketed keg. These additional steps ensure that the first O2 the brew contacts is just prior to being consumed. Maybe I’ll try something like this soon.

    Reply
  3. What type of gallon jug did you find works best for use with the wine pump? Did your gallon jug come with a screw lid, or a stopper like on a wine bottle?
    Thanks for the info!

    Reply
  4. THANK YOU For sharing this! I love coffee and wonderd the same thing after making cold brew at home. Disappointing to say the least. I can’t wait to try these techniques!!!

    Reply
  5. For making cold brew check out the Rumble Jar. It’s a cheap and brilliant way to make great cold brew.
    You put course ground coffee into a stainless steel tube with a built in screen, and then cap it with a silicone lid.
    Then you drop it in a wide mouth mason jar and fill with water.
    Because you can just fill all the way to the top and then put the lid on (even let some water get pushed out) there’s no way air can be in the jar, so the coffee would brew without oxygen contact.

    Reply

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