The brewing trend that’s making waves across the pond, nitro’s turned up at a select handful of British festivals, bars and cafes this year. Not tried it? Let us introduce you to the smooth stuff
Slow brewed in cold water overnight then propelled into a tall glass in a foamy infusion of nitrogen, this wonderfully geeky serve style is the latest way to meet your speciality caffeine fix. We got the lowdown from a few insiders well acquainted with the new brew on the block …
The geeky bit
‘The whole concept of nitro cold brew takes a lot from the brewing industry,’ explains Ben Baker of Yorkshire’s Artemis Cold Brew, one of the brew buffs pushing nitro at festivals and events up and down the UK. ‘We’ve adopted the methods that brewers use to produce the smoother mouthfeel of a stout or porter, to create the creamy texture akin to a Guinness in a chilled coffee drink.’
Combining single origin cold brew with nitrogen gas, the wickedly smooth yield is achieved when the coffee is released from a chilled keg through a pressurised tap. ‘In coffee, this method is used as much for aesthetic appeal as it for the texture and taste,’ adds Ben.
The tasty bit
’The gas itself has no flavour,’ continues Ben, ‘but it changes the concept of the drink completely. The smooth texture from the nitro allows us to bridge the gap between black coffee and milk as the resulting creaminess changes the delicate flavours of the coffee. For example dark chocolate notes will become milk chocolate. It’s a great way to get people who aren’t fans of black coffee to make the transition into cold brew.’
So, can we blast any bean with gas for a refreshingly foamy mouth feel? Well, no, as Don Iszatt of Finca in Dorchester, one of the few South West speciality shops serving nitro, explains. ‘When we prepare the cold brew for our nitro offering, we always start by selecting the right single origin for the job. Fruity, citrus and floral tones don’t usually work well with the creamier and sweeter yield of the infusion. We’d normally choose coffees with nuttier, chocolately characteristics.’
The how-do-I-get-my-hands-on-it bit
Nitro went mainstream in America a couple of year’s ago, with New York’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters leading the way with nitro on draft in its stores and even a canned version for the retail market. ‘The UK is a little late to the nitro party,’ says Ben, ‘but at Artemis we’ve been doing this for almost two years and people are starting to catch on to the trend.’
The slow take-up of the silky brew at speciality shops could be due to the perceived intricacies of the set-up, as Don explains, ‘There are a number of things cafes have to consider when setting up nitro, including how they’ll brew the cold coffee, storage, bottling, kegging and shelf life.’ But it’s easier than they may think, as Ben butts in: ‘coffee shop owners seem to think nitro will take up lots of space, but our set-up takes up less than a metre squared.’
The espresso martini bit
So are we all going to be swapping pints of beer for cold brew? Well, maybe. ‘Bars and shops with a line-system already in place for craft beer could be serving cold brew right now,’ enthuses Ben. ‘And the micro-foam is great for cocktails – we’re already working on a speciality espresso martini on-tap.’ We’ll raise a glass to that.
Feature from the Northern Independent Coffee Guide No2. Get the latest guide here.