When it comes to chilled coffee drinks, you have a host of options to choose from. But if the acidity in coffee doesn’t agree with you, you may want to reach for a cold brew — or its cousin nitro cold brew — the next time you’re at your local coffee shop. In this post, I’ll go over the difference between nitro and cold brew and what sets them apart from other coffee drinks.
What is cold brew coffee?
Cold brew is made by steeping coarse ground coffee in cold water over a long period of time, generally 12-24 hours. Then the grounds are strained and the coffee is chilled down to complete the brewing process.
The lengthy brewing period pulls more flavor from the coffee. And it can also extract more caffeine from the grounds — more than you may get from a regular cup of coffee. So some prefer it for the extra energy jolt it can provide (though adding more water during the steeping process can dilute the caffeine levels).
But another benefit to the cool-steeping process is that also extracts less acidity from the grounds. That results in a mellow-tasting, less bitter coffee that can be more gentle on the gut.
It can be served all on its own or over ice. And you can mix in your favorite creamer and sweeteners to adjust your tastes.
👉🏼 Related: Can You Reuse Coffee Grounds for Cold Brew?
What is nitro cold brew?
Nitro is essentially regular cold brew coffee that’s infused with tiny nitrogen bubbles. Those bubbles create a soft, creamy mouthfeel that makes the drink seem both richer and lighter at the same time. It’s the same concept that gives a glass of Guinness beer its velvety texture and foamy head.
Coffee shops often serve nitro out of a tap specifically designed to deliver the perfectly infused, creamy cup.
As with regular cold brew, nitro coffee has low acidity so it doesn’t feature the bitterness that other coffee drinks can have. In fact, the creaminess of nitro creates a slight natural sweetness that makes it seem that much richer.
And according to Healthline, the decreased acidity of nitro and cold brew in general can make the drink a good option for those with digestive issues like acid reflux or sensitive stomachs.
How much caffeine is in cold brew?
Generally, cold brew will have slightly more caffeine than regular coffee, depending on how much water is used during the brewing process compared to the amount of coffee grounds — as well as the serving size. This is especially true for cold brew concentrate, though that is meant to be cut with water or milk to level off the caffeine.
Using Starbucks as an example, a 16 oz cup of their cold-brewed coffee contains 205 mg of caffeine. That’s compared to 165 mg in a 16 oz cup of their regular iced coffee.
How much caffeine is in nitro cold brew?
Many nitro cold brews are made with large amounts of strong coffee in order to create a more intense flavor and to give it a darker color. That also tends to boost the caffeine level per serving.
Depending on the type of coffee used and the grounds to water ratio, nitro can have significantly more caffeine than regular coffee.
Again using Starbucks as an example, a 16 oz Starbucks nitro cold brew packs 280 mg of caffeine. That’s more than 25% higher than its regular cold brew. So nitro can be a good option for coffee lovers who prefer a good energy boost from their cup of Joe.
Iced coffee vs cold brew
So, what about iced coffee? How is that different from cold brew or nitro? Well, traditional iced coffee is simply regular brewed coffee that’s allowed to cool, then poured over ice.
Just like with hot brewed coffee, it can be enjoyed on its own, or you can add milk, creamer, and your choice of sweetener.
But unlike cold brew, iced coffee is brewed quickly with hot water, not with cool water over several hours. And it isn’t frothy and rich like nitro is.
Cold brew vs nitro cold brew: Key differences
While both are made using a similar cold brewing process, the big distinction is that nitro is infused with nitrogen microbubbles. Those tiny bubbles give it a smooth, creamy texture and a slightly sweeter taste.
Nitro is also often made with stronger ground coffee beans for richer flavor and color. That can give nitro a greater caffeine kick than regular cold brew.
No, for optimal consistency, it’s best to avoid adding ice. The nitrogen gas infusion in nitro cold brew gives the drink its distinctive rich and smooth texture. Adding ice can dilute it and result in a thinner, less creamy finish.
Nitro cold brew has a slightly sweet taste naturally, so in many cases additional sugar may not be necessary. But if you prefer yours on the sweeter side, you can always add a flavored syrup that complements the roasted coffee flavor, like caramel or hazelnut.
Yes, you can heat up cold brew without harming its mellow taste. It’s best to warm up cold brew gradually on a stovetop over low heat so it doesn’t burn and become bitter. You can also pop it in the microwave in intervals of 15 seconds until you reach your desired temperature.
More coffee answers
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