We take a look at the latest trend in coffee shops, nitrogen infused coffee. How is it made, what does it taste like, and what do you need to be aware of if you want to make it?
The evolution of customers wanting cool drinks with a caffeine fix is on the rise. As a result, cold beverages such as iced-coffee are now readily available to buy in coffee shops, cafes and even fast food restaurants.
In the US, iced coffee consumption has grown 75% in the past decade, and popularity is expected to increase even further as the range of cold coffee beverages continue to develop and expand.
One of the latest creations is the ‘nitro cold brew’, a cold coffee infused with nitrogen (N2), which is usually stored in a keg, pressurised and poured from a tap.
Nitro cold brew is made by mixing nitrogen with cold brew coffee, and when it is poured, a dense foam of tiny bubbles form in the drink, making it look like beer.
These small bubbles create a smooth, creamy texture and unlock the sweet taste of coffee without the need for milk or sugar. It is also claimed that this type of drink is twice as strong as normal coffee.
Nitrogen infused coffee has made an appearance on menus in local cafes and trendy shops over the past few years. In 2013, Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters installed nitrogen taps at its cafes to serve nitro cold brew, and by 2015 the drink was so popular it became available in a can.
Starbucks already make standard cold brew in-house, which involves soaking beans for 20 hours to extract the flavour from them. In selected stores in Seattle, they have started infusing their cold brew with nitrogen and selling it to their customers, but plans were underway to make it available to more than 500 stores by the end of summer 2016, including those located in New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The reason it was only rolled out to a limited amount of stores is because the equipment for a single nitro cold brew coffee tap system is a costly investment. It is estimated that the equipment needed for the stores will cost half a million in total, and that’s before buying the ingredients to make the coffee.
Care must be taken by those serving nitro coffee, as although nitrogen is not toxic, it is an inert gas which can replace oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere.
Oxygen makes up approximately 21% of the atmosphere, but if there is a leak of nitrogen from the keg or pipework used to serve nitro coffee, this can cause the concentration of oxygen to decrease.
When using nitrogen, either in gas or liquid form, it is important not to use it in a confined space, ensure it is stored safely and to have adequate ventilation.
Industry guidelines such as EH40 in Europe and OSHA in the US advise consideration be given to the installation of oxygen monitorswhere inert gases such as nitrogen are used as a leak can cause an asphyxiation risk.
To help comply with this standard and keep employees and customers safe, we offer a range of fixed and portable O2 gas detectors for all industries and price ranges.