Fleeting trends come and go in the coffee industry on a revolving door, with few making a lasting impression before fizzling and dying out. Nitro cold brew seems to fit this blueprint with its sudden surge in popularity in recent years, taking millennials by storm. However, with the backing of several companies exclusively producing the creamy, Guinness-like beverage and coffee shops investing in equipment with the sole purpose of serving nitro cold brew, there must be an inclination that this brew is in it for the long haul.
What it is
Produced by infusing nitrogen via a gas tank through a pressurised valve into cold brew concentrate, this cool caffeine kick offers a thicker mouth-feel due to nitrogen molecules being far smaller than carbon dioxide, making it harder to dissolve water into coffee.
The addition of nitrogen also negates the acidity of standard cold brew, making it more palatable for a certain demographic of café attendees. As a result of the nitrogen addition, a creamy, richer beverage is created. CEO of Califia Farms, Greg Steltenpohl tells us: “Nitro cold brew has untapped the next great adventure in coffee: a creamy, yet dairy-free beverage, suitable for those who are dairy intolerant.”
The effect nitrogen has on the flavour of coffee has a profound effect as Angus Pooley, representative of Liquidline tells us: “Natural sweetness is bought out of the coffee, enhancing the roast’s tasting notes with the addition of nitrogen. This makes it easier on the tongue, but without the health drawbacks of adding dairy products or sugar.”
How it can improve business
A host of coffee houses are reporting a huge upside to offering nitro cold brew on their menu, with a recorded increase in sales of 115 per cent on the trendy caffeine kick in the past year.
The Arabica Coffee Shop in Newcastle has been offering nitro coffee for the past three months and has already experienced sales of the drink account for approximately 15 to 20 per cent of the shop’s total sales. Demand is so great that the shop often runs out. “For something that’s brand new for us, we haven’t put a lot of leg work into advertising it, it’s just fantastic,” said Andy McClure, the shop’s manager.
Nitro cold brew’s marketability is a significant reason for its potential financial upside. As it’s made from only coffee and water, nitro cold brew is perfect to market to a health-conscious customer base. No added sweeteners, dairy products and containing an average of less than 20 calories per serving, it has the potential to create a huge buzz in the ‘health-nut’ community and increase sales drastically.
Coming in both canned form and on tap, the decision on which is best is highly contestable, with each presenting its own set of advantages. Nitro taps offer the advantage of saving counter space to stock other products and add an element of theatre, says Liquidline’s Angus, which is an imperative component to the independent market.
On the other hand, canned options represent a lower sunk cost, meaning that it can be bought in around the spring-summer time when the drink’s popularity soars and risk less investment by purchasing a tap system.
Post major coffee chains such as Costa and Starbucks jumping on the nitro cold brew bandwagon, it’s position has become far more cemented in the coffee world. This will likely be the case again next year, keeping consumer interest high and subsequently contributing to nitro cold brew keeping itself on coffee shop menus across the globe.