Royal New York

What is nitro cold brew?

Nitro cold brew is nothing new. Cafés began infusing cold brew with nitrogen as early as 2013, and nitrogen-infused tea quickly followed suit. With nitro drinks becoming increasingly popular every year, they’ve essentially become a warm-weather café staple! That being said, we know customers often ask, ‘What exactly is nitro cold brew?’, ‘Why would you infuse coffee with nitrogen?’ and ‘How do you even add nitrogen to tea?’. To help you answer these questions and more, Evan Kluender and Caitlin Normann are here break down the history of nitrogen-infused beverages. Plus, read to the end for their current favorite RNY offerings to put on nitro and their recipes to do it!

nitro cold brew coffee

Nitrogen & The Beverage Industry

When we talk about nitrogen, we’re actually talking about dinitrogen, or N2. For those of us who haven’t taken a middle school biology class in a while, that’s a molecule made up of two nitrogen atoms! Nitrogen (N2) is used for everything from food preservation to fertilizers and pharmaceuticals. It makes up 78% of the air we breathe and is one of the most abundant elements in the known universe. While it is a fantastic preservative, the driving force for nitrogen-infusing wasn’t a need to preserve. In fact, it wasn’t invented for coffee at all.

The First Nitrogen-Infused Drink

In the 1950s, Guinness blended beer from two casks, one fresh and one aged, to dispense draught beer with a head that would settle quickly. The problem was that this required a significant amount of training for bartenders and was an incredibly inefficient, slow process. So, Guinness hired mathematician Michael Ash to solve this problem in 1954. One year later, Ash and his team developed a system in which a beer keg would connect to a nitrogen cannister with a variable pressure valve. This allowed for control over pour speed and nitro-infusion, creating the process of “nitrogenation.”

evan making nitro cold brew

Introducing Nitrogen to Coffee

Ash’s system was first used in coffee about a decade later, but people didn’t use nitrogen for cold brew until the early 2010s. We can trace the origin story of nitro cold brew to a few different sources, but people generally agree that Cuvee Coffee was the first to do it in 2013. From there, it was further popularized by Stumptown and eventually Starbucks as a canned RTD product, which brings us to where we are today.

Though we now use a modernized iteration of Michael Ash’s original concept, the principle remains the same. A nitrogen cannister connects to a keg of coffee, the nitrogen pressurizes the keg, and we have controlled dispensing through a tap head. When nitro cold brew coffee rose in popularity, people wondered what else they could put on nitro. Nitro cold brew teas quickly entered the café scene, followed by a series of draught lattes, mixed drinks, and more!

So, what is nitro cold brew?

We won’t delve into the physics of how a kegerator works. Instead, we’ll talk about how nitrogen interacts with your coffee to understand how nitrogen works. When you introduce nitrogen to your coffee in a pressurized environment, a few things happen. First, the nitrogen flushes the oxygen out of your keg. This significantly slows your coffee’s oxidation process, extending the length of time it remains fresh. In our How long does cold brew last? blog post, we discussed this process more thoroughly and explained how to keep your cold brew fresh for longer.

nitro cold brew tea

After the nitrogen flushes the oxygen, the air pressure forces the nitrogen to dissolve into your coffee. When the coffee dispenses from a tap, it runs through a small, perforated plate. As the plate dispenses the coffee, it controls the flow and agitates the coffee. This releases the trapped gases and creates bubbles, similar to what you’d see on a beer or soda when poured.

Unlike the aforementioned carbonated products, nitrogen is much less dense than carbon dioxide. The bubbles are much smaller and more tightly grouped, creating the creamy texture you find in nitrogenated cold brew.

And, what is nitro cold brew tea?

Ultimately, infusing nitrogen with tea isn’t that different from infusing it with coffee. After the tea is steeped and cooled, it’s transferred to a keg and follows the same process mentioned above. While nitro tea has the same frothy top and velvety texture, the nitrogen bubbles don’t alter the flavor. Instead, they reduce any bitterness and enhance a tea’s flavor notes, resulting in a creamier, slightly sweeter drink.

RNY Offerings to Put on Tap

We love testing new recipes and sharing them with you! If you want to make your own nitro cold brew coffee and tea, try the below recipes as well as our recommended offerings to ensure smooth sipping all summer long.

Nitro Cold Brew Tea

When it comes to cold brew, we love putting many of our teas on nitro! Root Beer and White Peach are always crowd-pleasers, but we’re excited to share more of our favorite teas that are perfect to serve cold on a hot day. In general, we recommend using 2 – 3 ounces of tea per gallon of water for cold brewing. It can take some fine-tuning to get the exact flavor you want out of your nitro cold brew tea, so we’ve included the below recipe as a guideline and good starting point for your nitro cold brew tea journey.

1. Measure: Use 2 – 3 oz of tea per 1 gallon of water, depending on desired brew strength.
2. Steep: Add your tea to cold water and steep. We brew ours in a Toddy with a brew bag.
3. Refrigerate: Set your tea aside and refrigerate for 4 – 8 hours, depending on desired brew strength and type of tea. We store ours at 40°F.
4. Strain: Remove the brew bag and strain all of the water from the tea leaves.
5. Serve and enjoy!

Now that you have the basics to build your own nitro tea recipe, here are a few of our current favorites to put on nitro!

organic spiced persimmon green rtny

Organic Spiced Persimmon Green

Brew up some Organic Spiced Persimmon Green, put it on nitro, and add just a hint of lemon juice for a refreshing summer beverage! The cinnamon makes this tea spicy-sweet, and the persimmon fruit lends a tropical twist.

Shop Organic Spiced Persimmon Green

organic assam tgfop rtny

Organic Assam TGFOP

Organic Assam TGFOP is a strong-bodied black tea that can lend itself to any kind of syrup or flavor you want to doctor it up! It’s an excellent base for a sweet iced tea, or it can be served unsweetened for a cold and bold beverage.

Shop Organic Assam TGFOP

papaya pineapple punch rtny

Papaya Pineapple Punch

Back by popular demand, Papaya Pineapple Punch is here for summer and is incredible on tap! No sweetener is needed for this Chinese white tea blend as the nitrogen-infusion truly enhances the existing fruit notes.

Shop Papaya Pineapple Punch

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

Colombia Huila Santa Maria – Excelso EP

rny # 56524

In this first recipe, we used RNY # 56524. When cold brewed, we found this Colombia offering to have notes of sweet pear, cane sugar, and rich milk chocolate.

1. Measure: You’ll want a 1:9 ratio – 1 part coffee (grams) and 9 parts water (milliliters).
2. Grind: Use a coarse setting to grind your coffee. We grind ours on a 10.5 using a Malkonig EK-43.
3. Submerge: Immerse your coffee in cold water, ideally as close to your brewing temperature as possible. It’s okay if the temperatures don’t match exactly; you just want to limit how much time your cold brew spends in warmer temperatures. We brewed ours in a Toddy with a brew bag.
4. Refrigerate: Set your coffee aside and refrigerate for 16 hours. We brewed ours at 40°F for this recipe.
5. Strain and serve!

Shop RNY # 56524 Colombia Huila Santa Maria – Excelso EP

Organic Peru COOPAFSI “Las Damas de San Ignacio” Fair Trade

rny # 54487

Our other recipe is only slightly different from the first, but RNY # 54487 is a very different offering! Even the smallest change can affect the overall flavor profile, so we want to make sure you get the most out of your brew.

Using the below recipe, we found this Peruvian cold brew to have notes of sweet toffee and praline carried by a big, chocolatey body.

1. Measure: You’ll want a 1:8 ratio – 1 part coffee (grams) and 8 parts water (milliliters).
2. Follow the above Grind & Submerge steps.
3. Refrigerate: Set your coffee aside and refrigerate for 17 hours. We brewed ours at 40°F for this recipe.
4. Strain and serve!

Shop RNY # 54487 Organic Peru COOPAFSI “Las Dams de San Ignacio” Fair Trade