These days, any competent coffee shop is offering cold brew, coffee made by steeping coarsely ground beans in room-temperature water for long stretches and then chilling the resulting liquid. Lower in acidity than regular coffee and higher in caffeine, cold brew is a superb treat on hot afternoons when you’re not sure you can make it through the workday.
Now, though, a handful of shops are going even farther, pumping nitrogen into kegs of cold brew and serving it on tap like beer. Dubbed “nitro cold brew,” it’s sublime. Even when served with no additives, the texture is creamy and soft, and the nitrogen rounds off the sometimes bitter edges of traditional cold brew. Served with no ice in a pint glass, like it is at Kahwa, nitro cold brew looks exactly like a pour of Guinness, with a thick, alluring body and a frothy ivory head.
You can find nitro cold brew at independent coffee shops like Buddy Brew Coffee and cafés like Buttermilk Handcrafted Food. Some Starbucks locations are carrying it, and the Whole Foods Market on University Parkway also serves it. (The nitro machine at the downtown Whole Foods, meanwhile, has been kaput for months. We’ve asked the baristas there for an update so many times they roll their eyes when they see us coming.)
The ideal way to drink nitro cold brew is black; it needs no added flavor. A splash of cream is acceptable; artificial sweeteners are not. The spread of nitro cold brew across America is one of the best things to happen in the last few years. Embrace it.