Nitro Cold Brew Vs Cold Brew: The Ultimate Face-Off

Last Updated: December 4, 2022
Author: Felipe
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cold brew vs nitro cold brew

This guide will explain the key differences between Nitro Cold Brew vs Cold Brew so you can decide which one of the two to try next!

Cold coffee drinks have reached new heights of popularity.

Cold brew saw a massive 460% increase in retail sales while nitro cold brew sales are expected to more than double by 2026. Maybe it’s time to buy some stocks of cold brew companies. 

So what are these two iced drinks everybody is so obsessed with?

Well, you have come to the right page!

We will start by discussing what these two drinks are, before diving into how cold brew vs nitro cold brew stack up and differ.

And as a bonus, we will show you how to make regular cold brew coffee at home just like at the coffee shop.

Let’s get started!

What Is Cold Brew?

Cold brew is a type of iced coffee drink but its preparation method is the key difference.

Cold brew is made by steeping coarse ground coffee beans in cold or room temperature water for at least six hours, but more typically between 18 to 24 hours.

The longer it steeps, the stronger it will be.

cold brew coffee
Cold brew coffee

Cold brew is technically only cold brew if it is steeped in cold water. If it is brewed hot and then cooled, it is not a cold brew.

Examples of cold coffees that are not cold brews are iced americanos, iced cappuccinos, iced lattes, or regular iced coffee.

Remember that with cold brews time does the brewing instead of the heat!

Cold brews can be made ready to drink or as concentrated. The latter ones, as the name implies, have a much higher concentration of coffee.

Generally speaking, ready-to-drink cold brews have a brew ratio of about 1:12 whereas concentrates have a brew ratio of about 1:4 to 1:8.

Once the cold brew concentrate has been created (more on that below), it is then mixed with water and served with ice to create a cold coffee with a kick.

Milk and sugar can be added if you wish, but I’m a purist and prefer to drink the brew black.

What is Nitro Cold Brew?

A nitro cold brew coffee is initially made the same as a cold brew: coarsely ground coffee beans are steeped in cold water for up to 24 hours.

Once the black coffee concentrate is ready, it is placed in a keg under pressure and charged with nitrogen. It is served via a tap.

This is where this coffee drink gets its name.

Nitro cold brew
Nitro cold brew

Nitrogen is used instead of carbon dioxide (which creates fizzy drinks like coke). 

The nitrogen bubbles are smaller resulting in a texture that is thick, creamy, and silky. In addition, the nitrogen bubbles add a hint of sweetness.

Nitro coffee also offers a visual experience. It is served using a tap, like a beer at a bar. When poured, it looks like a stout beer or Guinness with a dark body and a thick, creamy foamy top. You can see clouds of bubbles falling to the bottom of the cup and mixing while forming the head.

It’s truly mesmerizing!

Make sure you use a glass drinking cup to see the visuals!

Nitro cold brews are typically served without ice because ice can ruin the creaminess of the nitrogen bubbles.

They are also not served with milk or sugar because the nitrogen bubbles already provide creaminess and hints of sweetness, but you can choose to add milk or syrup without ruining the texture of the drink!

Cold Brew vs Nitro Cold Brew - What Are the Differences and Similarities?

Now that we have covered what cold brew and nitro cold brew drinks are, it’s time to compare them.

1. Differences in Taste

The flavor profile of cold brew is characterized by delicate coffee notes. Compared to iced coffee (or other coffees that use heat during the brewing process), cold brew has a milder flavor that is less acidic (the heat brings out the acidity of coffee).

Cold brew is often served with ice, and some people like to add sugar and milk. The texture is simple with no real thick mouthfeel or fizziness. It’s like drinking water.

Nitro cold brew, on the other hand, features a thicker and creamier texture due to the presence of nitrogen bubbles. These nitrogen bubbles give the drink a texture similar to steamed milk (micro-foam).

Nitro cold brew is also slightly sweeter than cold brew.

Actually, according to the SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), the sweetness is more of a feeling than a taste, due to the millions of nitrogen bubbles in the drink.

Nitro cold brew is served as is, without any ice, milk, or sugar, but sometimes is infused with vanilla flavor.

If you don’t drink coffee black, try the nitro cold brew. It might become your new obsession!

2. The Preparation Process

The brewing process for both the cold brew and nitro cold brew drinks is mostly identical.

Both coffee drinks require steeping coarsely ground coffee beans in cold water for 18 to 24 hours.

As we’ve seen, cold brew can be made ready-to-drink or as a concentrate which means using a higher brewing ratio (beans-to-water ratio) that is diluted with water and ice before drinking. 

Once the brewing is done, you’ll have your cold brew ready. It’s a very simple process that only requires water, coffee, and time.

Making nitro cold brew is not so easy, on the other hand.

Nitro cold brew is made using cold brew concentrate to account for the coffee displaced from the nitrogen infusion (your nitro cold brew contains a lot of gas!).

Adding the nitrogen bubbles requires a pressurized keg and specialized equipment similar to that of a bar.

In short, you can make a delicious cold brew drink at home as it only requires water, coffee, a container, and a fridge.

However, making nitro cold brew at home is not possible unless you are a nitro cold brew fanatic and are willing to spend thousands of dollars on equipment.

Otherwise, you will need to go to coffee shops to experience a nitro cold brew.

3. The Caffeine Levels

Nitro cold brew contains more caffeine per typical cup than cold brew.

As we discussed above, the reason is that more coffee beans are used for the nitro cold brew to account for the dilution from the nitrogen bubbles.

A standard cup (8 ounces) of cold brew has on average 100 mg of caffeine, whereas a nitro cold brew has around 140 mg.

nitro cold brew vs cold brew caffeine levels

However, the caffeine content varies depending on the type of coffee bean used. Some blends contain Robusta coffee beans, which have about twice the amount of caffeine as Arabica beans.

So a cold brew made of 100% robusta beans could have more caffeine than a nitro cold brew made of 100% arabica beans!

4. The Health Benefits

Both cold brew and nitro cold brew coffee drinks offer unique potential health benefits compared to typical coffee drinks.

Because of the cold brewing process, both cold brew and nitro cold brew coffee have lower acidity than regular coffee (1)(6).

In addition, both drinks offer the same health benefits as regular coffee:

  • Coffee is linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases (2)(3)(4)(5)(6).

  • Coffee may aid with weight loss by potentially increasing the metabolism (7).

  • Drinking coffee regularly may lower the risk of depression (8)(9).

However, a study published in Scientific Reports found that cold brew coffee may have fewer antioxidants (10). When coffee is brewed hot, it tends to extract non-deprotonated acids compared to the cold brew method.

These acids may be the reason for the higher antioxidants in hot coffee.

Antioxidants are great for many things including chemoprotective benefits (11) (ways in which to reduce the risk of getting cancer), so cold brew may have a decreased amount of these benefits.

When it comes to the specific health benefits of cold brew versus nitro cold brew, their differences are:

  • The nitrogen bubbles from the nitro cold brew result in a creamy texture and hints of sweetness. As a result, people are less likely to add milk or sugars to their drink (they should not or else I’ll call the coffee police)

  • Nitro cold brew tends to have higher caffeine than cold brew. This means nitro cold brew provides greater caffeine-related health benefits like a boost in energy.

5. The Price

Nitro cold brew is more expensive than cold brew both when you buy it at your local coffee shop and when you purchase it online.

This is because of the specialized equipment needed to pressurize the coffee to charge it with nitrogen.

The difference may be anywhere from 20 cents up to one dollar.

In addition, cold brew can be made much cheaper if you make it at home. As we’ve seen this is not an option for nitro cold brew unless you are rich enough to buy specialized equipment just to make nitro cold brew. In that case, the price won’t matter to you!

If you love cold brew and want to save money, check out the quick cold brew recipe below!

How to Make Cold Brew at Home

Unless you have a can of nitrogen gas lying around and some kind of system to pressurize and infuse your cold brew with nitrogen, you won’t be able to make nitro cold brew at home.

However, you can make a delicious cold brew at home. And no, you don’t need any fancy siphon coffee makers like the ones below.

Making cold brew

This recipe is for making cold brew concentrate which you can dilute with water before drinking.

  1. Grind coffee beans coarsely.

  2. Add 1 cup of coarse ground coffee grounds to 4 cups of water (Aim for a 1:4 coffee-to-water ratio).

  3. Stir it and place it in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours. Don’t forget to cover it with plastic wrap or a lid.

  4. Once steeped, strain it using a paper filter (or you could use a coffee maker like a French Press).

  5. Now you have a coffee concentrate you can mix with water and add ice. We recommend a 1:1 or 1:2 concentrate-to-water ratio. Experiment and find what best suits your taste buds!

Enjoy! This concentrate should last for about 1 week! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a nitro cold brew stronger than a cold brew?

Nitro has more caffeine since it uses more coffee beans to account for the nitrogen bubbles diluting the drink.

One could say cold brew has a stronger coffee flavor than nitro cold brew, as it doesn’t have the creaminess and natural sweetness from nitrogen. However, a cold brew is still considered mild when compared to a regular iced coffee.

Is nitro cold brew sweeter than regular cold brew?

Yes. The nitrogen gas bubbles make it seem like it’s a sweeter drink.

Is nitro cold brew better than cold brew?

That’s up to you. Some may prefer the creamier texture and sweetness. If you’re trying to cut back on sugar then it’s a better option.

If you’re trying to cut down on caffeine, then cold brew (although it’s still half your recommended dose of caffeine a day which is quite a bit).

What is the difference between nitro brew and cold brew at Starbucks?

The difference between these coffees at Starbucks (apart from everything we’ve already mentioned) is that the nitro cold brew has more caffeine, more fat, more fiber, and more protein.

Starbucks steep its cold brew for 20 hours which is used for both beverages. They steep it in cold water and in small batches.

Do you add milk to nitro cold brew?

No, you do not. The nitrogen bubbles add hints of sweetness and a creamy texture similar to milk.

Is nitro cold brew good for weight loss?

Nitro cold brew could help you lose weight if you replace your milky and sugary coffee drink with it. The nitrogen bubbles add a creamy texture to the cold brew while making it seem sweeter. It also contains more caffeine than most coffee drinks.

How much sugar is in a nitro cold brew?

Nitro cold brew drinks do not contain any sugar. So the answer is 0 grams.

Pouring nitro cold brew

The Bottom Line

We hope that this article has been helpful to you in understanding the difference between nitro cold brew vs cold brew.

Whether you prefer cold brew or nitro cold brew, each is a refreshing coffee drink in both warm and cold weather.

The caffeine hit along with the delicious strong coffee flavor is a great pick-me-up when you need it most.

Are you interested in learning the differences between other iced coffee drinks? If so, don’t miss these articles!

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