So, what is this nitro cold brew?
People are talking about nitrogen-charged ice coffee that foams like beer and even pours from tap. But it’s a nonalcoholic drink.
Central Coffee Co. at 719 Louise Ave. has served the drink for about three years now, and was the first in the Charlotte area to have it, according to owner Jimmy Kleto. Recently, more Charlotte-area shops added the beverage to their lineup.
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Kleto says learned about the coffee after reading about a Manhattan shop serving the cold brew on draft through a nitro system. A friend at S&D Coffee & Tea helped him set up his system.
“We’ve got the draft tower and sell it on the counter,” Kleto says. “It pours like a Guinness would.”
Adding nitrogen to coffee “creates a velvety, smooth mouth feel,” says James Yoder of Not Just Coffee, who started serving the good-looking beverage about four months ago from his stand inside 7th Street Public Market.
Yoder says it’s served in a Belgian-style brew glass exclusively -- and never in a to-go cup, since “a big part of it is drinking it out of that glass.”
Also serving nitro-infused coffee is Cupcrazed Cupcakery, the Fort Mill bake shop. It announced last month that it started serving the beverage with the JoeTap system. The cold brew coffee dispenser infuses the caffeinated drink with nitrogen, “which makes the drink taste as if cream and sugar has been added,” according to the bakery.
“Passionate coffee drinkers -- and beer drinkers -- have been flooding the store, anxious to give JoeTap a try,” Cupcrazed owner Heather McDonnell said in a statement.
“It's pretty awesome to be able to share this delicious science with everyone; to have this rich, sweet, creamy coffee without adding sugar and cream.”
Not Just Coffee prepares its drink by brewing coffee at room temperature for 16 hours. “Then we fill the keg, and charge it with nitrogen, and then we disconnect it and put the keg back in the refrigerator for 12 hours,” Yoder says. “The carbonation process starts in the keg.” The keg is then hooked back up to the nitrogen.
“When you open the tap, it pulls out like beer,” Yoder says.
“We don't even have it officially on the menu, but we’re selling a lot of it... It’s got visual appeal…It's a cool fun way to serve coffee.” Yoder says his business also has a mobile tap system to serve the brew at weddings and other catered events.
“The cool thing with the nitro coffee is any different kind of coffee you use will have different flavor notes,” Kleto says. Whether that’s Ethiopian coffee or Central American coffee, “different coffees will lend different flavor notes.”
Cupcrazed is selling the nitro tap-infused coffee for $3.25 for a 12-ounce cup. Not Just Coffee's nitro brew sells for $4.50 for a 13-ounce glass. Central Coffee Co. sells the 16-ounce size for $2.70, and 20 ounces for $2.95.
For fun, check out this video of a Periscope broadcast by David Watkins of Abbeydale custom menswear shop in Charlotte, where he and stylist Theo Mercado visit Not Just Coffee to try out the nitro brew.