There is nothing better than a cold creamy drink to keep you cool and energized on a hot summer’s day. This is why many coffee shops have recently incorporated taps into their setup. In this article, we’ll go over how to make a nitro cold brew keg and some top tips to help you achieve the best nitro cold brew!
Nitro cold brew is a relatively new, yet extremely popular variation of cold brew coffee that uses nitrogen gas to create a smooth and foamy texture. Aside from the enhanced texture of the brew. It’s easier to make and store large quantities of cold brew which can then easily be served from the keg.
If you’re an iced coffee or cold brew lover, the nitro cold brew promises to be a life-changing experience.
Step 1: Make the Cold Brew
One of the easiest and inexpensive ways to make your cold brew is to use mason jars. You should use a 4:1 water to coffee ratio.
- Add the coffee and water to your jar
- Screw on the lid
- Shake the jar until it’s mixed together well.
- Cool the mixture by letting it sit in the fridge for 15-20 hours.
Step 2: Filter the Brew
After the long waiting process, the coffee now needs to be filtered to separate the brew from the coffee grinds. First, filter the brew using a sieve. Then, repeat the filtration process using a pour-over. This ensures all the little grinds of coffee that were missed by the sieve have been removed.
At this point, you have created a cold brew concentrate, which could be diluted with water according to taste. However, if you like your coffee strong, the concentrate can be used as-is.
Author Note: You can also add milk and sugar to your brew. This is something that is up to personal preference. Although, when drinking a specialty cold brew, it might be best not to mask all those beautiful subtle flavors.
Step 3: Get The Right Keg Equipment
Getting the right equipment is arguably the most important part of the nitro-brew production process. Using the wrong equipment will almost always lead to failure! Here are some items you should have in your possession before tackling the nitro-brewing process.
When serving nitro cold brew, you usually do so in a corny keg, which is a stainless steel canister used by brewers and in the soft drink industry to store and dispense carbonated or nitrogenated liquids.
Normally, when setting up a corny keg, you are given a gas canister that is 75% nitrogen and 25% carbon dioxide. However, this wouldn’t be the best option for cold brew coffee.
Carbon dioxide will make the brew come out of the serving tap fizzy and that would ruin the smooth foamy texture you are trying to achieve. Carbon dioxide bubbles lead to the formation of carbonic acid which may lead to an unpleasant flavor. Therefore, you should simply use pure nitrogen.
Using pure nitrogen has its own set of challenges. Pure nitrogen doesn’t dissolve well into liquid and this is crucial for achieving the foamy mouth feel that is expected from a nitro cold brew. In order to overcome this obstacle, you can use a quick cascade nitro coffee keg lid.
Top Tip: The difference between the quick cascade lid and a regular keg lid is that it has a carbonation stone at the end of the tube going into the keg and a port at the top to accept a nitrogen gas port.
When setting it up the nitrogen should be attached to the port on the lid rather than its usual port on the corny keg. The nitrogen will flow through the tube to the carbonation stone which should be submerged at the bottom of the keg. The stone maximizes the amount of nitrogen that is dissolving into the cold brew.
To keep the keg cold, you can purchase a kegerator. A kegerator is a refrigerator designed specifically to store and dispense kegs.
Step 4: Put It All Together
- Clean and sterilize the canister with StarSan (a no-rinse keg sanitizer).
- Sterilize the carbonation stone by placing it in boiling water for a few minutes.
- Pour the cold brew you prepared earlier into the canister and replace the lid.
- Set the regulator connected to the nitrogen canister to about five psi.
- Attach the guest post to the keg itself
- Pull the relief valve a few times to purge the keg and remove any oxygen.
- Remove the guest post from the keg and reattach it to the quick cascade lid.
- Dial-up the pressure by five psi every couple of minutes until you reach the target psi which should be between 35 and 45 psi.
- Connect the liquid outpost so you can serve. The liquid outpost can be attached to a stout, faucet, or tap.
- Place the keg into the kegerator.
- Serve your delicious cold brew.
If your nitro coffee does have a satisfying cascading effect or a thick creamy foam. This can be a result of one of three issues which are: incorrect serving pressure, time under pressure, and temperature
The serving pressure should be between 35-45psi. Additionally, you can’t just set up the keg and pour immediately because you need time for the nitrogen to infuse the brew.
Therefore, we recommend connecting the keg to the gas while it is at serving temperature (in the kegerator). Then pressurizing it to 45psi and leaving the keg at this pressure for 24-48 hours.
5 Tips to Take Your Nitro Cold Brew to the Next Level
If you’re going to go through the trouble of making a nitro cold brew why not implement a few simple techniques which will take it from good to great? Here are a few things we have found that improve the overall quality of a cold brew.
1. The Coarser the Better
When making a cold brew there are so many different brands and types of grains you can purchase. The best coffee to use is one with an extra coarse grind or something that would be suitable for a French press.
The larger and courser grinds prevent the brew from getting bitter overnight. If you are grinding your beans at home using a home coffee grinder, it’s better to grind the coffee in batches.
2. The Water
Ideally, when making a cold brew you should be using filtered water. This removes undesired minerals from the drinking water but keeps the calcium and the magnesium. Keeping these two minerals in the water makes it hard.
Hard water is better for brewing because the presence of these minerals helps to extract additional flavor from the coffee grinds. This will leave you with a much tastier brew than soft water coffee.
3. Slow Steady Strain
You should avoid pressing or squeezing the coffee grinds because doing so extracts the bitter flavor from them. Therefore, it’s better to strain gently and work in small batches.
4. Give It an Extra Shake
While the cold brew is still in the fridge, it would be useful to shake the jar every few hours. This would help the extraction process and result in a stronger brew.
5. Don’t Mix and Match
Author Note: If you already have a CO2 tank and you think that you can just fill it up with nitrogen, you are mistaken. Don’t fall into the temptation to mix and match. While it may seem like a good way to cut down on costs, a CO2 tank has a different setup and connections than a nitrogen tank.
For example, a CO2 tank comes with a CO2 regulator. This will not be able to regulate nitrogen because it won’t be able to attach to the nitrogen tank.
Additionally, nitrogen tanks tend to be made from steel, while CO2 tanks are typically aluminum. This results in different pressure ratings. Finding an aluminum nitrogen tank will be hard enough. However, if you manage to find one it won’t be able to contain the same amount of gas as a steel tank of the same size.
At Home Nitro Cold Brew
Having an at-home nitro cold brew keg is more plausible and easier for people who are homebrewers. Since they will already be familiar with all the equipment, it should be relatively simple.
However, this might not be the most convenient method for the average person who enjoys a cold brew. Not all people will want to invest money and time into setting up a keg at home.
There are other more portable methods to infuse your cold brew at home that don’t involve a keg. These methods might be easier to use. For example, you could use a cream-whipper with nitrogen cartridges.
It’s important to keep in mind these are also quite expensive as most nitrogen-infusing appliances can approximately cost between $1,000 and $5000.
Nitro cold brew keg is a long but relatively straight forward process. The most complicated part of the process is setting up the keg.
With the correct equipment, practice, and attention to detail, this skill can be easily mastered. It’s important to be patient because the foamy delicious result will be worth it.
Stay caffeinated friends!