Nitro Cold Brew has been all the buzz on the lips of baristas and coffee enthusiasts around town, so we hunted down some of the premium producers and did a little compare-and-contrast to figure out exactly what Nitro Cold Brew is really like.
Yes, it is most commonly served in a pint glass or goblet and, yes, most Nitro Cold Brew comes with a frosty head of thick bubbles on top. But it seems too obvious to say that Nitro Cold Brew is “like a Guinness.” So here’s a roundup of three of the Valley’s higher-quality Nitro Cold Brew makers — and a little more detail.
The style for serving Nitro is different at Songbird than most other places where we have seen it. For one thing, Songbird doesn’t
pour its from a keg tap. The Songbird Nitro ($5) is chilled by a miniature NitroBrew air compressor (www.Nitrobrew.com, patent pending) tucked in the corner of the kitchen. The barista runs the coffee through, blasting it with this machine for a set amount of time (three minutes, maybe). The mini NitroBrew machine pumps air that is 80 percent nitrogen through the coffee, chilling it instantly. Then the barista pours it into a brandy snifter.
The effect is similar to Nitro Cold Brew at other shops, but not quite the same. For one thing, we noticed that the foamy head seemed a little flat, and the body of the coffee itself was a bit watery. The temperature of the beverage was not the frosty, ice-cold temp we had hoped for; it was just slightly chilly. The drink was still refreshing but certainly didn’t go to extremes.
It’s always cute when a coffee shop gives itself a hip pop-culture nod in its name (see Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 movie), but that doesn’t automatically secure a place in our hearts. The service and quality has got to live up to the cute name!
Fortunately, Grind House delivers with the stellar service and superb Nitro Cold Brew coffee ($5). However, we were a tad perturbed to have to stop by multiple times just to try the Nitro. Once on a Thursday morning and again on a Saturday early afternoon, the baristas would not serve the Nitro Cold Brew. First, we were told it wasn’t cold enough. Later, we were told they were “saving” four very cold kegs for some special evening event.
The pourers were courteous enough, however, to let us try a sample. Bold, inspiring, foamy, and full-bodied is what we have to say about the Nitro Cold Brew pulled from the tap at Grind House. Even a shot-glass-size sample had a good weight on the tongue and was full of flavor. We detected hazelnutty and mildly woodsy notes. A full glass of this stuff would surely be as satisfying as eating an entire home-cooked meal. The stuff tasted so good we will return in hopes of the day the tap’s cold enough for a full pour!
The friendly baristas and fresh décor at Peixoto (pronounced pay-SHO-tow) make it a good destination spot for an off-campus meeting or first date. This Nitro is medium-bodied with a nutty edge and a mildly chocolaty finish. The glass itself was cold, cold, cold, and it took a full five minutes for the foam head to settle enough to a place that didn’t get our lips coated with bubbles like a Santa Claus beard.
The Nitro comes in two sizes here: the 8-ounce pour ($3.25) and the 16-ounce ($4.50). Rich, mildly sweet, and satisfying, eight ounces is just the right amount of caffeine to get you through a long work day or afternoon crunch-time at the office. We hesitate to see what 16 ounces of this stuff might do to a person. That much caffeine, and you might have to go around the corner to Bourbon Jack’s and take a shot of whisky, just to level out.