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How to Make Nitro Cold-Brew Coffee

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2018

Plus, learn how to make cold-brew coffee concentrate in record time.

A few years ago, when cold-brew coffee was just starting to take off in popularity, we developed our own foolproof recipe for making it at home. Now that “nitro” cold brew is all the rage, we thought we'd take a stab at a make-at-home recipe for that as well. Nitro cold brew is made by infusing the base brew with nitrogen to give it a rich, creamy head, similar to that of nitro draft beer such as Guinness. Nitrogen (N2) bubbles are smaller than carbon dioxide (CO2) bubbles and, when infused in the coffee, give it a luxurious mouthfeel. It also lends the brew a sweetness (yes, nitrogen tastes sweet) that many drinkers find appealing. While upscale coffee shops inject nitrogen into their cold brew using a tap system similar to those used for dispensing beer, we found it best accomplished at home using a cream whipper. This is a metal canister with a dispensing nozzle that whips cream and other liquids using pressurized nitrous oxide cartridges. While crafting “nitro” with the canister, we also learned that it can be used to “quick-brew” cold-brew concentrate under pressure, cutting the time needed to make it from 24 hours to just longer than 1 hour. Here's how it all works.

To craft a cold-brew concentrate (dilute with an equal amount of water before drinking), either use our 24-hour steep method or, if you can't wait that long, try this quick-brew canister method:

In 1-liter cream whipper, combine 9 ounces coarsely ground coffee and 3½ cups cool tap water; seal whipper. Charge with 2 nitrous oxide (N2O) cartridges, shake for 30 seconds, then let stand for 5 minutes. Discharge gas by lightly depressing trigger on canister while holding cup over nozzle to minimize mess, then repeat with 2 more cartridges and final 30-second shake. Let stand for 1 hour before discharging gas again, opening canister, and decanting concentrate through coffee filter into jar.

Both methods make a well-extracted concentrate, though in tastings we did find that the traditional 24-hour method made a slightly stronger brew. Tasters were split as to preference: Those who liked their coffee bold preferred the traditional method, while those who liked a milder brew preferred the cream whipper's cold brew. To go to the next step and make nitro cold brew, pour the desired amount of full-strength coffee (not concentrate) into the cream whipper and seal. Charge with one nitrous oxide charger, shake for 30 seconds, and then discharge the gas, open the canister, and pour into a glass with ice to enjoy.