In the early days, we were asked a lot of questions about nitrogen... “Why do you use nitrogen in your cold brew? Is nitrogen healthy? Is nitrogen natural? Are the bubbles rising or falling in the cascade? What does the nitrogen do to coffee”
We had a lot of fun answering those questions, and it was and still is a big part of educating our customers. Luckily, nitrogen is a healthy, organic, and incredible ingredient to our success.
Why Add Nitrogen to Coffee?
It's simple. Nitrogen is a gas that preserves our coffee naturally for many months while adding that creamy mouthfeel and hint of sweetness you associate with nitro cold brew. How does it work? With science!
Matt Hartings, a chemistry professor at American University, told WBUR's Here and Now that coffee’s flavor compounds decompose when they react with oxygen during brewing. “When you bubble nitrogen through, you get rid of any oxygen that's in your coffee. And so you preserve all these flavors that might not be there otherwise."
Approximately 80% of the air we breathe is nitrogen. It is natural, healthy, and organic. When you see the tiny bubbles rise to the top of your glass (the cascade) – those are nitrogen bubbles trying to rise back into the atmosphere and “go home.” These bubbles attach to our coffee and create a frothy head and velvety smooth taste.
To understand why we started infusing our cold brew coffee with nitrogen, first, we should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of “cold brewing” coffee.
Why Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brewing is a method of making coffee that has been used for many years. It was popularized in the late 1960’s when Todd Simpson created the first home brewing kit for cold brewing called “The Toddy.” During a trip to Panama (as the story goes) Todd saw Panamanians cold brewing coffee into a concentrated form and later adding hot water to the concentrate. They cold brewed the concentrate so they could serve hot coffee to customers with sensitive stomachs.
Among other differences, Cold brewing yields 80% less acidity than traditional hot brewing. This helps explain why many people prefer cold brew over iced coffee. Cold brewing coffee also typically results in a coffee drink that has much more caffeine than a cup of hot coffee.
- Need a 101 on Coffee Acidity? Read more here -
During the 2010’s, cold brew coffee exploded in America. Without the acidity, cold brew tastes naturally sweet and refreshing – we fell in love.
We used “The Toddy” when we started cold brewing RISE in our apartments in 2014. After tasting coffee beans from all over the world, we loved the way our organic, shade grown Peruvian beans tasted naturally sweet and chocolatey.
But there were two problems. First, it took us 24 hours to brew 4 cups of coffee (that is a tough business model). Second, our cold brew would get oxidized and start tasting sour in a few hours and would spoil in just a few days.
The solution was… and still is… nitrogen. Nitrogen is a game changer.
So, What is Nitrogen Infused Coffee?
Typically made from cold brew coffee, nitro coffee is a coffee beverage that has been infused with nitrogen gas. In addition to giving the drink a smooth, creamy texture, it also adds a natural sweetness and reduces the bitterness of coffee, which makes it a great choice for coffee lovers and new coffee drinkers alike.
Nitro cold brew is often compared to a stout beer, which pours out looking creamy and then settles into a dark color with a foamy head. It also offers a 5-sense experience: a smooth texture, rich taste, aromatic smell, cascading visual -- and the nitrogen widget of our RISE nitro coffee cans opens with a "roar".
What does Nitrogen Do To Coffee?
When we started infusing our cold brew with nitrogen, it gave us three amazing benefits:
- Nitrogen gave us a cool looking visual cascade. When you pour our nitro cold brew coffee out of the keg (on tap) or out of the can with a nitrogen widget inside, it offers a full 5-sense experience.
- Nitrogen gave our coffee a smooth, creamy taste without adding anything. It formed a creamy and frothy head on our coffee, making our black coffee taste velvety smooth and giving our nitro cold brew a latte-like taste without having to add cream, sugar, or artificial chemicals.
- Nitrogen is one of the world’s greatest natural preservatives. Nitrogen not only gives our coffee a very long shelf life, but it keeps our coffee tasting very fresh for a long time.
We knew we were on to something, so we started walking around New York City with mini nitro coffee kegs to see if cafe and restaurant owners wanted to sample some of our cold brew coffee. Some places thought we were crazy, but as soon as they saw the cascade pour and tasted the refreshingly smooth taste, they were hooked – and we launched our nitro coffee on tap!
We started selling kegs of nitro cold brew coffee to restaurants, cafes, offices, and sports teams all around NYC. It’s awesome to fuel some of the greatest minds and greatest athletes in the world.
The Widget Elevates our Canned Nitro Coffee Game
But we didn’t JUST want to serve our nitro cold brew on tap – we wanted to create the same awesome experience in a ready-to-drink, grab-and-go can. So, we started canning our nitro cold brew coffee using a nitrogen widget.
The nitrogen widget was made famous by Guinness pint cans. The nitrogen widget is a small plastic device inside the can. We use a widget for our nitrogen coffee can that is similar to the one Guinness uses, except ours is made for coffee, not beer.
How Does The Nitrogen Coffee Can Work?
Inside each nitro cold brew coffee can, there is a nitrogen widget. Inside that widget are millions of microscopic, gaseous nitrogen bubbles waiting to be released. As soon as you open the nitro coffee can, the widget releases the bubbles, and they rise to the top of the nitro cold brew can (or, glass if you pour the coffee out). The widget creates the same cascade and creamy head that you typically see on a draught beer. The widget also gives our nitro cold brew coffee cans a consistent cascade every time so you can enjoy nitro coffee on the go in the same way that you enjoy nitro coffee on draft.
Without nitrogen, cold brew would have no RISE... literally. Nitrogen gives RISE a frothy and creamy head, making our cold brew coffee an indulgent experience without any calories. Nitrogen sets RISE apart from other cold brews and gives us a special taste that we believe creates the best coffee experience in the world.