From intricate latte art to mixing butter in black coffee, this season’s coffee trends disappeared almost as quickly as they spread. But one new coffee fad might just be here to stay: cold brew. The slow-brewed, high-caffeine alternative to plain iced drip coffee is available at most coffee shops in many different varieties — including a hybrid called nitro cold brew. Nitro cold brew is regular cold brewed coffee that is infused with nitrogen and stored in a pressurized keg until it is served straight from a tap, almost like beer. While this might seem like a strange way to serve a cup of joe, diehard fans boast that the nitrogen bubbles add a sweeter and creamier finish without the added ingredients. Nitro cold brew has gained a cult following in West Coast cities like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, but it’s just starting to heat up the Austin coffee scene.
By Alyssa Arnold
Photos by Miranda Chiechi
Radio Coffee and Beer, located on Manchaca Road in South Austin, is one of the only coffee houses in Austin to partner with the company that started it all for nitro cold brew: Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon. A little over a year ago, Jack Wilson, the owner of Radio Coffee and Beer, was looking to revolutionize the coffee market in Austin. Wilson couldn't find the coffee he enjoyed on the West Coast, so he decided to bring the coffee from Portland to Austin. “Nitro cold brew coffee is the bridge between coffee and beer,” Wilson says. “And it’s a completely new way to enjoy iced coffee without the ice.” Stumptown Coffee Roasters agreed to partner with Wilson and bring their nitro cold brew from Portland to Austin. In 2014 the nitro tap system at Radio Coffee and Beer was born.
Since Radio Coffee and Beer opened in July 2014, nitro cold brew has been the best-selling item on their extensive menu. Although a keg of Stumptown’s nitro cold brew costs double the amount of Radio Coffee and Beer’s most expensive beer, Wilson makes a significant portion of his profit off of the nitro cold brew trend alone. At the price point of $4.50 for a 12-ounce glass, nitro cold brew is not cheap, but it is delicious. Served straight from the tap in a beer glass, light colored bubbles cascade down from the rim of the glass, almost like a mug of Guinness. The nitrogen bubbles give the cold brew coffee a luscious and almost sweet taste that isn’t masked by unnecessary cream and sugar.
Starting in October, Radio Coffee and Beer has used Cuvée Coffee Black & Blue as their nitro cold brew on tap instead of Stumptown. However, Stumptown is still credited in helping Radio Coffee and Beer develop their nitro tap system. Cuvée Coffee is a local brewery based in Austin that supplies nitro cold brew to many locations across Texas, so instead of shipping kegs from Oregon, all of the nitro cold brew is locally sourced.
Meredith Weaver, a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast who is new to the nitro cold brew coffee scene, described the nitro cold brew at Radio Coffee and Beer as “a coffee-beer hybrid” and something that she “would drink with friends if everyone else was ordering a beer and she didn’t want to feel left out.”
If you’re in the mood for a light, effervescent drink, the smooth and bubbly taste of nitro cold brew just might be worth the price.