For our cold brew masterclass hosted by Paul Asquith recently, our friends at Bombora loaned us a cool new toy – a Nitro cold brew coffee system. No kegs or gas lines needed, just add some fresh cold brew and plug it in to a standard power point, done.
According to Bombora “the Nitro Cold Brew System is a ready-to-use dispenser which nitrogenises and dispenses cold brew coffee without the need for additional tanks. This patented delivery system filters nitrogen from atmospheric air and adds it to your batch of cold brew under high pressure to create a smooth, creamy, ice-cold nitro brew.”
In case you missed it, this thing literally pulls the nitrogen out of the air. Cool.
What all this means is, we have a new way to drink coffee. Looks like a Guinness, runs like a Guinness, feels like a Guinness, but it’s a coffee, just coffee and water. Interested yet?
Different gas can be used to make beverages ‘bubbly’, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide being the most commonly used. Nitrogen infusions result in small, dense bubbles creating a micro-foam at the top of the beverage, while a CO2 offers a much larger head. These differences change the mouth feel of the beverage completely, from a flat cold brew coffee, to a creamy kinda fizzy mouthful of yum.
Does it taste any good?
Until this unit came along, I had never had a Nitro Coffee that really did it for me. Sure, I enjoyed them, but I think this was more because they provided an interesting texture, not because the coffee itself was overly tasty. They’ve all felt dull, like some of the flavor had been squashed out, and a sourness left behind in the finish.
However, after one sip, I realized that this unit was something else. The sweetness shines through while the nitrogen bubbles provide a creamy and smooth, and as it is a cold beverage, adds extra refreshment on a warm day!
What are its benefits?
This unit isn’t too big, the main body measures 17cm (wide) x 32.5cm (high) x 55cm (deep). Its narrow profile allows it to fit neatly alongside other equipment.
The operation is simple, just pull the handle down and flow begins. It doesn’t require any gas tanks or kegs either, as it compresses nitrogen from the air and injects this into the beverage.
The only thing a barista needs to add is cold brew coffee (here are the basics of getting started with cold brew in case you missed it) – this allows the barista to focus on getting the brew right, and makes it easy to experiment with different coffees.
What are the limitations?
A real limitation for the unit is the delivery speed of the beverage. Running from a tap system, the nitro is dispensed through a special nozzle, which only handles low flow rates. The choice of 2 options, 0.6L/min or 1.2L/min, which translates to roughly 42sec/cup or 21sec/cup at 250mL a serve.
It is likely that the lack of high pressure gas tanks plays a role in this. However, for my money; I would take the small footprint and flavour over lightning speed any day.
How does it affect the flavor of the coffee?
To my palate, the beverage dispensed by the unit softens the acidity content without erasing it, which in turn allows the sweetness of the coffee to play more of a role in the experience.
After using a few different cold brews to trial the unit, I found that coffees with higher natural acidity, like a Kenya or Rwanda, really got to show off their complexity, without being an acid bomb. The highlight is the change in texture, though. The creamy mouthfeel is absolutely sensational.
Is it easy to use and maintain?
Absolutely! Pull a handle down to start beverage flow, raise it back up to stop. Simple!
Cleaning is just as easy, after use each day you flush 2 liters of water and cleaner through it, and then another 2 liters of water to purge.
Something else worth noting, as there are no kegs involved, it takes that extra bulk away and potential work safety risks with it! Wicked!
Would you recommend it to café owners?
If you have a market for cold coffee, and are willing to brew lots of it, absolutely. It has changed the way I approach cold brewing, and I’ve been surprised at how many customers are enjoying it.
It’s also a great way to experiment with different origins and styles of cold brew. We’ve been doing smaller batches of brew that will only last a day or two before running out, so we can do something different every few days. More exciting for us behind the bar and it gives you another chance to talk about how coffee isn’t a single flavor but a whole spectrum of flavor.
Also, the unique nature of the product provides a point of difference. Not a lot of cafes have nitro units, so it’s been a terrific way to get people talking. I spend a lot of time talking to my customers, so I’m often handing out piccolo sized samples to give them something new to try.
I do look forward to experimenting more with the unit, creating blends to suit through winter, trying more with ‘white’ nitro coffee and sweeter beverages, and hey, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make up an espresso martini mix to run through it!
For more on the work of the Coffee Science & Education Centre, click here