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What is Nitro Cold Brew Coffee? (Nitro Cold Brew Starbucks Review)

December 22, 2022

So your local coffee joint put a board up outside. One of them small blackboards with colored chalk on it. An advert, right? And it’s a totally rad place to get coffee, so you’re intrigued. But it says “nitro cold brew”?? What on God’s green earth is that?

Fret no more, my friend. This article will explain exactly what is nitro cold brew coffee AND exactly how it’s different to normal coffee. (And even whether it’s worth a go in place of your usual).

What is nitro cold brew coffee?

Nitro cold brew coffee is a type of coffee that has two special characteristics. The first is the “cold brew” part. This coffee is brewed — believe it or not — using cold water rather than boiling water. This takes hours, or even days.

The second part is the “nitro” which is short for nitrogen. This means the brewed coffee is infused with nitrogen gas to give it a smooth, creamy texture and a touch of sweetness. The nitrogen is added using a tap, just like the ones you see at your local bar.

Difference being: the tap for your fave lager or IPA infuses carbon dioxide. One notable exception is Guinness which also infuses nitrogen. Like the texture of Guinness? You’ll probably like nitro cold brew. And the great thing about nitro cold brew is the fizzy gas gives the coffee a silky head just like a pint of beer.

Where to buy nitro coffee

Nitro coffee is hard to find because it requires special equipment. Namely, a tank of nitrogen and a tap to infuse it into the coffee. These aren’t things the average coffee shop has laying around, sadly.

A good bet to find nitro coffee is Starbucks. This is because they’ve been rolling nitro coffee out around the country, so you can find it in some stores. Not all, mind. Scope out your local joint before heading there expecting to get some.

Smaller and independent coffee shops do offer nitro too, it’s just rare. A Google search might bring you some luck.

starbuck nitro coffee being advertised outside
A sign like this means you’re IN BUSINESS

What does nitro coffee look/taste like

Ok, here’s my opinion on nitro coffee. Full disclosure: I’ve only had it a few times and only at Starbucks. To make matters worse, all the photos were taken with an unsteady hand and a smartphone from the stone age.

That said, my thoughts – unedited, just copied from what I jotted down into my phone – are…

It looks gorgeous and very much like Guinness.
Creamy, very creamy.
Ok it really tastes like Guinness. It’s obviously coffee but the texture is almost exactly like Guinness.
Strong. Tastes caffeinated. I did go for the larger option too, of course.
It’s unsweetened but does have a nice ‘dessert’ like feel. It tastes like a treat.
It’s also strange how there’s no milk but it feels like there could be. It’s actually got hardly any calories in too, which is nice.
Still can’t get over how much it tastes like Guinness.
Mmmmm it’s nice. Like really, really nice.
It’s similar to cold brew in that it’s hard to distinguish any acrid, bitter or astringent flavors but at the same time the more desired flavors don’t pop.
Summary? Really nice. Wish I had a nitrogen tap in my kitchen now.

The Nitro coming out of the Guinness-like tap.
The nitro coffee coming out the tap.

See how in the next gif the coffee is falling in a cascade, kinda like a waterfall. It’s caused by the nitrogen bubbles rising to the top.

The pattern is caused by nitrogen bubbles rising to the top.
Nitro coffee after it has finished bubbling
What nitro coffee looks like when it’s finish bubbling (notice the beer-like head!)

Can you make your own nitro cold brew coffee?

It’s very difficult to make your own nitro cold brew coffee at home. The problem is you need equipment that can infuse nitrogen into your coffee. That means a tap like you would get at a bar and a nitrogen tank that you replenish every so often. Not really feasible.

A handy — and delicious — alternative is to just make cold brew coffee. It’s dead simple to make a “cold brew” at home. You just need a container to store the coffee as it’s brewing. Most people use a fridge, but on a counter somewhere works too. This is the best cold brewer on Amazon at the moment if you’re looking in this direction.


Is nitro coffee healthy?

Nitro coffee is perfectly healthy. The ingredients it uses are nothing that humans haven’t been consuming for decades. It’s also extremely low in calories (close to 0) because milk and sugar aren’t usually added.

Is nitro coffee safe?

Nitro coffee is perfectly safe. The only thing it has that normal coffee doesn’t is nitrogen gas. These are just fizzy bubbles like you get in any sparkling drink, and people have been consuming nitrogen infused in Guinness for decades. Even the air is 80% nitrogen for chrissakes!

Is nitro coffee stronger/more caffeinated?

Nitro coffee tends to contain more caffeine than other coffees. The Starbucks website lists it as 280mg for a Grande (i.e. medium) and they won’t even sell you the largest size because it’s so caffeinated.

Is nitro coffee vegan?

Nitro coffee is perfectly vegan/vegetarian friendly on its own. Milk and cream is not usually added because the nitrogen gives enough sweetness. Do check before buying though.

Is nitro coffee keto/low carb?

Nitro coffee is close to zero in calories, and therefore also close to zero in carbs. It’s a great option if you want to reduce your carb intake for whatever reason. Do check where you’re buying isn’t adding sugar or cream though (they shouldn’t).

Is nitro coffee gluten free?

Nitro coffee contains just normal coffee infused with nitrogen. There shouldn’t be the slightest trace of wheat or gluten anywhere near the drink.

Is nitro coffee carbonated?

Nitro coffee is not carbonated, because carbonation refers to the process of infusing drinks with carbon dioxide gas. Nitro coffee is infused with nitrogen gas instead. This means it tastes smooth rather than fizzy.

Is nitro coffee just black? (Is there milk?)

Nitro coffee is almost always served black. The nitrogen gives a creaminess and sweetness to the taste to the point that milk or cream isn’t needed. Do check before buying a glass, though.

When was nitro coffee invented?

Nitro coffee is a new thing, barely being around more than a few years. The wise scholars of Google put the date of creation at 2011 or even just 2015.


Sweet and creamy cold coffee with none of the calories? Easy to see why nitro coffee has taken the world by storm. If you haven’t already, you owe it to yourself to give nitro coffee a try.

If you love it? The obvious next step is to start brewing your own cold brew. It’s super simple, and you can batch brew so you’ve got a big vat in your fridge ready for sunny afternoons.

Toddy T2N Cold Brew Coffee Maker

You can use anything to cold brew coffee, but I like to use a brewer. Means the filtering process is less messy. And clean up is easier. Anyway, check cold brewers out on Amazon. I own the Toddy and it works great for me.


  • Reply Jennifer Sakelson July 30, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    Awesome review!!! Great pics too! I’m in the same boat as you, gluten sensitive, can no longer enjoy Guinness and this is actually better since it’s not empty calories of a beer, but you get that smooth taste and a pick me up all for only 5 calories. I loooooove this stuff and I hope SB keeps it around permanently! Thanks for posting this!! <3

  • Reply Lee December 16, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Do you think it loses the nitro effect if it sits overnight in the fridge?

    • Reply Pat December 21, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Does a Coca Cola go flat if you leave it overnight?

      While I don’t want to waste a drink testing this, I’m pretty sure much of the nitrogen would be lost or dissipated if you did that.

    • Reply JLavie July 21, 2019 at 9:19 am

      I left it in the fridge overnight (not intentionally), the next morning it tasted like a regular iced coffee (without ice). So it tasted like regular cold coffee I guess.

  • Reply Karl S. January 4, 2019 at 6:54 pm

    Looks good! I can’t get myself to a Starbucks, though, because I have so many Rockstars in my fridge.

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