An American studying abroad, I love my iced coffee. Back home, I seldom start a day without one. This past summer, cold brew coffee, and even nitro cold brew coffee have become more available in the British market. But, the few times I have ordered a cold brew or nitro cold brew in a cafe I received second glances. Some people even asking: what is that? I had the opportunity to speak with Hugh Duffie, co-founder of cold brew and nitro cold brew production company Sandows, on the subject:
Nitro cold brew comes from a tap. image: sandows.com
For someone who may not know, can you explain quickly what makes nitro cold brew different from regular filtered coffee or hot brew?
Cold brew coffee is brewed slowly (12-24 hours) by infusing ground coffee in ambient temperature water. Filtered and bottled/ kegged, the gentle process yields less acidity which comes across as a really smooth and less bitter flavour than standard coffees, especially black coffees.
Nitro cold brew is made by infusing food grade nitrogen gas (only nitrogen, if it uses mixed gas the flavour is salty and not right) to give an elevated texture to the cold brew. It gives it a creamy texture and a head that makes it look something like a porter (most people say it “looks like a Guinness”).
Nitro cold brew in a glass image: sandows.com
Do you feel that its flavour differs?
The flavour is substantially the same though the texture certainly changes the experience and it does trick you a little into thinking it’s a bit sweeter, even though it still has no sugar or sweetener. The creamy texture makes it kind of like a black coffee drinkers latte which is pretty cool.
Do you think there is something to say about Britain’s coffee culture, in that cold brew and nitro cold brew haven’t reached the gen pop as quickly as they seem to in the US?
I think consumers in the UK are inherently more skeptical in the UK and even more so than in the US wait to see someone they know and trust to have a ‘successful’ experience with something new before they’ll try it. There are also just so many more people in the US and being adventurous with food and beverages is a more ingrained part of their culture.
Sandows has also introduced their nitro cold brew in easily accessible cans. image: sandows.com
Given that nitro cold brew has been available from Costa and Starbucks since this past summer, and even now in cans in grocery stores from you guys at Sandows, do you think it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the same amount of success it has in the US? Have you tried Costa or Starbucks’ nitro cold brew?
Yes and yes I have. They are fairly well executed versions of their respective coffees (i.e. you can’t polish a turd).
Having been told that even the hot coffee culture took some time to infiltrate the tea dominated countries of the UK, I have to agree with Duffie that it is only a matter of time before they catch on. There is no denying the rich, velvety smooth taste of a nitro cold brew.
Words: Tristan Prawl | Subbing: Tooba Haq