Kegger at the Coffee Bar

As nitro cold-brew coffee gains traction in mainstream cafés, can you tap into the trend?
starbucks cold brew

The trend has been bubbling for a few years. But it took a beverage behemoth and a foodservice equipment leader to get the attention of the industry.

By the end of the summer, more than 500 Starbucks locations will clear counter space for nitrogen-infused
cold-brew coffee taps, the company announced in May.

Simultaneously, New Port Richey Fla.-based Manitowoc Foodservice unveiled its Multiplex N2Fusion Beverage System at the NRA Show in Chicago.

A practice long appreciated by Guinness drinkers, the infusion of nitrogen gas in a beverage creates a thick and creamy mouth feel. The technique also makes for a smoother, seemingly sweeter coffee.

Sales growth of cold-brew coffee in 2015
Source: Nielsen, Cowen and Co.

It works like this: Tiny nitrogen bubbles are suspended in the coffee under the pressure of a keg. Nitrogen is largely insoluble in liquid, which contributes to that previously mentioned mouth feel. Special nitro taps are fitted with a restrictor plate. The high-pressure tap forces the coffee from the keg through tiny holes, re-aerating the nitrogen and giving the coffee its telltale cascading effect as it’s poured.

A Kitchen Innovations Award winner, Manitowoc’s new system is unique in that it adds nitrogen to a beverage at the point of dispensing vs. in the keg. This allows operators to offer both still and nitrogenated drinks, and to nitro anything from teas to juices.

Even if you’re not ready to invest space and cents into a nitro system, iced coffee made using the cold-brew method ought to be on your radar. “Cold brew” mentions are up 47.1% on menus this past year, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor data. And all this for a category that accounts for only 0.4% of the ready-to-drink-beverage market.