What is Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew?

Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew
(Image credit: Starbucks)

If you’ve been to a Starbucks on a hot day any time over the last few years, you might have noticed new pumps installed. The kegs these taps are connected to look more like they contain stout than a refreshing light coffee, but they are actually the key to one of Starbucks’ more bizarre menu choices. 

Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew infuses nitrogen into the brand’s classic cold brew coffee as it is poured, to offer up a velvety texture with plenty of froth. While nitrogen taps won’t be coming to the best coffee makers any time soon, they are certainly picking up steam in coffee shops around the world. But how does it work, and why has Starbucks opened up its science books?

What is Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew?  

Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew is the same unsweetened black cold brew that Starbucks has been serving for years, still slow-steeped for twenty hours, and still as uplifting as ever. However, adding nitrogen to the brew as it is poured creates micro-bubbles that makes the coffee significantly creamier, with a light, fluffy texture. 

There's no ice in a Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew, either - it's already cold enough from the tap and adding frozen water to the mix would have an adverse effect on taste. However, you will find a range of flavored options available in the store itself and in the brand's to-go range. 

Snce 2020 Starbucks has also offered the beverage in cans. Priced at between $3.49 and $3.99, these tins are available from a range of grocery stores nationwide, including Walmart and Target, but also Amazon. You'll also find a home keg kit available for $149.95 if you're really looking to get technical. 

Why add nitrogen to cold brew?  

The question on a lot of coffee lovers’ lips is certainly; why? There’s been a lot of scientific innovation in the world of wacky coffee brewing techniques in the last few years, but perhaps to the most hipster is to add nitrogen to a cold brew coffee. However, digging into the science, it’s easy to see what this gas brings to your morning energy jolt. 

Nitrogen is an inert gas, which means it doesn’t react with anything around it, but it also doesn’t dissolve in water until it is pressurized. That means adding it to a liquid drink won’t alter the taste (or harm the human drinking it), but will form small bubbles which provide that creamier mouthfeel. 

Whether you’re waiting to try Starbuck’s science-brew yourself, or you prefer to keep your coffee away from the chemistry kit, picking up a cheap coffee maker for your kitchen will certainly cut down on cash spent at cafes. We’re rounding up the best espresso machines for those who still want the strength of a cold brew cup, or check out all the best Nespresso coffee makers if you're looking for something more convenient. 

Tabitha Baker

Tabs is a deals editor on our sister site TechRadar. She spends most of her time searching for the best prices on top consumer tech, but has also written about everything from flower delivery to mattresses. Happiest with a DualSense controller in her hand, she's also contributed to GamesRadar and T3 and specializes in gaming hardware and computing.