Coffee with the texture of beer. And it even comes out of a keg. We're intrigued …
Head over heels for cold-brew coffee? That was so 2014. Heck, even Starbucks is making it now.
This year, it's all about nitro coffee. And you're in luck because Homemade chatted to currently the only place that makes commercially available nitro coffee in the UK.
Sandows London specialises in cold-brew coffee and has been producing its own cold-brew bottles for the past 18 months. You could say the coffee house-cum-brewery, founded by Luke Suddards and Hugh Duffie, is ahead of the curve in the UK when it comes to embracing nitro coffee.
So let's get down to business: what's nitro coffee and why do you need to know about it?
Standard filtered coffee and cold-brew
In order to understand what it is, it's good to have an idea of where it came from.
Typically, to make a standard filter coffee, you use hot water without any pressure, pouring the water over slightly coarse ground coffee.
Cold-brew coffee evolved as a filter-style of coffee, but one that's been specifically brewed with cold water, explains Hugh Duffie, co-director of Sandows London.
"The extraction of coffee takes much longer because you're only using cold water," says Duffie.
"We use large brewing equipment we've customised from beer brewing stuff and it's been brewed for 16 hours."
According to Duffie, when you brew with cold water you extract a different range of flavours. This means coffee with much less acidity and a really smooth taste.
"People drink ours black and can drink it as it is. We're not puritanical – you don't have to drink it black, but it's exciting when people like it comes."
Now, what's the deal with nitro?
In the US, Portland-based coffee company Stumptown Coffee Roasters is at the forefront of the coffee innovation scene. Back in 2012, they invited a food scientist who was interested in beer brewing to apply some draft beer principles to coffee-making. Nitro was born.
According to Duffie, at Sandows it took the team six months to develop their own blend of nitro cold-brew coffee.
After making a normal batch of cold-brew, the coffee is moved into kegs where oxygen is removed and nitrogen starts getting pumped in.
"We gradually let out the oxygen from the top of the keg, then continuously pump in nitrogen for five days. We do it all in a cold room. Since nitrogen is an inert gas, it doesn't add any of its own flavour. As a product it takes around a week to make," says Duffie.
To get the coffee out, you pour it from a tap with a special restrictive faucet to pressurise the liquid and activate the nitrogen.
The Sandows team recently crowd-funded a new brewery in Hackney Wick and are now trying to raise funds to buy a cold room; nitrogen infuses much faster in the cold.
So, what does nitro taste like?
Of course, lots of the popularity of nitro coffee is down to its taste, which converts can't get enough of.
According to Duffie, the taste is "pretty amazing". He says: "It tastes like it has milk in it but it doesn't."
So is the appearance. Nitro coffee "pours with a cascading effect, and has a creamy colour and texture".
All of the equipment involved means it's only available on draft, and the price starts at £3 per cup. Duffie hopes to one day launch a canned nitro cold-brew, which has recently been released in the US. But, they're taking it one step at a time – Duffie has just funded a brewery and introduced a new machine that can fill four bottles at once instead of one at a time.
"I've just managed to explain what cold-brew is and until people understand that, it feels like nitro is two steps ahead before they've even gotten to step one."
Where can I find it?
Londoners are in luck since Sandows London's nitro coffee is available at the following locations across the capital: London Grind, Holborn Grind, Shoreditch Grind, and Taylor Street Baristas' Bank location at 125 Old Broad Street.
While nitro coffee doesn't need any milk added to it, it does tastes great with it. The best part? No ice is necessary since it comes through a chiller or straight from the keg in the fridge. It's not diluted in any way.
In fact, it goes down as well as an ice cold beer. "It's so drinkable," says Duffie. "You could drink a pint of it."