Nitro cold brew vs cold brew (Explained)

Photo of a nitro cold brew on the left and a cold brew on the right. Nitro Cold Brew vs Cold Brew

If you want to know about your favorite cold drinks, consider this your guide for understanding the subtle differences between nitro cold brew vs cold brew.

There are only a few differences between a nitro cold brew and a classic cold brew, but they’re essential enough to change the drink experience completely!

A classic cold brew is fresh coffee steeped at room temperature between 12-24 hours, then served cold. A nitro cold brew is steeped cold brew coffee infused with nitrogen and served via a keg tap. The main differences are texture and a slight difference in the sweetness, assuming you drink both black.

There’s much to know about these two drinks, so read on to see which is best for you!

What is a cold brew?

Cold brew coffee is quickly climbing the ranks of popularity as a great alternative to iced coffee. As I mentioned above, it’s a steeped coffee. You brew it normally, sit it at room temperature for 12-24 hours, chill it, and then serve it as-is. Mix it with cream, milk, and sugar, or just serve it black.

What is a nitro cold brew?

This is like a fancy version of classic cold brew coffee. This requires specialized equipment: a keg equipped with nitrogen and a tap (like you’d see on a classic beer keg).

You make cold brew coffee as usual and pour it into the keg. The nitrogen infuses with it, and then you pour it from the tap into a glass and serve it as-is. It looks precisely like pulling a draft of beer on tap!

Fun Fact:

10% of survey respondents were interested in learning how to make their nitro cold brew at home, even despite the specialized equipment needed!

Nitro cold brew vs cold brew key differences

They sound different enough when you hear them described like that, of course, but more differences are coming in all of the facets of these coffee types!


A nitro cold brew has disputed origins, mainly because no one knows who came up with the idea first. It’s thought to have come from either Texas or Oregon somewhere around the year 2013. It was created at a craft coffee festival as a summer-ready alternative to iced coffee and beer. 

Class cold brew coffee comes from Kyoto, Japan, and has been around since the 1600s. While it’s one of the most popular cold drinks now, it didn’t start gaining popularity commercially until only five years ago. That’s pretty impressive, seeing you can now order a cold brew coffee in almost every coffee shop!


For the most part, the ingredients for a nitro cold brew and a classic cold brew will be almost identical.

A nitro cold brew uses classically brewed cold brew coffee and then infuses it using a specialized keg with a nitrogen cartridge and a tap to pour it into the glass it’s served in. 

A class cold brew coffee is created using room temperature, fresh-ground coffee beans, or high-quality coffee grounds that are stepped in the water for 12-24 hours. Coffee lovers will use a specialty cold brew bean mix to get the right flavor, but you can use whatever beans or grounds you want.

The main difference in the ingredients comes from how you decide to serve the coffee. Nitro cold brew coffee is served black and topped with natural nitrogen-caused foam (like beer). Classic cold brew is commonly mixed with creamer and/or sugar and even flavor shots.

Brewing process 

The brewing process is much the same as above. Nitro cold brew is brewed with properly steeped cold brew coffee, infused with nitrogen, and poured using a tap. One of the most exciting features is that it does look similar to a draft of beer.

Whether you are making a classic or nitro cold brew, the proper steeping time will be essential for a good cup. It must use room-temperature water to brew, and it must steep for at least 12 hours. Often, you’ll need to experiment anywhere between the 12th hour and the 24th hour to see which of these will be best for your taste buds (more on that soon).

Fun Fact:

One of the reasons that a cold brew is so popular for its look alone is that it allows coffee lovers to enjoy the aesthetic and texture of beer without alcohol! Even better if they are coffee lovers.


Interestingly, the standard serving sizes for nitro and classic cold brew are different. A typical nitro cold brew is around 6.7 oz (200 ml), whereas a classic cold brew is 16 oz (473 ml).

The main difference is that the nitrogen bubbles’ foamy texture means there is less “room” for the actual cold brew itself. So, the same cold brew mix goes a long way when considering making a nitro cold brew!


A cold brew and a nitro cold brew will have unique tastes, depending on how you look at them. At their core, they do taste the same. This is because they come from the same core ingredients of a cold brew.

A nitro and classic cold brew will be sweet, rich with coffee flavor, and low acidity. This is one of the huge benefits for those who want to enjoy coffee without the acidity of classic hot coffee.

The difference in taste is all about the texture of the nitrogen bubbles. This gives the coffee a distinctively foamy flavor to it. It would be like the taste difference between a classic fresh can of soda and a soda that’s gone flat over time. Same base flavor, yet still different enough that you notice it! Some find that a nitro cold brew is slightly sweeter, which comes from nitrogen.

What is stronger: a nitro cold brew or a cold brew?

Flavor-wise, most find that classic cold brew has a stronger depth. Even if you mix it with creamer or flavor shots, it has a distinctively strong coffee flavor. A nitro cold brew still has a distinctive flavor, but it will b slightly weaker because of the nitrogen’s subtle flavor infused into the brew.

Caffeine-wise, these coffee types are even. This makes sense since they both come from the same cold brew!

Fun Fact:

Cold brew coffee requires double the coffee for proper extraction, so it has double the caffeine content compared to a traditional cup of coffee!

Which is healthier: a nitro cold brew or a cold brew?

Understanding the health differences between these two popular coffee options will mostly depend on how you take your coffee when served. Because of its nitrogen and foamy overall aesthetic, most will take a nitro cold brew black. This makes it an exceptional health choice since black coffee is the healthiest coffee.

Many people will mix some creamer of flavor shots with a classic cold brew to make it more palatable. If you don’t, however, and serve it black — it is even with a nitro cold brew for its health!

Calories in a nitro cold brew vs. a cold brew

A nitro cold brew comes in at around two calories per serving. A cup of classic cold brew will range from 0-100 calories per serving, mainly depending on what you put in it, as Consumer Reports explains.

If you ignore the additives, both are going to be anywhere from 0-2 calories, making it a very calorie-conscious choice!

Which is better: a nitro cold brew or a cold brew?

As always, personal preference will come into the discussion at this point. Here are my thoughts on it, based on the research that I’ve done about understanding their differences.

If you’ve never had either type of coffee, definitely start with a classic cold brew. You’ll want to know how long you want your grounds to steep before serving. This also helps you have a good, dependable base for trying a nitro cold brew. 

You can also go out to coffee shops and try both drinks there. I still recommend going for regular cold brew first. If you don’t like cold brew, you probably won’t enjoy a nitro cold brew.

Besides, If you are a beer lover, you’ll probably prefer the bubbly and foamy nitro cold brew. If you love classic coffee and exploring with flavor shots, you’ll most often prefer the smooth texture of a classic cold brew.

There’s much to appreciate between the subtle differences between a nitro cold brew and a classic cold brew. A classic cold brew is 12-24-hour steeped fresh coffee served black or mixed with cream or flavor shots. A nitro cold brew is the same freshly-steeped cold brew coffee, infused carefully with nitrogen and poured from a tap identical to draft beer. It’s typically served straight to let the texture of the nitrogen get the focus.

Know someone that adores cold-brew coffee? Share this with them to show them what’s possible with the right equipment!

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Robert Knowlton is an expert barista with more than 15 years of experience. Robert's main goal is to make sure everyone can enjoy the perfect cup of coffee regardless of their skill level.