DIY Cold Brew Coffee on Nitro at Home
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We all have a morning routine, right? You wake up, roll out of bed, maybe work out/meditate, go to work, and then sometime between 9:30-11:30 you drink that first cup of coffee! That’s when your cortisol levels have dropped and the coffee will help keep you productive! Okay, maybe I’m the only one who delays that first cup of coffee! And while I enjoy a nice warm cup of coffee, my favorite way to drink it is in the form of cold brew coffee on nitrogen. (Hipster snob? Probably not… excuse me as I chow on my homemade avocado toast waffle.)
Wow, we really do live a blessed life, where we can enjoy the simple pleasures of cold brew coffee at home on nitro (or nitrogen for all you non beer or cold brew coffee lovers).
Making cold brew at home is frugal! Although, I may be using the term “frugal” a bit generously. The set up for this is none too cheap! But we are avid home brewers, and thus had all the equipment already on hand. All we needed to purchase to make this tasty morning beverage were the beans and some coffee filters!
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of trying cold brew coffee yet, the flavor is less bitter (hot water releases bitter compounds called tannins from the coffee) than iced coffee and more refreshing than it’s hot counterpart. You don’t have to add sugar or other sweeteners to delight in its taste (because you don’t need to cover up so much of that bitter tannin flavor)! People enjoy making cold brew coffee at home (I have the recipe below for that too!), but serving it on nitrogen adds that extra fancy, luxuriously frugal hack.
Drinking cold brew coffee on nitrogen keeps the coffee tasting smoother than CO2. Carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid when dissolved in water, which contributes to the “bite” or perceived bitterness of beer. Nitrogen doesn’t react this way, so it leaves the coffee (or beer) tasting “smoother” than CO2.
The results? A creamier way to enjoy the caffeine filled beverage. One of these at a coffee shop will set you back $3-6, but each 12 oz. cup at home only costs $0.50.
Cold brew coffee on nitrogen for two quarters!
A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Cold Brew Coffee on Nitrogen
We normally make 2.5 gallons of cold brew coffee at a time. It is a large enough batch to be worth the effort, and a small enough batch that it doesn’t get old or moldy. (Drink within a couple of weeks.)
You can make the coffee as strong as you desire, we like to use 1 lb coffee beans for ever 1 gallon of water. (You need to use more beans for cold brew coffee than you do for drip coffee.)
We use brewing sanitizer (or food grade sanitizer) to disinfect everything the coffee will touch throughout the process! Any contamination can lead to faster spoilage, and we don’t want our coffee to go bad!
DIY Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
Here’s how we make cold brew coffee on nitro:
- Obtain coarsely ground coffee beans, we buy whole beans and grind them at home (using our food processor). (You need coarsely ground beans so that they don’t slip out of the brewing bag and make a mess.) We did on one occasion use medium ground beans and suffered from:
- Chunky coffee
- A very slow siphoning process
- Wasted coffee from our impatience with the siphoning
- A clogged tap requiring frequent disassembling and cleaning (nitro faucets are more complicated than CO2
- Get your hands on some good water. We have well water, and even with our fancy whole house water filter our water is quite hard. This doesn’t lead to the best tasting coffee or home brew beer, so we steal water from our friends who have tasty city water. (Good water = Good beer/coffee)
- Measure coarsely ground coffee beans and place in muslin bag (you can buy these at a home brewing supply store or on Amazon)
- Place coffee beans in bottom of your cold brew coffee brewing container. You can use a variety of containers, as long as it is big enough. The container must:
- Have a lid
- Fit in your fridge (or place in your garage if under 40 degrees)
- Be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly!
- We use a home brewing fermentation vessel since it is a convenient size and seals tightly.
- Pour water into container using 1 gallon of water/1 pound of coffee beans
- Close container and shake to mix. The fines will seep out of the muslin bag and the liquid will start to resemble coffee.
- Place container in cold area (fridge or garage in winter) for 24 hours.
- Transfer cold brew coffee to a keg. You need to remove as many ground beans and fines from the coffee at this point, so you don’t have problems clogging the tap hoses later (yes, we’ve made this mistake, and yes it was a pain to resolve). To transfer the coffee:
- Remove container from fridge and place on counter, allow fines to settle
- Sanitize all equipment
- Place clean and sanitized keg on ground
- Siphon coffee from brewing container into strainer lined with a LARGE coffee filter set on top of the keg
- Then siphon the coffee into the keg changing out the filter as needed when the flow slows down significantly. The siphoning process is very slow, so we watch a TV show while tending to the coffee.
- Once you’ve siphoned all of the delicious cold brew, close up the keg, connect to your nitrogen tank, and place in your keg-orator.
- The coffee doesn’t have alcohol to protect it from bacteria like beer does, so make sure you don’t let any beer into the keg! We do this by flushing the beer/coffee line as soon as we connect it. Or you can just wait until coffee time to connect the beer/coffee line up.
- The coffee will be ready to use the next day! Connect your hoses to pour from nitrogen tap and enjoy!
Cold Brew Coffee Recipe
Okay, I get it. Most people don’t have a nitrogen tank, tap, faucet, keg-orator. But you can still make cold brew at home to save some money! (This is the more frugal option, but I definitely prefer the nitro version.)
Before we started home brewing we’d make 24 oz. cold brew coffee at a time.
- Weigh out coarsely ground coffee beans for the desired strength (we use 1 lb coffee/1 gallon water)
- Place coarse coffee grounds in bottom of French press (or mason jar/any container if you don’t have a French press) and add water
- Place in fridge and allow to steep 16-24 hours
- Using French press filter, press down the grounds and pour cold brew coffee into a new container
- We like to double strain our cold brew and pass it through a coffee filter too
- Now it’s ready to enjoy! (If desired: pour over ice and add milk)
Cost of Cold Brew Coffee? Is this Really Frugal?
Cold brew coffee on nitro from the coffee shop is quite pricey, and if we weren’t making it at home I’d only drink it a couple of times per year. We buy the beans at $5/lb and since cold brew coffee requires a higher bean to water ratio it is more expensive than traditional drip coffee (or French press or pour over). But we like spending on our values, and I enjoy a good cup of coffee! So the splurge (an extra $0.25) is worth it 😉
There are a few expensive components to serving cold brew coffee on nitro at home (note: costs are what we paid, not current prices):
- Keg to pressurize the coffee. Many people use ball lock kegs, but pin lock kegs are less expensive, and the differences between the two styles are very minimal. So, naturally, we use pin locks! We might have a hoarding problem and have five (our keg-orator only fits two, but this way we get to age our beers easier!). Buy the keg used (ideally from Craigslist) to get the best bargain. Total Cost = $30
- Nitrogen Tap Faucet and Handle (yes, it is different and way pricier than a CO2 faucet. N2 is far less soluble than CO2, and the faucet helps to address that) – we opted for a full stainless steel faucet, since we are in this for the long game! You could try a chrome plated one (they are much cheaper, but likely won’t last as long). Total Cost = $110
- Nitrogen tank – Must be pressure tested once every five years and refilled as needed. Our local fire supply store (where they refill fire extinguishers) is the cheapest spot to get them filled. We bought our tank off of craigslist, of course. Tank Cost = $80 Testing = $25 Filling = $40
- Nitrogen pressure regulator – Just like with CO2, you need a way to get the N2 at the apropriate presure. Our nitro tank came with a regulator (hooray Craigslist!), but depending on your brewing setup, you may be able to share a regulator by swapping it between CO2 and N2.
- Hoses and other misc. – This will be specific to your equipment setup, but you’ll need things like the keg disconnects and tubing if you don’t have them already. Frugal tip: Our local brewing supply store sells remant tubing at a steep discount, it works great if you just need a little bit.
Or you could always buy the complete kit off Amazon, if that’s your style!
Where Can I Find All this Fancy Equipment
Well, fortunately for you home brewing is a trendy hobby, and it actually requires a decent amount of time input. When someone starts brewing they will likely make sub-par beer and may get discouraged or discover the hobby isn’t for them. So there’s an awesome used market for brewing equipment!
Check these places first for brewing equipment:
- Buy Nothing Project
If you have to buy new, these are some good sites that have home brewing equipment:
- Adventures in Homebrewing
- Your local brewing supply store
- Midwest Supplies
- Amazon (read the reviews first!)
Do you Care if it is Frugal?
Sometimes hobbies don’t actually save you money. After all, there’s so much more to life than always optimizing for money. Cold brew coffee is one of my favorite beverages, so it’s worth it to me to splurge on. Our frugal home loves to DIY and the convenience of pouring our favorite morning beverage straight from the tap into our thermos before heading to work (or school)!
Cold brew coffee on nitro is one of our favorite splurges!
What’s your favorite way to drink coffee? Any frugal tricks I missed?