Heview: Colectivo Nitro Cold Brew Coffee

That may look like a dark beer, but it's not,
it's nitrogenated coffee
In recent weeks Colectivo Coffee Roasters has introduced a new beverage poured at their beer bars: Nitro Cold Brew Coffee.Wait what? Are you confused? I was at first and had to ask. What is this? Is it a new coffee beer (they already have a coffee stout)? Is it a coffee? Well, first, though it is served from a tapper alongside their beers (at locations that have them) it is not beer. It is coffee. Just coffee. OK, not just coffee. No, really it is.

The name actually says exactly what it is: nitrogen infused cold brewed coffee. That is all. It is essentially carbonated (nee nitrogenated) coffee. But the end result is very unique ending up looking and drinking like a light stout except without the alcohol. And that's a good thing, a very good thing. You can read Colectivo's release information here, but I'll continue with my own description and review.

It starts with cold brewed coffee, just like any other cold brewed coffee. Well, except this is Colectivo coffee (sorry Starbucks who is set to launch their own version 'by the end of summer'), and coffee selected and roasted specifically to be cold brew, so its got a pretty good base to start with. Then it is infused with carbonation in a proprietary nitrogenated kegging environment (zero oxidation) that 3 Sheeps Brewing, who brews their beers for them, helped them develop. Beerophiles will know this, but nitrogen is different than regular carbonation. It is used for specific styles of beer for a unique mouthfeel, such as Guinness who even use a special widget inside of their cans to add nitrogen when you open it. Nitrogen bubbles are much smaller than CO2 and make the drink creamier with a thicker head and even a different taste - CO2 is said to impart a 'bite' to beers that nitrogen does not.

What does this mean for the coffee? What does it do? Well as I said it makes it come across as a dark beer from pour, to visual, to drinking quality. As you can see from the picture above, it develops a head when poured just like beer - that's the 'carbonation' of the nitrogen. The tiny nitrogen bubbles in it also make it feel creamy even without adding anything to it.

If you could make a true iced latte, its kind of like that. You can't because steamed milk... an 'iced latte' ends up being just espresso and cold milk over ice.

So, it's cold, kept that way on tap, but not too cold as it can be over ice sometimes. It's creamy, without adding any cream (which can save calories if you are watching those) as the head and bubbles give a similar mouthfeel. It's light, perfect for summer. It's supposedly potent, they only serve in 8 ounce servings as it packs enough a punch, cold brew is stronger than hot brewed coffee and it may be something to do with the nitrogenation, that they won't even serve larger servings (for now - I bet Starbucks will give you any size whatever name they are).

It is very much like a stout beer, except it has caffeine - not alcohol, so you can drink it any time you want. Well, except not before you want to sleep, I don't think you can sleep after drinking one.

Now, Colectivo didn't invent it, Mike McKim, founder of Austin's specialty roaster Cuvée Coffee, claims that in an article on eater.com "as far as I can tell, we were the first to serve nitro coffee on tap, at the Slow Foods Quiz Bowl, here in Austin on August 12, 2012." and then he went on to put it in cans to sell over the counter. In any case its been aropudn in craft coffee circles for a few years and is finally making it here, and gasp even to a Starbucks near you soon. But, I am pretty sure Colecvtivo is a - if not the - first in Wisconsin and the fact that it's Colectivo paired with 3 Sheeps' expertise and equipment to bring you the final product makes it a craft coffee experience unlike any other.

One word of caution. Drink it quickly. The longer it sits two things happen: 1) it gets warm, its not on ice after all, and 2) the bubbles go away. Then you are left with lukewarm, watered down coffee with nothing in it.

Apparently some people mix it up - put it on ice, add cream or flavors. I don't get any of that. Why? Any additions would pretty much take away from the pure uniqueness of it. If you don't like black coffee, or a stout or porter beer, then just don't order it. If you do - then I say Hell Yeah - go for it, I think you'll like it. Maybe even love it.

Nitro cold brew is served cold on tap only at the following cafes: Third Ward, Humboldt, Madison – Monroe St., Madison – on the Square, Wauwatosa – 68th St., US Bank, and Mequon. Had on over to one and check it out!


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