Over the last three years, nitro cold brew has become the breakout hit of the specialty coffee world. Now Tyler Philips, owner of D.C.’s Alchemist Coffee Company, wants to make nitro hot coffee equally popular.
Nitro hot coffee benefits from the same process in several ways. “The nitrogen gives it a velvety consistency and creamy texture,” Philips says. “And it really amps up the aroma—because of the bubbles in the head—which can intensify the flavor.”
To make it, Phillips brews coffee from beans from either Annapolis’ Ceremony Coffee Roasters or Tim Wendelboe (a Norwegian coffee roaster), flash chills the coffee to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, infuses it with nitrogen, and stores it in kegs that have all the oxygen in them removed.
“There’s a lot of reactive stuff in coffee,” Philips says. “But when you remove oxygen from the process, it stops the flavors from degrading, the oils from going rancid, and the aromatics from breaking down quickly.”
Another benefit of the process? The coffee stays fresh for a month.
The kegs are refrigerated and attached to a specialized tap system, which heats the coffee to 170 degrees Fahrenheit in five seconds. “It tastes like it was just brewed,” Philips says. “The process is fast, efficient, and consistent. Normally in coffee service, you only get two of those three things.”
This new approach solves the problems of delivering high quality hot coffee he often encountered while working in restaurants. “The French presses never got timed properly,” he says. “No one ever cleaned espresso machines or the grinder. Some operators buy coffee 100 pounds at a time—because it’s cheaper that way—and then it sits in a closet for six months. Restaurateurs want coffee to be as good as everything else, but for many understandable reasons, it isn’t.”
But is nitro hot coffee on draft how everyone will be getting their caffeine fix in the future? “It could be,” Philips says. “People have tried to do it before. They just haven’t had that much success. Everyone is trying to figure out how to get the coffee winning international competitions into the mass market. Is it through pods or via instant coffee? This system is better and the coffee tastes better.”
Philips wants to clear up a few misconceptions many consumers have about nitro coffee—whether it’s hot or cold. “If you Google it, there’s so much weird stuff out there—like it has more caffeine or it’s stronger,” Philips says. “It’s just coffee with nitrogen. So if the coffee you use is very strong, that’s the way it’ll be. Nitrogen is an inert gas, so there’s no effect on the caffeine either.”
Currently, the nitro hot coffee is only available on draft at Alchemist Coffee Company’s stall in Tastemakers DC (2800 10th St. NE), though the company is offering the coffee and tap systems to interested cafes and restaurants.