Nick Carr on April 30, 2020 2 Comments You’ve joined the cold brew movement. Maybe you didn’t even realize when the shift started… you know, shying away from the old hot coffee standby and, instead, forking out a buck or two extra for the cold stuff. And not just iced coffee, no, you’re for the mellow, round and dark, the true cold brewed coffee. Don’t worry you’re not alone. Cold brew has seen a sharp rise in popularity. But, you’ve gone further than most. After seeing how much a once-a-day cup of cold brew from your favorite coffee shop costs over a week, you decided to take matters into your own hands and brew it yourself. Now a jar of the dark, rich, and mellow concentrate sits in your fridge waiting to greet you every morning, or whenever a craving hits. Now it’s time to take it a step further. Bet you didn’t know you could be serving it on draft, just like your favorite beer! Why Keg And Serve On Draft? The main reason is it keeps the coffee fresh longer. There’s no oxygen to cause oxidation when the coffee is kegged, so you can go at least three or four weeks without any appreciable difference in quality. It’s also convenient. No matter what kind of a hurry you’re in, with the flip of a tap handle you have your morning fuel ready to go. We also can’t overlook the cool “wow” factor here. It also solidifies your place as a cold brew connoisseur. Think of serving cold brew with the flip of a handle the next time you have visitors; the smiles when you push an ice cold glass into their hands, and the show you can put on if you happen to be serving it nitro. If you’re a cold brew nut this is the ultimate expression of your dedication. Maybe you already serve beer on draft with a kegerator. If so, you’re more than halfway there already. Even if beer isn’t your thing, it’s still possible to have a kegerator just for cold brew coffee. Still or Nitro Cold Brew Cold brew can be served on draft two different ways, still or nitro. Still (flat) cold brew is just exactly what it sounds like. It is usually served over ice with maybe a shot of cream. Nitro cold brew is coffee infused with nitrogen and served at high pressure to get the same cool cascading effect you see when a nitro Guinness (or other beer) is poured. It’s usually served without ice because the ice can break up the pleasing cascade. Pushing Your Cold Brew: CO2, Nitrogen or Beer Gas The main difference between serving beer, soda, or sparkling water and serving draft cold brew is carbonation. You don’t want your cold brew to pick up any carbonic acid. Carbonic acid will change the mouthfeel, make acidity more prominent, and create an edge of bitterness. CO2 is a naturally occurring, highly soluble gas used to carbonate beer and other beverages. It’s also used to push these beverages through the draft lines to the taps. Nitrogen also occurs naturally, but is much less soluble in liquid than CO2. Because nitrogen doesn’t dissolve well it’s used in a mixture, along with CO2 (70-75% nitrogen and 30-25% CO2) to serve certain beers like Guinness at high pressure. The higher pressure pushes the beer through a restrictor plate (a plate with small holes), which knocks CO2 out of solution and creates a cascade of bubbles in the glass, along with a creamy head and fuller mouthfeel. If pure CO2 were used at these same high pressures it would dissolve into the beer and cause a foamy mess at the tap. What does all this have to do with serving cold brewed coffee on tap? Let’s break it down. Pure CO2 should be avoided completely in most cases. Some will say that using beer gas is okay for nitro cold brewed coffee because it helps with the cascade effect. But, research shows that pure nitrogen is the best choice for all your cold brew draft needs. That’s why all coffee kegerators are sold outfitted for pure nitrogen. However, if you plan to serve your cold brew on draft for a short time, say a few hours only, pure CO2 or beer gas will work. Two factors to keep in mind: the lower the pressure and the less CO2 the longer it will take for the coffee to become carbonated. But, even at low pressures and using beer gas, you have at most 2 or 3 days before you start noticing carbonation. This leads us back to pure nitrogen as the best choice. However, getting a good nitro effect with less soluble pure nitrogen can be time consuming. Keeping the keg at high pressure (30 to 45 psi) and refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours will help fully infuse the nitrogen. Rolling and moving the keg around every-once-in-awhile during those hours also helps, but this may not be possible if you have a short line to your nitrogen bottle. An easier way to do it is by getting a quick carbonation lid (Quick Cascade Lid). This lid allows you to run the nitrogen down to the bottom of the keg and out a diffusion stone, so instead of the gas setting in just the headspace it’s diffused automatically through the coffee, speeding up the infusion process tremendously. Recap Carbonic acid is bad in coffee No matter how low the psi, coffee will become carbonated if left under CO2 pressure long enough. You may be able to use beer gas short term, such as a single party or get-to-gather. But, don’t use it long term. Pure Nitrogen is the way to go. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 24-48 hours to infuse nitrogen in your keg (for nitro serving), depending on how you do it. Gearing Up To Serve Cold Brew On Draft What you’ll need depends heavily on what you already have and the upfront investment can be pretty steep if you’re completely new to Kegerators. If you already have a kegerator you’re more than halfway home, and the cost will be pretty reasonable. Nitrogen Gas Cylinder A Dual Gauge Nitrogen Regulator Stainless Steel Stout Faucet (if wanting to serve nitro) Quick Cascade Lid (optional, but helpful if serving nitro) You also may want to consider smaller keg sizes depending on what you already have If you’re in the market for a Kegerator with the sole purpose of serving cold brew; either still, nitro or both, the least expensive option would be to convert a refrigerator using a kegerator conversion kit along with the gear listed above. But, if you’re not much of a DIY person and would rather have the convenience of buying a cold brew kegerator all set to go, that’s always an option too. Final Thoughts Kegging your cold brew is really one of the best ways to package it, especially if doing larger batches. As long as you’ve practiced good sanitation during brewing and kegging it will likely outlast cold brew in a pitcher stored in the refrigerator (don’t store your cold brew in a pitcher. Instead, get something with a tight lid at least). If you happen to already have a kegerator, adding cold brew isn’t hard, plus adding nitrogen opens the door to serving nitro beer styles like stout and porter; a plus, for any craft beer enthusiast. If kegs and kegerators are new to you, but you LOVE your cold brew, there’s no easier way to have it available. You could even go as far as having it available in both still and nitro in one convenient place.