Why nitrogen-infused coffee is all the rage
Jason Bell of Springbok Coffee Roasters with his nitro cold brew at Millers All Day
The days of dumping a cup of joe over ice are long gone. Third Wave coffee shop culture—which ushered in pour-overs, single-origin beans, and latte art—have shifted the way we get our buzz, notably in the form of cold brew: a cool infusion (similar in spirit to sun tea) of ground coffee beans soaked overnight in water, then strained and topped with ice. But coffee aficionados have been leveling up with an ice-less, nitrogenated version, opting for their pick-me-ups to be poured from a tap.
Over the last two years, Jason and Josh Bell—brothers and co-owners of Springbok Coffee Roasters—have been perfecting the ideal bean/roast/steep time calibration to produce their signature nitro cold brew: an iced coffee charged with nitrogen and dispensed from a keg.
Since nitrogen does not easily dissolve in water, tiny bubbles form, making the drink feel creamier and velvety on the palate. The coffee cascades from a tap like Guinness and forms a frothy head at the top of the glass.
Milk-and-sugar types are often pleasantly surprised by the quaffable quality this chilled beverage (served black) possesses. “If done well, nitro cold brew enhances a coffee’s inherent sweetness,” says Jason. And the smoother, richer mouthfeel allows for a unique coffee experience.
Jason and Josh have been roasting on-site at their Upper King facility since August 2014. While they’re drawn to Central and South American beans for their cold brew, the exact type varies, based on seasonality. With every batch, the Bells adjust their methods to extract optimal flavor. “We have a profile we’re trying to hit consistently,” says Jason. “We’re hoping to tick all the boxes: natural sweetness and balanced acidity with chocolatey notes.”
Springbok nitro can now be found at seven locations throughout the Holy City, with several other local roasters purveying their take on this special cold brew style, too.
Nitrogenated or not, iced java has entered a new era. “I don’t think cold brew is going anywhere,” affirms Jason. “It’s having a significant impact on the coffee industry.”
Want to taste for yourself? Sidle up to the bar, or counter, at these Charleston spots—you might just become a nitro cold brew convert this summer.
Where to Get Your Nitro Fix
Springbok Coffee Roasters
Beans subject to seasonality; notes of cocoa nib, with balanced acidity
■ 132 Spring, 132 Spring St.
■ Baker & Brewer, 94 Stuart St.
■ Edmund’s Oast Brewing Co., 1081 Morrison Dr.
■ Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer, 4 Vanderhorst St.
■ Millers All Day, 120 King St.
■ Mixson Market, 4338 McCarthy St.
■ Orange Spot, 1011 E. Montague Ave.
Second State Coffee
Made with Second State’s “Heavyweight” blend; notes of cherry and chocolate
■ Second State Downtown, 70½ Beaufain St.
■ Second State Mount Pleasant, 766 S. Shelmore Blvd., Suite 202
King Bean Coffee Roasters
Made with “Niche” cold brew, for light roast lovers
■ Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit, 476½ King St. & 188 Meeting St.
■ Kaminsky’s Downtown, 78 N. Market St. & Kaminsky’s West Ashley, 2 Magnolia Rd.
■ The Refuge IOP, 1517 Palm Blvd., Suite A