There’s been a lot of buzz about nitro coffee, and even though it’s silky and smooth like a cold draft beer, it won’t leave you feeling foggy or blurry-eyed because it’s completely free of alcohol. It’s the acceptable afternoon indulgence, with a smooth finish and frothy head just like a pint of Guinness.
Plus, nitro coffee provides the same coffee nutrition benefits as a traditional cup of joe, while supplying more caffeine and less sugar.
When Did Nitro Coffee Hit … and What Makes It Special?
Nitro coffee is cold brewed, put into a keg and then infused with nitrogen gas. It’s served straight from the tap, just like a cold beer, and it offers that frothy and bubbly, adult-beverage feeling with the carbonation and beer-like head from the nitrogen. More and more baristas are buying into the nitro trend, which made its debut at Austin’s Cuvée Coffee in August 2012.
The big bonus for consumers is that there’s no sugar, milk or alcohol in nitro coffee, and it contains about 30 percent more caffeine per ounce than your good ol’ cup of joe, and some companies claim there’s even more. And now nitro coffee is available in bottles and cans, so you can enjoy this trending coffee at home or at the office.
So, Is Nitro Coffee Healthier Than Traditional Coffee?
You may feel like you’re drinking a craft beer, but you’re still getting the benefits of coffee with nitro brews. For those of you who can handle an extra kick of caffeine, nitro coffee may be your new favorite. But for some, the caffeine increase can lead to unwanted side effects. Here are the top pros and cons of nitro coffee.
1. High in Antioxidants — Did you know that coffee is the No. 1 beverage for anti-aging effects? Coffee is a top antioxidant food, or in this case, beverage, for a cup of coffee contains massive amounts of antioxidants that fight toxicity and protect the body against free radical damage. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that coffee contains more free-radical fighting antioxidants than cocoa, green tea, black tea and herbal tea. (1)
Certain antioxidants found in coffee, such as cafestol and kahweol, have cholesterol-balancing effects. Coffee intake is also associated with lower risks of heart failure and stroke.
2. Improves Mental and Physical Performance — Coffee increases alertness and improves mental and physical performance. And did you know that drinking a cup of nitro coffee after a workout can increase post-exercise energy expenditure (known as the afterburn effect)?
That means that you are continuing to burn calories after exercise as our bodies use energy to recover, cool down and deal with the hormonal changes that took place during our workout. If your plain old cup of coffee can have this effect, imagine the difference when you add 30 percent more caffeine from nitro coffee.
Coffee also increases blood flow to the brain, thereby supporting cognitive function. The Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University found that bioactive compounds in coffee reduce both motor and cognitive deficits in aging rats. Rats that were given coffee supplements performed better in psychomotor testing and in a working memory task. (2)
3. Doesn’t Need Sugar — Nitro coffee is served free of milk and sugar, and it doesn’t need it. The rich and creamy taste comes from the nitrogen infusion, so there’s no need to bring out those sugar packets.
In reality, nitro coffee may be saving you some calories, especially if you like your coffee light and sweet. Two tablespoons of half & half and two sugar packets is about 70 calories … and let’s say you’re having more than one cup of coffee a day — that adds up. But nitro coffee lovers claim that sweeteners aren’t needed, it’s delicious as is, and even tastes a bit like milk chocolate.
4. Lower in Acidity — Nitro coffees are commonly made with dark roasts, which are richer and fuller-bodied coffees that have lower acidity levels. Traditional hot water brewing can amplify the acid in the brewing process, while cold brewing softens the acid factor. The higher acidity in traditional coffee can cause acid reflux, heartburn or a burning discomfort.
1. Even More Caffeine — You’ve heard before that consuming too much caffeine can have an addictive side effects, even leading to a caffeine overdose, and it’s true. In fact, caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Too much caffeine can overstimulate the body and burn out your adrenal glands. After a few too many cups of coffee, you may notice a feeling of anxiety and irritability, trouble concentrating, headaches, fatigue, digestive issues, cardiac problems, insomnia and changes in appetite.
Because nitro coffee contains even more caffeine than traditional coffee, you are increasing your risks of experiencing these side effects. Everybody handles caffeine differently, so monitor your bodily responses in order to access an appropriate caffeine intake for you. (3)
2. Can Increase Anxiety Levels — Caffeine has the power to alter your mood and physiology, impacting your hormones, nerve signaling, muscles and neurotransmitters. Many people work long, tiring days and they use coffee to mask fatigue and exhaustion. What they really need is some rest and time to reboot. When we use caffeine to keep us going, even though our bodies are worn out, this can lead to feelings of anxiety and even heart problems. (4)
Final Thoughts: Is Nitro Coffee Worth the Hype?
Coffee lovers continue to promote nitro coffee because of its taste and texture. It’s still coffee, but with a new approach. When you order a nitro coffee at a coffee bar, it comes in a fancy glass and feels like you are really indulging; plus, the extra caffeine leaves you with a quick boost of energy.
The taste of nitro coffee is dependent on a few factors: the type and roast of the bean, how the beans are ground and the temperature and purity of the water used in the brewing process. Every company does nitro coffee a little differently — using different beans, gas mixtures, pressures and dilutions, so the taste and texture won’t always be the same.
Cold brew coffee is the base used for nitro coffee, which requires a 16 hour period to brew versus the few minutes it takes for hot coffee. This typically makes the coffee more potent, which explains why nitro coffee drinkers get that coffee buzz faster than after a cup of hot coffee. It also goes down easily because it’s cold, creamy and sweet.
Just because it’s nitrogen-infused, doesn’t mean it’s automatically delicious. Plus, you are paying a hefty price for nitro coffee — it’s going for around 5 dollars for a 12 ounce serving. But coffee lovers still insist that the rich and creamy taste is unmatchable, so you will have to be the judge.
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