Nitrogen isn’t just useful in making fertilizers and explosives. The seventh entry in the periodic table is, surprisingly, pretty tasty. If you’ve ever squirted whipped cream directly from the can into your mouth in the middle of the night, nitrogen helped your little midnight bacchanal happen. But did you know that nitrogen is the best thing to happen to coffee since superautomatic espresso? And if you’re going to try and make some in your kitchen, you can’t do better than the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro.
What is Nitro coffee?
Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: coffee that’s been infused with nitrogen. After cold brew is made, it’s put into a keg and charged with nitrogen. This not only cuts some of coffee’s more bitter notes, it also makes a nice creamy head, similar to draft beer. Like a good stout, nitro coffee has a velvety mouthfeel.
Because it requires special equipment, most people leave nitro coffee up to the professionals and stick to ordering it in coffee houses. This is a shame, because it’s a treat that can be had in the home kitchen. With the right equipment, of course.
What is the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro?
Here are a few specs of this popular nitro coffee maker.
- Capacity: 50 oz (about 12 coffee cups)
- Dimensions: 5.2in x 8.1in x 10.9in
- What’s in the box: uKeg Nitro, serving mat, 4x coffee filter bags, 2x 16g nitro gas chargers, coffee funnel, protective shipping bag, manual
The uKeg nitro looks like a pretty sophisticated piece of machinery. But don’t let that intimidate you. It’s actually incredibly easy to use. If you’ve ever used something like an old fashioned seltzer canister, the whole process will be all too familiar. Granted, this is coffee, not soda, so there’s a little more prep work.
Growlerwerks uKeg Nitro Review: Is it worth it?
Before I started the whole process, I took my keg to my fridge to see what sort of footprint it would leave. After all, I’m not about to down a keg’s worth of nitro coffee in one sitting. Because the tap handle folds backwards when not in use, it fit nicely on just about every shelf in my fridge. Nice.
Making a keg of nitro brew, in accordance with the device manual, is pretty intuitive.
- The keg is filled to the brew line with fresh clean water. Long rectangular coffee filter bags filled with ground beans are inserted into the keg with the help of the silicone funnel.
- Beans are allowed to steep for 12-24 hours. You know, depending on how strong you like your cold brew.
- Spent bags are plucked out at the end of the brewing process and discarded.
- Keg is charged with nitro via the regulator cap. Then, the keg is shaken for a couple minutes to distribute the nitrogen.
- Pull the tap into a chilled glass, enjoy your thicc coffee with a smug sense of accomplishment/stunt on your enemies who are still drinking overpriced Starbucks.
Easy enough, right? But was it actually easy? Yes, more or less. As with all new-fangled technologies, I did the dutiful thing and read the instructions through twice before even starting the whole process.
The way GrowlerWerks prescribes its nitro brewing process is perhaps the only time I’ve ever made cold brew without leaving some sort of mess. I’m a little less than careful when it comes to measuring out beans, grinding them, and soaking them.
Because the uKeg Nitro arrived just in time for Mother’s Day, I figured I’d charge the keg just as my family arrived for a celebratory brunch. I’ve used a small whipped cream dispenser before, so this process was a little familiar. I initially wondered why the uKeg had a handle on it, but it really makes the shaking process pretty easygoing. Two minutes later, I parked the keg on the counter, slid it onto the serving mat, and allowed everyone to serve themselves a glass. Actually using the tap is half the fun, after all.
Not only was everyone dazzled by the way the uKeg dispensed its tasty brew, but it didn’t last. Between five people, we polished off that cold brew before noon. It was so smooth that even the folks who weren’t coffee snobs didn’t dare adulterate it with milk or sugar.
The Final Verdict
Behind espresso, nitro brew is my favorite way to make my coffee. In fact, it’s the only cold brew I drink nowadays. For the first time in forever, I’m actually looking forward to summer, as it will give me an excuse to always have some nitro on tap.
There are other ways to have nitro coffee at home, of course. You can build a full-blown system with a refrigerated heavy keg that will dispense gallons of the stuff. You know, if you want to drop upwards of $1,000. A whipped cream dispenser will make some, but even the larger models will only make about a pint a time. And then there’s store-bought nitro coffee, which is tasty but varies in quality. It doesn’t vary, however, in price. That’s going to be high whether or not you’re indulging in the good stuff.
If you want to make nitro coffee at home, the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro Cold Brew isn’t just the best option on hand–it may be the most prudent. A single batch of nitro ends up running you a fraction of the cost, even when you take into account the cost of nitrogen and coffee beans. It turns basic cold brew into silky smooth nitro in minutes, and makes it easily. I can’t recommend this gorgeous keg enough.
How much does the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro cost?
The nitro coffee maker costs $197.90 on Amazon.
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A quick note about cold brew
Using the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro as intended makes the whole process pretty intuitive. I can’t stress that enough. However, soaking beans directly in the keg takes time you could be spending drinking coffee.
If you’re impatient like me, you can soak beans in a separate container like a 64 oz mason jar. That way, when you’re almost out of nitro coffee in your uKeg, you can simply strain your awaiting elixir, fill the keg, and charge as usual. Better yet, you can use one of the many inexpensive cold-brew makers. I recommend this one.
Granted, if you’re like me, there’s going to be coffee grounds everywhere no matter how hard you try to keep things neat. If you’re going for a totally mess free experience, the uKeg Nitro bags are the way to go.
How to make nitro coffee in the GrowlerWerks uKeg Nitro
- Fill two GrowlerWerks bags with 60g or ¾ cups of ground coffee. Tie strings into a knot to seal the top. Using the funnel, add bags to uKeg. Fill to the “Brew” line, approximately 1.25 liters of fresh water.
- Place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Pull out bags and add water to the “Fill” line, approximately an additional .75 liters.
- Charge the cap with a fresh nitro gas cartridge. Tighten cap on uKeg Nitro. Turn dial to “Infuse.” Shake 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the dial to “Pour.” Pull the tap to dispense coffee. Serve.
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