Nitro-infused coffee from a keg gains ground in Sacramento

05/25/2014 12:00 AM

05/22/2014 3:46 PM

You’d think the drink with the cascading liquid and frothy head was Guinness, but it’s actually a cup of joe that’s poured from a tap.

The nitrogen-infused ice coffee trend has reached Sacramento, and this cool, caffeinated pick-me-up has quickly turned into a signature Sacramento drink. Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters has served these crafty iced coffees since February, following some experimentation with bartender Chris Tucker of Hook & Ladder. They have also reached the menu at Old Soul Co.

Now, Chocolate Fish often whips through a 5-gallon keg daily of its nitro-infused iced coffee. A serving sells for $4.

“We weren’t sure how it would catch on,” said Edie Baker, who co-owns East Sacramento coffee Chocolate Fish with her husband, Andrew. “Then, boom! It really took off. In the beginning, we kept running out.”

Chocolate Fish will be taking the drinks to seasonal farmers markets, selling them from a cart.

The nitro coffee trend has only been percolating around the country for the past year. The Bakers learned about this high-tech brew from a comrade in coffee: Mike McKim, the owner of Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas. Nitro coffees can also be found in such coffee meccas as Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

For Chocolate Fish, the process begins by flash-brewing Guatemalan Finca la Merced, in which hot coffee is brewed and immediately cooled over ice. This particular bean was selected by the Bakers for a caramel-like sweetness that works well for iced coffee drinks.

The brewed coffee is then added to a keg and kept under nitrogen pressure for three to five days. During that time, the coffee darkens to the color of stout beer and flavors become more pronounced. No milk or extra sweeteners are needed.

“You get a great caramel aftertaste from the process,” said Andrew Baker. “The mouthfeel has a little carbonation, so there’s a little effervescence on the tongue. It’s really quite refreshing on the palate.”

This coffee certainly puts the “bar” in “barista.” At Chocolate Fish, the nitro-powered coffee is poured from a tap into a glass that’s normally geared for Belgian beers, which is all the better to showcase its creamy head. Though the nitro coffee has no alcohol, the Chocolate Fish folks refer to it as “morning beer.”

“It’s sort of a mind trick,” said Edie Baker. “You think you’re getting a beer, but you’re not.”

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