This summer was all about hip takes on iced coffee. Dunkin Donuts' cold brew went nationwide, Stumptown's cold brew cans and bottles popped up in supermarkets and corner stores from Maine to Oregon, and some intrepid baristas even began mixing lemonade with espresso in New York City. But even though cold-coffee season is mostly behind us, that hasn't stopped Starbucks from upping the ante on fancy iced coffee. Instead, the chain has doubled down on unique, uber-hip takes on coffee by going where no mega-chain has gone before. Enter: Starbucks nitro cold brew. The final frontier in twee coffee (for this season, at least).
Starbucks Nitro cold brew coffee—dubbed Nariño 70—is in the middle of a soft launch in select cities across the United States. Nariño 70 nitro cold brew takes the company's regular cold brew blend and kicks it up a notch. The coffee is kegged and infused with nitrogen gas, which gives it a creamy, Guinness-like head. Best of all, Starbucks nitro cold brew doesn't require ice cubes in order to stay cold, meaning that you won't be stuck with watery, bleh-tasting cold brew by the time you reach the bottom of your triple venti java bucket.
Now, those among us who own mustache wax, a fixed-gear bike, or have pre-ordered the deluxe vinyl edition of A Moon Shaped Pool might already be familiar with nitro brew (just kidding—of course you are). But for those who don't live in Bushwick, Echo Park, or Fruitvale, here's a brief primer. Nitro cold brew is similar to regular old cold brew, except it's kegged and pressurized with nitrogen gas. The coffee is then pushed through a tap system, just like you'd expect with beer or cider. The end product is a coffee that has a rich, foamy head formed by cascading bubbles of nitrogen as they escape from the liquid. Coffee companies like Stumptown have been serving up nitro cold brew since last summer, but the trend didn't take off for the world's biggest coffee companies until this year.
According to Starbucks HQ, iced coffee consumption has grown by 75 percent over the last ten years. And total cold brew sales across all brands grew by a staggering 115 percent from 2014 to 2015, according to research firms NPD Group and Mintel. So if people are intrepid enough to try the latest new thing and order a Starbucks nitro cold brew, you could expect that number to keep climbing. But you won't get a Facebook message from your Aunt Edna quite yet about her drive-through nitro cold brew order, as the drink's only on the menu at 500 locations in large cities across the country. But if Edna's got a loft in Wicker Park, maybe you should expect that post after all.