First, there was iced coffee and then cold brew, and now, Starbucks is promoting its Nitro cold brew coffee drinks.
Its foamy head and dark body now accompany rumors that this coffee drink is one of the easiest ways to get the most caffeine in your Starbucks cold brew drink.
The immediate answer is no, it doesn’t have the most caffeine, but there’s a lot to that answer that needs to be unpacked because while it doesn’t have the most, it has plenty of benefits.
What Is Starbucks’ Nitro Cold Brew?
Nitro cold brew uses Starbucks’ regular small-batch and slow-steeped cold brew coffee. It infuses it with nitrogen gas as it leaves the tap to create a smoother drink with a velvety crema of tons of tiny little bubbles.
What looks like cold coffee crossed with draft beer has a subtle sweetness, creamy texture, and zero grams of sugar and often tastes less acidic than regular coffee.
Thanks to this smooth and less acidic taste, coffee lovers skip add-ons for nitro cold brew, except for a dash of sweet cream.
They ditch the ice, milk (or almond milk), and sugar, leaving a black, strong cold brew that’s great for keto diets.
Keeping it simple also leads to more coffee in your cup. This is one of the reasons people believe nitro cold brew has more caffeine than regular brewed coffee because there’s more coffee in the cup.
The answer to that, however, is quite the opposite.
Nitro Cold Brew vs. Regular Cold Brew
The two types of cold brew are often dispensed from taps beside each other in Starbucks stores. The only difference is the nitrogen that gets infused into one and not the other.
It’s usually the same base cold brew offered on ice. However, nitro cold brew may be advertised with a specific blend name coming before nitro, such as Nariño cold brew.
Both caffeinated drinks are made up of cold-brewed coffee that has been slowly steeped in small batches for up to twenty hours using cold water to extract the coffee from the grounds gently.
This slow steeping results in a coffee lasting longer on the shelf with a less acidic taste and milder flavor.
However, there are a few critical differences in the ordering experience of cold brew versus nitro cold brew, namely presentation and cost:
- Thanks to those smooth little microbubbles, Nitro cold brew is not served on ice like regular cold brew. It stays cold, and the ice will mess up the foam.
- Nitro cold brew is served in a cold cup with a hole in the lid, so baristas don’t offer a straw for consumption. Straws go straight through the crema and ruin the experience.
- Not every cup size is available. You can’t purchase a venti cup of nitro cold brew. This likely has nothing to do with the nitro cold brew caffeine content and is more logistical, like keeping enough nitro in stores.
- It’s only offered in tall (12-oz) and grande (16-oz) sizes to maintain quality control.
- Nitro cold brew costs more than regular cold brew and a standard cup of regular brewed coffee.
How Much Caffeine is in Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew?
Calculating nitro cold brew caffeine content is much easier than other coffee drinks.
As the process is so defined and controlled and the amount of caffeine for a grande cup is listed on the website, it’s safe to say that there are 280 milligrams of caffeine in a 16-oz cup.
Unfortunately, the nitrogen gas injected into the cold brew doesn’t do anything to intensify the caffeine or raise the levels in the cup. It’s added to add body to the drink, not caffeine.
While there are 280 mg of caffeine in a grande size nitro cold brew coffee, that amount can change slightly from drink to drink.
Although typically, the caffeine stays the same between batches, criteria like grind size, time, and the type of coffee bean used can all affect caffeine levels. Cold brew coffee brewed at home differs from brew to brew.
It’s a caffeine equation that bounces all over the place.
Cold brew coffee is brewed cold, so less caffeine is leached into the water. However, it steeps for much longer than hot coffee, giving the beans more time to release more caffeine.
It’s served without ice and often without milk, so the cup has more cold brew and caffeine.
In the end, with any cold brew coffee, the caffeine comes from more cold brew in the cup, not because cold brew is more potent.
Nitro Cold Brew Caffeine Comparison
So, how does nitro cold brew stack up when delivering caffeine?
Let’s compare it to a few standard Starbucks coffee drinks, all grande size, that are high in caffeine when ordered without modifications.
Before indulging in caffeine, experts recommend that the average adult consumes 400 mg or less of caffeine a day.
People with heart issues or who are pregnant and nursing should consult a doctor.
Some of these drinks come close to filling that daily quota, and most are less expensive than a cup of nitro cold brew. None of them offer the frothy texture of the nitro cold brew.
- A hot Americano, made of three espresso shots and hot water, comes in at 225 mg of caffeine.
- A hot Pike Place medium roast coffee is 310 mg of caffeine.
- Clover-brewed hot Pike Place medium roast coffee tops at 375 mg of caffeine.
Wide varieties of Clover-brewed coffee in select coffee shops offer higher levels of caffeine per fl oz and come cheaper than nitro cold brew.
Where Can You Find Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew Coffee?
Nitro cold brew coffee drinks can be purchased on tap at select Starbucks locations, in a canned drink format online, and various grocery stores.
Starbucks canned nitro cold brew coffee is available in various flavors, including Black Unsweet, Vanilla Sweet Cream, Dark Cocoa Sweet Cream, and Dark Caramel.
For comparison, a can (284 ml) of Nitro Black Unsweet Cold Brew has approximately 155 mg of caffeine.
Is Nitro Cold Brew Safe?
The nitrogen gas used in Nitro cold brew coffee to create this coffee beverage’s signature texture is inert and safe to consume.
It has been used for a long time in some types of beers as an alternative to carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide creates large bubbles, such as those in soda, while nitrogen creates tiny ones.
Aside from being safe to consume, Nitro cold brew and regular cold brew may have a few health benefits, including helping to alleviate depression, increasing metabolism to aid in weight loss, reducing diabetic risk, and protecting against dementia.
Nitro cold brew coffee doesn’t have the biggest caffeine punch on the Starbucks menu. The most caffeine honor belongs to the regular and Clover-brewed coffees. Still, it has plenty of qualities that make it worthwhile to try.