Life comes at you fast. Except during a pandemic/general apocalypse, in which life somehow manages to come at you both fast and slow in ways that science is still trying to work out. I say this to explain how Starbucks managed to get these things to market without me learning about them.
A history. My brother and I found ourselves in New York City. Well, we went there on purpose, to be honest. “Found ourselves” makes it sound like we woke up there with no clue how the hell we had arrived. And that hasn’t happened since 1997. Regardless, it was there, in the Starbucks at Times Square that I first encountered nitro cold brew. In fact, I knew it was such a momentous occasion, I grabbed a picture of the first one. The nice barista there explained that her favorite was a Nitro Cold Brew with Sweet Cream plus extra Sweet Cream. She was totally right and that’s how I’ve been ordering it ever since.
Before they started rolling it out nationwide, I lamented having become addicted and pestered Starbucks until they spread it out further. At first, the closest place was twenty miles away. So anytime I was in the neighborhood (so to speak) I ran by and got one. They finally did have it available just about everywhere, but that became problematic as the world started to end. The nearest Starbucks location had to close twice because of COVID outbreaks there. I haven’t been to a Starbucks (or any other coffee place for that matter) since March because I have safety concerns for myself and all the nice people who work at such places.
The Nitro Cold Brew is an amazing thing. It’s not only smooth as hell but there’s just something about watching them get coffee out of a tap like you had just ordered a big, happy Guinness. Big difference between this and a Guinness? Grande Nitro Cold Brew (16 oz) = 280 mg of caffeine. That’s nearly the equivalent of a six pack of Mountain Dew. Hallelujah. (They won’t sell you a venti nitro cold brew because of the caffeine content being too high. Don’t ask them. They won’t do it. Or if you do ask them to do it and they do sell it to you, TELL ME HOW YOU DID IT.)
But then I caught up to the news that these things were available. And there was rejoicing coupled with trepidation. Would they stand up to the scrutiny of a desperate addict who wanted to snag a fix?
The good news is: yes. I snagged a sample of all three current flavors (although they need to introduce more…I have not tried Torched Vanilla Nitro, didn’t even know it existed until I Googled around BUT NOW I NEED IT). There’s the original black, dark caramel, and then vanilla with sweet cream. The first two have 155mg of caffeine while the vanilla has only 110mg. That’s about the only bad news in this story, really: you’re getting 13mg of caffeine per ounce of canned nitro cold brew. From the tap, it’s 17.5.
Tastewise, they all pretty much stack up against their from the tap versions. The unsweetened black is just damn smooth. So much so that I would say if you’re trying to get off of sugar in your coffee for health reasons, this would be your best bet for making the transition. 2g of carbs in a can. No added sugar. The ingredients are just cold brewed Starbucks coffee and nitrogen. And 155mg of caffeine is still a decent punch. Especially when you’re an addict to this sort of thing.
The dark caramel is the same as its from the store version as well, in that while it’s nice, it’s probably last of the three as far as my own personal preference goes. That’s not to say it’s unpleasant at all, it’s just that the caramel flavor they use doesn’t mesh as well. It tastes like, to me anyway, there needs to be more of it—but if there was more of it, it would be too much. In that way, if you think about it, it’s a lot like life. You’ve got 10 grams of carbs in this flavor BTW.
The vanilla sweet cream is the tastiest of the three, but you are getting the diminished caffeine content (which I could feel, believe me). Plus it’s the sweetest of the three (go figure) with 11 grams worth of sweet, sweet carbs.
It’s about as close to the nitro on tap experience as you can get at home. And I would really need to compare the can to the tap side by side, which I will probably do at some point.