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Nitro Cold Brew vs. Espresso – What’s The Difference?

Nitro cold brew and straight espresso are two great ways to get a quick dose of caffeine. But the drinking experiences are very different between these two drinks.

You have the smooth, velvety texture of nitro cold brew and the intense flavor and quick extraction of espresso. In this article, I’ll explain the caffeine content and all of the sensory differences between the two. 

Nitro Cold Brew vs. Espresso - What’s The Difference?

What is Nitro Cold Brew?

Nitro cold brew is a unique and innovative brewing process of preparing cold brew coffee that involves infusing the coffee with nitrogen gas. It starts with a base of cold-brewed coffee brewed by steeping coarsely ground coffee in cold water.

The result is a smoother and less acidic flavor profile compared to traditional hot brewed coffee.

The nitrogen enhances the mouthfeel of the cold brew, giving it a velvety smoothness and a rich, almost creamy texture. The nitrogen bubbles also add an effervescent quality to the coffee. They’re not quite bubbles, but it still enhances the overall sensory experience.

nitro cold brew

Nitro cold brew is typically served chilled. It can be served with or without ice. Serious nitro cold brew drinkers prefer no ice to allow the flavors to shine through in a concentrated and refreshing way.

What is Espresso?

Espresso is a concentrated form of coffee known for its intense flavor and rich aroma. It’s made with an espresso machine that uses pressurized water and steam to extract the flavor and aroma from the coffee grounds. The result is a small, concentrated shot of coffee with a strong and rich flavor profile.

The proper preparation of espresso requires skill and precision. Factors such as grind size, dosage, water temperature, and extraction time impact the final taste. Skilled baristas take pride in crafting the perfect espresso shot.

making epresso

The goal is to achieve a balance of flavors that highlights the coffee’s inherent characteristics.

Espresso is a beloved coffee beverage that appeals to those who appreciate strong and concentrated flavors. It provides a quick and powerful coffee experience in a small serving size.

Differences between Nitro Cold Brew and Espresso

Brew Method

Nitro cold brew starts with the typical cold brew method of steeping coarse grounds in cold water creating a cold brew concentrate. Then, it’s infused with nitrogen through a process that involves pressurizing the coffee with nitrogen gas.

This process typically uses a special tap system and a bit of a long time to craft. The result is a frothy, smooth texture similar to a stout beer – which will send most coffee lovers taste buds into pure bliss!

To prepare espresso, you’ll need a specialized espresso machine. The machine utilizes a pump or piston mechanism to generate pressure. Then, it leverages that pressure to force a small amount of hot water through finely-ground coffee beans.

making espresso

This process extracts the flavors, oils, and solubles from the coffee beans, resulting in a highly concentrated shot of coffee.

Nitro cold brew results in a smooth, creamy, frothy texture and slightly effervescent coffee. But espresso brewing produces a concentrated, intense shot.


The flavor of nitro cold brew is smooth, rich, and less acidic than a typical drip-brewed coffee. The cold brewing method brings out the natural sweetness and flavor nuances of the coffee beans.

It completely avoids the burnt or bitter flavor that can come with heat extraction. The result is a mellow and well-rounded taste.

The nitrogen infusion can enhance the sensory experience of drinking nitro cold brew. It adds a hint of refreshing effervescence.

The flavor profile can vary depending on the origin and roast of the coffee beans. Most often, nitro cold brew will hit chocolatey, nutty, and caramel notes.

Espresso offers much more bold, intense, and more concentrated flavors than nitro cold brew. It exhibits a robust and strong flavors with notes of bitterness, acidity, and a lingering aftertaste.

The specific flavor profile can vary depending on the type of coffee beans, roast level, and brewing technique. But espresso will always be known for its strong and distinct flavor. 


The texture of nitro cold brew is notably smooth, creamy, and velvety. The nitrogen infusion creates an effervescent quality and a frothy head. It adds to the overall creaminess and decadent mouthfeel. The texture of nitro cold brew is similar to that of draft beer.


Espresso has a thicker consistency than nitro cold brew. A well-pulled shot will have a heavier body than nitro cold brew or your typical hot coffee. It has an almost syrupy consistency that’ll coat your palate and linger for a moment.


Although you can make iced drinks with espresso, it’s always brewed through hot and pressurized extraction. Traditionally, it’s served hot between 155°F and 165°F for optimal flavor.

Nitro cold brew is typically served chilled or over ice. The cold brew method involves steeping coffee grounds in water for hours in the fridge. Then once the coffee has brewed, it’s infused with nitrogen. At that point, you can pour it over ice to create a frosty and refreshing beverage.


A typical 8-ounce cup of nitro cold brew can contain anywhere from 100mg to 200mg of caffeine. In comparison, a standard 1-2 ounce shot of espresso usually has around 60mg to 80mg of caffeine.

The main difference is in the serving sizes of the drinks since espresso is served in much smaller portions due to its concentrated flavor. So, a typical nitro cold brew serving will have higher caffeine content than a beverage made with one shot of espresso.

Flavor Inclusions

More often, you’ll see flavored syrups and coffee creamers added to an espresso beverage than a nitro cold brew. Typical flavors include vanilla, caramel, chocolate, or hazelnut. 

Nitro cold brew most often is served black to highlight the creaminess of the nitro infusion. But flavored nitro cold brew or adding milk or cream to a nitro cold brew isn’t unheard of.

If there are any flavor inclusions, they’ll be in the same gourmand flavor family as the ones paired with espresso. 

How It’s Served

Nitro cold brew is served straight from a tap system, similar to how beer is dispensed. The cold brew coffee is stored in a keg pressurized with nitrogen gas. For serving, it’s poured directly from the tap into a glass or cup when served. 

It is often served without ice, allowing the flavors and texture to shine through. Some establishments may offer the option to customize the drink with sweeteners, milk, or flavor syrups.

On the other hand, espresso is served as a concentrated shot of coffee in a small, demitasse cup. The shot is around 1 to 2 ounces in volume, although the exact serving size can vary.

It is served without any additional water or dilution, allowing the full intensity and flavor of the espresso to be appreciated. 

You can enjoy espresso alone or as a base for craft coffee drinks like lattescappuccinos, and macchiatos


You’ll usually find nitro cold brew served in higher volumes than espresso. A nitro cold brew can range from 8oz to 16oz.

In contrast, espresso is served in much smaller quantities. One shot of espresso is between 1oz and 2oz. They’re served in small demitasse cups and consumed quickly to savor the concentrated flavors.

You will see espresso used as a coffee base for craft beverages like flat whitesmochas, or shaken espressos. In this instance, you’ll have a larger volume for the drink as a whole, but still only 1 to 2 shots of espresso in the beverage. 


Nitro cold brew has gained popularity, especially at coffee shops, for its smooth and creamy texture. It offers a bold and flavorful coffee taste, making it a beloved choice among cold brew enthusiasts.

The nitro infusion creates a velvety, foamy head similar to draft beer. It’s typically served chilled or over ice, depending on personal preference, and tends to have a higher caffeine content than espresso or a typical cup of regular cup of coffee or just your average iced coffee.

Espresso delivers an intense, concentrated flavor with a thick texture. It has a robust taste profile that features bitterness and acidity. It’s served hot and in smaller quantities than nitro cold brew unless it’s used as a base for a craft coffee.

Both are delicious options for coffee lovers, and you can tailor your cup to suit your taste preferences. You really can’t go wrong when deciding between the two!


Is nitro cold brew like espresso?

Nitro cold brew and espresso are different in terms of brewing method and flavor. Nitro cold brew is smooth, less acidic, and has a creamy texture due to nitrogen infusion. Espresso, on the other hand, is a concentrated and intense coffee with a bold flavor profile. While both are coffee beverages, they offer distinct taste experiences.

Does cold brew have more caffeine than espresso?

Cold brew coffee generally has more caffeine than espresso. This is due to its longer steeping process and higher coffee-to-water ratio. The exact amount of caffeine can vary depending on factors like bean type and brewing method. However, an 8-ounce cup of cold brew contains 100-200 milligrams of caffeine. A single shot of espresso usually contains 60-80 milligrams, making it the option with less caffeine. 

How much cold brew equals a shot of espresso?

There is no direct conversion between cold brew or nitro cold brew and a shot of espresso. They have different concentrations and serving sizes. However, as a rough estimate, an 8-ounce cup of cold brew is approximately equivalent to one or two shots of espresso in terms of caffeine content. Individual brewing methods and personal preferences can affect the actual caffeine levels. So, it’s best to consult the specific brand or coffee shop for more precise measurements.

About Jasmine

Jasmine Mattey is a coffee lover, bookworm, and regular contributor at Bit of Cream. As a child she dreamed of opening a coffee shop, but today she'd prefer to sip coffee rather than sell it. Jasmine graduated top of her class at culinary school. When she isn't curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book, you'll find her cooking, baking and writing about her culinary adventures at Kitchen Ambition .

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