Starbucks is planning to give its cold brew coffee a slightly sour and effervescent upgrade by pumping it out of beer taps.
“Figuring out how to get a gas into a liquid that doesn’t want to go into it and then how to get it to escape that liquid at the right time is a fine science,” said Cody Gordon, wholesale manager at Highwire, a Bay area-based coffee chain that sells its own version of nitro coffee. “It’s still imperfect.”
The company is planning to roll out the nitrogen-blended version of the coffee at 500 stores, Wired reported.
To pump out the nitro cold brew out of beer taps in its stores, the company is looking at some major overhaul, which will likely cost it half a million dollars for the pilot project. Its new setup would essentially involve producing coffee slowly made with water (cold brew), which will then be pumped through a nitrogen-powered tap, giving the coffee a beer-like creamy effervescence on top.
The pilot stores will see installation of a two-tap system — one for regular cold brew on tap and the other for the nitro version with velvety bubbles, said Holly Shafer, a Starbucks spokesperson.
As simple as it sounds, it is going to be equally complex to attain on a larger scale. A single-tap system would run between $500–$1,000 and would involve tubes and kegs to infuse the cold brew with the nitrogen gas. Plus, providing training to baristas to change, clean and sanitize kegs, tubes and nozzles, according to Wired.
The Seattle-based company is expected to work with nitrogen vendors to swap out used kegs, as handling pressurized nitrogen at the back of the store is less-than-safe.
Compared to other bistros across the U.S. that sell the nitro-infused version of coffee, a cup of cold brew on tap at Starbucks is likely expected to run over $5. And while it remains to be seen how Starbucks' coffee aficionados respond to the rollout, Starbucks remains optimistic.
“We see our customers latching on to cold coffees,” Shafer said. “This is a natural next step for us.”