Beverages served “on nitro” are nothing new: cold-brew coffee, beer, and even packaged versions of both are by now ubiquitous. Now, add a new category to the nitro lineup—soda.
Pepsi announced yesterday it will debut a new product aptly called Nitro Pepsi, substituting nitrogen gas for the traditional carbon dioxide that gives soft drinks their bubbles. BevNet reports Pepsi will offer both regular and vanilla flavors with this new “velvety, cascading foam” effect, at select venues and events. If you’ve ever seen a Guinness poured on nitro, or a Starbucks cold brew served that way, those finer, smoother bubbles create the cascade effect because they’re insoluble in water and smaller than standard CO2 bubbles. The goal is to give a beverage a creamier body and smoother texture.
Euromonitor’s head of soft drinks Howard Telford sees the new product as Pepsi’s attempt at a more sophisticated soda, one to be savored rather than just gulped down: “This gives you an ‘adult soft drink’ option that is a little more interesting, more premium and consumed a little slower by the consumer. Perhaps more a ‘social’ beverage?”
But there’s another interesting effect of using nitro gas in bubbles: it tends to reduce the perception of bitterness in beverages, which in turn makes them seem sweeter. This blog post from Bend, Oregon brewery Deschutes explains that because CO2 is acidic, it amplifies bitter sensations on our palates. Nitrogen doesn’t. Nitro bubbles are also finer than CO2 bubbles, which means they do less to “scrub” flavors away from our tongue. Prickly CO2 carbonation encourages us to think beverages are refreshing, because it washes flavors away more quickly. Nitrogen’s creamier sip sits on the tongue, lending a full, luscious, sweeter impression.
That’s a pleasant sensation when you’re drinking a chocolatey stout or a nutty cold brew, but will it be equally pleasant when applied to coffee? I’d like to get my hands on some of this Nitro Pepsi so I can judge for myself.