Nitro Coffee and Cookies, Please

Bethel Street Tap Room serves up a nitrogen-infused cold brew that goes perfectly with its house-made cookies.
Nitrogen-infused cold-brewed coffee with house-made cookies—another reason to stop by Bethel Street Tap Room in Chinatown.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox


I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker.


For this, I blame my mom, who’s so serious about this beverage, she cold-brews her own.


When I was really young, maybe around 8, she encouraged me to sample her brew. I gagged, and that did it. I never wanted to drink the stuff again.


Fast forward 32 years, and I’m sitting at the bar at Bethel Street Tap Room, sipping a very creamy, very frothy glass of iced coffee, sans milk or sugar.


This is nitro coffee, a cold brew infused with odorless, flavorless nitrogen gas. It’s kegged like a beer and served on tap here and at forward-thinking coffee houses around the country. (Cuvee Coffee in Austin, Texas was one of the first to offer nitro brew back in 2012.)


The result: The gas infusion gives the brewed coffee a creamy texture similar to Guinness beer.


Bethel Street Tap Room was one of the first places in Hawai‘i to serve nitro coffee this past summer. (Kaka‘ako Kitchen and The Curb in Kaimukī serves it, too.) And it wasn’t an easy task, either. It took six months of troubleshooting to get the nitro-infused brew up and running at the Tap Room.


“From the second I read about this new trend in coffee about three years ago, I’ve been determined to figure out the science of it all,” says co-owner (and Biting Commentary contributor) Kawehi Haug. “I love a good challenge. Plus, it’s super delicious and fun to drink.”


The coffee here is a blend of Kaua‘i, Sumatra and Costa Rica beans, micro-roasted exclusively for the Tap Room. It’s cold-brewed for 24 hours, kegged, then pressurized and treated with nitrogen to create an ice-cold, creamy and heady coffee with 70 percent less acidity than hot-brewed coffee.


“The thing that makes nitro coffee a standout among other coffees is its creaminess,” Haug says. “The tiny micro bubbles created by the beer gas give it a sort of silky mouthfeel … The combination of low-acid cold brew and the beer gas gives the nitro coffee really prominent caramel-y, chocolate-y notes, while retaining the sort of nutty, rich, adult flavor of good, strong coffee. Plus, it packs a serious caffeine punch.”


And here I was, enjoying this $5 creamy coffee in the middle of the afternoon like I had been a coffee drinker my entire life.


Of course, it helped that I was eating a plateful of saucer-size, house-made chocolate chip cookies.


And if you’ve ever had Haug’s cupcakes—she also runs Let Them Eat Cupcakes, which occupies a corner in the Tap Room—you can imagine how perfectly chewy and gooey these cookies are.


Bethel Street Tap Room serves these cookies daily, but they sell out very quickly. The most popular is the classic chocolate chip cookie.


She’s been offering cookies since the Tap Room opened a year ago, though you might’ve missed it. They sell out very quickly. (And let’s be honest: You might have been too distracted by the buttercream-frosted cupcakes staring at you from behind the display case to even notice the plates of cookies.)


The flavors are variations of a classic chocolate chip cookie: Chocolate chip caramel, chocolate chip toffee, chocolate chip peanut butter, you get the idea. The most popular is the classic version, followed closely by chocolate chip caramel and peanut butter. Cookies are $1.85 each.


The nitro coffee may not need any sweetener, but the sugary cookies, at least to me, rounded out the whole experience. I mean, doesn’t everyone need a caffeine and sugar spike at 2 p.m. on a workday?


Nitro coffee, $5, at Bethel Street Tap Room, 1153 Bethel St., 11 a.m. to closing Monday through Saturday, 524-0920. Cookies, $1.85, at Let Them Eat Cupcakes, 9 a.m. to closing (or until they’re sold out) Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to closing Saturday, 531-CAKE.