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Nitro coffee comes to Charlottesville

Snowing in Space is as cool as its coffee

<p>Brewing a total of 600 gallons a day, the Snowing in Space warehouse is located somewhere between the Downtown Mall and Grounds.</p>

Brewing a total of 600 gallons a day, the Snowing in Space warehouse is located somewhere between the Downtown Mall and Grounds.

The hottest trend in coffee — nitro coffee — has come to Charlottesville in the funkiest coffee shop. Paul Dierkes, Joel Artz and Damian Warshall, the co-founders of nitro coffee shop Snowing in Space, began brewing and distributing nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee in 2015 to local coffee shops and business offices. 

Brewing a total of 600 gallons a day, the warehouse is located somewhere between the Downtown Mall and Grounds, right in the heart of Charlottesville. The company works with different roasters to experiment and decide what roasts and beans to use, offering 10 different flavors on tap. Inspired by the movie “Groundhog Day,” the team named both their company and their different flavors of coffee from what Dierkes calls “obscure movie quotes.”

Dierkes said the process is pretty basic — they grind up the coffee beans, steep them in water for 16-18 hours and filter the liquid.

“We filter ours really well,” Dierkes said. “That’s one advantage I think we have. Filtering can be really difficult, especially on a local coffee shop level.”

The brewers pump the liquid into kegs and infuse the substance with nitrogen for two to three days. The company distributes to a few local coffee shops and collaborates with Mudhouse, managing its equipment and infusing the nitrogen into the blend.

Dierkes said lots of coffee shops jumped on the new trend but realized how difficult the process can be. More and more shops are looking for companies like Snowing in Space to help out, Dierkes said.

The company also works with local businesses in Charlottesville, Richmond and Northern Virginia to provide coffee for their employees.

“There are a lot of businesses looking to enhance the employee experience,” Dierkes said. “They want to have the latest and greatest and make it a cool fun place to work — [so, for example, we will put a] kegerator in the office.”

The process creates a less bitter and less acidic coffee than a normal brew and with the addition of nitrogen, the coffee has a natural creaminess, Dierkes said. The final product looks like a glass of beer — full of foam on top. In fact, the whole concept was built upon the craft beer business model.

“We took the concept of craft beer — experimentation — and we applied it to coffee,” Dierkes said. “We tried to build a coffee business that was similar to craft beer. We wanted to get crazy with styles and flavors.”

The three co-founders all had backgrounds and high interest in craft beer, so by taking their understandings in the industry and applying them to Snowing in Space, the crew created a coffee shop with kegerators, cans and growlers. 

“The interesting thing about this instead of craft beer is coffee can go anywhere,” Dierkes said.  “You can’t have alcohol anywhere.”

Additionally, nitro coffee has a longer shelf life — the product will last in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Dierkes emphasized the enhanced flavor of nitro coffee. He said it’s coffee that doesn’t necessarily need any cream and sugar — it’s what really intrigued him about the product.

Second-year College student Sarah Corning, who tried Snowing in Space’s nitro coffee at the Charlottesville farmer's market, seconded that notion but identified a drawback of the strong flavor.

“Their options — in my experience — have some kind of flavor, so if I wanted plain, straight-up cold brew, I would go somewhere else,” Corning said. “But I had their cold brew that was supposed to be a little chocolatey, and I did like it.”

Overall, Corning said she likes the flavor of nitro coffee and said it’s something Snowing in Space does well. However, as the weather gets colder, some may prefer a warm drink. With that, Snowing in Space offers lattes, cappuccino and such, but with an nitro espresso base.

“Everything is cold brew-based, but we do hot coffee too,” Dierkes said. “We pour our espresso from the tap instead of making it from an espresso machine, and then we steam up a hot latte.”

In March of this year, the crew opened their own shop just as cool as the coffee they brew. Located at 705 West Main St, Snowing in Space is filled with rap music and the smell of espresso in a colorful atmosphere. Behind the counter, the staff fills cups from the coffee available on tap. 

Employee Eric Thurston said the style of the coffee shop in particular is what makes it stand out in addition to their different brew.

“I came in because of the location and the colorful vibe,” Thurtson said. “I didn’t know exactly what it was by looking at the logo — and I was like, ‘Oh, a coffee shop,’ and applied. This place just popped out to me.”

The company is focusing on expanding into the Northern Virginia area and becoming more of a presence on Grounds. Snowing in Space canned coffee can be found in 1819 Supply — commonly referred to as “The Pod” — in Newcomb Hall.