Arts & Culture

The Nitro Cart serves up innovative java

Pop-up coffee cart entrepreneurs give average cup of joe icy, molecular twist

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2016

Revolutionizing the java scene in Providence, pop-up coffee stand The Nitro Cart fuels natives’  caffeine addictions with an artisanal, nitrogen-infused cup of joe. Appearing on street corners all over Rhode Island, The Nitro Cart specializes in cold-brewed, pure nitrogen-infused iced coffee.

Beginning as a passion for finding niche, hole-in-the-wall coffee shops during their time in New York City, owners Audrey Finocchiaro and Sam Lancaster’s relatively casual interest in coffee evolved into a desire to create. “I always wanted to do something with coffee, and I was really into the smallness of carts, and we decided to combine the two,” Finocchiaro said.

Finocchiaro and Lancaster’s concept was hurriedly made a reality in May of 2016. Living in Jamestown, Rhode Island, the pair began researching potential opportunities to publicly present The Nitro Cart.  Quickly learning of a sheep-shearing  event held at Watson Farm, The Nitro Cart owners decided to test out their business proposal on the attendees. “We had nothing ready, just the idea,” Lancaster said. “But in 10 days, Sam and I figured out how to brew nitro coffee,” Finocchiaro said.

As a newly established business with a staff of four, The Nitro Cart received no outside funding or grant money to get off the ground, Lancaster said. “We bootstrapped everything on our own and have tried to find the cheapest and most efficient way to make coffee,” Finocchiaro said.

The pair resorted only to familial aid, as Finocchiaro’s father and uncle built the cart and provided an industrial kitchen for brewing the coffee.

To make the java itself, The Nitro Cart begins with beans from Rhode Island’s own TLC Coffee Roasters, which are brewed in cold water for 24 hours. The benefit to a cold brew is that it “allows the water to extract more flavor and caffeine from the coffee beans and takes away the normal acidity of regular coffee that results when you brew beans in hot water,” Finocchiaro said.

“A cold brew pour is similar to a Guinness beer in that it pours with a cascade and gives the drink a smooth and creamy texture without adding any dairy,” she added.

After the cold brew, the coffee is infused with pure nitrogen. “Usually people drink it black, which is awesome, though some people add coconut milk.” 

“It’s so smooth — the first time I had it I was blown away,” said George Gray, employee at The Nitro Cart and friend of Lancaster’s.

Since the sheep-shearing event, The Nitro Cart has continued to cater private parties and weddings, participate in farmers’ markets and frequent the streets of Providence, Lancaster said. “Though we are affected by the weather, a regular brick-and-mortar couldn’t just pop up next to Brown — we get to get in the face of the consumer,” Finocchiaro said.

“The atmosphere that they create around the cart — people love it.  It looks cool to have it on the side of the street,” Gray said.

Though the startup has no headquarters, the Cart has begun to collaborate with local businesses and restaurants to offer products on tap and broaden the Nitro Cart consumer base. “What we are hoping to do for this year is possibly bring on two or three more carts come spring, and we would love to have four restaurants serving our coffee,” Finocchiaro said.

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