What’s brewing?

Sacramento’s coffee trends include butter, spice—even nitrogen

Velvety nitro cold brew is on tap at Pachamama Coffee in East Sacramento.

Velvety nitro cold brew is on tap at Pachamama Coffee in East Sacramento.

Photo by Mary Huynh

In the old days, if you asked someone how they liked their coffee, they might say with cream, maybe a little sugar or black. These days, the world of coffee is much more complex: Nitrogen is added to coffee, oat milk is taking over dairy and people are even adding butter?

If you asked me a week ago to add a spoonful of butter to my coffee I would have gagged at the thought. But after trying some of the trendiest—and weirdest—coffee drinks in Sacramento, I now take my coffee various ways. Here are a few styles to consider for your morning caffeine jolt.

Nitro cold brew

What more needs to be said about this recent staple found on coffee house menus? The popular drink is made by infusing coffee, which has been steeped overnight, with nitrogen gas. It gives each sip a smooth velvety texture comparable to a pint of Guinness.

Cruz Conrad, a barista at Pachamama in Midtown, was on the grounds when the drink first hit the scene. “When I first got into the coffee industry about 10 years ago … No one was talking about cold brew, just iced coffee,” he said. “Then in 2013-2015 you saw people making cold brew in specialty shops … and it just caught on like wildfire.”

Single-origin roast

Single-origin coffee can now be found in most specialty coffee shops. Rather than blending beans from multiple sources to create a consistent flavor, single-origin coffee utilizes just one farm for the beans. The result captures the essence of the specific location where the beans were harvested and a clearer flavor profile. Places such as Temple Coffee Roasters offer tasting notes to guide palates through the different components unique to each specific roast, such as its Ethiopia Gora Kone with its orange blossom, peach and black tea notes.

Honey spice latte

Honey spice offers an alternative fall flavor that is more subtle than pumpkin spice. Typically made with honey, cream and cinnamon in a latte, the drink satisfies a sweet tooth without tasting like dessert. It’s also found at most specialty coffee shops in town.

Dairy-free alternatives

Oat milk exploded onto the coffee scene in 2018 and took over as the dairy substitute. (Sorry almond milk.) The relatively low environmental impact of oat milk is a key selling point for many baristas and consumers. For Reginald Kendrick of Old Soul Co. at the Weatherstone, the switch is well worth it.

“The biggest trend that I feel is being more conscious on life,” Kendrick said. “People want good coffee. Well, we need to have good processes otherwise, it’ll fail.”


Cortados or Gibraltars as they’re named in some cafes are growing in popularity alongside the increasing demand for specialty coffees. The drink is made with the same ingredients as a latte but using a 1:1 ratio of espresso to milk, which allows for more of the coffee’s natural flavor to emerge.

“It’s not on our menu, which is weird, but people ask for it,” said Ruben Ruyna, a barista at Insight Coffee Roasters. “It’s cool that people don’t want these big drinks with lots of milk. They want to actually taste the coffee.”

Bulletproof coffee

Bulletproof coffee is not going to be for everyone. It’s a bizarre blend of flavors that works surprisingly well, as long as you don’t think about it too much. The drink is made by mixing butter and coconut oil into a cup of coffee resulting in a somewhat oily yet smooth drink. The taste of butter is prominent, but somehow it mixes with the flavor of the coffee. I suggest you bite the bullet and try a cup of bulletproof coffee to warm up your morning.