From passion to innovative Cincinnati coffee business.
Dan Thaler, founder of Smooth Nitro Coffee, is keeping Cincinnati’s coffee drinkers fueled with his nitrogen-infused cold brews and lattes.
Dan Thaler hasn’t always been in the coffee business.
After graduating from Xavier University with a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship, Thaler got a job as a marketing researcher for The Nielsen Company for five years. Although he enjoyed his day job, he did not enjoy the office coffee.
So he did something about it. He purchased an air popcorn popper, roasted his own coffee at home, brought his home roasted beans into the office and started making coffee right there at his desk.
“I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I slowly learned and got better and better,” says Thaler with a laugh about his early coffee-roasting days.
Today, Thaler is serving up a large selection of innovative and complex nitrogen-infused flavored lattes from his kiosk-style coffee taproom in the downtown Cincinnati business district.
His leap into the coffee scene didn’t happen overnight. A few years back, Thaler began hearing about the nitro coffee trend from the east and west coasts but couldn’t find anywhere to purchase one. So he said, “Heck, I’ll just make it myself!”, went out and bought the equipment, and began part two of his coffee endeavor. As he shared with his friends, family, and coworkers, the response he got always, ‘Wow, this is really smooth!’ “I just kept hearing that,” Thaler says.
And so, his budding business took on the name Smooth Nitro Coffee.
He began bringing his Smooth cold brew to local farmer’s markets around the city. He received such excitement from the community that “business just happened. And it’s been happening nonstop for a little over a year and a half now.”
Nitro Coffee, Elevated
As Thaler describes it, nitro coffee is “dangerously smooth, nitro rocket fuel.” And it’s not an easy process to get to the velvety smooth texture that sets his cold brews apart. To create the drink, , Thaler and his team first brew their roasted coffee beans in water for 12 to 24 hours. Next, they add nitrogen gas.
“When the nitrogen is infused with the coffee,” Thaler explains, “it rushes to the top of the glass, creating a really cool cascading effect and an awesome creamy head to the drink.” The result is a velvety, creamy and frothy cold brew which can be enjoyed with or without added ice. The process is similar to adding carbonation to some crafts beers. The similarities don’t stop there. Like beer, Thaler’s cold brews come from the tap and can be purchased by growler.
Thaler didn’t stop there. He had the idea to take the nitro coffee craze even further by doing something no one else was doing just a short time ago: nitro lattes. After a lot of trial and error, Thaler has now perfected the technique of nitro lattes and is delivering innovative and popular nitro flavored lattes like Dark Side: added dark chocolate, Buzzing: hazelnut and honey, Mint Side: mint and dark chocolate and Elevate: cinnamon and hazelnut. He also offers nitrogen-infused teas and lemonades.
Some added perks of a Smooth Nitro brew: All of the beverages use high-quality, wholesome ingredients like honey, pure dark chocolate and and for the lactose-averse, only almond or coconut milk ingredients. Flavors are high, but calories are kept low with most drinks averaging just 100 calories (the cold-brew has zero calories). They also pack some serious punch with about 1.5 times more caffeine than your average cup of joe.
Fuel In The Heart of Downtown Cincy
Smooth Cincy is located in downtown Cincinnati, right across from Fountain Square.
“It’s been awesome to watch my product bring fuel and delight to people’s day,” Thaler says. As a Cincinnati native, he has always had a heart for his city. “I love meeting business owners and other Cincinnati-based businesses. And it’s cool being a part of the economy, too. I now have employees and I’m able to give them a paycheck and get their input on things and let them shape the brand as well.”
Thaler has lots in store for the future of Smooth Coffee. “I’m always in the kitchen innovating and experimenting with new recipes for people to try,” he says. So what’s Thaler working on right now? One of his current concoctions is “The Breakfast Cereal Series,” which consists of his signature nitro latte, but infused with actual breakfast cereals, such as Reese Puffs, to enhance the flavor.
Until then, you can find Smooth Nitro Coffee at 525 Vine St. inside the Huntington Bank Building and via delivery on Ubereats.
Smooth Nitro Coffee is open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday at 525 Vine St., Downtown. Stay up-to-date on special offers, collaborations and new flavors at facebook.com/smoothcincy.
Abigail Davidson is a writer and entrepreneur who loves Cincinnati. You can visit her at abigailrdavidson.com or say hi on Instagram at @abigailRdavidson
All photography by Louis Rideout