Can you pour the perfect pint? Guinness Nitrosurge tested
We test the NITROSURGE to answer an eternal question. Can I get good Guinness at home?
Pouring a good pint of Guinness is like a game of chess: it takes minutes to learn, a lifetime to master. You may be thinking “it’s just liquid in a glass”. That it tastes the same whether it’s consumed from a branded glass or a dog bowl. “So what if it doesn’t have much head, that’s more Guinness for me, right?” Ah so naive.
As anyone who’s been served watery Guinness in a crap pub, or has spent any time scrolling the feed of @shitlondonguinness, can attest, pouring a pint of the black stuff™ is an artform. But unlike art, the difference between a good and bad Guinness isn’t subjective. A good pint will be poured in a branded glass and topped with a thick, white foam domage. A bad pint is watery and stagnant. It will sit there with a 3in head or no head at all. It will mock you and your life decisions.
It’s also near impossible to produce a good one outside of a very good pub – but that may have changed with the Guinness Nitrosurge. This Guinness gadget claims to use ultrasonic tech to recreate the classic two-pour pint. Simply clip the circular device to the top of a Guinness can, push a button, pour, and a pub quality pint is there for you to enjoy. Supposedly.
The Nitrosurge is not the first Guinness-based innovation for home supping. It was Guinness, after all, who patented the widget, a ping pong ball-like device that still comes in cans of Guinness today. We’ve also seen the ‘Surger’, a beer mat-style contraption that used ultrasound waves to activate the foam head.
A more recent invention was the MicroDraught, a home bar tap that (Guinness says) delivers a ‘freshly poured, deliciously smooth’ pint with ‘a perfectly domed head and beautiful taste at all times.’ At £750, though, the MicroDraught is a little overkill for the average Guinness enjoyer. But a Nitrosurge bundle, which includes the device, eight pint cans of Guinness and two pint glasses, costs a much more reasonable £70. Is Nitrosurge the key to at-home Guinness excellency? Let’s find out.
A little disclaimer first. We’ll be testing three varieties of Guinness – regular Guinness, 0.0 alcohol free Guinness and the newly (ish) released Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer. Each can will be poured horizontally into a branded glass at a 45-degree angle, left to settle, then topped off. Just as it’s supposed to be. We’re looking for a black beer with a 2cm domage.
We won’t be judging on taste. This isn’t masterchef, we’re not beer critics, and it’s a pint of Guinness, not a taster menu at The Fat Duck. Pints will be judged by three markers – pour one, pour two and domage. Let’s go.
The Nitrosurge uses ultrasonic waves to break down the nitrogen bubbles in a can of Guinness, thus mimicking a pub pour. The device is powered by a Micro-USB/USB-A charging cable, with a full charge (around eight hours) fuelling around 100 pours.
In the box, you get a device, a USB cable, a nozzle and a small brush for deep cleaning, and the lifespan of a device really depends on how well you look after it.
It’s decorated with the golden Guinness harp at the top, and is marked with branding around the circumference. It feels sturdy, and is weighty enough to reassure it’s well made. To prepare it for the pour, the instructions tell me, I must attach a nozzle, rinse the device through before use and clip it to the top of the can. It’s so easy even an 18 year old baby could do it.
Alongside the Nitrosurge device comes the Nitrosurge cans. These are designed exclusively for use with Nitrosurge, but at a retail price of around £14 for six pint (568ml) cans, quality comes at a cost.
Yep, that’s Guinness alright. The bubbles flow from the bottom of the glass and rise upwards like a creamy cloud. It settles beautifully, taking just over a minute to complete its first phase. It’s a little bubbly, but that might be down to my pouring. Would it stand up in an average pub? So far, I think so.
The second pour is arguably the make or break point for a pint of Guinness. Pour one leaves some room for human error, but an overzealous pour can result in a gigantic head and a wet, beer soaked hand. Naturally, though, I nail it. My talents are wasted here. I should be in Dublin. But I’m not. I’m in my kitchen analysing beer foam with a tape measure.
The Nitrosurge performs very well, delivering a creamy pint that I’d happily accept in my local. I’d probably order another.
Domage: Very impressive. Few people would turn this away if handed it in a regular pub, I think. At first, I thought the Nitrosurge may be something of a fad gadget for anoraks, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.
0.0 is Guinness without the alcohol, and it’s one of the best zero percent beers out there. It looks like Guinness, smells similar to Guinness, and there’s enough of a Guinness flavour to trick your brain into believing it’s close to the real deal. It also isn’t meant to be used with the Nitrosurge.
Guinness are very clear that Nitrosurge cans and Nitrosurge cans only must be used to achieve the desired result. With that in mind, it’s fair to take this test with a pinch of salt. Still, in the name of science, let’s press ahead.
The 0.0 pours smooth, with a milky colour before settling into a very dark ruby tone. It fully settles in just a few seconds, but the foam is noticeably more honeycombed than the Guinness Original. Rather than a smooth crust there are large bubbles in the foam, but the Nitrosurge does give it an extra pep compared to a standard pour.
Little changes to the 0.0 on the second pour. The 0.0 only comes in 440ml, and thus scuppers my once airtight Guinness rating system. It looks a little sad and lonely in my glass, like a child dressed in an oversized suit at a family wedding. There is no wind beneath its wings. It is incomplete. Still, it tastes good so I’m happy.
Domage: Test incomplete due to insufficient glassware.
Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer
I’m no purist. Rather, I’m a sucker for a gimmick. That’s why I greet the Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer with anticipation. Will I crack open a can to discover a rich, fragrant tipple that can be sipped by the fire as snow falls outside my window? Or will I pour into my glass an artificially sweetened concoction of syrup and extract? Either way, I’m here for it.
Once again, the Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer isn’t meant for the Nitrosurge.
I’m instantly overcome with a smell of coffee, which surprises me more than it should. Maybe my brain tricked itself into thinking it’s a regular Guinness, I tell myself. The first pour is somewhere between the Nitrosurge can and 0.0, not quite a great Guinness but an adequate first pour.
Once again, this test is skewed as the Guinness Cold Brew Coffee Beer doesn’t come as a full pint but we achieve an optimum pour with a 2cm foam. To our surprise, though, the Cold Brew Coffee Beer gives us the most aesthetically pleasing head of all three beers. It’s creamy and thick, and tops our drink with a lovely shade of burnt cream. The glass was slightly dirty when I poured it, which is why there are slight marks around the glass that almost look like condensation, but aside from my errors I am very pleased.
Domage: Unfair test due to insufficient glass. Did not pass peer review.
Guinness Nitrosurge verdict
Guinness enjoys enough of an avid drinker-base that the Nitrosurge will likely appear in countless stockings this Christmas. For the casual drinker, though, it may not be worth the money or effort. Those £14 a pack beers will likely deter a few folks, and you definitely don’t get the same results with regular cans. Some may not see the appeal in an electronic pouring device when a ring pull does just fine.
But Guinness, famously, requires patience. If you have that, then the Nitrosurge is worth it.