Local roasters lead to grown-up coffee experience

October 5, 2012 8:44:11 PM PDT
There's a steady stream of caffeinated customers at the new Big Shoulders Coffee shop in West Town, especially during rush hour, since it hugs the corner of Chicago and Milwaukee. But aside from location, the real draw is a more grown-up coffee experience

"We do French Press, we do slow coffee, which is our Clover drip system, takes about five minutes to make but it's an exceptional cup of coffee; auto drip and then we do espresso drinks," said Big Shoulders Owner Tim Coonan.

Part of the reason their coffee tastes so good, is that they roast the beans in-house. Done in small batches, the green beans - which come from all over the globe - are roasted in the front of the shop, then cooled on a wide rack, before being dumped into buckets for storage and use. Drinks can be ground to-order. They also make cold-brewed coffee, offering strong black or sweeter "white" versions.

"Brewed with citrus, lemon and orange peel, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon; little bit of sugar and little bit of cream," Coonan said.

Out west, in Forest Park, Blue Max Coffee fits right in among the broad lawns and front porches. But inside, they take an intense approach to coffee.

"Roasting your own coffee is the key. You can control everything from there on out," said Blue Max Owner Terry Griffin.

The beans come from regions around the globe, close to the equator.

"I always buy what they call 'new crop' which is current; which has just been picked off the boat, and whatever is current , the new crop is what I'm purchasing," he said.

Freshly-ground beans are used for cold-brewed coffee; which is created when filtered water is added to grounds in a giant glass container, left to steep for three days, then strained and filtered, resulting in a lower acid coffee concentrate that is magic over ice.

Espressos are a given, but if you want a latte, be prepared for a bit of steamed milk impressionism in your cup. The beans used for their coffee drinks do get a rest, right after they're roasted.

"It sits for seven days. And that gives it a chance to breathe and let all the gases release and it comes out and it's nice and smooth and it just makes a really wonderful espresso drink," Griffin said.

Blue Max roasts about 175 pounds of coffee every week, and they're only roasting about three days a week, so that's quite a bit of coffee. You can buy it whole or ground to-go or have it made into one of these fantastic coffee drinks like a latte or my personal preference, a cold-brewed version.

Big Shoulders Coffee
1105 W. Chicago Ave. 60642
(312) 888-3042
bigshoulderscoffee.com

Blue Max Coffee
26 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park 60130
(708) 366-9224
bluemax.me

Other local roasters:

Bow Truss
2934 N. Broadway

Ipsento
2035 N. Western Ave.

Asado
1432 W. Irving Park Rd.

Passion House
2021 W. Fulton St. K105B

Demitasse
1066 W. Taylor St.

Bridgeport Coffee Co.
3101 S. Morgan St.

Star Lounge
2521 W. Chicago Ave.

Intelligentsia and Metropolis are other local roasters, albeit on a much larger scale


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