Dozens of Chicago coffee shops roast their own beans

December 24, 2012 (CHICAGO)

With names like Ipsento, Asado, and Bowtrus, Chicago's local coffee roasting scene is taking off. The cups of coffee at the Safari Cup Coffee Shop have one thing in common: all of the beans used to make them come from Africa. That commitment stems from the owners' roots in Zimbabwe.

"Ethiopia is the home of all coffees around the world. So your coffees of south Central America, they all come from Ethiopia," said Safari Cup owner Dave McLaughlin. "They're high mountain coffees; it's the area that nature chose for coffee to grow, it's the most ideal situation."

McLaughlin roasts all of his beans off-site, giving him control over their intensity. One way to pour a better cup is to do a "pour over," which involves pouring hot water over freshly-ground beans in a filter.

"With a pour-over, if you know what you're doing, you'll be very specific in terms of the amount of water and the amount of grounds, which will give you the right formula for your coffee," he said.

Pour overs are commonplace at Gaslight Coffee Roasters in Logan Square as well.. Where they start with green coffee beans, then roast them in the back, usually in small batches, throughout the day.

"You have a tremendous amount of control over what kind of product you're producing. It's tough when you're working with roasters to get a coffee that maybe you like but you don't exactly like the way it's roasted, and then you now are in a situation of going to another coffee roaster and telling them 'hey, can you change this?'" said Gaslight co-owner Zachary Rye. "You don't always have the same amount of control and options when you're going through a wholesaler."

Their roaster takes copious notes on time and temperature, and once the beans are roasted, they'll get a chance to rest for a few days.

"A big misconception is that the best coffee is fresh out of the roaster, actually the best coffee is about four days out of the roaster," he said. "Coffee needs time to rest, to de-gas and for the flavors to really start to open up."

The ground beans are used for pour overs, straight espressos or even fancy lattes.. But one of the things Gaslight is hoping to do is start pairing their geeked-out coffee with some meticulously-sourced food.

"That's kind of the main, special thing that we do; we're pairing a lot of our coffees with little side dishes or full lunches - charcuterie plates, cheese plates - and things like that," said Rye.

Safari Cup Coffee
3404 N. Southport Ave.
(773) 770-6162

Gaslight Coffee Roasters
2385 N. Milwaukee Ave.
No phone

Other local coffee roasters:

Big Shoulders Coffee
1105 W. Chicago Ave.

Blue Max Coffee
26 Lathrop Ave., Forest Park

Bow Truss
2934 N. Broadway

2035 N. Western Ave.

1432 W. Irving Park Rd.

Passion House
2021 W. Fulton St. K105B

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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