The 14 Best Craft Coffee Roasters In Chicago (And Where To Buy If You're Not A Chicagoan) from javaya's blog

Consider this: Is it better to buy a fresh pair of Nike shoes from Foot Locker or from Phil Knight himself? 

If you answered "from the Shoe Dog himself" then you know things are just better when you buy them from the original visionaries who crafted them. (If you answered "they're just shoes, who cares where you get them from?" then you can stop reading this now)

Thing is, coffee is no different. Sure, you can buy tasty coffee from grocery stores, bodegas, heck you can even get decent coffee on Amazon! But nothing substitutes getting fresh coffee directly from the source.

However, there's a lot of confusion about the difference between a Cafe and a Coffee Roaster. Coffee Roasters are the Phil Knights of coffee -- they handcraft their vision for what a great cup should be. Just like you can buy Nike shoes from Nike Stores, Foot Lockers and other retailers, or online ... you can also buy a craft coffee roaster's coffee in their own cafes, at your local coffee shop, or online too.

So now that we've made that perfectly clear, let's talk about 14 of the best craft coffee roasters in Chicago (and where to buy their coffee if you don't live in the Windy City).

Big Shoulders Coffee Roasters

Shop Big Shoulders Coffee

What makes them special: Big Shoulders Coffee offers a daily selection of meticulously selected, pristinely roasted coffees — as well as limited-time special feature coffees, single-origin coffees from micro coffee producers and seasonal blends.

Ipsento Coffee

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What makes them special: Ipsento was founded in 2006 with the idea that all people are on a journey of self-discovery. The word is a Latin portmanteau created by the founders, ipse + sentio (“self” + “to discover”).

When it comes to coffee, this translates to showcasing the farm-to-table journey: they seek to honor all the craftspeople involved in bringing customers a unique and delectable cup. Ipsento does this by sourcing directly and roasting to excellence on their custom Deidrich roasters. Their two stores and roasting lab are located in Bucktown, on the northwest side of Chicago, where they have met many nice dogs.

Metropolis Coffee Company

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What makes them special: Coffee, like art, has an aesthetic. Metropolis's coffee aesthetic is rooted in the belief that great coffee comes from a line of respect beginning with the farmers and their respect for their land. They, in turn, respect the farmers by paying fair prices for their harvest, and respect their customers by taking great care in the roasting and brewing process. Respect is at the core of our coffee philosophy, and taste is paramount.

Halfwit Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Founded in 2012, Halfwit Coffee Roasters began as a way to provide baristas and consumers alike with a panoramic understanding of coffee, from the first leaf to the final sip. They take it slow, never letting growth be their defining goal, and listening to the needs of their existing customers first. And Halfwit keeps it fun, because no one should take themselves - or their coffee - too seriously.

They try to understand and respect their place in a global system, by learning about and visiting their partners at origin and always paying fair prices for coffee. Halfwit invests in the education of their partners with a comprehensive training program, centered on a holistic and evolving understanding of coffee, not just a mechanical overview. As a company they strive to make improvements in the communities they work in, whether it is in the coffee industry at large or simply the neighborhoods they work out of.

Passion House Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: When Joshua Millman started Passion House in 2011, he set out to create great coffee that everyone could enjoy. With over twenty years of experience, the team at Passion House works closely with farmers to source sustainable and ethically grown coffees of the utmost quality. Everything is roasted by hand in small batches on a 1957 cast-iron Probat roaster to craft balanced and complex coffees. They want everyone to love great coffees as much as they do, so they offer three genres for different tastes: Ambient, Mainstream, and Experimental.

Groundswell Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Groundswell's brand is inspired by the true story of Ernest Shackleton's trans-Antarctic expedition. "fortitudine vincimus" (by endurance we conquer) is the company mantra.

Groundswell has three coffee shops located in Chicago, including Ravenswood, Lincoln Square and West Loop. Several of Groundswell's shops feature equipment exclusive to Chicago (and in some cases the United States), such as a pair of "Oji" Japanese Kyoto-style slow drippers and "Silodesign Paris" pour overs. Our coffee is roasted in small batches on a Diedrich IR-5 roaster, combining experience and technology to create consistent and repeatable roast profiles.

Abacus Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Founder, Brian, has been involved in coffee since 1996. In Kalamazoo, MI, he trained baristas at Water Street Coffee Joint until he and friends opened a not-for-profit arts collective called The Space in 2001. Frain managed the coffee bar, which paid the rent on the 1,800 square foot facility that housed a 70-seat theater, a 300-person capacity music venue, an art gallery and more. In 2003 he founded Rocket Star Coffee Shop on Western Michigan’s campus. From 2004 to 2008, he consulted on a variety of small town coffeehouses/programs in Sturgis, Three Rivers and Allegan Michigan. In September of 2008, he moved to Chicago to work under World Barista Champion Michael Phillips in East Lakeview at Intelligentsia’s flagship location on Broadway. Brian managed the Monadnock Intelligentsia on Jackson in the Loop before accepting a position running Wholesale for new coffee roaster Bow Truss in 2012. From 2013 to 2014 he also served as Director of Operations for the company before leaving to start Abacus in the summer of 2015. Sourcing, roasting, serving and drinking coffee are a lifelong passion of Brian’s, and he and the rest of the Abacus team are thrilled to offer delicious coffees to wholesale customers throughout the Chicagoland area and beyond!

Bridgeport Coffee Company

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What makes them special: In 2018 Bridgeport Coffee will start their 14th year of business, moving from a single retail location to now three retail locations and a dedicated roastery. They have direct import relationships with several excellent coffee farms, and they also sell green beans to other roasters who appreciate their sourcing quality. Their coffees appear in the finest retail groceries and they also support a thriving wholesale business.

Bridgeport is a no-nonsense, unpretentious “get the job done” neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. This also reflects Bridgeport's attitude toward roasting: they care passionately about quality sourcing and superb flavor profiles, but not about the pretensions of specialty coffee. They are hardworking, down-to-earth people who do not compromise on roasting excellence. In 2011 their flagship location was named the #1 Coffeehouse in Chicago (a very crowded field) by TimeOut Chicago.

Their mission is to bring the highest quality of well-sourced beans to the greatest number of people — especially in their area of geographic focus, the South Side of Chicago. Their success has been the direct result of their farm relationships, their business and community relationships, their dedication to employees, and their continuing quest for ever-greater technical excellence in sourcing and roasting. Their fluid-bed roasting facility means that our beans are roasted in air that moves instead of metal that can burn — offering a more sophisticated experience in every cup.

Their brand seeks a high level of corporate citizenship and community involvement. They named one of our roasts Bubbly Creek, after the polluted branch of the Chicago River that borders Bridgeport. Local customers were appalled that they had chosen this name — until they realized that a portion of the proceeds from every bag of Bubbly Creek coffee is donated to the Wetlands Initiative, which works to restore the natural environment of area wetlands and area waterways.

Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Great coffee is grown by farmers committed to quality, sustainability, and community. Conscious Cup buys and roasts coffee from the world’s best farms. They look for unique and special single origin coffees and they create incredible seasonal blends.

Four Letter Word Coffee

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What makes them special: Four Letter Word is a project brought forth by childhood friendship, a love for good coffee, good design & good people.

A trip from Chicago to visit with friends from the city on the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey developed into a collaboration of ideas regarding a mutual interest in coffee.

In 2013, a coffee roastery was born on the island of Burgaz, off the coast of Istanbul. The Fall of 2015 brings its sister location to Chicago at The Plant, a vertical farm focused on sustainable closed-loop systems located in the Back of The Yards, Chicago.

Gaslight Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Gaslight Coffee Roasters opened in 2012 in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. Since then they've had one goal - serve the best coffee possible without any of the pretension that often accompanies the speciality coffee industry. They are a true neighborhood shop. Gaslight works with a variety of importers both large and small to find the highest quality coffees available that are transparently and fairly sourced. They feel they have a responsibility to the coffee farmers to honor the hard work that’s already been done at origin.

Hexe Coffee Co.

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What makes them special: The Black Sheep of Chicago Coffee. No Cafes, no baristas. Just men and machines, taking time to provide the most unique cup of coffee ( or bottle) to this concrete jungle.

Starting in 2016, Hexe coffee set out to bring something different to the coffee culture in Chicago. Seeing as there was already no shortage of great coffee in the city, off to the lab it was. Hexe Coffee Co. specializes in Barrel-Aged Coffees, from whiskey to wine as well as a few other dark spirits. Try a non-aged specialty blend too!

River City Roasters

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What makes them special: River City Roasters exists to build community through the avenue of specialty coffee. Their journey started in 2008 when they visited tea villages in northeast Assam, India. People there taught them to slow down & enjoy the company of others over tea and biscuits. River City Roasters takes this passion and strives to do the same with their coffees. They want the farmers to be represented properly with the way River City roasts their coffee for your enjoyment. They believe in doing their best to represent what farmers intended for their coffees to be. Enjoy!

Tala Coffee Roasters

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What makes them special: Tala Coffee Roasters is a roastery based out of Libertyville, Illinois. They launched Tala summer of 2017 in a warehouse selling our coffee online and through wholesale partnerships. By spring of next year they will have their first cafe in Highwood, Illinois. Their mission is to bring specialty coffee to people in a way that is approachable. They internally hold themselves to high standards through the process of green buying all the way to brewing yet want this information and skill they have to be incredibly welcoming to their customers. Good coffee should be for everyone and they strive to not alienate anyone from the specialty dialog or experience but welcome them in and introduce them to what good coffee can taste like.

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