Java Junkies: Chicago Coffee Shops and Roasters

By: Amy Cavanaugh

September 12, 2013

Chicagoans love coffee. And they aren’t settling for grocery or chain store cups – coffee roasters have been quietly raising the city’s java profile for some time, making it possible to get a terrific cup just about anywhere in town. Intelligentsia Coffee, which also has retail stores in New York and Los Angeles, gets a lot of attention in the rest of the country, so we focused on different Chicago coffee shops that visitors will want to check out. Each is helping raise the city’s coffee reputation, and keeping Chicagoans and visitors alike in great beans.

Gaslight Coffee Roasters, Chicago

Gaslight Coffee Roasters | Chicago Coffee Shops

The sleek setup at Gaslight Coffee Roasters © Tristan Coulter

Gaslight Coffee Roasters, which opened last year, roasts its own beans in their storefront and offers a wholesale programme to cafés, restaurants and stores around the city. The beans hail from destinations like Colombia and Guatemala, and you can sip a cup in the retro café while snacking on cheese, charcuterie and sandwiches, or sampling some delicious brunch options.

2385 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago

Bow Truss, Chicago

Bow Truss | Chicago Coffee Shops

Pourover coffee at Bow Truss © Jason Curescu

With two locations in the city – East Lakeview and River North – it’s not hard to fit a visit to Bow Truss into your itinerary. The East Lakeview café has just a few seats, since the space is devoted to the roaster, which readies single origin beans and blends for coffee and lattes. There’s iced coffee on draft, which is ideal for summer days, plus both locations regularly host pastry pop-ups, which feature treats from local bakers.

2934 North Broadway and 406 North Wells Street, Chicago

Metropolis Coffee Company, Chicago

Metropolis Coffee Company | Chicago Coffee Shops

The bustling Metropolis Coffee Company, behind the scenes © Tony Dreyfuss

The 10-year-old Metropolis Coffee Company is one of the mainstays on the coffee scene and for good reason – the blends and single origin beans are roasted daily. The Edgewater café serves coffees and snacks, and it’s popular with nearby Loyola University students. The roaster is one of the most popular in Chicago, and it’s not hard to find the colourful bags of beans around town.

1039 West Granville Avenue, Chicago

HalfWit Coffee Roasters, Chicago

HalfWit Coffee Roasters | Chicago Coffee Shops

Testing different roasts at HalfWit Coffee Roasters © HalfWit

Sourced from sustainable farmers in Mexico, Ethiopia and other countries, the roaster provides beans for The Wormhole and also offers coffee subscriptions by mail. HalfWit is a team of coffee pros from around the city who strive to make coffee unpretentious, which is evident from the affordable beans with descriptions that are completely accessible – “This stuff will make you wonder if someone switched your coffee with Kool-Aid. Gigantic flavours of strawberry, lemon, blueberry, watermelon, and peach equals one big fruit punch to the face.”

Available at The Wormhole, 1462 North Milwaukee Ave”Žnue, Chicago

Passion House

Passion House | Chicago Coffee Shops

A selection of different beans at Passion House © Passion House

The trendy coffee roaster focuses on blends that are ambient (“simple beauties” with a “subtle complexity”), mainstream (“familiar yet interesting”), and experimental (“distinctly unique with a vision all their own”). Beans come from El Salvador, Mexico, Brazil, and other places, and you can find them at local farmers markets. Passion House also provides beans wholesale.

Written by Amy Cavanaugh

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Have you tried any of the beans from these independent roasters? Do you have a favourite Chicago coffee shop? Share your tips below.


Amy Cavanaugh

Amy Cavanaugh ( writes about food and drink, travel, and culture from her home base of Chicago. Follow her on Twitter @AmyCavanaugh

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