New coffee shops roasting their own beans
Why these three spots chose to do it themselves.
Wed Aug 8 2012
Illustration: Don Morris
Bang Bang Pie Shop
Dave Miller’s coffee epiphany came about seven years ago when he was a customer at Metropolis. “I realized that not all coffees were equal,” the co-owner of Bang Bang recalls. With some training from Metropolis, he began roasting his own coffee at home, which led him to take over Ipsento, then work for a year at Star Lounge. He and his wife, Megan, wanted to open a coffee shop, but they saw limited growth opportunities. “In the higher-end coffee world, you need to be educating people [about the process], and that takes a lot of work and branding,” Miller says. “I’m more focused on making a strong cup of coffee.” Instead, they merged Megan’s pastry experience and his coffee training into Bang Bang, where Miller’s coffee—currently one blend of direct-trade, Veracruz, Mexico–sourced beans roasted on Dark Matter’s fluid-bed roasters—is an act of devotion to the craft. “I’m kind of eating the cost,” he says, “because I want this type of coffee to be accessible to people.” 2051 N California Ave (773-276-8888).
Big Shoulders Coffee
Despite the crowded, competitive coffee market in Chicago, Tim Coonan, a 15-year home roaster, sensed a gap. “Everybody seems to be going after this very high-end, gourmet level of coffee roasting,” he says. “I think there’s some opportunity between [that] and the national chains.… I think that coffee in general might be outpacing its average customer.” This value-minded concept led him to turn his home-roasted beans, Big Shoulders, into a commuter-based coffee shop at the Chicago Blue Line stop in West Town. There, he offers “fast coffee”—brewed by an auto-drip machine—in one 16-ounce size and “slow coffee,” which takes about five minutes to make using a Clever. As for roasting his own beans, Coonan wonders how shops that don’t follow that protocol manage to keep prices down. “I can’t wrap my head around that,” he says. 1105 W Chicago Ave (312-888-3042).
With Kickstand, Dollop and (now-shuttered) Noble Tree, Phil Tadros has plenty of retail coffee experience under his belt. But his latest shop, Bow Truss, is the first to roast its own beans, which it now provides for the entrepreneur’s other cafés and a nascent clientele of restaurants, including Au Cheval. “When you’re buying [beans] from other people,” Tadros explains, “you can’t control the quality. So we figure: Let’s control our product.” Tadros tapped 12-year coffee vet Dennis Jackson to oversee the roasting process. (Beans come from Guatemala, Ethiopia and elsewhere; Bow Truss uses a Probat roaster.) Initially, Bow Truss wasn’t going to have any seating: Tadros imagined it as a place for people to come in and learn about coffee, then purchase beans and brewing equipment for home. He relented on seats, but still won’t be installing Wi-Fi. 2934 N Broadway (773-857-1361).