Chicago’s Best Coffee Roasters (And Where to Find Them)
Or: 13 reasons why Chicago has the best coffee scene in the US
With 30+ roasteries and enough corner coffee counters to fuel an army of office-bound caffeine fiends, Chicago is undoubtedly one of the country’s most prolific coffee cities.
But that comes with its own set of problems: eternally wondering whether you are, in fact, drinking the freshest cuppa joe in the neighborhood or missing out on something far more delicious down the block.
To help you parse a busy space, we’ve put together a rundown of the cream of the crop: our 13 favorite local roasters, along with the various counters around town that serve them.
Their story, in brief: A Chicago indie darling since 2007, this offbeat espresso specialist now operates seven of its own cafes throughout the city, including a location inside the United Center, a brand new cold brew emporium in West Town and Sip of Hope, where 100% of proceeds go towards suicide prevention and mental health education.
What makes ’em unique: In addition to collaborating on buzzy beers with brewing legends like Pipeworks and Three Floyds Brewing, these guys have played with aging beans in booze barrels from the likes of Knob Creek, Koval, Goose Island and Rémy Martin.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Chocolate City cold brew on tap
Try it at: Star Lounge Coffee Bar (Ukranian Village), Sip of Hope (Logan Square), Chocolate City Coffee Bar & Bodega (West Town)
Their story, in brief: Spiaggia vet Tim Coonan switched gears from fine dining to craft coffee when he opened this award-winning roastery with five cafes plus a much-beloved kiosk in Midway airport.
What makes ’em unique: Coonan’s no-nonsense approach focuses squarely on the beans, sourced from farmers around the globe and brewed with a chef’s eye for detail.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Ethiopia Limu pour over
Try it at: Hotel Felix (River North), Midway Terminal A (Garfield Ridge/Clearing), Original Chicago Ave. shop (River West)
Dollop Coffee Co.
Their story, in brief: With 14 locations stretching as far south as Hyde Park and as far north as Evanston, this friendly mainstay recently began roasting its own beans in a new space on Diversey Ave.
What makes ’em unique: In addition to quality joe, Dollop is famous for their house-baked breads, decadent pastries and pies and killer sandwiches—so much so that they even opened an all-day diner with a full menu of locally-sourced comforts plus cocktails.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Berried Alive blend pour over
Try it at: Original Clarendon Ave. shop (Uptown), Dollop Diner (Andersonville), Dollop Bakeshop (Ukranian Village)
Their story, in brief: Chi-town’s best known (and perhaps best loved) export, this mega-roaster maintains its cutting edge image with an innovative single-origin line, seasonal releases and fan favorite Black Cat espresso.
What makes ’em unique: These java visionaries basically pioneered third-wave coffee back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and is now served in reputable shops all across North America.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Black Cat Classic espresso Angeleno
Try it at: Original Broadway Coffeebar (Lakeview), Wicker Park Coffeebar (Wicker Park), The Coffee Studio (Andersonville)
Metric Coffee Co.
Near West Side
Their story, in brief: Intelligentsia alum Xavier Alexander and Caffe Streets founder Darko Arandjelovic have been harnessing technology to brew intoxicatingly delicious coffee out of their industrial chic Westside headquarters since 2013.
What makes ’em unique: The West Fulton cafe and training lab is a one-stop-shop for serious coffee heads, offering in-depth workshops and free public cuppings every Friday at 10:30AM.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Hellion Rabble Rouser single origin cold brew
Try it at: Metric West Fulton (Near West Side), Caffè Streets (Wicker Park), Lula Cafe (Logan Square)
Printer’s Row Coffee Co.
Their story, in brief: Established in 2017, this sunny micro-roastery serves up small-batch, single-origin beans lovingly prepared from start to finish inside their stylish 750-square-foot neighborhood outpost.
What makes ’em unique: Co-owners Nicole and Nick Novotny’s gorgeous three-pound-capacity Phoenix ORO roaster is set up in full view of the cafe, so curious customers can get a behind-the-scenes look at the process.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Oat milk latte with housemade lavender syrup
Try it at: Printer’s Row Coffee Co. (Lincoln Park), Pilates + Coffee (Roscoe Village), Damn Fine Coffee Bar (Logan Square)
Their story, in brief: What began as a tiny shop on Western Ave. grew into a celebrated dual-location hipster hub with a picturesque all-day coffee and cocktail lounge right next to the bustling 606 elevated trail.
What makes ’em unique: While the beans are assuredly top-notch, the hauntingly good housemade sweet potato and kamut grain mini-donuts, dished up fresh each morning, are the real MVP.
The brew you’ve gotta try: The Ipsento latte
Try it at: Original Western Ave. location (Bucktown), 606 Bar (Wicker Park)
Their story, in brief: This respected purveyor has called the Southside home since 2004 and now operates four cafes while also supplying a bounty of area retailers with wholesale beans.
What makes ’em unique: Head honcho Mike Pilkington’s fluid-bed production facility allows him to roast their beans in air for a perfectly balanced and never bitter end result.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Hardscrabble Espresso Blend
Try it at: Coffeehouse 31st & Morgan (Bridgeport), Coffeehouse Hyde Park (Hyde Park), Coffeehouse Jackson Loop (The Loop)
Metropolis Coffee Company
Their story, in brief: Another major player on the national coffee stage, this lauded roaster from father-son duo Jeff and Tony Dreyfuss has been racking up awards since opening their quirky cafe in 2003.
What makes ’em unique: Community outreach is at the core of Metropolis’s philosophy and the brand often publicly partners with a long list of local organizations to fund and promote their causes.
The brew you’ve gotta try: The Lakeshore Fog
Try it at: Metropolis Cafe (Edgewater), Intersect Coffee (Pilsen), Weston’s Coffee (Jefferson Park)
Groundswell Coffee Roasters
Their story, in brief: This burgeoning mini-chain opened their humble doors on Daman Ave. back in 2015 and have since expanded to three sleek retail outlets and a separate shiny new roastery
What makes ’em unique: Cold brew comes by way of Japan here, with stunning Oji slow-drip towers working their magic on full display.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Kyoto-style Cold Brew
Try it at: Original Damen Ave. location (Ravenswood), Inside the Madison Building (West Loop), Lincoln Square shop (Lincoln Square)
Sparrow Coffee Roastery
Near West Side
Their story, in brief: Coffee purist Chris Chacko began this operation in 2012 as a wholesale roastery catering to top Michelin-starred restaurants and recently added a design-forward Naperville storefront to the mix.
What makes ’em unique: A big proponent of eco-friendly practices, this spot holds it down as Chicago’s only all-organic micro-roastery.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Competition Cappuccino
Try it at: Naperville cafe (Naperville), The Publican (Fulton Market), Smyth and The Loyalist (West Loop)
Their story, in brief: Bikes meet beans inside this cozy network of vintage-cool concept shops where customers peruse top-of-the-line handcrafted cycles and gear while downing an artisanal pick-me-up.
What makes ’em unique: It doesn’t get much more unique than getting your custom-built bicycle for two tuned up over an organic single-origin Ethiopia Kurimi.
The brew you’ve gotta try: Flat fix and small coffee for $10 (tube included)
Try it at: Heritage Bicycles General Store (Lakeview), Heritage Outpost (Uptown), Heritage Bikes and Coffee (River North)
Back of the Yards Coffee Co.
Back of the Yards
Their story, in brief: Neighborhood fixtures Mayra Hernandez and Jesse Iniguez serve up sustainably-sourced coffee drinks with a side of activism at their homey 47th Street shop.
What makes ’em unique: These do-gooders donate $1 from each 12-ounce bag of freshly-roasted beans to a scholarship fund aimed at helping area kids.
The brew you’ve gotta try: The Toro Loco
Try it at: Back of the Yards Coffeehouse & Roastery (Back of the Yards)