Cafe Review: Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago

Bowtruss coffee

All Things Go at Bow Truss Coffee Roasters

Chicago holds an important place in the history of American coffee. America’s Second City was the first place Starbucks expanded outside of the Pacific Northwest, and few companies have shaped third-wave coffee like Chicago natives Intelligentsia. While these companies have production in scale with the Chicago skyline, a new wave of artisanal roasters have been carving out a small batch-sized niche in the Windy City. One of those intentionally-small companies is Bow Truss Coffee Roasters in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood.

Bow Truss from Doejo Video on Vimeo.

A Coffee Dream Team

At not quite two-years-old, Bow Truss has an intentionality and maturity that’s uncanny for such a young company. Of course, starting with veteran professionals like barista Talya Strader and roaster Dennis Jackson helps. The maturity of an established team coupled with the flexibility of a start-up makes Bow Truss an enviable force. In the words of their website, “we’re small enough to be picky… but big enough to buy the best beans out there.”

I made a short detour through Chicago on a recent road trip to Iowa and wanted to put their claims to the test. I also wanted to see my old friend and former coworker Brian Ensminger, who happened to be slingin’ shots that day.

Bow Truss Coffee

Bowtruss Coffee

Like Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s classic novel, Around the World in 80 Days, I forgot (spoiler alert) we gained time traveling west and arrived at Bow Truss before Brian’s shift began. While we waited for him to show up, I put in an order for a single origin espresso while my wife admired the antiques that permeate the shop. The espresso was from Santa Lucila, Nicaragua. I tasted a pleasant citrus acidity balanced by a dark chocolate sweetness. It wasn’t particularly complex, but sometimes a simple, straight-forward espresso hits the spot, and this one certainly did.

Bowtruss Coffee

Defying All Expectations

When Brian arrived he brewed us a pour-over of Bow Truss’s Ethiopia Kochere with a Hario V60. Certain origins are often associated with specific flavor characteristics, but this coffee defied all of my expectations. Instead of the delicate floral and citrus notes one often finds in coffees from Kochere, I encountered a deep brown sugar sweetness supported by notes of pecan- a pleasantly unanticipated sensory experience. The real standout in Bow Truss’s line up is the Costa Rica, Leon Cortez De Tarrazu, La Cuesta Microlot. I got a bag to brew at home and have been consistently impressed with this coffee’s red grape acidity and cinnamon finish.

Bowtruss Coffee

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Spoilt for Choice in Chicago

Bow Truss proves that an established coffee community is not an enemy to innovation and entrepreneurship.  Their skillful roasts and excellent execution rightly earns them a place in the Pantheon of Chicago’s best coffee roasters. Although national attention has been focused on either coast in recent days, Chicago’s coffee scene remains a force with few equals. For Chicagoans, there’s never been a better time to get a cup of coffee.

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