As the Melting Pot of the Midwest, Chicago’s affinity for varied influence and origins runs deep—right down to the caffeine that fuels every day’s hustle. A cup of Joe from one of these cafes is as close to a taste of true Windy City culture as you can get—a sip of sensibility and straight, delicious coffee. Scroll through below to check out our top seven spots for can’t-miss caffeination.
Since their opening in 1995, Intelligentsia has committed to direct trade of their coffee beans, going so far as to chart their beans’ transformation from crop to cup. They’ve traveled to origin countries like Guatemala, Rwanda, and Peru to shake the actual hands of growers. Their taste is well defined and without the frills of add-ins like syrups or sugars. Check out their classic espresso menu with cappuccinos, affogatos, lattes and more, or select direct from their single-origin menu.
6 locations throughout Chicago; intelligentsiacoffee.com
A casual hot spot for caffeine and conversation, Ipsento’s Bucktown shop roasts brews with unique stories from farm to cup. They also offer Coffee 101 classes to teach customers about the beans' origin story and different brewing techniques. Its namesake latte, which features coconut milk, milk, honey, and an option for cayenne pepper, tops the list of most unique finds in-house, aside from cult-favorite Nutella Mocha.
3 locations throughout Chicago; ipsento.com
3. Bridgeport Coffee
Named after the South Side neighborhood where their flagship roaster is located, Bridgeport Coffee celebrates its deep roots winding through Chicagoland. Its coffee can be found in various grocery stores, restaurants and local cafés, but its Chicago locations invite patrons to stay a while as an oasis full of wifi and brunch bites alongside numerous drink options.
4 locations throughout Chicago; bridgeportcoffee.net
4. Sawada Coffee
Staunch precision meets cozy atmosphere pulsing with a bold but familiar café aroma at Sawada. Check out their Instagram-worthy Military Latte with green tea, vanilla syrup, cocoa powder, and a shot of espresso. Or go for a “boozy steamer” featuring spirits like bourbon, scotch—and even sake—mixed with spices, milks, ciders, and of course, coffee. This hot spot off Green Street also serves Doughnut Vault doughnuts, including a specialty camouflage doughnut that’s just as photogenic as their latte foam art.
112 North Green Street; sawadacoffee.com
5. Gaslight Coffee Roasters
Gaslight is another Chicago local roaster known for cool combinations. They recently launched a collaboration with the Costa Rican Association of Organic Families of the Carairges Mountains (AFAORCA). Tristan Coulter of Gaslight and Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting (led by 5 Rabbit Cerveceria founder, Andres Araya) traveled to Costa Rica to select a prize bean variety for this year’s Yodo con Leche coffee beer. The co-op’s Mil Maravillas bean (Spanish for “a thousand wonders”) will also be featured at Gaslight’s Chicagoland café.
2385 North Milwaukee Ave.; gaslightcoffeeroasters.com
6. Dark Matter Coffee
From the coffee bean growers of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico to their Chicagoland Roastery in Ukrainian Village, Dark Matter brings a unique blend to the city. They focus on varying fermentation processes allowing for stratified flavor to their brews. Dark Matter can be found in varying small shops throughout the city (like Do-Rite Donut & Coffee outpost off Randolph and Dearborn), but the Star Lounge Coffee Bar is by far their most popular primary café. A true bar atmosphere greets patrons, but coffee flows through the taps instead of booze. Check out the straight brew or try the standout Mayan Mocha with chocolate, cinnamon, cayenne and agave.
2521 West Chicago Ave.; darkmattercoffee.com
7. The Wormhole Coffee
Travel back in time through The Wormhole in Wicker Park. An all-‘80s interior features Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Ghostbusters paraphernalia and more—not to mention a life-sized Marty McFly Delorean displayed prominently on a back ledge. Personality steeps through each brew like their popular Peanut Butter Koopa Troopa latte. They’ve also developed their own roasting company, Halfwit Coffee Roasters, crafted in 2012 with all the same care for quality coffee and an unpretentious attitude.
1462 N Milwaukee Ave.; thewormhole.us