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Caffeination Destination: Buzz Killer Espresso

January 24, 2011

These Caffeination Destination posts aren’t meant to be formulaic reviews of cafes. You probably don’t live in Chicago. You probably don’t care which cafe makes the best cortado (but if you do, probably Intelligentsia). Still, like a series of fables in a children’s book, each cafe review has something to teach, some new light to shed on cafe culture in different cities.

Chicago’s coffee scene is interesting in that its cafes are so diverse: Intelligentsia and the Coffee Studio (upcoming Caffeination Destinations) are sleek and modern, the Wormhole is deliberately grungy and New Age, and Ipsento is a cozy neighborhood place that roasts their own coffee.

Chicago coffee beans are usually one of the following three varieties: A. Intelligentsia B. Metropolis, and C. Roasted in-house (although this is rare). Buzz Killer Espresso, seemingly just another Wicker Park cafe, is different. It doesn’t have much ambiance, that’s true. There’s only ever one barista working at a time (one is this really cool Polish woman), and the layout is slightly awkward. Buzz isn’t trying to be anything– it’s serving good coffee, straight up.

Buzz has their own coffees, particularly their espresso blends, the Hornet and the Stinger (which they discontinued). The Hornet has always been my favorite because it’s a more mellow cup– clearly other people thought so too. When it comes to pourovers, however (which they do on the Clever; this is actually where I bought the beloved apparatus), they have a remarkable selection of guest roasters. That they should even be called “guest roasters” is even arguable, since they have more guest beans than their own, or at least a 1:1 ratio.

Thanks to Buzz, I’ve been able to break out of the Intelligentsia-vs.-Metropolis mentality and try some really interesting beans. I had some great espresso from Broadway Roasters in Missouri, of all places. The Midwest is pretty unrepresented in the coffee industry, and although Buzz features roasters from all over the country, its goal is to promote local business, all of which they constantly post to their Facebook page.

Buzz has never been a place for me to do work or sit for an extended period of time, but there have been many occasions of just sitting at the bar and talking to the barista about anything: Portland, how to use a Clever, anything. And because the place is always suspiciously empty, they’re more than willing to talk. Like I said, there are no pretensions here.

Given how Buzz differentiates itself from most Chicago cafes, I’m surprised they don’t have more of a cult following. They will soon enough, but selfishly, I’m hoping to keep the whole thing on the DL– it’s already public enough as is.

Maybe my next coffee tour should be in Kansas City, Missouri.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. fiz permalink
    January 24, 2011 5:53 am

    Someone should alert the Chicago newspapers about your coffee surveys….they’re really professional (and witty).
    pretensions (not pretention)

    • January 24, 2011 2:08 pm

      oops– typo, thanks! i guess i could link to the surveys on Yelp? glad to hear you don’t find them boring, because I was worried about how the non-chicago audience would feel about them.

  2. Stefan Hersh permalink
    January 25, 2011 11:20 pm

    Nicely done! as one of the owners I can tell yo that you have really (and eloquently) captured the essence of what we hope for Buzz to be all about: really good coffee without pretense. Thanks…

    • January 26, 2011 1:32 am

      I’m so glad you found this review! (Did it come up on Google?)
      That’s exactly how I feel about Buzz: I love it for providing a wide range of coffees you wouldn’t be able to otherwise get.
      Too bad I don’t live in the area…


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