Baristas and coffee experts who take their beans seriously give us the lowdown each week in our column, Coffee Talk.
In the Chicago mega-roasters arena, there are two names that get top billing: the massive yet still Chicago-based Intelligentsia and the smaller yet well-known Metropolis. Both offer district coffees that are served at restaurants and coffee shops around the city, but there is only one coffee bar that features both roasters in the same place, and that’s Beatrix.
“It’s like Sox and Cubs fans,” barista Alex Carlson said about the sometimes-polarizing coffee companies. “We cater to both sides.” At Beatrix, he prepares Intelligentsia’s Beatrix House Blend, a smooth and sweet coffee roasted from beans harvested in Latin America that are slightly acidic, as well as Metropolis’ La Cordillera, a blended coffee with a stronger and more centered flavor that hits the palate and lingers.
For black coffee drinkers, Carlson recommends Metropolis, a roast that pairs particularly well with the restaurant’s gluten-free cinnamon muffin. For specialty drinks, he leans towards Intelligentsia, because of the way the milk and sugars work together. Two of his favorites are the honey and cinnamon latte as well as the malted freddo, a chilled drink made by whipping espresso, milk and chocolate malt powder.
Both blends are available to purchase by the bag. For roasting at home, Carlson stresses the importance of three things: the correct grind size, clean equipment and fresh water. The correct grind size depends on the type of equipment being used, but regardless of the size, whole beans should be ground just before they are used. Next is the equipment, which should be thoroughly cleaned to get rid of residue from previous uses. And finally, clean water brings out the nuances in the coffee.