Coffee in Springfield, Illinois? You bet! As one might imagine, specialty coffee is somewhat new here—even with the influence of top-notch coffee shops in Chicago to the north and St. Louis to the south, for a long time Springfield slipped through the cracks, caught in the middle of mediocrity, in the center of Illinois. But there’s change afoot as people become more aware of what good coffee has to offer, and as more qualified coffee professionals start opening up their own shops right here. Here are a few of this capital city's highlights.
While it may be unusual for a specialty coffee shop to call the food court in the mall home, Foamed Up makes it feel like a natural fit here in Springfield. With a laid back and non-presumptuous vibe, this new coffee shop offers some solid choices when it comes to coffees from roasters around the country. When I stopped in most recently, they had beans from Methodical Coffee, Oddly Correct, and Onyx Coffee Lab. While I’m not the biggest nitro fan, it’s something that Foamed Up specializes in, so I figured I’d give it a whirl. It was delicious. A natural Ethiopia from Oddly Correct, it was everything I’ve ever wanted nitro to be, but rarely get. Light with good clarity, didn’t taste like cold brew, and had a head that lasted the whole time I was drinking it.
Foamed Up also sells ice cream by the scoop and are doing some fun things to incorporate it into the coffee menu—to the tune of Nitro Floats and Coffee Milk Shakes. I may have quickly slurped down a butter pecan cold brew milkshake as I headed out of the mall and into the parking lot.
Three Twigs Bakery
Well-known in the area as a bakery with the best gluten-free and vegan pastries, Three Twigs Bakery recently expanded its business, making the leap into becoming a full-fledged cafe, and they’re doing a lot of really good things. Lattes, drip coffee, donuts, and some very interesting infused cold brews are among its highlights.
Espresso drinks are made on a La Marzocco Linea Classic, with coffee sourced from Kaldi's Coffee out of St. Louis, Missouri. The cold brew is a secret blend of coffees, designed to bring as much chocolate to the taste buds as possible and to pair well with the blueberry puree added(!), with a lingering hint of smoked rosemary. Drip coffee came from a local roaster, Redbud Coffee, and I sipped on the Ethiopia Guji while eating a delicious chocolate donut.
With such focus on local, handmade ingredients, and an easygoing, family-friendly environment (with a play area for the little ones) it’s hard not to feel at home here, whether you’re meeting a friend, studying for your next exam, or simply relaxing.
One of the first specialty coffee shops in Springfield, Custom Cup is these days a bit of a household name in Springfield. Starting out as a small-batch, custom-order roastery, the owner has stories of roasting some of their first coffee in a Whirly Pop on the stove top at home. From those beginnings, Custom Cup built out a shop downtown, close to the Capitol, where they could roast commercially and customers could visit to taste test the coffee before purchasing beans to take home. Over time, the shop added in a pour-over bar, pastries, and most recently, an espresso machine from Synesso. The shop is a great place to visit, grab a pour-over, made right in front of you, enjoy the sidewalk seating and watch the politicians and downtowners go about their business.
Redbud Coffee Co.
Probably the most unique shop in this guide, Redbud operates out of a converted food truck, traveling to different events in the greater Springfield area. Not only is coffee served from the truck, an old U-Haul, but they do all their roasting in the truck as well. I ordered a pour-over and a shot of espresso from the window—the pour-over was an Ethiopia from the Guji region, and I can still taste the strong note of blueberries. The espresso was a blend of Brazil, Rwanda and that great Ethiopia, making for a very balanced, sweet and chocolaty shot—easily the best I've ever had from a U-Haul truck.
Free Press Coffee
After establishing themselves several years ago in the small town of Pittsfield, about an hour outside of Springfield, Free Press made the jump and opened their second location, bringing their hometown feel to the big city of Springfield. Located near Washington Park on MacArthur, Free Press is one of several new business hoping to revitalize the Boulevard. Walking into the cafe, I caught the gleam of the La Marzocco Strada sitting on the counter, a thing of beauty. At the barista’s recommendation, I ordered a mug of Lake Effect from Madcap Coffee, out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The shop was also featuring coffee from Sump from nearby St. Louis and pulling shots with Blueprint’s Penrose, also from St. Louis. The cafe's ample seating offers a great opportunity to relax and watching the steady stream of traffic go by while enjoying a well-crafted coffee alongside pastries from Three Twigs Bakery or bagel-style sandwiches prepared in house.
Robbie De Vries is a freelance journalist and coffee professional in Springfield, Illinois. This is Robbie De Vries' first feature for Sprudge.
Top image via Adobe Stock/Jacob