Just in time for summer, the second Ipsento Coffee location is now open for business, located conveniently adjacent to The 606 elevated trail that runs through Chicago's Wicker Park and Logan Square neighborhoods. This is the second cafe from Chicago independent roaster / retailer Ipsento, and it's twice as large as the brand's first location, full of glorious natural light and serving up craft beer, cocktails, and house-made donuts alongside Ipsento's own line of coffees.
The much-loved independent coffee shop's first location is a staple in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. Owners Tim and Mandi Taylor took ownership from the original tenants in 2009, and couldn’t even afford to change the name. In the years since, the Taylors have grown Ipsento into a homegrown Chicago coffee destination, with expanded roasting and training facilities and wholesale production of around 1,000 lbs. of coffee a week. All this while doing business in a tiny space with room for just a lone espresso machine, leading to out-the-door lines every weekend.
Their second space couldn't be more different. Ipsento’s spacious new shop sits at the crossroads of bike superhighway Milwaukee Avenue and the 606 Trail. Similar to Manhattan's High Line, The 606 is an elevated railroad line (and beacon for coffee) that was transformed to a public walking, biking and running path last year. If you’re familiar with Ipsento’s cozy vibe, the lovingly mismatched furniture and its bright blue walls, expect a completely different experience when you step inside Ipsento 606. “Both share the same vision and a passion for craft, quality and engaging people,” said general manager Harris Nash, “but each of the spaces are completely unique.”
If it feels like Ipsento had some budget to play with for their new cafe, well, it's true. A whopping $130,000 was raised via the crowdfunding site Bolstr—in less than 2 hours—which, paired with additional private investment and bank loans, helped make leasing their new 1,800-square-foot spot a reality last fall. Build-out occurred through the cold Chicago winter, and they're now open just in time for sunny summer walks on the 606.
The interior feels clean, clutter-free and open, with all-white espresso machines, white quartz countertops and white walls, an original tin ceiling (a staple of old Chicago buildings) and wood ash counters. Even the grinders (by Mahlkonig USA) are color-coded, in matte white and jet black. Great care was taken in designing the custom bar to reduce the visibility of equipment and open up the space. The front and side brick walls were opened up to install massive windows.
Anticipating high traffic, Taylor knew he’d need more than one espresso machine and a few baristas to keep up. To serve both on-the-go customers who pop in from the trail and those who want to sit and savor their coffee, Ipsento 606 has three espresso machines. Two are rare-in-Chicago Slayers, the same espresso machine at Ipsento’s other location. The third is the magnificent hidden-from-sight ModBar. Most of the guts of the machine live under the counter, with just three handles exposed on top. Think beer taps, except the handles dispense espresso, steamed milk and pour-over coffee. Ipsento will station their most experienced baristas behind this $14,000 coffee brewing station to offer slow coffee service.
Though strict city regulations prevented building out a patio or installing a walk-up window, Ipsento 606 is located right next to one of the trail’s entry points and conjoining parks. The small public park essentially serves an extension of the space. Folks can also expect some nice snacks, with Food Director Marina Holter offering a signature no-yeast sweet potato mini donut, fried in coconut oil in a machine unironically called the Donut Robot Mark II. It can crank out 150 mini donuts an hour.
By early evening, two of the espresso machines will go quiet. Ipsento will transform to full bar, complete with cocktails program from Chad Hague of Longman & Eagle , and several beers on draft. Local taps will include beers from Begyle Brewing, where Ipsento brews their nitro coffee and Hopewell Brewing, which uses Ipsento in their coffee brown ale. They other taps will include craft beers from around the country. One Slayer will remain on duty throughout the night, and most of the staff will be split between daytime baristas and nighttime bartenders, depending on their expertise. “I don’t want to be a coffee shop that serves beer,” Tim Taylor said. “Everyone we serve, we want to serve them well.”
Meanwhile over in Bucktown, the original location isn’t going anywhere and nothing’s changing—except for its name. Now that coffee shop has two locations, the first spot will be called Ipsento Western. You can still swing by at any time and enjoy a Garrison Keillor sandwich with your coffee. And maybe a shorter line? Ipsento's new cafe is going to be a city-wide destination here in Chicago, so here's hoping their cozy, neighborhood-y original cafe earns a respite from the hordes.
Photos courtesy Ipsento Coffee.