Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker

A lovely shot of espresso in an old Buzz Killer Espresso cup, made with the NCK blend at Buzz Coffee & Baker.Buzz Killer Espresso was the first place I visited on my returning to Chicago as part of my around the world trip in 2016. A lovely coffee shop/roaster just off North Milwaukee Avenue, it was set back from the street and spread over two floors, a delightful spot with excellent coffee and awesome staff. I was particularly disappointed when I learnt of its closure this time last year. However, all was not lost since Buzz Killer was moving, with a slight change of name, to new premises further up Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square. Naturally on my return this year I hopped on the Blue Line and went straight there.

Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker is very different from its predecessor in terms of look and feel. Spread over a much larger single floor, the outside seating is gone and there’s a main entrance on Milwaukee and a second entrance at the back on Diversey.  The coffee offering’s very similar though, with Buzz still roasting all its own coffee. There’s a house-blend, single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus a blend and three seasonal single-origins on V60, while the bulk-brewer, that staple of the American coffee shop, is mercifully absent.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The new home for Buzz Killer Espresso, on N Milwaukee Avenue, heading south and...
  • ... here's the view heading north. There's a new name too: Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker.
  • Concise and colourful A-board!
  • The view of the spacious interior from just inside the door.
  • The door is on the left, the store stretching out to the right. It also goes a long way back.
  • There's a generous window-bar looking out onto Milwaukee Avenue.
  • Despite its width, it only has three chairs, so there's plenty of room for you to spread out.
  • The door, meanwhile, is to the left, set back a little from the street.
  • The counter is dead ahead as you enter...
  • ... although the bulk of the counter streches off in the distance...
  • ... forming a long corridor down the right-hand side.
  • There's seating down here in the shape of a long wooden bench with narrow tables.
  • Something went wrong with this photo, but I like the effect so I've kept it.
  • A more conventional view of the tables.
  • That's not all though. At the back, there's another corridor past the kitchen...
  • ... which leads into another room!
  • This one has its own doors and windows too, plus a row of three tables between them.
  • Only one of the doors is in use though: this one, on the left. There's also a bench here.
  • There's more seating, dominated by this central, communal table.
  • Finally, there's seating along the right-hand wall in the form of a bench...
  • ... lined with square, two-person tables. The final table follows a kink in the wall...
  • ... caused by the front and rear of Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker not being parallel.
  • The rear of Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker faces out onto West Diversey Street.
  • This is the door, seen from the street, deeply recessed in the brick walls.
  • A panoramic view of the rear section of Buzz from just inside the door.
  • Once again, the eight-person communal table takes pride of place.
  • Obligatory light fitting shot.
  • Although I also liked these, hanging above the seats opposite the counter.
  • There's a set of retail shelves against the right-hand wall towards the front.
  • Unsurprisingly, there's the full range of Buzz's coffee for sale.
  • In case you forgot where you were!
  • Another view of the corridor linking the two spaces, looking towards the front section.
  • This sign, by the way, is one of the few remanants of the old Buzz Killer Espresso.
  • To business. There is a small selection of cake on the counter as you enter...
  • ... with a concise drinks menu on the wall behind the counter.
  • A more detailed menu, meanwhile, is off to the right, complete with bean choices.
  • All the preparation takes place along the side, starting with filter (pour-over and batch)...
  • ... and followed by espresso.
  • Another remnant of the old store: Buzz Killer Espresso cups.
  • I began with a gorgeous cortado, made with the NCK house-blend. Served in a glass...
  • ... it had some impressive latte-art.
  • I paired this with an excellent feta and rosemary scone for breakfast.
  • I folllowed this up with a shot of the NCK blend as an espresso.
  • It's always a good sign when the crema coats the inside of the cup, long after it's finished.
  • Before I left, Agnes, one of the owners, insisted I swap my book for two bags of coffee!
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While Buzz Killer Espresso was a homely sort of place, full of lots of little nooks, Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker has an austere feel to its décor and layout. It’s long, thin and spacious, with distinct front and back halves, each with its own entrance. The front is on the busy North Milwaukee Avenue, that main Chicago thoroughfare which seems to breed excellent coffee shops, while the rear entrance opens onto West Diversey Avenue.

Starting on Milwaukee Avenue, the front is entirely glass, with the door inset on the left, windows to the right occupied by a long, three-person window-bar. The counter is set back on the left, leaving plenty of space for takeaway customers, while over on the right-hand wall, an old workbench doubles as a takeaway station, followed by a small retail selection.

The counter has a narrow section facing the door, with the till, coffee options and baked goods, while its bulk stretches towards the back of the shop. This is where the coffee magic happens, starting with the V60s for pour-over, while the two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and its three grinders (house-blend, single-origin, decaf) is beyond that.

Opposite the counter is the only other seating in the front section, a long, high, unpadded wooden bench which runs along the right-hand wall with five fixed, narrow wooden tables, complete with well-placed footrests. Beyond this, the space narrows on the right, while on the left, behind the counter, is a kitchen area. Between the two, an open corridor leads to the rear section, with more traditional table seating, the whole area orientated to West Diversey, which is about 30⁰ to North Milwaukee.

Entering this side, there are inset glass doors at either end, although only the right-hand one is in use. Between them, a couple of narrow windows pierce the solid walls above a bench with three two-person tables, with another bench along the left-hand wall, this one with four tables. The wall is at 90⁰ to the front, before turning by 30⁰ at the back to align with the other half of the shop. Meanwhile, on the right, there’s a long bench against the wall, but with no tables. Finally, the centre is occupied by an eight-person communal table.

While I was there, I met Agnes, one of the owners, who told me that this was originally going to be a second store, but that the original location needed so much building work (including new plumbing and sewers) that fitting out the new place was cheaper than renovate the old one, so they took the decision to relocate.

I started with a gorgeous cortado, made with the NCK house-blend. Really rich and sweet, the coffee and milk were in perfect harmony. I paired this with an excellent feta and rosemary scone for breakfast, (currently there’s a limited range of baked goods, but there are plans to expand both the roastery, which is a few blocks away on Diversey, and the kitchen, to offer a more comprehensive menu). Sometimes American scones can be very dry, but this was moist and yet crumbly, pretty much perfect.

As we chatted, Agnes made me a shot of the espresso (70% Brazil, 30% Colombia). Given how smooth it was in the milk, it was surprisingly bright, a really lovely espresso, with plenty of body and a hint of acidity. As I told Agnes, more of a kiss than a punch in the mouth. In parting, I offered to swap a copy of my book, The Philosophy of Coffee, for a bag of coffee, but Agnes insisted that I took two!

2779 NORTH MILWAUKEE AVENUE • CHICAGO • IL 60647 • USA +1 (773) 366-8377
Monday 07:00 – 18:00 Roaster Buzz (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Benches, Window-bar
Wednesday 07:00 – 18:00 Food Cake
Thursday 07:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 07:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 08:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 08:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain No Visits 26th August 2018

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4 thoughts on “Buzz Coffee Roaster & Baker

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