Ipsento

The Ipsento logo from the back wall of the coffee shop's front room on Western Avenue in Chicago.Ipsento is a long-established player in Chicago’s speciality coffee scene, the coffee shop/roaster first opening its doors in 2006 in Bucktown, just off the speciality coffee corridor of Milwaukee Avenue. I discovered Ipsento three years ago, when I visited its second location, Ipsento 606, as part of my first around the world trip. Although only a few blocks from the original, it was a coffee shop too that day and, sadly, it’s taken me nearly three years to get back to Ipsento. To make up for this oversight, I visited twice during my trip to Chicago earlier this year.

Ipsento is, in many ways, a classic American coffee shop, offering counter service from a bright front room, with additional seating in a cosy back room, plus there’s a large outdoor seating area. However, it’s anything but classic when it comes to the coffee, with the Cascade house-blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, plus batch brew and a separate brew bar (until 4pm) offering different single-origins on Aeropress, Kalita Wave and V60, all roasted in-house in a separate facility a couple of blocks away. If you’re hungry, there’s a range of filled breakfast croissants, lunch sandwiches and three toast options.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • The sunny side of Western Avenue in Bucktown, Chicago...
  • ... home since 2006 of coffee shop/roaster, Ipsento.
  • There's an outside seating area, fenced off from pedestrians and traffic alike by...
  • ... waist-high planters, the interior lined by six two-person wooden benches.
  • The outdoor seating area, as seen from the front of Ipsento.
  • Let's go in, shall we?
  • Inside, there are a pair of two-person window-bars, one on the right...
  • ... and this one on the left.
  • The left-hand window-bar as seen from the outside.
  • Back inside and there's a two-person table on the left-hand side.
  • Meanwhile, in the back half of Ipsento, you'll find the counter on the right-hand side...
  • ... with a smaller, standalone brew-bar on the left.
  • Finally, at the back, a wooden staircase leads to a doorway in the wall on the left...
  • ... which, in turn, leads to a corridor, leading back to...
  • ... a cosy pair of back rooms.
  • There's an armchair in the corner, immediately to the right of the door...
  • ... while there's a two-person table against the left-hand wall.
  • Finally, at the back is a wooden benchseat against the wall.
  • This is a lovely piece of furniture, made out of upcycled old doors.
  • There's another room on the right, with the dividing wall knocked through. The central...
  • ... pillar has a 3-person, 'n'-shaped wrap-around shelf table, with more seating beyond.
  • A view of the second room on the right, looking in from the first room...
  • ... and a view of the back of the second room.
  • There's another solitary armchair, this time in the back, left-hand corner...
  • ... and a two-person shelf-table in the back, right-hand corner.
  • A view from the back.
  • There's a four-person table against the window...
  • ... and a long bench against the wall.
  • A final view from the second room, looking back into the first.
  • There's lots of really nice features in the back rooms, such as these shelves...
  • ... and various smaller bookshelves, made of books!
  • Although one is a guitar shelf!
  • There are also lots of pictures, such as this one...
  • ... and these smaller ones.
  • The empty window frames are another feature, as is the lamp hanging from the ceiling.
  • This is probably the most interesting feature though, a window frame...
  • ... acting as a lampshade.
  • Let's go back to the front part of Ipsento...
  • ... where we find these flowers.
  • And so, to business. The counter is on the right-hand side at the back...
  • ... with the comprehensive menus hanging above.
  • There's more information, including the choice of beans, on the counter to the right.
  • You order here, where you'll also find the cakes and pastries...
  • ... in a display case under the counter, complete with retail bags of beans to the left.
  • Moving on, there's a Slayer espresso machine along the side of the counter...
  • ... with some very lovely cups on the top!
  • Opposite the main counter is a separate brew bar...
  • ... with its own menu of beans, which doubles as the retail menu.
  • The various filter methods, plus pre-dosed containers of beans from behind the counter.
  • On my first visit, I had the single-origin flight, with an espresso...
  • ... served in a classic cup on an oversized saucer...
  • ... and the same single-origin through the Aeropress, served in a carafe on a tray...
  • ... with a neat mug on the side!
  • Amanda, who was with me that day, had a cappuccino.
  • On my return, I was on my own, and had the single-origin as a cortado...
  • ... seen here eyeing up the counter.
  • I'll leave you with my lunch, the arugula and egg on toast, which was as tasty as it looked.
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Ipsento occupies the ground floor of a tall, thin, brick-built townhouse on the eastern side of North Western Avenue, just a few blocks north of the Western Stop on the Blue Line. From the outside, there doesn’t seem that much to Ipsento, its central, recessed door flanked by two large, square windows. Indeed, at first sight, there appears to be more seating on the opposite side of the pavement, where six two-person benches line the side of a fenced-in enclosure, waist-high wooden planters separating it from both pedestrian and road traffic.

Ipsento has an open, uncluttered front room, with deep, two-person window-bars either side of the door. The only other seating is a large, two-person table on the left, the equivalent space on the right occupied by a fridge full of soft drinks, plus a retail selection. Beyond this is the counter (right) and brew bar (left).

The counter has a narrow front section with the till and, in a glass case below, cakes and pastries, while the menus hang above. The rest of the counter, housing the three-group Slayer espresso machine and its two grinders (house-blend plus single-origin), runs back at 45° to the front, a small set of shelves on the corner holding retail bags of coffee. Finally, at the back, running the width of the back wall, is the batch brewer and an open, counter-top kitchen.

The brew bar (aka slow bar), starts slightly ahead of the main counter on the left-hand wall, a separate menu on the wall doubling as a retail menu for the coffee. Like the main counter, it too slopes, this time at about 30°, the space behind the counter getting narrower rather than wider as you approach the back.  Beyond this is a small takeaway station against the left-hand wall.

However, there’s more. Beyond the brew bar, a half-flight of wooden steps on the left leads up to a short corridor through the back wall, depositing you in the cosy back room., although its more accurately a pair of back rooms, with the second on the right, the dividing wall knocked through. There’s an eclectic mix of furniture back here, including chairs, tables and bench seats, made from upcycled materials such as old doors.

There’s a bench seat right at the back, plus a two-person round table against the left-hand wall, while to the right of the corridor, as you enter, is a solitary armchair. An n-shaped, three-person shelf-table projects from a central pillar, while to the right, there’s a four-person table, a long bench, an armchair and a two-person shelf-table. In seven years of doing the Coffee Spot, I’ve seen some cosy back rooms, but this might just be my favourite.

I visited twice, the first time with Amanda, when I had the tasting flight, which offered the single-origin espresso (an El Salvador Cup of Excellence), plus the same single-origin via the Aeropress. My espresso was served with a glass of sparkling water, while my Aeropress came in a carafe, mug on the side. I found the espresso very bright, while the filter was very different, much heavier and more subdued. Naturally I couldn’t get the tasting notes of sweet potato and almond, but Amanda said she could taste the sweet potato and some nuttiness.

On my return, I tried the El Salvador as a cortado, which was very different again, the coffee and milk going well together to produce a lovely, smooth drink. I paired this with a single slice of multi-grain toast, covered with soft goat’s cheese and arugula, topped off by a fried egg, an extremely tasty combination!

2035 NORTH WESTERN AVENUE • CHICAGO • IL 60647 • USA
www.ipsento.com +1 773-904-8177
Monday 06:00 – 18:00 Roaster Ipsento (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Window Bars; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 06:00 – 18:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 06:00 – 18:00 Service Counter
Friday 06:00 – 18:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 07:00 – 18:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 07:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Chain Local Visits 5th, 10th May 2019

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  1. Pingback: Ipsento 606 | Brian's Coffee Spot

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