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Sparrow Coffee Roastery - proprietor Chris Chacko

Sparrow Coffee Roastery - proprietor Chris Chacko
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  • Sparrow Coffee Roastery - proprietor Chris Chacko

    Post #1 - June 17th, 2013, 11:06 pm
    Post #1 - June 17th, 2013, 11:06 pm Post #1 - June 17th, 2013, 11:06 pm
    My friend Jimmy McFarland (the former G.M. at Vie Restaurant) recently got in touch to let me know that he'd taken a new position with Sparrow Coffee Roastery on W. Lake Street. His casual tone suggested that I must already know of it but having been off caffeine for more than 5 years, I didn't. Jimmy explained a little bit about Sparrow and its founder, Chris Chacko, who, he said, was something of a visionary with a passionate obsession for roasting coffee -- and who had been honing his craft for nearly 3 decades. According to Jimmy, Chris Chacko takes a distinctive, chef-like approach to the roasting and blending of coffee. I'll admit that I was intrigued.

    Currently, Sparrow Coffee Roastery is strictly foodservice (retail operations are part of future expansion plans). They specialize in working directly with chefs to develop customized roasts and blends for their restaurants. They also provide equipment, and service the equipment, as well. They currently sell to mostly white tablecloth eateries but will happily take on any business where the chef or owner views coffee as an important culinary component. They boast an impressive roster of nearly 90 restaurants (several listed at their website, which is linked below).

    As we finished our phone call, Jimmy offered that if I ever wanted to come down for a visit, he'd be happy to show me around the operation. Flash forward a few weeks and I was heading over to Sparrow to check it out and maybe . . . even drink some coffee! :shock: On this particular day, Nathan Sears and Adam Hebert, owners of D.A.S. and The Radler (with whom I am minor investor) were scheduled to come in and work with Chris Chacko to develop the coffees they will eventually use at their restaurant. Happily, they agreed to let me tag along.


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    Sparrow Coffee Roastery


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    Chris Chacko
    The man behind Sparrow Coffee Roastery.


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    Loring Smart Roast
    This extremely sophisticated piece of coffee-roasting equipment is the engine that powers Sparrow. I think Chris told me that there are only three such machines in the Midwest.


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    Loring Smart Roast


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    Adam Hebert, Jimmy McFarland, Nathan Sears and Chris Chacko (left to right)
    Chris explains a bit about what distinguishes both the Loring, and his process.


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    Loring Smart Roast
    Another view.


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    Loring Smart Roast
    From what I remember being told, the vortex-shaped chamber is where the heat source is housed.


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    Loring Smart Roast
    Chris explains that the uniquely designed Loring separates the chaff from the beans before they are fully roasted, which creates a much purer-tasting roast -- and allows a lot more control over the flavor of the roasted beans.


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    Chaff
    This is the chaff that is separated from the coffee beans during the roasting process.


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    Control Panel
    Here, Chris demonstrates how he configures a roast.


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    Control Panel
    Manual mode is just one of several the Loring performs.


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    Raw Stock
    Sparrow uses beans from a wide variety of origins.


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    Raw Beans from El Salvador


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    Raw Beans from El Salvador


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    Roasted Beans
    These beans were roasted before our arrival.


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    Roasted Beans
    According to Chris, the roasted beans reach their peak about 7-10 days after being roasted.


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    The Cupping
    We all sat down for the cupping (aka tasting), which started with several single-origin coffees roasted to a variety of different darknesses. We started by tasting each coffee black. Then we tried them with sugar, and finally, with cream and sugar. Chris emphasized the importance of trying them all these ways because it's important to taste the coffees in the same way that the eventual restaurant guests will be tasting them. In the end, though, I really preferred it black.


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    Ben Prepares Coffee for the Cupping
    There's a real art to preparing these coffees so that they are truly representative of the beans and the roasting method.


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    Ben Prepares Coffee for the Cupping
    A small amount of the hot water (160 F, iirc) is poured in first to make sure that all the grounds get wet. After that, the remainder of the water is poured in, until the correct weight is reached.


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    Beading up
    When the first coffee drips through the filter, it beads up and bounces a bit, which was visually stunning.


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    Coffee, cupped
    After we tasted about 6 different coffees, Nathan was able to identify the attributes of each of the coffees he liked. He and Chris chatted a bit and Chris then guided Ben on creating a few different blends, one after another. We tasted those blends in succession, with Nathan eventually honing in on one that met the exact flavor profile he was seeking. We all liked it quite a bit.


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    Espresso
    This an espresso that we all tried. I thought it was sensational but by now, after 5+ years without caffeine, I was, to put it mildly, fairly hopped up! :lol: After this, we tried a decaf and a decaffeinated espresso. Both were very tasty, given the difficult parameters.


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    Adam, Chris and Nathan
    I'm pretty sure they were laughing at how ridiculously wired I was. :wink:


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    Jimmy McFarland and Chris Chacko

    =R=

    Sparrow Coffee Roastery (website)
    1201 W Lake Street
    Chicago, IL 60607
    (312) 648-6415
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #2 - June 18th, 2013, 4:31 pm
    Post #2 - June 18th, 2013, 4:31 pm Post #2 - June 18th, 2013, 4:31 pm
    I'm pretty sure they were laughing at how ridiculously wired I was. :wink:
    Ronnie, did anyone mention the spitting-out part of a cupping session, or did they let you swallow everything?

    --Matt
    "If I have dined better than other men, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants...and got the waiter's attention." --Sir Isaac "Ready to order NOW" Newton

    "You worry too much. Eat some bacon... What? No, I got no idea if it'll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon." --Justin Halpern's dad
  • Post #3 - June 18th, 2013, 4:48 pm
    Post #3 - June 18th, 2013, 4:48 pm Post #3 - June 18th, 2013, 4:48 pm
    mhl wrote:
    I'm pretty sure they were laughing at how ridiculously wired I was. :wink:
    Ronnie, did anyone mention the spitting-out part of a cupping session, or did they let you swallow everything?

    --Matt

    LOL, I really tried, and drank only about 1 sip from each of the cups. But after so long without caffeine, its effects on me were profound. Oh, and then there was the espresso. That was so good, I couldn't stop myself from finishing it.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #4 - June 18th, 2013, 5:14 pm
    Post #4 - June 18th, 2013, 5:14 pm Post #4 - June 18th, 2013, 5:14 pm
    Ron,
    Fascinating post and pics, thanks! I'm interested to see that they use paper filters. Was there much discussion about the "making" of a cup of coffee?
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #5 - June 18th, 2013, 5:49 pm
    Post #5 - June 18th, 2013, 5:49 pm Post #5 - June 18th, 2013, 5:49 pm
    Gypsy Boy wrote:Was there much discussion about the "making" of a cup of coffee?

    I'm told this method most closely approximates the method that will be used in the restaurant, which is why it was used in this case. Some other cuppings at Sparrow use a french press, if that's how the coffee will eventually be prepared at the restaurant in question.

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #6 - June 18th, 2013, 7:46 pm
    Post #6 - June 18th, 2013, 7:46 pm Post #6 - June 18th, 2013, 7:46 pm
    Awesome pics.

    I walked by during the derecho(hello, word of the month) last week, but they were closed.

    I wonder if he will sell small quantities of green/unroasted beans.

    We like roasting our own.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #7 - June 18th, 2013, 8:13 pm
    Post #7 - June 18th, 2013, 8:13 pm Post #7 - June 18th, 2013, 8:13 pm
    pairs4life wrote:Awesome pics.

    I walked by during the derecho(hello, word of the month) last week, but they were closed.

    I wonder if he will sell small quantities of green/unroasted beans.

    We like roasting our own.

    I seriously doubt it. As I posted above, they're not set up for retail at all. :(

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #8 - September 10th, 2016, 8:31 am
    Post #8 - September 10th, 2016, 8:31 am Post #8 - September 10th, 2016, 8:31 am
    Sparrow Coffee opening Naperville cafe

    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/ ... ville-cafe
    "Sandwiches are wonderful. You don't need a spoon or a plate!"
    Paul Lynde
  • Post #9 - October 12th, 2017, 8:03 am
    Post #9 - October 12th, 2017, 8:03 am Post #9 - October 12th, 2017, 8:03 am
    Sparrow Coffee, a Chicago brand adored by several Michelin-starred restaurants. will soon be available in an unlikely space: a food hall. When Forum 55 opens (as early as next week) at 55 E. Monroe Street, baristas there will serve a special Sparrow blend, as well as espresso, and other specialties.

    https://chicago.eater.com/2017/10/11/16 ... l-forum-55
    "Sandwiches are wonderful. You don't need a spoon or a plate!"
    Paul Lynde
  • Post #10 - October 13th, 2017, 2:08 pm
    Post #10 - October 13th, 2017, 2:08 pm Post #10 - October 13th, 2017, 2:08 pm
    Dave, thanks for the update. I somehow missed Ronnie's original post and because of your update, I saw all these past photos and posts. Even the photo of the chaff was interesting (made me wonder if they use if for anything).

    As I read, I appreciated the passion the owners/makers bring to their craft. It reminded me of a wine tasting, but with coffee. I remember seeing Special Quiubo blend from Sparrow Coffee Roastery on Quiubo's menu (sister to Bien Trucha). I didn't realize Sparrow had a Naperville location. After reading your posts, I will pay them a visit!

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