Review: Sparrow Coffee Ethiopia Guji (Chicago, Illinois)

I can’t even remember now how Sparrow Coffee got on my radar, but they were the one Chicago-based roaster for whom I was willing to go out of my way in order to buy their beans. I even scheduled my Friday flight to arrive in enough time that I could get to their roastery before 5:00 pm, since they’re closed on the weekends. I arrived at the roastery around 3:20 pm that day and the staff told me that they actually closed at 3:00 pm (which was different than what the website stated!), but they kindly agreed to sell me a couple of bags anyway once I explained that I had come from so far. They were out of their normal bags, so they knocked up some handwritten bags for me with the vital information:

Sparrow Coffee is mainly known as a wholesaler with notoriously picky standards about who they will partner with; 3/4 of the Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago are clients. They make a custom blend of coffee for every establishment, in order to perfectly complement the food there. But, at their roastery and at their cafe location in Naperville, you can pick up single-origin coffees.

Whole bean: Sweet, buttery, fruity/berry aromas.

French press: Compared to other Ethiopia Gujis I’ve had in the past, this was an exceptionally well-balanced cup. I’m accustomed to Gujis being very fruit-forward and bright with strong berry notes and a lot of sweetness. This cup was more subdued but full of blackberry and toffee sweetness, with a really juicy mouth-watering finish. Nice medium body to this brew that gets even sweeter as it cools. This was my favorite preparation method for these beans.

V60: I ground these beans a little finer than I maybe ought to have, as the final brewing time ended up being 4:10, and the result in the cup was a bit like citrus pith. Overextracted, but that was my fault.

Chemex: I liked this iteration better than what I got from the Hario V60. Perhaps the thicker filter helped, and/or perhaps the fact that the brew time was more suitable made the difference (this I brewed at exactly 4:00). There was a nice, zippy berry tang to this coffee, with a lovely subtle sweetness.

AeroPress: This was the fruitiest of the four methods, with a lot of strawberry flavor to it. I enjoyed this as a concentrate; I didn’t add any additional water after brewing as I felt it would be a shame to dilute the strawberry.

Summary: This coffee was particularly enjoyable brewed in a French press, as I felt the result was the most complex and layered of the cups. Pourover methods can create a lovely result but you have to be careful to dial in the grind just right to avoid under- or over-extraction.

From the roaster: No tasting notes provided

As far as I can tell, Sparrow does not sell their coffee online, but you can pick up bags at the Naperville cafe and at their Chicago roastery, or you can sample one of dozens and dozens of custom Sparrow roasts in Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago!

Sparrow Coffee

Review conducted 3 days post-roast.

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