Intelligentsia Coffee: Best Brews in Chicago

Written By Caroline in Reviews

One Clean Plate - Intelligentsia Coffee - Lit Up Logo by Caroline Wik

Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea

53 E Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Plates
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Fri: 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sat: 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sun: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Price Range: Espresso: $2.75
Macchiato: $3
Cappuccino: $3.50
Latte & Mocha: $3.75 – $4.75
Americano: $3.25
Chai & Hot Chocolate: $3.75 – $4.25
Teas: $3.50 – $7


Intelligentsia Coffee on Urbanspoon

The best coffee can only be found at places where the entire staff has an excessive passion and knowledge for coffee, preparation methods and, ideally, where they also roast their own beans.

Intelligentsia has all of those qualities, resulting in a fantastic experience for coffee aficionados as well as casual coffee lovers. Started in Chicago with a couple locations in the city as well as a couple in New York and Los Angeles, Intelligentsia sources their beans from careful growers and ensures fair-trade practices. Then carefully craft delicious roasts and drinks around the beans and brewing methods that would best bring out the flavors.

We stumbled upon Intelligentsia on our way to Millennium Park – which it is less than a block away from. Despite being 6:30 p.m. we decided it would be prudent to stop in and get caffeinated.

The interior is artistically industrial with wood floors and wood topped tables alongside metal accents and fixtures. There is a fair amount of seating – including a giant communal table, although since it’s a small space it can’t accommodate more than perhaps around 15 people.

The baristi patiently listened to and answered all of our questions about the coffee options, and eventually we decided on an espresso for both of us, with the beans being left up to the barista to surprise us with. We took a seat at the large communal table and waited for it to be ready – luckily we didn’t have to wait long.

One Clean Plate - Intelligentsia Coffee - Espresso by Caroline Wik

The espresso came with a small glass of warm sparkling water. The purpose of the sparkling water is to clear the palate, yet frankly I have never found it anything short of disgusting. The espresso itself was impeccable – bold yet smooth and delicate, demanding every sip be savored.

We decided to give the coffee a go as well and get cups of the Colombian Timbio roast brewed in the Chemex. As it was brewing the barista chatted with us about the Chemex method, beans and company. He was very friendly, answering all of our questions about it, and it was abundantly clear he was passionate and knowledgeable about all things coffee.

Once our coffees were done, we took them out and initially sat with them on the patio in front of the store. The drinks themselves were strong with amazingly intense complex flavors. Although we soon decided to enjoy them while we strolled through Millennium Park. We enjoyed the coffee much, much more than the park.

One Clean Plate - Intelligentsia Coffee - Chemex Brewed Coffee by Caroline Wik

Being passionate about coffee, Intelligentsia is a dream come true in a bustling city full of chains. The coffees are strong and flavorful, fair-trade and roasted by Intelligentsia themselves. Being a coffee house that cares about the product and fair-trade practices, most of the drinks are a bit more expensive than the big chains serve them at, however few excessively so. Teas are also available but we didn’t try any of them this time around.

What’s your favorite place to get coffee? What makes a good cup? Share your thoughts in the comments below! If you want to see more from our visit to Intelligentsia, check out our Facebook Photo Gallery. While you’re there, Like us too!

Verdict: Coffee Lovers Rejoice!

Intelligentsia is the place for coffee enthusiasts and anyone looking for a good cup of coffee. They serve teas, hot chocolate and pastries as well but we didn’t try them. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate, the drinks are amazing and the location is central and easy to get to. All of Intelligentsia’s beans are fair-trade, ensuring that growers get fair compensation for the beans. In fact, Intelligentsia works directly with growers to ensure great beans. As a result the drinks are a bit more expensive than the national chains but are worth it. The Randolph Street location is small and can get very packed, so don’t expect to get a seat unless you go at a non-rush time.

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