Suggested Reading: You Want A Bold Coffee? Great! by Alex Bernson

Thoughts by: David Mays, Director of Continous Education
The Article:
You Want A Bold Coffee? Great!: This brief article was written for Matt Perger’s publication Barista Hustle by guest author Alex Bernson, the assistant editor for another popular coffee publication, Sprudge. (A quick aside: check out Alex’s speech at the SCAA Symposium 2014 about the overall coffee consumer experience — it’s very illuminating and thought-provoking!) This article focuses on coffee qualities and vocabulary, which are essential to the approachable service aspect of what we do at Bow Truss!
What you can learn:
When a guest comes in and asks for a coffee with some particular quality, using a catch-all term like bold, or bright, or strong, how can you both (a) figure out exactly what they mean and what they are looking for in their coffee, and (b) provide efficient, personable and approachable service without talking down to them? Alex discusses this question and offers some tips on how to bridge the gap between the limited vocabulary most consumers have about coffee and the insular, overly technical vocabulary most coffee professionals use to describe coffee.
Why the article matters:
In Alex’s speech at the SCAA Symposium 2014, he states, “Every social interaction is accomplished through acting, even if you’re not always conscious of that acting. But service work is a very conscious form of acting. You need to give a performance that is going to convince a guest that you care about them, and are doing everything you can to make them happy, even if, internally, you might be having a hard day, and finding it hard to feel the love yourself.”
Alex’s position is not a new one in the service industry, and it can be the most personally challenging and often most rewarding aspect of our work. I have been in food service for nearly 6 years now, and some of the hardest days of those 6 years were spent trying to put on a good face to strangers while experiencing hardship in my personal life. It can feel degrading to submit your emotional self to the service of others. Why should we be expected to “turn ourselves off”, so to speak, and put on a mask in order to make someone else’s day marginally better?
Shutting yourself off from hard experiences and feelings is obviously not healthy. Because of the mentally and emotionally taxing nature of service work, there is an infinite set of circumstances when taking a day off to reflect is much more constructive and beneficial than coming into work and trying to put on an emotional mask. Giving great service should never be a motivation to repress your emotions — but it can be a real, profound opportunity to transform them.
By taking a slightly different perspective in the middle of those hard days, giving positive service can actually have a net positive experience on both the server and the served. Giving service, like any act of generosity, can lead directly to joy if the server is open and willing to receive that joy! In my own history of service work, focusing on giving great service has, on several occasions, given me a purpose for that day beyond resolving my personal issues, and it has opened me up to feeding off of the positivity and enthusiasm of others! I have many memories of leaving a shift feeling much more drained, but in a much more positive headspace, with a deeper and more positive view of human warmth and kindness, than when I started.
In order to provide that caliber of great service effectively, it is critical to choose our words with as much care and understanding as possible. This article provides a great perspective on how and why we choose to use the words we do when describing coffee and flavor. It also showcases how every conversation, even when just about someone’s morning drink order, is an enormous opportunity for learning and genuine connection for both the server and the served.

Bow Truss Master Roaster, Dennis Jackson Elected to ACE Board of Directors

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The Alliance for Coffee Excellence (ACE) is a nonprofit, global membership organization that upholds the highest standards in specialty coffee through our program Cup of Excellence. COE entails 1) rigorous juried coffee competitions in coffee origin countries and 2) online auctions of winning coffees, with the vast majority of proceeds going back to the farmers.

Through the span of more than fifty countries, ACE is dedicated to the empowerment farmers and uniting coffee professionals.

Dennis Jackson, has over 17 years of experience in the Specialty Coffee Industry and is the Master Roaster and Chief Coffee Buyer for Bow Truss Coffee Roasters. Certified Instructor for the SCAA and SCAE and he is a past member of the Roaster’s Guild Executive Committee. Dennis earned his Q Grade Cupper accreditation from the Coffee Quality Institute in 2008 while in Colombia. He has served six times as a Cup of Excellence judge and three times as a judge for the “Taste of Harvest” in East Africa.

Dennis’ dedication to the coffee industry and to farmers around the world continues to be an inspiration to our entire Bow Truss family. We are truly honored to have him as part of our team.

Let’s Create a Greener Chicago!


We are proud to announce our commitment and partnership with Chicago Plant Rescue.

Our commitment to give back to Chicago and create a greener and healthier city goes hand-in-hand with the work the CPR does.

Chicago Plant Rescue is a local Chicago organization that works to transplant healthy perennial plants from temporary beds and planters to permanent homes in community gardens all over Chicago. Their work has contributed to decreasing waste and creating greener spaces throughout the city.

“Chicago Plant Rescue is trying to liven up communities by transferring plants (that would have been trashed) to community gardens. We believe community gardens and coffee shops are both important culturally stimulating places that people go for solace outside the home or workplace, otherwise known as a ‘third place’. Our team and many others spend a significant amount of time at third places for socializing, volunteering, gardening, harvesting, hanging out, working, studying, or enjoying a drink and a snack.

Plants are incredible and have potential to change public spaces. We hope that our love of plants is contagious. Many communities are not able to spend a ton of money on plants for revitalizing their community gardens, public space, streetscapes, etc. On the other end of things, many landscapers and restaurants don’t have the capacity to handle plants after their primary use is over. That’s where we fit in; we feel we’re one of the missing links.”
– Jesse King, founding member of Chicago Plant Rescue

The amazing work this organization continues to do for Chicago inspires us to do more for our communities and are proud to contribute to their mission.





Bow Truss Old Irving Park Opens!


We’re happy to announce the opening of our newest location. Located in the beautiful Old Irving Park neighborhood and conveniently placed by both the Metra and CTA Irving Park stops, this shop is perfect for commuters on-the-go and those looking for a cozy community space.

Join us for a freshly-brewed cup, an iced drink or a delicious  pastry.

3982 N Avondale, Chicago, IL 60641
Mon-Fri  |  6am – 7pm  &  Sat-Sun  |  7am – 7pm


Art & Craft: Lauren Zallo

Words & Photographs by Janie Killips

“I’m very boring when it comes to what I want to drink. I know how to make all these fancy drinks but I still always gravitate towards just black coffee.” Lauren Zallo speaks with me in her Lakeview apartment, serving me coffee brewed in a tiny Black & Decker drip. It may be surprising to some that one of their favorite baristas doesn’t crave a cortado or shaken latte, but Lauren’s coffee order speaks perfectly to her aesthetic: simple, no-nonsense, present.



“It’s a big art day today.” I catch Lauren on a very special day, the very day that her new photography book How To Hear Your Heartbeat is released. She is giddy and indecisive when I ask her to show me some of the art books that influenced her as she worked on her own. She pulls the works of photographers I had never heard of – Robert Adams, John Gossage, Raymond Meeks – and I instantly wonder why? We often, in this age of technology, experience photography on our computers or phones. I had never thought of the reasoning a photographer would choose to present their work in a book instead of a gallery. I have wrongly assumed my whole life that photography is presented in galleries and then made into books later. Lauren set me straight.

“It’s a very solitary experience when you’re looking at a book. [Galleries are] a fraction of the intimacy you get while holding it as an object.” She thumbs through Summer Nights,
by Adams. “Things make sense sequentially. It doesn’t need to be a story it doesn’t need to have any narrative. You just flow through this sequence. I want people to have an experience where it is just them and the book. It’s not being influenced by anybody. I think towards the page now and not the gallery.” I cannot help but notice that the photos Lauren pulls the most inspiration from are photos that speak to the core of her book. They are intricate, calm, and mindful of time and space. How To Hear Your Heartbeat pursues the daily relics that remind us how to stay present.


“My head is on straight when I’m surrounded by nature. Finding things that resemble nature in cities has become a reminder that nature is still there.” She adventures through the city, armed with her favorite Fuji X-100 (she named him Lincoln), and collects those natural relics that the city offers – shadows, stars, little plants and big trees.

I am in awe of her pursuit of presence. We sit in comfortable silence, both of our minds drifting. She grips her bear mug with dark black coffee and smiles.


“There are rules in making coffee.” Coffee can get very technical very quickly. You can jump into the rabbit hole of espresso theory and alternate brewing methods but with Lauren, we don’t talk technicalities. “When you learn those rules and use them as a base it’s easier to finesse the flavors the way you want to. It’s cool, I can make something taste how I want it to taste. I like to pull shots that are really chocolatey and dark and heavy.” She doesn’t care for fruity and frilly coffees. Once again I am facing the core of Lauren’s spirit: simplicity.


Latte art wasn’t as simple for Lauren, not feeling like art at first, more like “why is this even necessary, it doesn’t even make the coffee taste good.” She laughs. Those first few weeks of latte art can be difficult. But eventually, like riding a bike, something clicks, and you figure it out and the “art” part of latte art seems to make more sense. “It’s like painting – you have different techniques. Some people only pour hearts and some people only pour rosettas. I’m finally getting to the point where I have control over it and I can pour it the way I want to.” She pours delicate leaves reminiscent of the tattoos on her arm and late afternoon macchiatos that are a staple at BT1.


Her introduction to coffee was similar to many of our own stories: coffee shops provided a place to gather, talk, and recharge. She grew up frequenting diners looking for pancakes. “Diners are comforting and you always eat at them either really late at night or while you’re traveling or on trips with good people.” She’ll recommend Stella’s if you’re in Chicago and Bella’s if you’re in her home town of Sleepy Hollow, NY. And now she spends the majority of her coffee time in the flagship store on Broadway, preferring batch coffee over espresso, and she’ll always recommend the Costa Rica El Roble for any brewing method (“Costa kills it on the Black & Decker”).

“It feels good to be in a coffee shop. It smells good all the time especially if the roaster is in the building. They offer a nice place to recharge if you need to, your phone and your mind.”

Where can you find Lauren?

Bow Truss on Broadway or Brown Owl Press &

A Summer’s Weekend

Words & Photos by Jonathan Zuluaga


A year had passed since we had found ourselves in each other’s company. Every Summer we met at the Roundhouse to share stories and time together.

It is a magical place. A place surrounded by nature with no visible connection to outside world. At times, I took for granted the idea of isolation and the quietness of nature.

It was Summer’s weekend. We sipped coffee by fire pit, we shared stories over meals, we canoed down the river and embraced the beauty of friendship. But this weekend, unlike many others, was special;  we once again were face-to-face.

Summers always come and go, but the memories we share with each other remain implanted in our hearts. With how quickly the world moves, we often forget to slow down, breath and take in our surroundings.

Summer, after all, is the season that reminds us to slow down and look around.



Panama Don Pepe Estate

Big News: We’ve got a new favorite coffee in stock.


The Natural Don Pepe from Panama is a wonderful, naturally pleasant, sweet lemon up front with a balanced spice on the back end. Grown on the slopes of the Barű Volcano, and produced by a family that spans back to 1899, through four generations of Coffee Farmers. As a natural process, we think you’ll really enjoy this coffee as a single origin espresso, or as a perfected pour over.

I’ve been trying it out on the V60, and I’m really loving it from right off the brew, through the cool down. (It’s important to try coffee throughout the process of cooling down, because immediately after brewing, all you can taste is the temperature.) Around 4 minutes after, you will unlock the sweet, citrus, and light floral notes. With this coffee, I taste a light caramel/toffee body immediately, but the more it cools the more I get that lemon twist with a sweet and spicy finish.


We’re brewing it at our new retail location at 900 W. Van Buren. I did an 8 oz V60 with a 20gram dose, and I finished up around 293g. What a knockout. Try it on V60, Kalita, or as a single origin espresso at one of our retail locations. Have a conversation with a barista about how it tastes, maybe we can find some Common grounds.

You got to try it out.