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Wormhole, Ipsento Among America's Best Coffee Shops, Says NYC's Daily Meal

By Alisa Hauser | April 5, 2013 10:42am

WICKER PARK —  Two of America's Best Coffee Shops are located in the neighborhoods of Wicker Park and Bucktown, says a New York-based food and drink website.

The Daily Meal scoured the nation for "the best independent coffee shops and chains that have changed the way we drink coffee."

The Wormhole at 1462 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park and Ipsento at 2035 N. Western Ave. in Bucktown were among the 33 shops highlighted for the "experience" they bring to the java drinking culture.

Daily Meal editor Marcy Franklin said that there were 150 finalists in 18 cities nominated by readers, editors, coffee shop owners and educators, baristas and bloggers.

"Quality, customer service and atmosphere" were the factors that set the highlighted shops apart from the pack, Franklin said.

Franklin added: "Everyone has their favorite coffee shops, it was hard to narrow down."

The science-fiction-80s-inspired Wormhole, which opened in 2010 and is owned by Travis Schaffner, showcases a DeLorean car from "Back to the Future" amid a smattering of community tables, couches and a Nintendo game playing area. 

Carmen Giles, 26, a barista, described working at the Wormhole as "rad."

The Pilsen resident said she enjoys "being able to learn from people who are nerdy and fun."

Megan Corlett and her seven-week-old daughter, Emma, were among the people hanging out at the Wormhole.

When informed that the Wormhole is considered to be among the nation's best coffee shops, the Logan Square resident replied, "I can believe it. I just had the Honey Bear latte."

In addition to specialty lattes and espresso, the Wormhole is also known for its "pour overs," which are manually-brewed cups of coffee using a kettle and precise specifications.

Barista Jon Colon, 24, said his favorite part of his job is interacting with customers, many of whom are regulars who sit at the bar and observe him or ask questions as he creates custom cups of coffee.

Colon was making a "pour over" using beans from the Toarco farm in Sulwesi, Indonesia.

Colon said pour overs take about five minutes to make and cost between $3.50 and $5 —  about $1.50 more on average than a cup of machine brewed coffee at Wormhole, where prices fluctuate based on the cost of beans.

Next week Colon and a few other Wormhole employees will be going to Boston to compete in the Specialty Coffee Association's Brewer's Cup competition.  Colon said they will be representing Half-Wit, an onsite roasting arm of Wormhole launched last year (previously Wormhole used Metropolis coffee).

At Ipsento, owner Tim Taylor, 32, said that he felt "honored and affirmed" by inclusion in the Daily Meal roundup and the fact "they got word that we were a shop worth visiting."

Referencing a well-publicized tax-related snafu that forced Ipsento to temporarily shut down a few years back, Taylor said, "We've come a long way from having our doors closed for a week-and-and-a half two years ago to now. We've been working hard to get things together."

Ipsento, which was founded in 2006 and has a capacity for 35 patrons, maintains its own equipment and it's not uncommon to find staff "doing scientific experiments with brew parameters and retrofitting customized equipment," Taylor said.

In addition to its often-packed front room, Ipsento expanded a few years ago to the apartment behind the front of the coffee shop. The expansion doubled then seating capacity and provides space for a movie screen and coffee education workshops.

When asked what makes Ipsento unique, Taylor said, "We keep details in front of us and are very specific with pour overs and with roasting our own coffee in the store.  We want to keep our craft in front of our customers."