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Groundswell Cafe on Damen to Start Pouring and Roasting Coffee Monday

By Patty Wetli | May 31, 2015 10:42am | Updated on June 1, 2015 9:52am

LINCOLN SQUARE — Here's a reason to look forward to on Monday — the opening of Groundswell Cafe.

The shop, at 4839 N. Damen Ave., will begin serving up java jolts of single-origin coffees, roasted onsite, promptly at 6 a.m.

Owner Jason Foster, 33, is a veteran of Starbucks, where he managed some of the chain's busiest stores — including the Willis Tower location.

Jason Foster, owner of Groundswell Cafe, will be roasting the shop's beans. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

"It dawned on me, I was really interested in coffee," from the sourcing to the processing to the packaging, he said.

When he got to the point where he started roasting beans at home — "a really nerdy analytical thing to get into" — Foster figured he was ready to strike out on his own.

Patty Wetli says Groundswell will offer four single-origin coffees:

The Minnesota native, who moved to Chicago to play baseball at UIC where he earned a business degree, said he's aiming to split the difference between coffee's second wave, represented by his former employer, and the latest third wave, represented by, well, micro-roasteries like Groundswell.

(The first wave brought coffee to the masses — think Folger's and instant coffee.)

"A lot of consumers are interested in good quality coffee, but they're also intimidated by it," Foster said.

"We're trying to get away from the pretentiousness," he said. "Our employees are going to be smiling."

Groundswell Cafe's interior features a swirling hand-painted mural by local artist Brittany Bindrim. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Though an adventurous coffee drinker himself — "I go anywhere I haven't been ... and usually order something I haven't had" — Foster said he's "thrilled to accommodate" customers' varying tastes, whether they want a cold brew coffee on tap (steeped in water for 16 hours), a pour-over cup or a mug of plain old drip coffee.

"I want people to have a great experience," he said.

But the real fun for Foster, who lives in Bowmanville with his wife Ashley, is in the roasting.

"I can choose between hundreds of offerings, I can roast as light or as dark as I want, I can create proprietary blends," he said.

Someday he'd even love to visit the growers his coffees are sourced from, but "I can barely ride this bull," Foster said of Groundswell's opening.

His lime-green, made-in-Idaho Diedrich IR 5 roaster, situated in the rear of the shop where "it's kind of a showpiece," will get a workout twice a week, after hours, accommodating five kilo batches at a time.

Meet the Deidrich IR 5, Groundswell Cafe's on-site roaster. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Out of the gate, Groundswell will offer four single-origin coffees from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Colombia and Brazil, light- to medium-roasted in order to let the beans' flavors shine through, he said.

Breakfast pastries are being supplied by Lovely Bake Shop and Groundswell will also serve an assortment of paninis for lunch.

Of the menu, Foster said, "I wanted to make it fantastic but succinct," so it wouldn't take away from Groundswell's primary focus on coffee.

He also plans to package bags of the shop's spent coffee grounds and make them available for purchase.

"They make a good fertilizer," Foster said. "There are so many gardens around here."

Groundswell Cafe, opening Monday, joins a string of new shops on Damen near Lawrence. [DNAinfo/Patty Wetli]

Though he may not experience a Willis Tower-level rush of customers, Foster is confident Groundswell's location — part of a newly bustling stretch on Damen that also includes District, Alapash and the soon-to-come Ampersand Wine Bar — will attract plenty of foot traffic.

"There's a lot of people walking to the Brown Line and Metra," he said. "It's up to us to capture them."

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