World’s Largest Starbucks Offers Immersive, Multi-Level Coffee Experience

Jan. 24, 2020

Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago, the company’s largest location to date, offers customers an immersive coffee experience through five floors of intentional design. Read how it incorporated the original building’s existing features with custom modern updates.

Coffee lovers, rejoice. You can now get your preferred cup of joe at the world’s largest Starbucks right in downtown Chicago. Stretching across five floors and 35,000 square feet of retail space, Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago offers an immersive coffee experience. Customers can see, hear, learn and, of course, smell coffee’s journey through intentional and aesthetically pleasing design.

Photo: Customers get a 360-degree view of the roasting and brewing process on the first floor as the escalator carries them around a 56-foot-tall cask to the second floor. Credit: Starbucks.

The roastery, which opened in November 2019, was created by Starbucks’ in-house design and construction teams in collaboration with Perkins and Will. They were tasked with re-imagining the multi-floor building into a space that could engage customers on different levels, according to Starbucks.

A Coffee-Inspired Interior

Formerly occupied by Crate & Barrel, the building’s redesign actually involved Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal in the process. The updated building, constructed in 1990, continues to utilize original features like the large windows, which reveal expansive views both inside and outside, while incorporating Starbucks’ touch along the way.

Photo: The Roastery features several local artists throughout the retail space, including a mural that spans the Roastery’s staircase across all five floors. It was painted by Eulojio Ortega and pays tribute to coffee farmers and the regions where the beans are grown and harvested. Credit: Starbucks.

Customers can immerse themselves in the full journey of coffee roasting and brewing processes throughout the multi-level building. Each floor offers something new:

First floor: Upon entering, visitors can stop at the Reserve Coffee Bar for a classic espresso drink and bakery bite.

Second floor: Here customers will find Princi, a full-menu artisanal boutique bakery and café founded by Italian baker Rocco Princi. Order a scoop of gelato made with liquid nitrogen, exclusive to Roastery Chicago.

Third floor: Try a flight of coffee or a coffee and chocolate pairing at the Experiential Coffee Bar, which features elevated brew methods and pairings.

Fourth floor: Home to the Barrel-Aged Coffee Bar and Arriviamo Cocktail Bar. The two options offer you coffee with or without spirits, shaken and stirred to your preference. Coffee cocktail, anyone?

Fifth floor: A terrace encompasses the roof of the building. It will open seasonally and provide visitors with views of Michigan Avenue.

Encouraging Exploration

This is Starbucks’ sixth global Roastery and third location in the U.S – and each store has a different design. The Starbucks design team had to create several exclusive features for the Chicago Roastery, including an eye-catching, bronze-hued 56-foot-tall cask. Stretching from the first level to the fourth, coffee beans go to the cask to rest and de-gas after the roasting process before being used in drinks.

Photo: The Starbucks design team incorporated plenty of metallic elements and the company’s iconic green throughout the 35,000-square-foot space. Credit: Starbucks.

“To encourage exploration of the store, the team chose to place the roasting cask in the rotunda of the building, making it visible from the outside of the building while drawing one’s eye upward and enticing guests upward,” says Starbucks.

Encircling the cask is a curved escalator to take customers from the first floor to the second.

Credit: Starbucks.

“The original Crate & Barrel flagship store utilized escalators to carry people from floor to floor,” the company says. “Starbucks has kept that experience of traveling through the building with escalators, including the addition of the first curved escalator in the Midwest and one of 18 curved escalators in the U.S.”

Credit: Starbucks.

There is also a custom-engineered pneumatic system put in place by Starbucks that ushers coffee beans through the Roastery, from the loading bay to the coffee roaster, roasting cask and ultimately coffee silos situated on each floor. “The tubes are transparent so that customers can witness the process and come away with a deeper understanding of the Starbucks roasting process,” says Starbucks.

To continue the connection between levels, Starbucks created a baker conveyor to transport fresh baked goods from Princi on the second level to the Starbucks Reserve Coffee bar on the main level. One-of-a-kind artwork from local artists can be also be found throughout the building’s floors, including a mural that stretches across all five floors.

Credit: Starbucks.

Starbucks says the color gradient of the Chicago Roastery was heavily influenced by the building’s architecture. Because the team embraced the windows and skylights of the building, they were able to utilize light coloring throughout the space. Elements include:

  • Neutral colors, used to ground the classic Starbucks greens incorporated throughout the Roastery
  • White oak, which became the primary wood color
  • A ceiling inspired by the rays of the sun that shine through the dome and radiate from the cask, celebrating coffee as an agricultural product with shades and tints of green

“The light and circulation of the ceiling design come together to create both an aesthetically beautiful and functional experience by incorporating the acoustics, lighting, HVAC systems, security, Wi-Fi and fire protection,” says Starbucks.

The Power of Wind

The Chicago Roastery was designed for sustainability and to LEED construction standards. In August 2019, Starbucks announced that more than 340 Illinois Starbucks stores are now powered with 100% renewable energy from wind power generated in Illinois. This includes the Starbucks Reserve Roastery Chicago, the first Starbucks Roastery location to be wind powered. 

Credit: Starbucks.

“This builds on our ongoing efforts to address our environmental impact and ensure that we offer our customers coffee in the most sustainable way,” says the company.

With its sustainable power, reuse of existing features, and specialty drinks and food, the Chicago Roastery is well on its way to becoming innovative hub for coffee cravers galore.  

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About the Author

Adrian Schley | Staff Writer

Adrian Schley has been writing for interiors+sources magazine since March of 2018 and creates content for the BUILDINGS team. She earned her BA in journalism at the University of Iowa, where she also studied English.

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