Smile Politely

Savoring Champaign-roasted coffee at Flying Machine Avionics

A Harvest Moon latte at Flying Machine Avionics.
Chase Branson

Every so often as a coffee lover, I need to sit down and really enjoy a good cup. Sure, a quick run through Starbucks offers friendly service and a reliable consistent product, but today, we’re not here to talk about that. For years, local coffee shops have done something to bring people in and keep them coming. What truly separates this experience from the one mentioned at the top is a few things. And Flying Machine Avionics seems to do them all right.

To begin, we simply have to talk about the most important component of any good coffee shop. Of course, that is the coffee. I really have made an effort to try all the coffee spots I can in Champaign-Urbana. Some like Kopi boast vastly superior space inside, as well as truly undeniable vibes and ambiance, but I find myself let down by the coffee itself. Sure, if you’re with a group or just want a place to unwind, places like that are more than suitable, but for the reader who savors every sip, this may leave something to be desired. Personally, one thing I love in my coffee is a touch of acidity and an “edge” if you will. This is easily the most notable difference between Flying Machine and the competition.

The exterior of Flying Machine Avionics.
Chase Branson

Flying Machine roasts their own beans in-house via Page Roasting Company, under the very same roof. In my opinion, this secret sauce is what makes the coffee at Flying Machine my favorite in town. And they even sell beans by the bag to emulate that great cup right at home. Regardless of your taste, I can assure you that Flying Machine has a drink for you.

A simple drip coffee from Flying Machine Avionics.
Chase Branson

I ordered a cup of their simple drip coffee ($2.50), my staple when I visit. It has never lets me down. The standard cup of coffee here was lightly acidic and had notes of blueberry for me. It was a medium roast and has a great, wholesome body. As drip coffee goes, it was an upper echelon cup, no doubt.

Other than drip coffee, Flying Machine Avionics also offers pour over and chemex options, which are
even better if one has a moment to spare for the serve time.

A pour over coffee in a black mug at Flying Machine Avionics.
Chase Branson

This was $4 for a cup, and it offered the same great flavor of their drip coffee in an even cleaner, more crisp final product. The difference was really just the freshness of an individual, made-to-order rendition of the already great, ready-to-serve drip coffee. As pour overs go, this was very good, but against the standard of pour over coffees, it stood out a little less than the drip.

A Harvest Moon latte at Flying Machine Avionics.
Chase Branson

If you’re one of many who prefer an espresso-based drink over a standard cup of coffee, boy, do I have a surprise for you. When it comes to espresso, Flying Machine is no slouch, and if you want a truly unique and delicious espresso drink, I recommend the harvest moon latte ($5.75). With maple syrup, sea salt, and saffron, this one was sweet but also had a nice finish with notes of the saffron and salt. It’s certainly great and not to miss, but personally I need to be in the mood for it, since it’s so unique.

The inside was extremely cozy and had some nice, low light paired with local art on the walls. Like many coffee shops, the patrons here tend to cozy up to a book or their personal computers in fairly quiet, communal energy. This is great for people who want a place to sit alone or focus on work of any sort, as this particular coffee shop is just quiet and sleepy enough. Some coffee shops have more vibrant or social energy, which is great if you intend to meet friends or desire that type of experience, but if you’re like me and cherish coffee shops for a sort of respite or productive space of any sort, the ambiance of Flying Machine is perhaps one of it’s greatest strengths.

An everything bagel with a side of hummus on a wooden table.
Chase Branson

The last thing I’d like to mention is the food. While food isn’t exactly the reason most people find themselves at a coffee shop, let me say that if you find yourself a bit hungry or simply like to snack, you’re covered at Flying Machine Avionics. Their menu offers small plates such as sandwiches, biscuits, pastries of several varieties, and my personal favorite, bagels. My go-to is the everything bagel with hummus on the side ($5.75). The bagel was delightfully garlicky and had a nice balance of toppings, and the hummus was very tasty with a bit of a lemon tang. The bagel was easy, reliable, and quick; it always delivers for me personally. As a bagel lover, I do think it’s an art, and not all bagels are created equally. The same can be said for good hummus. Bagels, pastries, sandwiches, whatever your snack preference, the variety at Flying Machine should have you covered.

The interior of Flying Machine Avionics coffee shop.
Chase Branson

In conclusion, if you’re in Champaign-Urbana and haven’t yet tried Flying Machine Avionics, please do. If this article sounded like a love letter, it’s because it is. The quintessential coffee shop is something loved by many, and as such, there is no shortage in most cities across the world. While I too enjoy Starbucks and other familiar chains regularly, there’s something about places like Flying Machine that will keep me coming back until the end of my time. And in a world where convenience is king, if you do find yourself with a moment to spare, consider Flying Machine Avionics coffee shop.

Flying Machine Avionics
202 S First St
M-F 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sa 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Su 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

More Articles