Coffee Subscription Delivery Services Put to the Test
It has never been easier for humans to get their daily dose of caffeine and a coffee subscription makes it even easier by saving a trip to the store to buy coffee.
Some people think that such a service is an unnecessary luxury when a person can simply pick up a bag of coffee when they get groceries, but here are some solid reasons people to use a subscription service.
Although it may seem like your grocery store has a lot of variety, in actuality, there are only a few suppliers/parent companies who take basically the same coffee beans and package them under labels people recognize like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Peets, Folgers, etc. etc. Most subscription services give consumers access to boutique brands that aren’t part of the national conglomerates or available at the grocery store.
- Single Origin
It’s almost impossible to buy true single-origin coffee at the grocery store However a subscription service, gives access to beans grown in one location. Most mainstream coffee is a blend of beans from many places. Although some grocery store brands may use words like “Jamaica”, “Kona”, and “Columbian” in reality, only a small percentage of beans from that region needs to be included in the blend to legally be able to claim the coffee is from that region.
- Ethical Standards
Many subscription services only support small plantations that treat their workers ethically and who grow their coffee using organic and sustainable practices. Many of the big brands don’t adhere to these standards.
Unlike commercial brands that roast coffee beans in huge batches and can be in the production process and on shelves for months before purchase, delivery companies have a much shorter turn around time from roasting to making it to the consumer’s coffee grinder. Small batch roasting ensures consistency and gives coffee lovers some of the freshest coffee without having to roast beans at home.
Because of these factors, coffee subscription services have had a boom in popularity.
We Tested Seven Coffee Subscription Services
Trade Coffee first asks potential customers a series of questions in order to match them to their perfect coffee(s). The first bag is offered at a discount – customers can continue with that or choose another brand. Subscribers are also free to try any coffee, not just the brand(s) matched to them.
Trade has over 400 coffee suppliers in their inventory and subscribers’ selections are roasted to order and shipped directly from the roaster. They offer both blends and single-origin coffee beans.
The company sent me some free samples based on my preference in order to review their services.
Both of the coffees I requested were shipped quickly and were fresh based on smell and appearance. I used the beans in my espresso machine and they produced a perfect shot of espresso, full of flavor, with excellent crema. I appreciated the fact that I was able to try boutique coffees from around the country that I wouldn’t normally have access to since these roasters have limited distribution.
All of Trade Coffee’s suppliers are committed to ethical and sustainable sourcing of beans.
Trade Coffee offers different levels of service but prices start at $12.50 per bag with a 30% discount and free shipping available on the first order. They also offer cold brew coffee bags for those that want to easily make cold brew at home.
Black Ink Coffee
Black Ink offers a simple subscription service. Just choose any of their high-quality coffees to have automatically shipped to your door on schedule. By subscribing, customers get a 10% discount and can choose from, weekly, biweekly, triweekly, or monthly delivery.
Black Ink offers different blends, single-origin beans, and roast levels to suit most tastes as well as pods for those who use a Kureig.
The company sent us three varieties to sample and here’s how each tasted.
Inkwell Blend: This is a dark roast and my favorite. Black Ink’s dark roast is really medium-dark according to my experience with other brands and is certainly not over-roasted like brands such as Starbucks can be. It was flavorful and made an excellent shot of espresso with heavy crema.
Maineiac Blend: This is a medium roast and I tried it in a traditional drip coffee maker to make coffee for some friends and myself. Everyone really liked the flavor and freshness of this one. I’m not a huge fan of drip coffee but this one made a nice cup.
Ethiopian: This is a light/medium roast single-origin. Single origins typically have a less robust flavor but are more tailored to one particular flavor profile. Such is true with this one. Because of the light roast, it did take a few attempts at getting the grind right for my espresso machine, but once I did, it made a nice tasting shot of espresso.
Black Ink is a veteran owned and operated company and sends free coffee to those currently stationed overseas while serving their country.
Atlas Coffee Club
Members of the Atlas Coffee Club get to try coffee from a different country each month, roasted to their preference, and ground to their preference if desired. Atlas sources ethically and sustainably grown coffee from more than 50 countries.
I tried their service and was sent a bag of medium roasted coffee from Malawi. In the box was detailed information about the coffee, the country, where it was harvested, and how it had been processed. It really gave me a sense of connection to what I was drinking.
The single-origin coffee I received made a fresh and flavorful double shot of espresso for use in my morning latte. The shot had a great layer of crema and was not only delicious but aromatic.
Members of the club can earn points for using Atlas and these points add up to unlock rewards.
Atlas Coffee offers a unique way to try coffees from around the world that are different each month. However, the downside is that if a member finds one they really like, they can’t just keep getting that same coffee month after month.
The first bag of coffee is just $4 but is then $14 per bag after that. Coffee can be shipped every two weeks or every four weeks.
Mustache Coffee Club
This subscription service allows subscribers to pick from about 8 different single origin coffees sourced from ethically grown coffee and independent growers. Subscribers are even given the name of the farmer who grew their brans. The beans are then roasted to the subscriber’s preference and shipped out fresh after roasting.
I tried out this service and received a bag of medium roasted single-origin coffee from Kayanza, Burundi. The coffee was fresh and made a delicious latte when I used the beans in my espresso machine. It had fruity and sweet notes just like it was described on their website. However, for a medium roast, it was on the lighter side of medium.
Moustache offers a free trial of their service but you will be charged for the next shipment automatically if you don’t email to cancel before the specific date outlined in the email sent from Mustache.
Plans start at $13 per month but the most popular plan is $22 per month for a bag of coffee shipped for free every other week.
Brew Box ships two pounds of single-origin coffee to your door each month. Unlike other services, they choose which coffee to send to you but they do allow the subscriber to select the roast level and choose whole bean, filter grind, or espresso grind.
They only source sustainably and ethically grown coffee and roast each batch the day before shipping.
Brew Box sent me a couple of bags of brans to try. Both the Columbian and Tanzania sourced coffee arrived fresh and made an excellent shot of espresso with a hefty layer of crema. Their medium roast was bang on in regards to roast level flavor and color.
Brew Box’s packaging and shipping materials are pretty basic compared to the other services reviewed, who also include information about the grower and region. However, less packaging and promotional materials mean less waste which is commendable.
Brew Box has one level of service for its coffee subscription and it’s $29.98 for two pounds of coffee. Brew Box also offers tea and k-cups.
Learn more here.
Driftaway Coffee offers a subscription with a slightly different approach. Instead of the potential subscriber choosing the type of coffee that they think they’ll like, Driftaway sends the subscriber a “starter box” with 4 different single origin coffees with different profiles. The subscriber is to try each one and then pick which profile is best according to the actual taste.
Driftaway then uses this data to send subscribers coffee each week, every two weeks, or monthly depending on the level of service chosen.
I sampled their started box and I received four freshly roasted coffees that tasted as described on each label. I used them in my espresso machine and all four produced a well-extracted shot with a lot of flavor and crema.
Driftaway only sources coffee from farmers who use sustainable and fair trade growing practices and they include information about the grower in each shipment. Subscribers are even able to provide feedback to the actual grower via the Driftaway website.
Their coffees are roasted every Sunday and shipped out fresh for free in the USA. The company even adds a personal touch to their service by printing the subscriber’s name on the label of each bag.
Plans start at $14.57 for 11 ounces of coffee shipped monthly. Driftaway also offers cold brew subscriptions and gift subscriptions.
Purity Coffee’s mission is to bring customers the healthiest coffee on the planet. Therefore, the coffee they source has to meet rigorous criteria and only about 1% of the world’s beans meet Purity’s standards. Their coffee is 100% organic, sustainably farmed, high in antioxidants, and tested to be pesticide, mycotoxin, and mold-free.
They offer different levels of subscriptions depending on how much the subscriber drinks each month and free coffee for those that prepay their subscription 6 months or 12 months in advance.
I tried both their dark roast and medium roast and both were enjoyable to drink and made a great shot of espresso. I like that their dark roast wasn’t very dark and therefore, didn’t taste burnt like many dark roast coffees do. Purity is both flavorful and fresh.
The only downside to Purity’s subscription is that there isn’t much variety in which coffee is shipped each month. But, if you are looking for consistency, then Purity is the way to go.
They also offer decaf as an option and have pod subscriptions for those with Keurig brewers.
Plans start at $18 per month for a 12 oz bag of 100% organic Arabica beans. Pods start at $16.20 per month.
There are dozens of coffee subscription services out there but these five seemed to rise to the top when I was researching brands for this article. It seems like there’s something for everyone when considering the variety of services offered.
The only red flag I see with subscriptions is the cancellation process. Some make this more difficult to do than others so make sure you are aware of their policy before subscribing.
Overall, subscription services are a great option for those that aren’t satisfied with the coffee available at their grocer or traditional retail.
The prices listed above are subject to change but were current at the date of publication.