Fresh coffee, posted to your door. It’s enough to make your ankles quiver with excitement. While the idea of ordering coffee to arrive whenever you need it via a subscription service is a tempting prospect, below I consider whether this increasingly popular way to restock your coffee stash really delivers.
To keep this brief, I’ll assume you are familiar with the premise of the subscription service, although if you’re not, you’ll probably get the gist throughout the article.
I’ve been fortunate enough to trial several subscription services and I’ve been pleased with them all, some more than others, but that I suppose, is also down to the coffee supplied each month. While some roasters like Pact, Union and Caravan offer subscriptions of their own coffee, there are a number of companies that gather and send out offerings from guest roasters. Which one you choose is of course up to you, though I’d suggest there is more consistency with the former while the chances of getting your hands on an unknown gem increase with the latter.
With these two different approaches, two different mindsets arise when purchasing a subscription. I currently have a subscription with Pact, where I am guaranteed freshly roasted great coffee every fortnight. This delivery of micro-lot coffee splendour is my reliable source; regular enough to prevent a barren period, though still giving me enough time to also buy bags of coffee here and there from coffee shops and other sources, which I enjoy doing.
What you could also do, is set up another subscription with a company that send out guest coffees. That way, you’d be receiving the reliable source, while additionally spicing it up with some unusual and surprise coffee. This is what I’m currently doing with Blue Coffee Box as of this month, and my first box of coffee is brilliant. I didn’t know what to expect from the coffees provided but they are a real treat and very well packaged… they feel special! The point is, you can make a subscription work for you, however you please.
This being said, there could be a couple of potential downsides to the subscription service. Here’s a heads up of those, plus some advice on how I’ve worked around them.
Luckily, many are flexible and let you choose your delivery period as well as the option to take a “holiday” or pause the subscription. This is great, and prevents coffee from being wasted. Make sure you’re clear on how much coffee you use, to prevent a pile up of beans that will go to waste.
While coffee delivered is fantastic, it doesn’t do much for your local coffee shops (unless of course, they are sending coffee via subscriptions!). It’s fun to look through the bags of coffee at a cafe and have that interaction with the Barista, who can advise you on what they like and could give you brewing tips! You might even get to try some of the coffee before you take it home. Personally, I like to try a filter coffee at a coffee shop, (if I like it) buy the beans, then brew them at home to compare. You can really learn a lot this way. So I’d really suggest making your subscription sporadic enough to support your local coffee shops and leave space to buy impromptu bags of coffee.
All in all, I’m an advocate for the subscription services. They supply you with freshly roasted coffee when you need it, and take you on a tour of the coffee world by sending you a variety of beans, while often supporting the independent artisan roasters. Once you find the company you like, I don’t think you’ll ever look back. Below I’ll sum up the pros and cons, as well as giving you some of my tips for the best companies at the moment.
– Usually roasted a matter of days before being sent.
– Delivered to your door.
– The opportunity to try unusual and special coffees you wouldn’t otherwise get.
– You can usually increase or decrease frequency of deliveries, depending on your requirements.
– Informative cards or brochures about your coffee.
– Supports local, independent roasters.
The potential downsides, though manageable.
– Doesn’t help your local coffee shop, you could lose the valued interaction with Baristas.
– Similarly, can restrict the adventurousness of coffee buying.
– Can cause waste of coffee if deliveries are too big/frequent.
Some of the best out there:
– Blue Coffee Box
– Dog & Hat
– Pact (particularly the micro-lots)
– Has Bean
– Novello (great for gifts)
– Any of your favourite roasters will be a good bet. Union, Caravan etc.