Food & Drink | October 21, 2022 6:09 am

6 Coffee Subscription Services That Will Elevate Your Caffeine Routine

You can skip the grocery store coffee from now on

A Mistobox, Trade Coffee and YES PLZ bags of coffee on a brown coffee grind background
Getty Images / InsideHook

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Pity our coffee-loving forebears, who had to walk to the corner store for a bag of beans or sidle up to a cafe counter to place an order. Thanks to the magic of e-commerce, expanding consumer tastes, and enterprising business owners, it’s possible to have coffee subscriptions tailored to your palette and delivered to your doorstep at whatever frequency you choose. There’s never been a better time to explore the spectrum of varieties and roasts from around the big blue marble.

The simple truth is there are too many subscription options to feasibly sample without a bona fide research operation. Alas, I am but one caffeinated worshiper of the bean. To narrow the field, I selected an array of options representing key differentiation. For example, I wanted a solid, no frills option in the mix. I also thought it was important to have a service that included a sampling box to set an accurate profile right out of the gate. I wanted a plan that allowed me to sample brews from a range of small roasters. I wanted something quirky, fun, and unique.

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And so, three weeks into my subscription experiment, my front stoop is overflowing and my kettle is boiling overtime. I have a half-dozen browser tabs open with a different coffee dashboard on each one. It’s a glorious thing to behold. At the end of the day, the services are similar. Where they differ is in the coffee itself, and in the experience they offer. One principal distinction is that some services roast their own beans, and others curate them from existing coffee businesses. Most (though not all) offer the ability to adjust what you get based on personal taste, to set how many deliveries you want per month, and naturally there are different price points. Here’s what I found from brands such as Driftaway, Trade Coffee, Mistobox and much more.  

Best coffee subscription for national roasts

Best coffee subscription for a custom taste profile

Best coffee subscription service for enthusiasts

Best coffee subscription service for blended roasts

Best coffee subscription service for fresh beans

Best coffee subscription with an affordable price

Best coffee subscription for national roasts

Trade Coffee Subscription
Trade Coffee Subscription

Trade’s mission is to connect you with great coffee roasters across the country. The coffees selected are pegged to a quiz you take at the outset that asks about your brew method, roast preference, tastes and a few other criteria. Armed with this information, their curators and algorithms match you to a product. For my first shipment, I received Sparrows All Season Blend from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I liked the local angle, and the coffee did not disappoint. It was described as smooth and familiar, with a structured fruit profile –– an accurate description in line with my quiz answers. I also enjoyed the ability to save coffees and see others I might like on the website. In terms of price, I elected to pre-pay for three 12-ounce bags at $15.75

Best coffee subscription for a custom taste profile

Mistobox Coffee Subscription
Mistobox Coffee Subscription

Mistobox reminded me of Trade, in that it’s a distributor of hundreds of fine coffees dialed into your tastes. I appreciated Mistobox’s site and note-taking capability just as much as Trade Coffee’s. Once you click into a coffee’s description page, buttons and sliders characterize the roast, and add your own rating and comments, which you can send along to the curator. (I think this refines your future shipments, but I’m not able to confirm this.) You can fill your “Brew Queue” with selections you choose, or you can let the program run on autopilot. For my first roast I received Alma’s Soulmate Medium Roast. A single-origin Honduran coffee that sports a wonderful aroma. Georgia-based Alma is veteran-owned and run by 5th generation farmers. I chose a shipment for every 21 days and paid $19.95 for a 12-ounce bag. Prices get a little better if you lock into a 6 or 12-month plan.

Best coffee subscription service for enthusiasts

Driftaway Coffee
Driftaway Coffee

A friend tipped me off to Driftaway, and I couldn’t be happier. This subscription is truly an experience. It’s like coffee college by mail. I started with a “mystery” Explorer Box, which is a set of six different unnamed samples. The custom roasts arrived quickly and included a sealed envelope (Oscar winner-style) with six full-color info cards in it — one for each packet. There was a worksheet for a coffee tasting, and instructions on how to access a live Zoom tasting on Saturday. (Sadly, life intervened and I was not able to make the live event, but not to worry because there were three pre-recorded tastings to watch.) I tuned in for a one-hour session with 2013 World Brewer’s Champion James McCarthy during which we learned how to prepare and evaluate coffee for its aroma, body, and acidity. We used a flavor wheel and jotted down our findings. Then, for the big reveal, we opened the envelope to find out what we’d just tasted. While James said there was “no right answer,” it was fun to see if my own nose picked up what the pro’s did. It was a blast and I learned a ton. Later, you’re able to capture your preferences on the site to influence future shipments. The model is a bit different — I receive two 8-ounce shipments a month for $32 total. That works out to $2 an ounce, so 12 ounces will set you back $24. It’s on the pricier side, but the coffee quality is outstanding, the site is deep, and the experience is thoroughly engaging.

Best coffee subscription service for blended roasts

YES PLZ Coffee Subscription
YES PLZ Coffee Subscription

YES PLZ is the coolest subscription service by a mile. They do one roast a week, and they never repeat. They roast at “medium-ish” and lean on blends, because they say “The truth is that there’s not a single origin coffee anywhere that couldn’t be made even better with just a bit of judicious blending.” Their roasts come with a gorgeous handmade card with risograph detailing. (I had to look this up, but it’s basically brightly colored digital screen printing.) They also send along soundtracks, just because. I fired up a “CVS Jams” playlist to go with my first roast, a blend they called Roll Deep with beans from Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Mexico. In case you’re wondering, these are “disproportionately happy” songs played in CVS drugstores. As for the coffee, it was a rich and bold mix featuring chocolate and berry notes. I paid $17 for 8.8 ounces at a frequency of one bag every 3 weeks. That puts it in the realm of Driftaway, coming in at about $1.93 an ounce. ($23.18 for 12 ounces, for those keeping score.)

Best coffee subscription service for fresh beans

Quintal Coffee Subscription
Quintal Coffee Subscription

Quintal was founded in 2021 with a simple premise: Coffee roasted at its origin tastes better and provides for a more sustainable value chain because the coffee producer pays for skilled labor to roast, pack, and manage roasting operations in the country of origin. For a host of reasons (mainly higher taxes on imports of roasted coffee and greater shipping costs to preserve roasted coffee’s freshness), most coffee is imported green and roasted in the country where it’s sold. The issue, according to Quintal, is that green beans (actually, seeds) lose their viability relatively quickly, which means a corresponding loss in flavor and aroma. So they flip the script on its head, and roast the green beans when they are still fresh from harvest. My first pack, Minas Gerais Natural from Brazil, did indeed have one of the nicest aromas of all the coffees I sampled. A truly delicious cup. On the other hand, the coffee is only available once per month, and it can’t be tailored to your specifications like some of the other services. As for price, Quintal was perched at the top right alongside Driftaway, at $2 per ounce. I am definitely a fan of Quintal, from their mission to rich flavors and elegant black packaging.

Best coffee subscription with an affordable price

Craft Coffee Subscription
Craft Coffee Subscription

Craft was founded way back in 2011, and they have this whole subscription concept pretty dialed in. I think of Craft as Ol’ Reliable. Everything from the website to the packaging speaks to solidity and utility. The initial quiz asks you which mainstream coffees you’re into; I’m fairly pedestrian and partial to Dunkin, and answered so. The site offered up a $12.99 bag called “A Day In The Life,” which sounded like a good choice, but I opted for one of their 3-Roast Sampler kits. For my first order, three neat brown packages with simple labels arrived tucked carefully into a brown box. I received two Ethiopian roasts and one Colombian. They are all excellent. The Colombian roast from Finca Villa Loyola hits my nose with a wonderful aroma of berry and brown sugar. The Ethiopian roasts impressed with hints of apple and semi-sweet chocolate. It’s interesting that Craft competes on price (“Better coffee for less money”), because this Exploration order of three 8 oz. bags ran $51.98 including shipping. While an exceptional, fresh, and high-quality assortment, this translates to $2.16 per ounce, which is actually a hair north of the other purveyor-roasted brands I tested. According to the site, if you purchase four 12-ounce bags, you will pay $7.99 a bag. If I were to make Craft my go-to, I’d aim to get over this quantity threshold to take advantage of their pricing promise.

The verdict

You’re not going to go wrong with any choice above. The coffee’s fresh, smells and tastes great, and arrives like clockwork. Variety is the spice of life, and these services deliver. If you plugged into one of these subscriptions for the long run, you might prefer the nearly endless diversity of the coffee reseller model. But on the flip side, if you love a particular custom roast, you may prefer to double down. As for me, while I thoroughly enjoyed them all, I think I’m sold on the coffee quality and fun vibes of YES PLZ. But Driftaway won my allegiance with their tasting experience. I’m gonna run with them both until my taste buds declare an ultimate winner.