Ordering coffee has gotten complicated. Making coffee even more so. Chemexes, v60 cones, flannel drips, siphons and Aero and French presses have replaced coffee pots at high-end cafés. Customers choose from wet-processed and dry-processed beans, single-origin or blended. And now, many roasters and sellers would like to see coffee-drinkers employing these brewing techniques in their homes. Welcome to the “Third Wave” of coffee — no Mr. Coffees allowed.
As the conversation around coffee begins to sound more and more like that around wine, the desire for bean selection and brewing guidance is growing and more consumers are looking to coffee subscription services for advice. Modern coffee subscriptions are a far cry from generic coffee-of-the-month clubs. Some only ship whole bean, some only ship their own brand and others are city-specific. Subscription services — like Blessed Bean Coffee, which includes a verse of scripture with each shipment — can even have a religious bent, if that’s your thing. But whether they organize their services based on farmer, roaster, brewing method or location all coffee subscription services offer expertise and unburden consumers from having to make every decision.
San Francisco-based Blue Bottle coffee is one of the only services that provides a range of brewing-based subscriptions. Blue Bottle offers a rotating selection of four coffees for drip, French press and moka pot coffee makers that customers receive once a month.
Newcomer subscription service Craft Coffee has baristas “cup” (a.k.a. taste) around 40 coffees a month from dozens of roasters and ultimately picks three coffees to send to their subscribers. Founder Michael Horn didn’t intend the company to be a subscription-only model, but after speaking with customers in cafes who were overwhelmed by the amount of choices, he saw the potential in the recommendation aspect of subscription services.
“A lot of people are intimidated by coffee and there is this desire to be guided. The subscription service comes out of a desire to give that guidance and to guarantee that people will get the best coffee every month,” says Patti Maciesz of Craft Coffee. Along with beans, customers also receive tasting notes and brewing tips in each package — a feature that other services like Toby’s Estate include as well.
LA Coffee Club subscription emphasizes the advise aspect upfront. Their website says that their service is, “Perfect for coffee lovers looking to try something different or those new to specialty coffee and not sure where to start…” Perfect as long as you are willing to buy only whole bean coffee.
And for customers who aren’t ready to make the jump to grinding their own beans or unplugging the Mr. Coffee? Several subscription services, including Craft, do offer a pre-ground option for greater accessibility, but they agree that getting customers to take the next step in home coffee preparation is one of their goals. Maciesz of Craft says, “We have this vibrant community of coffee drinkers and we want to engage in conversation with them at all different levels.”
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