What are you looking for in a coffee subscription?
March 9, 2015 5:11 AM   Subscribe

I now live in Indonesia and have access to some great coffee beans. Some US friends want me to ship some packs, and I'm about to! Some good local roasters too. For those of you who have coffee subscriptions already, - what format do you prefer (weekly/ monthly) - did you like exploring 'new' beans outside your typical taste profile - what made the different between a truly great coffee sub service and a regular one, in your mind?
posted by popagandhi to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
To me, the point of doing a subscription service like this (rather than just repeatedly purchasing whatever beans I like over and over again) is twofold:
1. Variety...trying out things I otherwise wouldn't have access to, and getting try try different options.
2. Lots of extra info...whatever special information you can provide on the growers, roasters, tasting profile, etc. is going to be value added and a reason to prefer the fun subscription over purchasing beans at a supermarket. This will be especially valuable if you can speak to fair trade-type of values (even if it's not realistic for you to actually be certified).

I think some customization can be cool (i.e. tailoring the beans sent to the person's preferences) but probably more trouble than it's worth in your case of shipping to a small amount of friends. I think you probably need pretty large volume to make it feasible to send different beans to different people based on their preferences.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:35 AM on March 9, 2015

I have had two different coffee bean subscription services. I liked them both. The main difference between the two that matters to me, is that I could choose the interval between deliveries. For the first service, I could get one delivery a month or two deliveries a month, but there were no other options. For the second, I can choose other intervals -- it turns out that 1 pound of beans every 3 weeks is perfect for me.

I also like getting a wide variety of beans, although I wish there was a way to focus on a region (which you'll do -- personally, I want a Guatemalan-only subscription). When I started with subscriptions, I was delighted to get all different types of coffees from all over.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:44 AM on March 9, 2015

I've tried a few coffee subscription services and appreciated the opportunity to try a variety of beans beyond my local roasters, but none of them offered espresso, and this is a very espresso-focused household. I am aware that "espresso beans" aren't a special thing and you can make espresso with any coffee beans, and I sometimes enjoy experimenting with that, but I usually prefer the simplicity of buying beans that the roaster has already decided work really well for espresso. So there's that!

My dream coffee subscription service would:
  • Offer both espresso and non-espresso beans, and allow me to choose a mixed subscription that includes both
  • Allow me to specify my general preference for roast level and taste profile (dark, earthy, chocolaty, syrupy vs. bright, floral, citrusy)
  • Offer a range of beans to try so I can try lots of different things--but also make it easy to re-buy the ones I've discovered I like
  • Ship approximately bi-weekly (if I have to wait a month my beans will either be gone or stale!)
If you start my dream coffee subscription service, let me know! :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2015

Wow, amazing tips.

All I want to do is Indonesia-specific coffee beans and roasts, and the rest of the points we are figuring out. I've seen some great answers here, so thanks a lot.

I would love to message some of you in the coming month to let you know what we are up to, and maybe send some samples too!
posted by popagandhi at 8:24 PM on March 9, 2015

Sweet, please message me! :)

In thinking about this question, if this is something you might want to extend beyond just friends, one thing that I think is always important with online subscription services is making the cancellation policies very clear and hassle free. I feel like I've heard so many horror stories of companies that will keep charging your card, force you to make repeated phone calls to cancel, etc. etc. My ideal service would let you cancel on a month-by-month basis via some type of secure online form, but I can also understand if you need to sell by the quarter or season in order to make it work (like a farm share), as long as that is super clear on the website. Obviously this is less of an issue if it's a casual thing among friends/acquaintances, but I think becomes increasingly a big deal if you're selling to people who don't know you personally.
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:22 AM on March 10, 2015

Hi @rainbowbrite, thanks so much for letting me know about that! Yes, I've definitely experienced that with other services but yours was a timely reminder.

I"ll keep you guys posted when I get it up and running (which might be in 6 months, as I'm actually launching the tech startup that's my day job) :)
posted by popagandhi at 5:28 AM on March 12, 2015

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