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The Very Best Coffee-Subscription Clubs

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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I never considered myself a coffee snob until I relocated from Melbourne to New York and realized in panic that you can’t buy single-origin beans on every street corner here. Because I don’t happen to live in the center of Williamsburg or next door to a specialty roaster, I’ve found that the most reliable (and cost effective) way to drink a delicious cup of coffee every day is to use a coffee subscription service, which ensures freshly roasted beans arrive on my doorstep every couple of weeks. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a bodega coffee when the moment calls for it.)

To find the best coffee-subscription clubs for every kind of person, myself and Strategist contributing writer Sal Vaglica spent months trying out different options and comparing them. For reference, when tasting these coffees, I made espresso using my beloved Breville Bambino Plus and filter coffees using either an AeroPress or Bodum French Press. I poured water over the grounds with a Fellow Stagg kettle and ground my beans using the Fellow Opus. If you’re looking to upgrade your own home setup, we’ve also written guides to the best espresso machines, electric kettles, and coffee grinders. And here’s some advice on how to make coffee at home like a barista.

What we’re looking for

Consistency vs. variety

Coffee drinkers tend to fall into one of two camps: You either find a coffee you like and stick with it or jump from one roast to another. Coffee subscriptions work the same way. Some let you order the same bag of beans while others ship you new flavors each month. This depends on whether the purveyors sell beans they roast themselves or deal in beans provided by smaller roasters. If you prize consistency, those who roast their own beans have more control and likely an easier time delivering the same flavor month to month. But if you want variety, having access to a network of independent roasters is a plus. Below, I’ve noted whether each subscription is best for consistency or variety. I’ll note that when you opt for variety, shipping times tend to be slightly more variable.

User experience

Like with your favorite streaming platform, you want an easy-to-use website or app to help control a coffee subscription. Ideally, you can go to the website, see your order history and the next shipment headed to you, and make changes on the fly — like pausing delivery when you’ll be on vacation.

Some purveyors do more hand-holding than others to help newbies find the right coffee. They include quizzes on which roast levels you like, how you plan to brew the coffee, and which popular chain coffee you enjoy — all in hopes that the feedback guides the website’s recommendations for you. Here, I’ve noted these features to show how user-friendly the different interfaces are.

Bag size

Most subscriptions mail out 12-ounce bags of beans, which makes somewhere around 16 cups of coffee if you brew them at 12 fluid ounces each (a Tall size at Starbucks), or or about 20 single shots of espresso, if you’re grinding seven grams of beans for each shot. If you drink two cups per day, a 12-ounce bag is about what you’d need per week; you can scale up based on how many coffee drinkers are in your household. But if you don’t drink that much coffee, or if you live alone, you might want a smaller bag to ensure freshness. Some subscriptions offer to ship your coffee in smaller bags — usually between six and eight ounces. Still others ship beans as flights, so you get four or five bags in one delivery. For the sake of consistency, all prices listed below are for a 12-ounce bag of beans.

Best coffee subscription overall

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Personalized preference quiz, personalized coffee ratings, delivery-management dashboard | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans only

Trade’s coffee subscription offers tailored options for three basic types of coffee drinkers: those who hanker for a classic cup of joe (or as they call it, “coffee that tastes like coffee”) each morning, in-between brewers who might have recently discovered third-wave coffee, and adventurous home baristas who turn their noses up at donut-shop blends. I liked how its customization quiz also allows for different coffee-making setups, including espresso, and takes into account whether or not you’ll be adding milk and sugar. You can choose between five roast levels, from very light to very dark, and decaf is an option too. In other words, there is something for everyone here. Trade works with around 450 U.S. roasters, and the beans are shipped directly from each to ensure freshness. Every time you try a bag, you can give feedback and Trade will use that information to home in on your preferences over time. The site makes it easy to reorder a favorite bag from a specific roaster too, satisfying coffee drinkers who want consistency or have discovered their perfect blend. Shipping cost varies but is fairly cost effective; larger orders accrue discounts and free bags.

Best value coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Consistency | User experience: Easy-to-change shipping date, asks what kind of supermarket beans you like | Bag size: Offers tasting flights and four-ounce bags of beans

In a category with competitive pricing, it’s hard for other subscriptions to touch Craft’s subscription beans, which start at about $1 per ounce. You can find whole beans at the supermarket for less when they’re on sale, but the flavor won’t be nearly as fresh. This is the only subscription I tested that asks which mainstream brands you buy — like Starbucks, Dunkin’, or Peet’s. Craft recommends a blend based on your answer, and you can adjust it to be lighter or darker or switch to a pricier single-origin coffee. Craft roasts its own beans, and most of what it offers are blends — like the Streetlight Mix from Latin America and Sumatra, which has a rich roasted flavor and pleasing bitterness.

Best coffee subscription for learning what flavors you like

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Well-designed dashboard, place to store coffee notes, easy-to-change shipping date | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans

If you enjoy taking notes on new coffees as they arrive, MistoBox’s well-designed dashboard is for you. Store coffee-tasting notes for yourself or send them to MistoBox — the more you send, the more dialed-in your next order of coffee should be. The website makes it easy to adjust shipment dates, pause your subscription, and switch between different pricing tiers. The only knock is that bags are locked in at 12 ounces, which makes it harder for infrequent drinkers to work their way through the 500 coffees from more than 60 countries.

Best coffee subscription for learning how to brew

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Easy-to-reorder beans, personalized coffee rating, well-designed dashboard with the ability to text a coffee order | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans

Along with your first 12-ounce bag, Bean Box sends new subscribers a one-time tasting flight with multiple 1.8-ounce coffee blends. That sampling kit can help speed up zeroing in on what you like so that your second order is a better fit. The beans are roasted by independent coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest, and here, the focus is less on learning about the coffee’s story and more on brewing a better cup at home with how-to guides for everything from storing the beans to using a moka pot to frothing milk. Setting up an account is easy and doesn’t require any quizzes — just pick a bean-roast level, whether you want bags or a kit, and your delivery frequency. Each coffee has a roast number on it, and the bags have QR codes, which makes it easy to reorder a coffee you love without having to remember its name.

Best single-origin coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Good customer service, easy-to-change shipping date | Bag size: Six-,12-,and 24- ounce bags of beans

Atlas orders single-origin beans (as opposed to blends) from across the globe — including areas that tend to fall under the radar like Congo, Bolivia, and China — and roasts them in Austin, Texas. Everyone who subscribes gets beans from the same location at the same time roasted to their personal preference. Evocative “postcards” that accompany the coffee explain the history of the region of origin and tasting notes. If you get a bag of beans you don’t like, Atlas will help you troubleshoot your brewing method or send you a replacement. I was surprised by how delicious Atlas’s beans are and how fresh they taste. I’ll also note that while single-origin beans aren’t always ideal for making espresso or being accompanied with milk, these ones tasted rich and flavorful whether I brewed them or pulled them. In fact, they resulted in some of my favorite espresso drinks I’ve ever made at home.

Best experiential coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Zoom calls with experts available, personalized coffee ratings, delivery-management dashboard | Bag size: Eight-ounce bags of beans and tasting flights with four-ounce bags

Driftaway’s Explorer Coffee Kit ships five bags of beans — each with a different two-ounce blend from around the world that the company roasts in Brooklyn. From there, you can jot notes on a provided chart about what you taste or do it alongside an expert on a Zoom call. This helps you dial in your subscription so Driftaway can send you a bigger bag based on your preferences. Or you can keep ordering the Explorer with five new coffees each month to mix it up. Of all the subscriptions I tried, Driftaway was the most fun and experiential — as well as the most prettily packaged. An explorer box would make a great gift for someone you know who is getting into third-wave coffee.

Best simple coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Consistency | User experience: Personalized preference quiz | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans

What Blue Bottle lacks in range — there are essentially four coffee blends, a single-origin coffee, and a few varieties for espresso — it makes up for in its consistency and speedy shipping. Find a coffee you like (there’s a coffee-match quiz to help narrow down the options), and it will be a uniform experience. (The Beta Blend, for example, has a rich toasted aroma with a nice sweetness; I could see myself drinking it again and again.) I also like that Blue Bottle has nontraditional offerings — like a New Orleans–style cold-brew blend made with chicory.

Best (less expensive) simple coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Consistency | User experience: Free shipping | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans

Another easy option comes from Brooklyn-based roaster Partners, which offers a small but reliably delicious selection of filter and espresso coffee beans. Again, with this subscription the hard work is done for you — the “roaster’s choice” option lets the experts select a blend or single-origin coffee according to what’s in season, then roast it to order. Shipping is included and prompt.

Best low-commitment coffee subscription

Consistency vs. variety: Variety | User experience: Low commitment, text-message based | Bag size: 12-ounce bags of beans

Fellow is a barista-favorite brand best known for its pour-over kettle (our “Best in Class” electric-kettle pick). It also runs a text-message-based tasting club with a focus on helping customers discover small-scale independent roasters from around the country. Drops requires no commitment or money up front; just sign up for text alerts, and its tasting panel will alert you to that week’s bean pick. If what they’re recommending appeals, just reply to the text message and your order will ship immediately. Drops introduced me to what I think might be my favorite coffee ever: Unity Coffee’s Serious Black. If you’re an adventurous coffee drinker, it’s definitely a service to check out.

With additional reporting by Sal Vaglica

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The Very Best Coffee-Subscription Clubs