Whether you’re a veteran speciality coffee lover, or you’re just discovering the world of gourmet coffee, there’s one thing you need – a great UK source of freshly roasted, amazing coffee beans. But where is the best place to buy coffee beans online?
The first thing I would say is that the best place to buy them IS online, unless you happen to have a coffee roaster local enough to pop in. The reason I say that, is that buying online gives you such a great range of choice.
So where is the best place to buy coffee beans online?
Directly from the websites of UK coffee roasters
There are roughly 400 UK coffee roasters the list of UK coffee roasters, and I know I’ve not got all of them, I’m continually looking for ones that I’ve missed, and I get comments, emails and tweets on a regular basis from helpful folk letting me know of other Roasters I wasn’t aware of. They pretty much all sell online, I think if you’re in any kind of business now and you don’t have a way to sell online, you’re not going to do much business, unless it’s a particular business type that isn’t suited to Ecommerce.
Buying online usually results in getting them within one or two days, most roasters offer free or low cost delivery, and there are often deals
you can make the most of. For instance 3 bags for £12 at Adams & Russell. Save nearly 30% when buying in kilo bags at Django coffee. Frazers coffee roasters offers free delivery anywhere in Sheffield for orders over £15 with the discount code SHEFF123. Pact coffee offer a free V60 with the first bag of coffee if you sign up for their coffee subscription via this link.
Many roasters have mailing lists, and if you sign up you’ll get a notification if they have a deal or special offer to grab. If you sign up for my mailing list “Brew Time” I’ll let you know when I have any deals or offers to give you that roasters have offered to coffeeblog readers. Just enter you name and email address into that form up there, top right :-).
What about other places to buy coffee online other than directly from the roaster?
The one place I wouldn’t personally recommend for coffee beans is big retailers or supermarkets. What’s important with speciality coffee is that you enjoy it at its most fresh.
You want it as close to roast date as possible, as long as it’s had time to degas (gases, mainly carbon dioxide, to escape the bean), and this is what you’ll get when you buy coffee beans directly from a roaster.
When you buy beans from a big retailer, online or offline, you’re not likely to get them anywhere near as fresh. Also, although some speciality coffee beans make their way to supermarkets, the majority of the coffee beans you’ll find on supermarket shelves are NOT speciality coffee beans. They’re commodity beans, often put in a fancy looking packet and using clever imagery and branding, and words like “single origin” and “fair trade” – which usually don’t quite mean what we’re lead to think.
Single origin by the way is a term that can be assigned to any coffee as long as the beans have all come from the same region. Coffee regions are usually pretty huge, and there is cheaper, lesser quality commodity beans available in most regions, so the word “single origin” doesn’t really mean a great deal.
Fair trade doesn’t mean too much either in my opinion, it certainly doesn’t appear to indicate a potential higher quality, in fact the opposite seems more likely. Fair trade is a way to ensure farmers get paid a minimum amount for their beans. As far as I can tell though, the normal market rate for high quality coffee beans is usually quite a bit higher than this anyway, so doesn’t this make “fair trade” simply a way to ensure that producers of lesser quality beans that don’t cut the mustard in the market, still get paid a minimum price? If that’s the case then fair trade doesn’t really seem to be applicable to specialty coffee.
What about Amazon?
I buy loads, and loads of stuff from Amazon, I use Amazon prime, and I like the fact that I can get things super quick, and usually with free delivery, but I’m not convinced that Amazon is the best place to buy coffee beans online.
If it’s fulfilled by Amazon, it means that Amazon are holding that product in stock ready to ship out, and this is more likely to be the case with commodity coffee than it is with speciality beans. I know some roasters do sell on Amazon, and I know some of them do use Amazon to fulfil, but personally if I can buy the beans directly from the roaster, a few days after roasting, or buy them from Amazon when they’ve been sitting in an Amazon fulfilment centre for a while, I know which I’d prefer.
So personally speaking I don’t buy coffee beans from Amazon, or from any other outlet – instead I buy online directly from the roaster. I have a couple of subscriptions (Pact coffee, Django) and I buy also from Hasbean, Adams & Russell, and I like to try lots of different coffee beans from lots of different roasters.
The Coffee Roasters
There is also thecoffeeroasters.co.uk, which is a single website from which you can order from several different roasters. While initially you may think “hmm, but why wouldn’t I go direct?”, and that’s a fair question, but I think this website has a lot to offer in terms of the convenience of being able to browse through the products of several different roasters all on one very nice easy to use website.
I think their subscription is particularly interesting, because with a subscription with the coffee roasters you get a variety not just of different coffees delivered automatically, but from different roasters. I really like that idea in terms of being able to try lots of different beans from different roasters without any effort on my part!
I have checked the pricing and delivery etc., and it seems that they don’t add a margin, the prices are the same whether you buy from them or direct from the roaster, and the shipping prices are the same too as the coffee is dispatched directly from the roaster, which means there’s no issue with freshness either. This is good!
We’re so lucky in the UK now to have the wealth of small batch speciality coffee roasters that we have, we have such a variety to choose from, and most of them have very easy to use websites. Such a competitive market is also helping to keep the prices reasonable, which is good news for us coffee lovers.
So in a nutshell, the best place to buy coffee beans online in my humble opinion, is directly from the website of any one of the numerous UK coffee roasters, or from a service like the coffee roasters as long as it doesn’t increase the price and as long as the beans still come direct from the roaster.
Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on Twitter, and that’s all I have to say about that.