Coffee Subscription Review – Comparisons and Comments.


Pact Coffee Review.

A week or so ago I wrote this review of Pact Coffee, which was a review of the great service that I received from Pact Coffee, and also their coffee. The first coffee I had from them was their “Planalto, Malt Milk Chocolate Shake” coffee, which I was very, very impressed with. You can either select your own coffee each time from the Pact website, or you can allow them to suggest coffee for you, I set it to let them choose for me, and the next one they chose for me was Finca La Joyeria which is described as “Poached Pear and Dark Chocolate”, it came today and I’ve just made my first coffee with it.

First of all just to say that I’m still amazed by the service offered by Pact; everything from the ease of use of their website, the great way the customer support staff communicate with their customers, and the fact that they dispatched once again exactly when they said they would, reminded me they were going to, told me when it had left the building and then delivered exactly as promised – all round the best service I’ve ever received from any company. I’m not just talking coffee here, I mean in general. I don’t ever recall buying anything from any company and being as impressed overall from the whole experience from start to finish as I am with this company!

Since my last coffee I decided to push forward slightly the delivery of my next coffee to see how that works, and it worked brilliantly, just took me a couple of seconds to choose a different day to order & dispatch, and I all I have to do is select a date, they do the rest.

Pact say that they do this to make sure that people don’t end up running out of coffee or being overloaded with coffee, personally I have no problem whatsoever with being overloaded with coffee, given that each one is different from the last, bring it on! ;-). The reason that I think being able to push the purchase and dispatch date ahead is such a good one, is for financial reasons. Like most of us I have times when we’re strapped for cash and I need to watch what I’m spending for a few days to make sure we don’t go into the overdraft, so it’s great for me that if the money is going faster than the month, I can login and push my next purchase date to after I get paid. Yes I know it’s only £6 or so, but having been bloody terrible with money in the past, I’m trying to be a more responsible adult when it comes to budgeting these days, and I know from experience what happens when I’m too relaxed about little purchases, they all add up.

So once again the coffee came in their envelope with a message telling me that it’s a better smelling package than boring old bills, I like that ;-), and I was eager to get it opened. On opening the envelope and taking out the pouch of coffee, I remembered the smell and the feeling that came over me last time I opened the pouch of freshly ground coffee from Pact, and I was curious to see if the same would be the case this time – so I grabbed the scissors, opened the pouch and inhaled the amazing aroma – and drifted off to a far away land where there was sunshine and all was good, before coming back to reality in rainy South Manchester on my lunch break… This a real phenomenon by the way that I experience when I smell the aroma of this freshly roasted coffee (although I’m of course talking metaphorically, I didn’t actually teleport), and I’ve experimented with not so freshly roasted coffee bought from a supermarket, and it didn’t happen. I have a theory about what causes this, but I’m going to write about it in a different post.

So I made the coffee, drank it (black, I don’t want to spoil it with milk), and wow – as I said with the last coffee I received from Pact “That’s bloody good coffee!!” But, it’s completely different to the last one! The taste of this coffee is unlike any coffee I’ve ever tasted, it does actually taste of poached pears and have a finish of bitter-sweet dark chocolate as Will the Pact Coffee expert describes:  “This coffee has a really fruity sweetness and crisp apple-like acidity. Couple that with the juicy mouth feel and poached pear flavours, and you’ve got a seriously fruity coffee. It finished up with bittersweet dark chocolate flavours, which linger on the finish like a dark chocolate sauce.”

That is actually how it tastes, and I wasn’t expecting that at all. Usually when connoisseurs with amazingly developed pallets describe the taste of something like wine for example, and a mere mortal like me tastes it, it just doesn’t taste the way the expert describes. I’ve tasted red wine in the past that has supposed to have “notes of dark chocolate”, only to protest something along the lines of “Bollox, it just tastes like red wine…”, but this coffee does actually have a fruity sweetness that reminds me of poached pears, and it does give an after taste of bittersweet dark chocolate, which I find very, very enjoyable. I like pears, we have a couple of pear trees; I like dark chocolate, I’ve never tried them together though, but I will do now as I know from this coffee that they taste great together!

My kids are becoming coffee lovers, they’re 12 and 13, they’ve liked coffee for a few years but usually we’d only allow them to drink decaf (which does contain caffeine but in much smaller amounts), we’re starting to allow them to drink real coffee now but only in small amounts and not too often. I’m trying to teach them to properly appreciate the flavours of coffee as I now do but certainly didn’t as a kid. In fact I probably didn’t even think about the taste of coffee until at least my mid to late 20’s, so I’m glad that my kids are way advanced than me in that department. They were nearly as excited as I was to try this new coffee, and we ran out of pact coffee the day before the next package came, so we had to use the back up coffee I picked up the other day from a supermarket, the kids weren’t impressed! 😉

So there we go, that’s what I think of my second freshly roasted coffee from Pact Coffee, and I am very much looking forward to my next one! By the way, pact are in the process of making coffee pods that will be compatible with nespresso machines, so I can’t wait for that! I don’t actually have a nespresso machine yet, I’ve been looking at them and weighing them up, but as soon as pact start selling the pods, I’ll be buying a

This post is a coffee subscription review, that is, I’m reviewing the coffee subscription idea in general, exploring the idea and sharing what I’ve discovered in terms of what to look for in a coffee subscription, and different kind of subscriptions out there. I do touch on some of the coffee subscriptions and how they differ, but if you were looking for an in depth review on any particular subscription, then see my Pact coffee subscription review, and my Django coffee subscription review (more coffee subscription reviews coming soon).

Coffee Subscription Review – The Idea in General. 

The idea of ordering coffee by subscription rather than by one off payment, is something that’s really only relevant when it comes to gourmet / speciality coffee. The model for commodity coffee is buy it and sell it in huge volumes – roast it & pack it up en masse, ship it out to supermarkets with 1 year or even longer sell by dates. 

Small batch roasters work completely differently, and the subscription idea works very well for roasters, giving them a dependable source of monthly orders, and therefore the ability to have better control over their stock and their roasting volumes. When you’re roasting to order, it’s nice to know what orders you’re going to get in advance, and this is one of the benefits of the subscription model for roasters. It’s not nice to have orders you can’t fulfil, and therefore lost potential revenue due to not stocking enough, but equally being over stocked of a perishable product isn’t nice either. 

So it makes business sense for small batch roasters to sell by subscription. But what about the customer?

Coffee subscriptions actually offer a various number of benefits to us speciality coffee lovers, the most obvious being:

  • Never run out of speciality coffee

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a speciality roaster on your doorstep, you probably order your coffee beans online. Having a subscription in place which means you always know when your next bag of coffee is coming, can help you to prevent a dangerous coffee drought ;-), provided that you choose the right frequency. 

  • Try a variety of coffee

Depending on the roaster that you subscribe to, subscriptions can be a great way of trying a new coffee each time and broadening the horizons of your taste buds. 

  • Enjoy the best coffees

Again it depends on which subscription, but as coffee subscriptions are becoming more popular, some roasters are saving the very best beans for their subscription customers. 

Do Subscriptions Cost More?

As far as I’ve seen so far, as long as your subscription is directly with the roaster (or a multi roaster subscription that doesn’t add a margin) then it shouldn’t cost you any more, and in some cases it actually works out cheaper than buying the same beans not on subscription. A subscription usually costs the same for each bag, so it’s probably fair to say that it’s a case of swings and roundabouts in terms of some beans that would have cost you a bit more and some which would have cost you a bit less, but I don’t think there’s a great deal in it usually.

Direct Roaster Subscriptions vs Multi Roaster Subscriptions

Roasters such as pact coffee, has bean & Django, and many of the other roasters on the list of UK coffee roasters, offer direct subscriptions. There are firms such as the coffee roasters, who sell coffee from several different roasters, some of whom are now offering subscriptions. The coffee roasters don’t appear to add any margin, they must be getting their % from the roaster, and I’m assuming it’s not much, and the coffee is still sent directly from the roaster, so there doesn’t seem to be any obvious negative from using a multi roaster subscription.

I’m sure as coffee subscriptions become more popular, there will be marketing firms jumping on the band wagon and perhaps some of them will introduce things which may be a negative, such as adding additional margin, so it will just be a case of watch this space (I’m a poet and I didn’t know it). 

On the positive side using a multi roaster subscription would seem like a good idea when it comes to variety in terms of the availability of coffees from various roasters, although the roasters tend to keep up the variety of the beans, especially the hasbean in my mug subscription which gives you a different bean each week along with a video telling you all about the coffee, the farm, and telling you how it should taste etc.

Different Kinds of Subscriptions

What I’ve discovered when trying subscriptions, is that roasters are coming up with their own idea ref how to operate the subscription, rather than copying everyone else, which is a good thing I think, because if you don’t like something about the way a particular subscription works, you can seek out another roaster offering a subscription which works better for you. 

Django coffee co for example sell a subscription in advance. They offer a one month subscription which gives you a bag per week for a month, for a one off £22 – a three month fortnightly subscription delivering six different coffees over a three month period for a one off £32, a three month weekly subscription in which they deliver twelve coffees over a twelve week period for a one  off £66, and they also offer office subscriptions of Kilo bags. 

This seems like a good idea for anyone who wants to spend their money while they have it, and would rather do this than sign up to pay a certain amount each month or each week. When I was totally self employed for instance, I had to be very careful about signing up to anything which required me to be in credit on a regular basis, as there were times where I had plenty of cash and times where I was completely broke, so the way Django do it would have been perfect for me in that situation. 

Pact coffee are the big success so far when it comes to the UK coffee subscription business, and I suspect that a lot of this is to do with their subscription model which is all based around flexibility. When you sign up to pact, there’s no direct debit, there’s no tie in, you create a recurring order, which you can pause at any time up until the day it is due to be dispatched.

You can just click a pause button in order to put your order on pause for 30 days or until you start it again, or you can just click the cancel button. They even send you an email to give you a heads up each time they’re about to dispatch your coffee, to give you the time to go and check what coffee they’re sending and change it if desired, or to pause or cancel if needs be. 

Hasbean have a great coffee subscription, with direct debit or one off purchase options. You can pay £6.50 per week by direct debit to get the new coffee each week, or £6.50 per fortnight, or per month. Or you can pay pay £71 in advance to get 12 coffees over 12 weeks, £71 for a fortnightly subscription over 6 months, £71 for a monthly subscription over 12 months. I am on the weekly direct debit subscription, and it’s a good job I have multiple subscriptions on the go from various roasters, as this stuff doesn’t last long with me ;-), I usually slurp up the has bean weekly bag within a few days!

There’s a one off weekly subscription for a month, a one off fortnightly subscription for 2 months, or a one off monthly for 4 months, all of which are £30. You can jump in and buy a year of weekly subscription, 52 coffees, for £250 – £4.80 per bag – which is a very low price for hasbean coffee which is pretty much always amazing. They also sell a subscription coffee gift card, which is a nice idea, as I think coffee subscriptions are great as a gift. 

Is Subscription Coffee for you?

If you’re a regular coffee drinker of coffee brewed yourself at home or in the office, then I can’t see any reason that a coffee subscription wouldn’t work for you, and my advise would be don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Try out a subscription with pact coffee, their current deal gives you a free V60 coffee making kit and three different coffees for £6.95, and if you decide after this that it’s not for you for any reason, or at any time, you can just log in and cancel the order. 

Or try out a one off subscription with Django coffee co, or a one of or one month of direct debit subscription with hasbean, and just see how you find it. Worse case scenario is you will have tried some lovely new coffees, and you’ll know whether a coffee subscription is right for you or whether you’re better of just buying coffee beans online or at a local roaster when you run low. 

Life is like a box of chocolates, so follow me on Twitter, and subscribe to my YouTube channel, and that’s all I have to say about that.

od machine without a doubt.

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