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.