The world of coffee is always evolving, with brands offering new products like coffee makers and electric kettles as well as new experiences to explore. That includes coffee subscription boxes: home-delivery services that promise to deliver a variety of coffees on a set timeline, so you never have to worry about running out.
After testing seven coffee subscription boxes over a month, I found Trade Coffee to be the best coffee subscription box overall to meet the needs of a broad range of coffee drinkers. Trade Coffee offers the widest selection of roasters and coffees, an intuitive and highly customizable ordering system and a range of resources to learn about coffee and brewing of the boxes I tested. Go Get Em Tiger’s was the best coffee subscription box from a single roaster: they offered high-quality coffee and enough variety to keep things fresh, while keeping delivery simple and affordable.
After brewing coffee from seven subscriptions for over a month, here are my picks for the best coffee subscription boxes:
- Best Coffee Subscription Box Overall: Trade Coffee
- Best Coffee Subscription Box From A Single Roaster: Go Get Em Tiger
- Best Coffee Subscription Box For Convenience: Cometeer
- Best Coffee Subscription Box For Coffee Beginners: Driftaway
I’ve been a coffee professional for 15 years, and I have held almost every kind of position in the industry. I currently work in sourcing sustainable coffee, and in previous roles I’ve built education programs for roasters that focus both on professional development for baristas and how to engage at-home brewing enthusiasts. I made many morning coffees as a barista early in my career. Now that I work remotely, my coffee consumption is almost purely at home. I brew with a pour-over setup, or occasionally with a Breville Precision Brewer coffee maker when I want more volume. I’m quite demanding of my coffee—I prefer Ethiopian and Colombian beans, fresh and in season, from the best roasters in the world.
I also spoke to several coffee industry professionals to help with this piece, including Ever Meister, who worked in coffee education for Cafe Imports, a large specialty coffee importer and who, in addition to several articles, has published New York City Coffee: A Caffeinated History. I also gathered insights from Carl Cervone, an innovation-minded coffee professional who was the deputy director and operations manager of the Gates Foundation coffee initiative in Ethiopia, called TechnoServe, before founding a sustainability-verification coffee platform called Enveritas. Finally, I spoke to Julie Housh, the education, research and development director for Caravela Coffee and a former knowledge development manager at the Specialty Coffee Association.
How I Tested the Best Coffee Subscription Boxes
In my research, I discovered a world of coffee subscription boxes reviewed in trade publications or featured on other best lists. It turns out a lot of different people, with different tastes and interests, want to get better coffee at home.
I found several subscription models with a wide range of features and intentionally included different types to test, ranging from Chamberlain, an influencer’s startup, to big-name brands like Trade, to specialty roasters like Go Get Em Tiger and Yes Plz. I also got recommendations and suggestions from a range of industry professionals and focused on choosing subscriptions that offered a wide variety, technological innovation and extra resources like brew guides and virtual coffee tastings.
To test the subscriptions, I first carefully took notes on navigating the ordering process. I timed delivery to my door and checked all packages for accuracy and extra materials.
Finally, and most importantly, I brewed all of my testing coffees in both a coffee maker and as a pour-over. Since I was testing all of the subscriptions at the same time, I tried a lot of coffee throughout the month. My goal with tastings was to ensure the coffee that arrived matched the profile I had expected, but also to make some very subjective sensory assessments to determine my favorites. I brewed each coffee at least twice: once in a Breville Precision Brewer and once in either a Chemex or Hario V60 pour-over with a Stagg kettle. Here are the full criteria I considered while testing:
Variety: There seems to be two camps of coffee drinkers: Some want a consistent, everyday coffee that meets their needs and doesn’t deviate from expectation, while others are looking for a specialized, unique coffee that broadens their horizons with a variety of flavors. I prioritized trying novel coffees from subscription models, but I also considered subscriptions that could dial in and deliver on a reliable profile I loved.
Delivery Experience: I wanted to look for subscriptions that emphasized the convenience of a mail-order product. What value was added by having this come to me in the mail? I needed my coffee to arrive on time and in the expected amount, so that I wasn’t running to the coffee shop at the last minute. These subscriptions all come with very different packaging, so I looked out for special touches like recyclable mailers or unique packing materials. I also looked for any bonuses or add-ons that were included with my subscription: things like brew guides, background information on producers or an explanation of the coffee’s origin.
Taste: Different coffees are suited to different drinkers, depending on your brewing method and flavor preferences. Most coffee subscription boxes offer a few ways to tailor your coffee to your needs. I looked for subscriptions that could cater to many styles of consumption, searching for coffees that could be appropriate for a pour-over, a drip machine or espresso. I brewed all of my coffees with a pour-over and tested them in a Breville coffee maker as well.
Online User Experience: There’s nothing worse than a clunky online experience when ordering a product like coffee, which walks the line between luxury and necessity. I wanted to find subscriptions that were easy to order, simple to modify and that offered an overall pleasant experience online. I considered whether I could navigate my selection, choose an intuitive amount and select a delivery schedule that worked for my needs. It was also essential to be able to modify, augment or cancel the subscription without trouble.
Quantity: As I dove into testing coffee subscription boxes, I feared I would either be overflowing with coffee (I was—I tested a lot of subscriptions) or that I’d run out. I wanted to evaluate each subscription on how well it could keep up with my consumption regime, and whether I had the ability to customize it and even pause if I needed a break. Thankfully, many subscriptions allow you to customize your preferred frequency and amount so you can fine-tune your subscription based on the number of coffee drinkers in your household.
Trade Coffee is the best overall coffee subscription boxes I tested. Compared to other services I tested, Trade offered the best combination of variety, consistency and added bonuses. Featuring roasters from all over the country meant there was seemingly endless choice for coffee, and I liked that I could find coffees with a range of different criteria—from dark roast to light, by roaster or even by country and processing type. Trade made it easier to order and tweak my subscription than other subscriptions, and the coffees came quickly in simple packaging—guaranteeing I never ran low.
The coffees I received from Trade ranged from roasters like Verve in Santa Cruz, California to ReAnimator in Philadelphia and Methodical in South Carolina. Each was in general alignment with my algorithmically generated “taste profile”—which accounted for brewing method, roast style and other metrics (as it turns out, I’m “sweet and inviting”). I like that Trade gave me more options to choose from compared to other services, including decaf: I tried both funky natural-process coffees and “experimental” coffees made through anaerobic fermentation. Plus, I was able to order decaf for a guest who is caffeine-sensitive. I found my subscription confirmed my biases toward East African and Colombian coffees and my aversion to darker roasts. While I didn’t love all of the coffee, I was still pleased that Trade’s algorithm was accurate, and impressed with their suite of roasters.
Started in 2018 and funded by the large coffee conglomerate JAB Holding, Trade Coffee was one of the original roaster-aggregator models for coffee subscriptions. The Trade Coffee signature entry point for setting up subscriptions is a taste profile quiz. The quiz asks about drinking habits and taste preferences and then indicates a profile that best fits your habits—this means that those who prefer a dark roast or like to add milk can have a consistent supply of coffees roasted for that purpose (likewise with cold brew, decaf and espresso). I found that the profile wasn’t always perfect, but the variety can be dialed in over time. There are several options for further customization, like choosing coffee with different types of processing. For example, I could opt between fruity, funky “natural process” coffees and cleaner “washed” coffees; the former is for a more adventurous drinker. I could also choose a specific coffee to add into my subscription queue. Because coffee availability changes with the seasons, Trade Coffee always suggests backups and substitutes to ensure your coffee is fresh.
Trade provides excellent resources for exploring the coffee world, and in addition to brew guides for many different types of coffee preparation, it also has an informative blog that offers macro-level information about coffee production, roasting and issues of interest, like certification. The web shop has many types of pour-over devices, coffee makers and accessories like grinders and filters, so investing in coffee upgrades can be a one-stop shop at Trade. Plus, you can buy individual bags of beans.
I did find that some other subscriptions offered more detail about where the coffee was sourced and how the roaster built a relationship with their supply chain. A few Trade coffees didn’t have much information, and I would have liked to learn more about the producer and farm.
Trade Coffee is a great generalist subscription overall. While the most curious drinkers may want more education with their subscription, for those who look forward to coffee every morning, enjoy the nuances and like to see a new roaster on the counter every week, Trade Coffee checks all the boxes.
Go Get Em Tiger is a roaster and chain of cafés in the Los Angeles area on a mission to make great coffee an accessible and easy experience. The Coffee Club subscription box augments the cozy coffee shop and direct-to-consumer retail model and provides a local-roaster feel with a seamless and easy subscription model. The coffees are sourced from consistently great origins, with a seasonal focus on fresh coffees from places like Colombia, Ethiopia and Mexico—Go Get Em Tiger’s coffees were always delicious. I like the 12-ounce package size compared to other subscription boxes (many roasters have adopted 10-ounce or even 8-ounce packaging), and the simple recyclable delivery bag always arrived on time.
One of my favorite features of the Go Get Em Tiger subscription was getting just the right amount of customization possible within the simple framework. Choosing from light or dark roasts among the rotating single-origin coffees, or the staple Minor Monuments blend, I found there was enough variety and consistent quality to keep me happy and my mug full every morning. Delivery parameters are simply customizable by number of bags (one to four) and frequency of delivery (every week to every month), leading to an effortless subscription if you know what you’re looking for. Other subscriptions had too little customization, leaving me with either too much or too little coffee, and not much to do about it.
Each bag of coffee comes in a shrinkflation-resistant 12-ounce bag, which is enough for a week of consumption for two people on a daily basis. As a very picky coffee drinker, I found all the Go Get Em Tiger coffees to be delicious. The Ethiopian coffee Hartume stood out as a favorite, with a sweet, brown-sugar richness and floral stone-fruit elements I could smell in the ground coffee before and while brewing. Deliveries were punctual, and in a mailbox-appropriate package size, and all the materials were fully recyclable—a big bonus for sustainability. I liked the information cards about each coffee and the trading-card brew guides that come every week—it’s just enough to learn a little bit without getting lost in the complex world of coffee.
Cometeer is an outlier in the coffee subscriptions I tested in that it delivers a prebrewed frozen pod, which just requires hot water to turn into coffee. Cometeer works with a handful of excellent roasters and has developed technology around brewing, freezing and delivering coffee that keeps your freezer stocked with delicious coffee that you can brew in a flash. The technological innovation that Cometeer has brought to the coffee space is more reminiscent of Keurig or Nespresso than a traditional bean-in-bag delivery service, and this shows that the world of coffee is continuing to push new models for old habits.
Receiving a package of dry ice and frozen, prebrewed coffee is one of those experiences that really challenges the expectation of coffee consumption. The pods are meant to go directly in the freezer, where they can be stored “for months and months” according to the Cometeer website.
The subscription is a trade-off between expense and convenience, but it may be worth it for people short on time who don’t want to sacrifice a quality cup of coffee every morning. While it was the priciest option I tested, the stockpile of convenient, quality coffee was a winner for me. Freshness is key in brewing great coffee, and while a bag of beans might fade after a month or two on the counter, Cometeer claims its product lasts for months while still tasting fresh (I’ll have to report back for an update on this).
Brewing Cometeer is as simple as opening the recyclable tin pod and dropping the frozen chunk of coffee into a cup, then adding hot water. I was impressed with the quality of the coffee, so impressed that I decided to do a blind tasting, and I couldn’t distinguish the frozen coffee from a freshly brewed cup. The Honduran coffee was roasted at George Howell, outside of Boston, and it tasted bright and sweet—the box disappeared quickly. Cometeer advises that the frozen coffee can be “brewed” in many ways, including being melted and added to cold water or milk for an iced coffee beverage.
The ordering experience with Cometeer is much like other coffee subscriptions, with a simple quiz to characterize your taste profile and a choice of weekly or monthly deliveries based on your consumption. The flashy Cometeer website is easy to use and makes it easy to order a box that fits your tastes—I got the “Light Roast Box”—but offers little customization beyond that. Featuring 12 roasters, Cometeer does not allow you to specify a favored coffee or roaster. The coffee is chosen for you to meet your profile, which was hit or miss in my trial.
Offering a range of educational opportunities and a chance for a virtual coffee tasting, Driftaway’s subscription is really intended for the coffee drinker looking to learn more and explore. The service can help you refine your palate and discover some detailed information about why you like what you like.
The first package from Driftaway is meant to facilitate a taste-based profile calibration, letting you brew different cups to find the origin and roast level you like the most (they also offer a virtual coffee tasting). It was an interesting experiment, and I found my favorite profile (a medium-roast washed coffee from Costa Rica) quite tasty, while some of the others I really didn’t like. Each profile is a combination of origin and roast (light to dark) that could cater to many coffee drinking preferences.
As an educational opportunity, the brewing resources and “virtual tastings” are great resources for the coffee explorer. Still, these may be redundant if you already know your stuff, or you may not care for the extra bells and whistles. I found other subscriptions balanced customization and quality better, but Driftaway is a solid option if you’re looking to get into coffee.
Other Coffee Subscription Boxes I Tested
Bottomless: This subscription has a great no-waste model, employing a proprietary scale that connects to your Wi-Fi and alerts Bottomless when you’re running low on coffee. The scale is not intrusive, but you do need to keep your coffee bag on it at all times. It takes some time for the subscription to learn and predict consumption habits,. Ultimately I found the service a bit clunky, but the coffee itself and roster of brands were great.
Yes Plz: A subscription-only roaster based in California, Yes Plz offers a consistent, quality product with a range of blends and single-origin options. The coffees are always reliable to brew into a sweet, clean cup with a full-bodied rich profile, with a spotlight on interesting origins. I found the additional learning materials—witty, long-form narrative cards—to be entertaining and informative without being too technical. What I really liked about this subscription was the wonderful decaf coffee. Yes Plz is a great option, but I didn’t see as much variation in the product as other subscriptions, which may limit its appeal to a broad audience.
Beanz: Beanz is the latest multi-roaster subscription model, developed by Breville. I found the web interface to be difficult to navigate and confusing, and it didn’t allow for the kind of calibration and customization I wanted. Instead of weekly shipments, Beanz sends two of the same bags every 2 weeks, which ultimately seemed to limit options for the daily brew. For example, when I received a funky natural-process coffee I really didn’t like, I was stuck with it for a while.
How To Pick A Coffee Subscription Box
The coffee-drinking world can be divided into at-home and away-from-home (like at a café) consumption. Coffee subscription boxes offer a lot of potential benefits for homebrewers—most importantly, they provide a steady supply, so you won’t wake up to an empty bag in the morning. The best coffee subscription box will supply a delicious bag of beans, efficient delivery, easy customization options and value-added bonuses like educational materials. They also provide access to a national and international set of coffee companies that roast and ship fresh coffee to your home no matter where you are. As someone who recently moved to a rural area, I’ve found that having access to great coffee is a challenging task, which subscriptions can remedy.
Plus, subscriptions are a way to support small businesses. “I think they’ve really helped some coffee companies survive over the past few years,” says Ever Meister, an education and marketing coffee professional. “A subscription is a way for someone to find a coffee they love from a small or midsize roaster and support that business month after month, especially if the alternative is to buy from big-box roasters or supermarket brands.”
Choosing a coffee subscription box can be overwhelming—many roasters and services promise a myriad of superlatives in their marketing materials. Picking the best really boils down to what you’re looking for. A subscription is above all a service, and it should cater to your specific brewing and consuming choices.
Brew Method: Ask yourself (or your roommate or partner) how you like to drink coffee on the daily. Some coffees are better suited to certain drinking preferences over others—as a general rule, if you like a strong cup and want to add milk, opt for a darker roast and a Latin American coffee. If you like a black pour-over, you’ll likely be happiest with a single-origin lighter roast. Generally African coffees have higher acidity and a floral character that can get lost in espresso, while Latin American coffees can be chocolaty and do well as espresso or French press. Cervone is specific in matching his brew to his coffee: “I wake up very early (around 5 a.m.) and make a Chemex for myself and my partner (42 grams of coffee with 700 grams of water). I typically use light- or medium-roast washed Ethiopian beans but occasionally change it up with a nice Colombian, Central American or other East African coffee.” A good subscription will offer tips and resources to best brew the coffee that’s being delivered to you. Whatever your preferred brew, a good coffee should taste great with some basic care in any type of preparation.
Origin: Brewing isn’t the only way to influence the flavor of your cup. A coffee’s place of origin can have a big influence on the profile in your cup. Single-origin coffees are traceable to a particular farm, cooperative or estate. Generally these coffees are roasted to showcase the best of the place they came from, like the concept of terroir in wine. Consider whether you like to have more tantalizing flavors for a dynamic experience, or something more classic and stable.
“I have general favorites when it comes to coffee origins—Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Latin American coffees with acidity and vibrancy, and almost always a washed process,” Housh says. “Because coffee drinking is such a first-thing-when-I-wake-up ritual for me, I don’t look for a coffee that is a fruity, acidic punch in the face, nor do I want something that is blandly forgettable.” she adds. One of the fun aspects of coffee subscription boxes that offer a variety of origins is learning what you like, and when you like to brew it. Sometimes a vibrant cup is best suited to the afternoon, with a more robust easy-drinker to get the day started.
Variety: If you are looking to explore, many coffee subscription boxes offer a broad range of origins, roast styles and even roasting companies. “Celebrating the differences in coffee is at the core of why I am in coffee,” Housh says. “So I can think of nothing more terrifying than drinking the same coffee day in and day out. However, consistency in product and roasting is the other side of the coin. It has to be in balance with the variety for me,” she adds.
If you’re giving a subscription as a gift, think about the level of coffee knowledge of the recipient. A coffee nerd might appreciate a broad range of choices to really tailor their experience, whereas a newer coffee drinker might enjoy something with more resources and educational add-ons to help them understand the world of coffee a bit more.
Sustainability And Ethos: Many coffee drinkers are interested in brands that are doing good in the world, either by working with socially equitable growing and environmentally sustainable farming practices, or by using manufacturing and packaging options that are free of waste or can be recycled. “I wanted to make sure the roasters I was getting coffee from do good, ethical work in their sourcing,” says Meister. “I like to try different roasters out, but I’d much rather support a roaster who has a couple of close, ethical relationships than bounce around for the sake of flavor.” There are a lot of certifications for coffees out there, like organic, Fairtrade, and Rainforest Alliance—each with its own nuances, and a good roaster should gladly answer your questions about its methodology for sourcing sustainable coffees.
Bonus Features: The convenience of a coffee subscription box should make sense from a value point of view. If you live in a rural area, like I do, having the world of coffee at your fingertips is a huge advantage. Other features to look for include the ability to pause your subscription if you go on vacation, or to add an additional bag if you’ve got family or friends coming for the holidays. Cervone, who lives in Brooklyn, says, “There are a lot of good-enough options in my neighborhood (and in the local section at Whole Foods), so buying something over the internet needs to make sense value-wise relative to buying at a store.” Some subscription services charge extra for shipping, where others include it in the price. Consider what makes sense for you, and what will be seamless and delightful to receive.