Selecting a Coffee Subscription Service
You need to be mindful of a number of things when selecting a coffee subscription.
Frequency: Determine how much you expect to drink before subscribing. How much do you drink daily? How frequently do you purchase new coffee beans? You’ll need to know so you can select the proper frequency and quantity for your subscription. The last thing you want is to run short of coffee or pay for beans that won’t be used.
Preferences: Before buying a subscription, you’ll need to determine your preferences for various aspects of coffee. Depending on the subscription service, you may be asked about preferred roast type (medium, dark, or light), flavor profiles (citrus, nutty, or floral), and washing process (wet, pulp, or dry).
Who is this for?: If you are purchasing a subscription for yourself, then filling out the preference questionnaire will be a breeze, because you should be somewhat familiar with what you normally like. However, if you are purchasing a subscription for someone, you’ll have to figure out their preferences by either asking or observing (if it’s supposed to be a surprise gift!).
If you don’t know them, you can’t go wrong with a sampler pack or gift box, as either option will give them a variety of coffees to taste.
Shipping: Be mindful of shipping fees that come with each subscription. You may get free shipping at first, but don’t be under the assumption that you always will.
In view of these factors, we wanted to do the hard work for you and try two of the most popular coffee subscription services out there: Bean Box and Mistobox. Who comes out on top? Read on to find out!
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Two Coffee Subscription Services Compared – Bean Box and Mistobox
What is Bean Box?
Bean Box aren’t coffee roasters. They are a coffee platform working alongside local small-batch roasters in and around Seattle. Bean Box’s experts do the heavy lifting for the consumer, curating the finest coffees available.
A couple of software engineers launched the Seattle-based coffee company in 2014. Their knowledge of coffee, paired with their technical know-how, allowed them to develop a unique coffee recommendation platform, providing coffee drinkers everywhere with a bag of beans matching their tastes. These bags of beans then get shipped right to your front door.
Although Bean Box provides many options to purchase individually, the appeal of Bean Box is really in their subscription service, leveraging their recommendation engine to pair you with coffees you’ll like. Subscribers can opt to receive a full size coffee bag- or a batch of small bags of different coffees- on either on a monthly, biweekly, or weekly basis.
Bean Box also allows you to choose roast level as a guiding factor for recommendations. Are you partial to light roasts, craving fruity, floral, and third-wave bouquets? Perhaps you prefer bolder and smoother dark roasts? Bean Box’s use of roast level preference to find the right coffee helps to please all different palettes. For every delivery, you’ll be given a chance to add extra treats to your box- including teas, caramels, and artisan biscotti.
Bean Box guarantees shipment within two days of roasting, ensuring freshness.
Coffee Variety: 4/5
Bean Box Coffee works with tons of the best roasters throughout the Pacific Northwest, many on an exclusive basis. Some you might be unfamiliar with, others may sound familiar (such as Water Avenue and Coava). Each roaster they work with are held in high regard, and located in either Portland or Seattle – two cities known for great coffee.
This selection isn’t quite as big as with some other coffee subscription services (e.g. Mistobox – see below), but the options are unique. If you’ve tried a number of popular coffee brands, Bean Box can provide you a much welcome change-up. Additionally, Bean Box is better than other coffee subscription services for some premium offerings like Kona.
Coffee Quality: 5/5
When we tried Bean Box out, we found all of their coffees to be excellent- both great tasting and fresh. Our first Bean Box included an El Salvador Malacara by Zoka Coffee, East Timor by Caffe Vita, a Honolulu blend by Keala’s Coffee, and a Roaster’s Choice by Lighthouse Roasters.
While all were very good, the East Timor by Caffe Vita was the standout. The flavor was earthy and bold, with the cocoa and caramel notes being very pronounced. There was an interesting sweetness that is probably what the package is referring to as either toasted marshmellow or mellow fig.
Overall, the sampler box we received was really an excellent set of coffees that would be easy to recommend.
Unique Features: 4.5/5
Bean Box’s offers a simple but straightforward interface for picking coffees. You can pick from eight different roast options (the sampler contains only six options). Their featured coffee section on their website lists additional information about varietals, regions, and roasts.
Their interface is probably less slick looking than Mistobox’s, but the substance is largely the same. After you receive your coffees, Bean Box keeps track of the ones you’ve had before in a dashboard and allows you to rate or leave notes on them.
However, the feature that sets Bean Box apart from other coffee subscription services is the ability to order smaller “sampler” bags as part of a subscription. This allows for trying a variety of coffees in one shipment versus being stuck on the same bag. How are you supposed to find out what kind of coffee you like without trying as many coffees as possible?
Every bag in a sampler includes a code and number you can text to get more of a particular roast which is a very convenient option when you find one you like.
At the time of writing, Bean Box costs $24/month for either the collection of 4 sampler bags or 1 normal, 12 oz bag. This is relatively expensive for coffee, but it is great quality coffee curated from smaller roasters. You are paying a premium for curation, but it isn’t a huge one. Additionally, it’s hard to put a price on their collection of sampler bags as it’s a relatively unique offering in the coffee subscription space.
Overall Experience: 4.13/5
Not only is Bean Box adept at locating peak flavor coffee from some of the finest roasters, they are proficient at making the experience seamless. While the service is definitely more expensive than buying coffee directly, few services offer the convenience of monthly delivery of small bags of coffee. This convenience ends up making Bean Box fairly easy to recommend for anyone still in the process of trying coffees out and deciding what they like.
We’d recommend giving it a try and seeing if it appeals to you, particularly for those unacquainted with many varieties.
Summary for Bean Box Coffee
- Very user-friendly and simple interface
- Well-curated set of coffees
- Bar code on packaging makes reordering favorites easy
- Paid subscribers receive free shipping.
- During the free trial, you will need to cover the cost of shipping.
- Less slick subscription interface
- More pricey than buying coffee directly; you are paying for the curation
What is Mistobox?
The coffee subscription company known as MistoBox offers a coffee subscription service that is in many ways similar to that of Bean Box, but with a few key differences.
MistoBox has a truly VAST catalog of coffee; at the time of writing, Mistobox features 614 different coffees from around the world- a larger set than offered by Bean Box.
Like Bean Box, their subscription service operates with a curation engine that figures out good coffees for you to try based on your answers to a quiz. This interface is noticeably slicker than Bean Box’s, but the gist of it is largely the same.
One advantage of MistoBox’s quiz is the ability to select a preference for blends or single origins, which drills down a bit into what you might be looking for. From there, the coffee they’ve picked for you is shipped right to your front door.
Coffee Variety: 4.5/5
Mistobox features more than 600 different coffees- many of which are from popular/“trendy” roasters, including Onyx, Verve, and Intelligentsia. You aren’t going to run out of new coffees to try with Mistobox.
Mistobox probably could benefit from offering a few more “premium” coffee options. You can’t get a Kona, or a Red Mocha Haraaz, or Jamaica Blue Mountain from Mistobox. Overall though, their coffee selection definitely is high quality.
Coffee Quality: 4/5
We opted for some dark blends in our quiz and have thus far received two different coffees. The first was Populace Coffee’s Dark Blend – this was a very classic dark blend (bold, smooth, notes of cocoa) and was OK but nothing particularly special.
The second coffee was Parisi Artisan Coffee’s Italian Blend. This coffee was more interesting- from the oily, dark roasted, beans came an earthy/herby taste with somewhat of a smoky flavor. In some ways, this was a bit akin to a Sumatra.
We probably preferred the coffees we got from Bean Box a bit more, but it’s going to depend on the particular coffees you receive.
Unique Features: 4.5/5
As we noted above, Mistobox offers a super-slick interface, making it quite fun to use and explore. Like Bean Box, Mistobox keeps track of what you’ve already received and allows you to like/rate so that they can better recommend future coffees.
Another nice feature is that the coffee you order arrives in its original bag from the roaster, allowing you to see the original art and information provided. The downside of this is that Mistobox doesn’t have a sampler offering like Bean Box (who can provide small quantities by bagging the beans themselves). This makes it hard to try a large number of coffees as you’ll have to go through 12 ounces as a time- a bit inconvenient if you end up with one you don’t like.
Pricewise, initially MistoBox’s cofffees look a bit cheaper than those offered by Bean Box. However, Mistobox charges a $5 shipping fee for each order. Be sure to be mindful of that when looking at prices on the site. All-in-all Mistobox ends up fairly similarly priced to Bean Box; for both services, you are paying a premium for curation and convenience.
Overall Experience: 4/5
Mistobox overall provides a great experience and might be the best long term option for a coffee subscription given the vast selection of beans available. The recommendation interface is super slick and you can track and rate the coffees you receive for better future recommendations. The only real downside is the inability to order small bags the way you can with Bean Box, making trying a large variety of coffees more difficult.
Summary for Mistobox
- A vast variety. You’ll have no shortage of coffee variations to explore.
- User-friendly and slick interface
- Very fresh coffee; 1 of the bags we received included a roast date, but both tasted very fresh
- Inability to get smaller sample bags; have to get the full 12 oz bag
- $5 shipping fee.
Bean Box slightly edges out Mistobox in our ratings, mostly due to the ability to receive a set of sampler bags that allow you to try a bunch of coffees out at once. Bean Box is probably the best option for trying a bunch of coffees out, but Mistobox may have a place for a longer term subscription given the large number of coffees available.