We Reviewed The Blue Bottle Coffee Club

With coffee, freshness is everything. That’s why you buy whole beans, grind them moments before brewing, and use them up within about a week, right?

Blue Bottle Coffee’s claim: within that period, there is a window of optimum flavor - a best-of-the-best moment, like peak ripeness for fruits or vegetables. And they ship your coffee so that it arrives at the start of that peak flavor window.

Sound like something you want to experience? Read our Blue Bottle review to see if it’s the answer to your coffee-infused dreams...

IMPORTANT: At the moment, our leading coffee subscriptions are Atlas Coffee Club (overall winner), Driftaway Coffee (for freshness and variety) and Angels' Cup (for curiosity and excitement).

The Blue Bottle Review, Quick Version

Blue Bottle Subscription
  • Quality of Coffee
  • Ordering process
  • Coffee Selection
  • Order Frequency
  • Roast Freshness
  • Shipping/Packaging
4.75

Blue Bottle staff blind-taste each individual batch of coffee (different roasts, blends, and single origin coffees) and determine when it’s reached peak flavor (1). Then, they re-taste over the next few days to determine how long each type of coffee stays at that optimum flavor level.

When they ship your subscription, they provide tasting notes suggesting how long the coffee you’ve bought will be at its best. Naturally, they encourage their customers to map out their own preferences.

“Green coffee is a living thing, more like produce than an inert spice or candy, and each one has a unique life span based on who produced it and where it's from.” - Charlie Habegger, Blue Bottle Coffee Buyer

Our Full Blue Bottle Coffee Review 

Blue Bottle Coffee takes its name from The Blue Bottle in Vienna, central Europe’s first coffee house, founded in the late 17th century (2). Today, Blue Bottle focuses on freshness, flavor, and consistent quality.

PROS

  • The peak of freshness - roasted and shipped only after ordering
  • Subscriptions include blends, single-origin beans, and espresso
  • Whole bean or pre-ground, called Perfectly Ground
  • Pre-ground coffee shipped in vacuum-sealed, single-serving packets
  • Each bean individually tasted on a weekly basis to ensure quality and consistency
  • A mix of the familiar and the exotic in single-origin offerings

CONS

  • Smaller selection than some services
  • Prices somewhat higher, especially for pre-ground

Quality of Coffee: 5/5

Blue Bottle individually taste-tests each coffee they sell - single origins, blends, espresso, every roast level - and you get it when they have determined it’s at the absolute top of its game.

The website’s match quiz (see the next section) recommended their Giant Steps for us - yes, it’s named after the John Coltrane classic. This is a blend of beans from Uganda, New Guinea, and Sumatra.

As important as single-origin coffee is, a blend can tell you a lot about a coffee company - whether it’s being blended down to a price, or up to a quality level.

The bag of Giant Steps that came a few days later nailed the flavors identified by their match quiz: cocoa, toasted marshmallow, and graham cracker in the aroma yield to chocolate and caramel in a cup that delivered rich, deep notes on the palate. Clean and crisp in a pour over, Giant Steps was also wonderful in the Moka pot, where the fines and higher extraction really played to the strength of the African and Indonesian beans.

Ordering Process: 5/5

Blue Bottle’s match quiz goes beyond the usual coffee flavor descriptors and gets to the heart of your tastes. It starts by asking you the type of coffee your prefer - French press, pour over, espresso, and more, and lets you select as many as apply.

The quiz then gets deep into the flavors you like - delicate or juicy, bright or deep, florality or earthiness. Somewhat surprisingly, the quiz then asks you what chocolate you prefer, what spices you like, and your favorite salad dressing. Then you’re offered two coffees that fit the image they’ve developed of your favorite flavors and aromas.

“Some customers are searching for novelty, excitement, and surprise, while others yearn for routine. Fortunately, we can satisfy both tastes—our guests needn't choose.” - James Freeman, Founder and CPO

Coffee Selection: 4/5

Blue Bottle currently offers 19 individual coffees and three combination boxes, containing three or five of their favorites. Seven are blends, three of them for espresso; the rest are single-origin beans. Some of their single origins come from specific plantations in familiar areas - three from different regions in Brazil, others sourced from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Kenya. Some selections are sourced from off-the-beaten-path locations such as Myanmar and Timor.

Order Frequency: 5/5

Blue Bottle sends out bags in 6, 12, 24, and 36-ounce sizes. You choose the frequency of delivery: a one, two, three, or four-week cycle. No matter how much or little you drink, you can set up a cycle that works for you.

Roast Freshness: 5/5

Our order was roasted on a Monday, and arrived two days later. To get much fresher than that, you’d have to be standing outside waiting for them to open.

The freshness was definitely noticeable in the aroma and flavor. Our Giant Steps beans arrived with great aroma and brewed up an incredible cup of rich, deeply flavored coffee, both in the Hario and in the Moka pot. That’s flexibility.

Shipping/Packaging: 4.5/5

Our order arrived sealed in the familiar security-sealed zip-lock bag, airtight and lightproof, with CO2 valve. One minor nit: the zip-lock seal is narrower than used by some other shippers, and didn’t always make a tight seal. We found the bag had worked its way open one morning. Shame on us for not using a coffee storage canister. Workaround: we folded the bag over and wrapped a rubber band around it to reduce air exposure. But some larger bags don’t give us this problem.

Price: 4.5/5

Price is at the higher end of the scale, but you get what you pay for, most noticeably in terms of freshness. Blue bottle coffee is notorious for NOT being cheap. But theres a reason.

You can save a bit by taking a subscription: prices drop between $1 and $3 a bag. This is equivalent to getting a free bag of coffee for every 6 to 10 you buy.

Shipping is comparable to other on-line coffee sources - about $5 per package. They also have a free trial subscription, in which you only pay for shipping. You’ll have the chance to opt out after receiving your shipment, of course.

If you prefer to receive ground coffee, Blue Bottle calls their offering Perfectly Ground. Not only is it precision-ground to the exact characteristics for your brewing method (pour over, French press, or coffee maker), but it’s then packaged in single-serve, vacuum-sealed pouches.

The catch? It’s spendy, at $3.50 per serving. Brewed at the SCAA’s Golden Ratio of 55g/liter, whole bean coffee runs you less than fifty cents a cup.

Still, for an occasional extravagance (camping, travel, the occasional sleepover with That Certain Special Someone who’s a tea drinker, etc.), the freshness and grind precision of Perfectly Ground could be a great solution.

Customer Service: 5/5

Web support is available for any and all coffee questions, from shipment details to simply not liking your coffee. Returns aren’t accepted, which makes sense given the emphasis on freshness. For other questions, order issues, and concerns, they ask that you contact them within 30 days of the original order.

Overall: 4.7/5

Freshness, quality, and flexibility of order quantity really highlight the strengths of Blue Bottle. The slightly higher cost reflects the attention to detail that goes into their products, and the service they provide.


Not Sold On Blue Bottle? Check these out!

There’s a lot to like about Blue Bottle, but if it isn’t quite for you, here are three subscriptions that consistently rate the highest among our readers and staff. You can find more info about coffee subscriptions in this guide, but here's the run down on 3 of the best:

The Atlas Coffee subscription - Our current top pick for best coffee subscription of 2019. Its an educational experience of the worlds coffee plantations. Read more here.

Driftaway Coffee - They keep winning awards for having amazing valued, fresh roasted coffee delivered to you at record times. Everything is ethically sourced, and they keep on improving their service. Read more here.

Angels Cup - ThOne for the adventurous coffee drinkers among us. They ship you blind tastings of coffee and tweak what they send based on how you react (via their cool app). Read more here.

The Verdict

Blue Bottle’s commitment to quality and consistency is second to none. Their weekly tastings of every bean, not only single-origin but also the beans that go into their unique blends, helps ensure that you always get the same delicacy and nuance from every cup.


References:

  1. Deliciousness: Blue Bottle Coffee. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://bluebottlecoffee.com/our-coffee
  2. The Blue Bottle Coffee House. (2019, March 12). Retrieved July 7, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Bottle_Coffee_House
Alex
 

Alex is the Founder and Editor of Homegrounds.co. He is passionate about brewing amazing coffee at home, and teaching others to do the same.

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