I just found the most exciting thing.
And it is 100% changing my daily coffee routine.
Do you know what the most important thing you can do to make better espresso drinks is? Or just straight drip coffee?
Use top-notch freshly roasted beans.
I can’t tell you enough how many times I get the question: why does my home espresso taste bitter? I ask a few questions about their process and eventually find out that they picked up a bag of beans at their local supermarket. Or Starbucks.
9 times out of 10, even “craft” beans at your local supermarket, like Intelligentsia, do not have a roast date on them. This means there’s no way to know how long the bag has been sitting on the shelf.
If there is no roast date, take it as a clear indicator that the roaster is trying to hide it from you.
Intelligentsia (sorry for picking on you today) used to have the roast date on the packaging. When I was in Target about a year and half ago, I found a marked bag of year old beans. The last time I checked out of curiosity, the roast date was no longer printed. Why?
Well, it’s hard to move year old beans off the shelf and into consumer hands if you clearly share how old it is. Who would buy it?
If you live in what I have coined the “US Bean Belt” – Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles (basically the West Coast) – you should have no problem finding a ton of local craft coffee shops, roasting and experimenting and coming up with some tasty, and most importantly fresh, blends.
But what about the rest of us?
I have a couple craft coffee shops nearby that I frequent, but there’s a secondary issue at play: they have a limited selection of espresso roasts. It is just not that popular to have 5 or more espresso roasts and I drink enough espresso that I’ve tried them all. Many times.
They also don’t change them out that often. That means, in my area (a mid-sized city), I have 3, maybe 4 espresso roasts that I can enjoy.
I tapped the market out pretty quickly. If you’re a drip coffee person, there are definitely more options, but for us espresso people, this usually means we are out of luck.
I have been going online for a while to get my coffee variety fix. The problem with this is the same shelf life issue. I have no idea how long the bag has been sitting on the shelf.
I got an email last week from a reader about a 2lb bag he bought online that was just garbage. I told him he should send it back, but he had already divided it up among his coffee friends to see if they could do better.
Long story short, he wasted his money and time.
The most depressing thing is he is a super-skilled home barista with an expensive lever setup. He knows bad espresso. If you are a beginner, you might not know why the shot doesn’t taste right and pass it off as your own skill level.
So, that was my dilemma. I tapped out my local options, was ordering espresso one bag at a time online and not really happy with the situation.
Then I found Bean Box (well, they found me).
And all was right in my espresso-crazed house (my wife also really hates bad beans).
They are now my go to for buying coffee on the internet. The company was on my radar for a while, but I never got around to signing up. I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the hype. There are so many subscription boxes out there for just about anything and I was sort of over it (my wife was on a crazy StitchFix kick for awhile).
But then Bean Box sent me a sampler pack with a couple bags for free to see if I liked it. They didn’t ask me to write a post, they just sent the beans (Honestly, it was pretty cool. My small blog where I geek out on coffee actually attracted a little attention).
So, long story short, the box came and my wife and I tried the beans. It was awesome.
We both sort of fell in love with the freshness (the roast date is clearly printed and super recent), and the variety. We looked at each other and went “Why didn’t we do this sooner???”
After that, I signed up and paid for a 6-month subscription for their variety pack of espresso (they aren’t paying me in beans to write this.)
So you probably want to know how it works, right?
Bean box is a subscription-based service. Basically, it’s just what the name says: coffee beans in a box delivered to your door.
The beans are all from craft coffee roasters in the Seattle area, aka the Mecca of coffee, so you know that the quality is high. The Bean Box team tastes and curates the boxes each month to make sure the quality stays consistent and the variety is enjoyable.
Each box is sent out within 48 hours of roasting, which makes me really happy. Nothing is sitting on a shelf getting old and bitter.
They offer up a couple different subscription options:
You can either sign up for the bean of the month or a taster pack. Right now, I am signed up for the taster pack on a 6-month cycle to reduce the cost a bit. I like to try new things and having options is fun.
With the bean of the month plan, you get a bag each month specifically selected by the Bean Box team. It is a good alternative if you like to enjoy the same blend consistently, and you end up getting more coffee. For me, I like trying 4 different beans a month and then if I really like one, I’ll buy a full bag.
You can sign up on a month-to-month basis, a six-month cycle, or an annual cycle.
The best part is they don’t limit you. If you know the roast you like, you can get light, medium, dark, espresso or decaf in your box.
To be honest, the price is a little high. I’m not going to sugarcoat it.
They do discount if you sign up for a 6 month or annual subscription. That’s one of the reasons why I signed up for 6 month plan – to bring the cost down a little bit.
Here are the numbers: $20 for 4 sets of 1.8oz, a total of 7.2 oz. It’s not a lot of coffee.
It can feel a little bit unreasonable when you can get a 2lb bag for the same price.
BUT, for many of us, me included, coffee is a hobby. If we did not care about the quality, the experience, the ritual of it, we would pull out our jug of folgers in the morning, get a quick hit of caffeine and be done with it.
I also consider that given the amount of money I have spent on my equipment, it is small investment to get good beans. Not spending the few extra bucks would be like putting low octane gas in a Ferrari. It doesn’t make sense.
So, I factor all that in when buying my beans and the extra cost doesn’t sting so much.
I also just really like being able to try a sampling of beans that I can then order as a 2lb bag later if I want to keep drinking it regularly.
It’s a no-brainer for me.
One of my favorite things about the box is the labeling. It is so clear and easy to use. Each sampler pack has a roast level on the side. If you are new to home brewing, you can start by looking at the beans hold them in your hand and referencing the roast to learn about the differences in appearance.
Over time, you will be able to know the roast level of your beans by sight.
The tasting notes are also clearly labeled. This is amazing for anyone learning about flavor profiles and working on developing their palate.
If you’re really into flavors, definitely check out this killer coffee taster’s wheel here. Print it out, place it right next your espresso machine and reference it every time you try a new bean. It’s pretty good looking too, which helps.
When trying the different blends, I like to guess at what I’m tasting first and THEN look at the tasting notes on the bag to see if I’m hitting on the right flavors. Give it a try. You may not catch them all at first, but slowly, over time as you try more beans, you’ll start to get it. If you’re a wine or whiskey drinker, you know what I mean.
Tasting and understanding flavor notes is one of the biggest joys of the hobby and if you are skipping this step you won’t be able to pick up the nuances that make coffee so wonderful.
If you read through all of this, then you can obviously tell I’m a big fan. Bean Box has solved a lot of issues I was dealing with simultaneously:
1) Guaranteed fresh beans (no old bags full of bitter beans)
2) I get to try a bunch of different beans every month (it’s tough to find more than 4 espresso roasts locally)
3) Super convenient and delivered to my door (a lot of the craft coffee shops close to me are 20 min or more away)
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I am a die-hard espresso fan. I love every form of the drink from straight espresso shots to lattes and cappuccinos. I currently use a Breville BES870XL Barista, it is an awesome machine. BUT, my dream machine is definitely an Italian Quickmill Andreja. Those bad boys make badass espresso. I love answering your questions, leave a comment or question below!