Craft Coffee

Recently, the wonderful people at Craft Coffee contacted me about sending me some delicious artisan coffees to test out.  I don't actually drink coffee because it makes me crash after back 15 mins after drinking it and I am a major grumpy pants for the rest of the day.  But my boyfriend is a barista and has been for 8 years!  (Did you know there are some big deal coffee competitions?)  When he moved up to Seattle about 2 years ago, he was really excited about exploring the artisan coffee world and has done so since.  He's ridiculously knowledgable about the art of coffee so I asked him if he'd be interested in reviewing some coffee from Craft Coffee and he was excited to try it out!  So here is a very honest review from a coffee aficionado, my boyfriend Max!

Since moving from California in the fall of 2010, I have been enamored by the specialty coffee industry thriving in the Pacific Northwest. I have worked as a professional barista for about eight years, the last two of which I have spent honing my craft in Seattle cafes, finding inspiration in the infectious enthusiasm of my fellow coffee professionals. One of the definite perks of the job is that I am lucky enough to have access to a wide variety of coffees from roasters all over the country armed with a network of generous friends and a nose to hunt down quality shops whenever I travel. My daily coffee experience is therefore informed by a broader spectrum of products than are available at the corner coffee stand or the supermarket coffee aisle. Unfortunately for the average coffee drinker, such variety is seldom achieved as it is generally pretty hard to, say, find coffee from Counter Culture coffee in Durham, NC being sold in Seattle. All this could be changing though with the emergence of the New York-based Craft Coffee which boasts “amazing coffee experiences, delivered.”

Craft Coffee is a monthly coffee delivery services that provides each subscriber with three, 4oz samples of coffee from a rotating selection of roasters across the United States and Canada. The three coffees are meticulously selected form a pool of upwards of 50 possible contenders by a panel of coffee professionals each month and shipped straight to your doorstep. For the burgeoning home enthusiast, each sample comes with a detailed label providing information on the coffee’s producer, origin, varietal, elevation, processing method and roaster. Also included in the package is a small instructional card offering some helpful tips and tricks used by the pros to deliver the best possible results. What’s more, they’ll even grind it for you (although I really wouldn’t recommend grinding any coffee more than a minute before you brew it unless absolutely necessary).

The three samples we received came neatly packaged in a quaint box with fairly minimal, yet stylish internal packaging, which is a plus for the environmentally conscious among us. Each sample was from a roaster I either know from experience to be top notch or have heard good things about and the detailed information on each bag gives a good background to the coffees. The coffees were all single origin, meaning all the beans come from the same farm within a producing region and all were a fairly light roast, which is ideal for tasting the subtle notes present in the coffees without an overpowering charcoal quality predominant in the darker roasts favored by large-scale roasting operations. Further, each bag is labelled with the roast date of its contents and, sadly, this is where the experience went south.

Coffee is best when prepared within 2 - 10 days after roast, but I will generally stretch that up to about two weeks before I need to toss the leftover beans due to staleness. The coffee arrived on November 28th, a full 16 days after the printed roast dates, a fact which was made pretty evident when I opened the bags and gave them a good sniff. The bags themselves were nice quality with a one-way valve to let out excess gasses while keeping the beans fresh, but I was further frustrated to discover that one of the
bags had a small tear in the back large enough for beans to fit through.

The three coffees supplied were an El Salvador from Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco, a Guatemala from Drumroaster Coffee in British Columbia and a Honduras from Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, NY. A small informational card was included with a blurb about each roaster and the farm responsible for each coffee, which is a really nice way to invite consumers to expand their coffee consciousness beyond the cafe and understand coffee as an agricultural product integral to the lives of many people on the opposite side of the supply chain.

When I brewed each coffee I felt that the tasting notes on the packages were fairly reflective of what I tasted in the cup (and I am, by no means, in possession of the world’s most discerning palate), but I had the unmistakable impression that I was drinking old coffee. I yearned for the “silky body” and “milk chocolate” finish of the Finca El Zarzal, for the “lingering taste of honey-coated marcona almonds” in the Finca La Esperanza and for the “midnotes of pineapple and cane sugar” in the Las Penitas. I made the coffee in my Chemex, in a pour over, in a French Press, and the coffee wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t amazing.

For the $25/month price tag (individual month price - it goes down as low as $20/month for a year long subscription) I would probably prefer to buy a couple bags of cheaper local coffee that was guaranteed to be fresher. As a whole, I have very high hopes for the future of Craft Coffee but can’t help feeling a little disappointed at what I got in the mail this time around. That having been said, Craft Coffee is a good starting point for anyone who might be interested in expanding their home brewing repertoire or possibly for the coffee pro looking to see what’s going on in other parts of the coffee world on good faith that sending older coffee is not a usual business practice for the NY company. Either way, Craft Coffee is certainly going to continue to turn some heads in the future and it will be interesting to see how the service evolves from here.

Thank you Max for your review!
Did you guys find this review interesting?  Max is really really good at cooking too...  maybe I can convince him to give us some tutorials in the future or share some recipes :)  Lord knows, I am the worst cook.  Glad I have this guy around.


Bethany said...

I need to try Craft coffee. Would be a great gift for my coffee obsessed boyfriend.


Angie Thompson said...

so ironic! I just read about Craft a few weeks ago on the dear coffee, i love you blog! I've been trying to decide whether it would be worth a trial subsription (and I had pretty much determined already that it is).

Thanks for the post, Max! from one coffeehead to another!

Noor said...

Wow Max is super cool now that I know all this about him lol. I am a BIG coffee person as well and my husband is more like you not into it at all. I always wanted to go to Seattle for coffee alone but Max I was fortunate enough to go to Malaysia and have white coffee, Indonesia and have fresh coffee from the farms and the island of Bali and try the famous 'cat poop' coffee.

I am an espresso girl and love my moka pot. I do not think I can drink it any other way at home anymore.

sweet harvest moon said...

This sounds wonderful!

Sewn Branches said...

did max work as a professional barista in santa cruz? if so, where? just curious. i lived there and drank coffee excessively. he might have made me lattes regularly!