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My Driftaway Coffee Review—Is This Curated Coffee Subscription Worth It?

My Driftaway Coffee Review

Is this Curated Coffee Subscription Worth It?

Driftaway Coffee is a coffee subscription service that specializes in personalized subscriptions that are curated around your particular tastes and preferences. When you sign up for a subscription, the first box you’ll receive is a tasting kit that includes samples of coffee that you can taste and rate. Like your coffee bold? Or prefer a more balanced brew? Based on your feedback, future shipments will include coffee that’s tailored to your preferences. You can choose the grind of the beans you receive, and Driftaway even offers a cold brew subscription option. 

I always appreciate it when a coffee subscription takes my personal preferences into account. (I love receiving whole beans, and my preference is for light roast coffee that’s fairly well balanced.) When I found out about Driftaway, I was intrigued by their approach to coffee-by-mail and eager to give it a try. Want to learn more about the tasting kits and find out what I thought about the beans? Read on!

COUPON: Use code MSA50 to get 50% off your first month! (Regularly $16).

by Lindsey Morse, Coffeeholic
February 23, 2021| 1 comment

Pros & Cons

The Pros

  • This subscription features high-quality, single-origin beans from small farms around the world that are roasted by Driftaway in Brooklyn, NY.
  • When you sign up for a subscription, your first box is a tasting kit that helps Driftaway pin down your likes and dislikes. Based on your feedback to a variety of different coffees, Driftaway is able to get a feel for your coffee preferences and customize your future shipments.
  • New to coffee? If you’re not quite sure what qualities you like in coffee, Driftaway helps you pinpoint what you enjoy. (Even if you don’t yet have the knowledge and vocabulary to explain whether you prefer “bright” coffees or “bold” ones.)
  • Often with coffee subscriptions where you receive personalized picks, there’s a bit of a learning curve for the suggestion algorithm. It might take some time before you’ve rated enough coffees for it to accurately pin down your preferences. With Driftaway, since you’re providing feedback about several different coffees right off the bat, there’s a better chance your initial shipments will suit your palate.
  • The packaging is plastic-free, eco-friendly, and 100% compostable.
  • Driftaway is committed to sustainability and supporting coffee farmers, and they are transparent when it comes to pricing. They publicly share the price they pay for coffee on their website.
  • You can choose the amount of coffee you receive, your grinder setting (ground coffee vs. whole bean), and shipping frequency.
  • International shipping is not a problem. Driftaway is happy to ship pretty much all over the world.
  • It’s easy to cancel your subscription online.

The Cons

  • If you already know what you like when it comes to coffee, you might find the initial tasting kit unnecessary. 
  • They do not currently offer a subscription suitable for decaf coffee lovers.
  • All of the beans you’ll receive are roasted by Driftaway. If you want to sample a variety of roasters, another subscription might be a better fit.
  • At $17 per shipment for an 11 oz. bag of coffee, this is not the cheapest way to get beans.

Is It Worth It?

  • Do you want to try different coffees from different countries all over the world? Do you like the idea of a curated coffee subscription that’s tailored to your tasting preferences? Are you okay paying a little bit more for high-quality beans shipped to your front door? Then, yes, I think it’s definitely worth it!

About Driftaway Coffee

The Subscription: Driftaway Coffee 

The Cost: 

  • 7-oz bags: $14 per shipment
  • 11-oz bags: $17 per shipment
  • 1-pound bags: $22 per shipment
  • 2-pound bags: $34 per shipment

Note that savings are available with longer, pre-paid subscription commitments.

COUPON: Use code MSA50 to get 50% off your first month! (Regularly $16).  

Shipping:

  • Ships to the U.S. and a wide selection of additional countries. (Check Driftaway’s website for a full list.)
  • All subscriptions include free priority shipping, though international subscriptions cost more.
  • Shipping timelines are 3-6 business days to the U.S. and 5-12 business days to Canada.

This box was sent to us at no cost for review. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)


How It Works

So how does Driftaway Coffee work? Let’s explore the sign-up process.

Image via Driftaway.

When you sign up for a subscription to Driftaway, you’ll indicate if you’re buying for yourself or if the purchase is a gift for someone else. (Either way, the coffee is the same. Both purchasing options will put you on the receiving end of high-quality beans from small farms around the world.)

Image via Driftaway.

If you’re signing up for yourself, the first step is to pick whether you want whole bean coffee or if you prefer for it to come pre-ground. Either way, your first shipment will be a tasting kit that includes different coffees for you to try and rate. Worried you might have preconceived notions that could prevent you from fairly giving each of the sample coffees a fair shake? Driftaway offers a “Whole Bean Mystery Kit” just for you. You’ll still get the tasting kit, but they won’t print any identifying information (like tasting notes or bean origin) on the packaging.

Image via Driftaway.

Next, you’ll need to decide how much coffee you’d like to receive in each shipment and how often you’d like deliveries. Keep in mind that you’ll save money on larger shipments and if you decide to pay for your subscription upfront. That’s pretty much it! After you receive the initial tasting kit and provide feedback about the beans, your future shipments will be fulfilled and billed in the quantity of your choosing and will feature beans picked just for you. If you ever find the beans in your shipment aren’t to your liking, just reach out to Driftaway‘s customer service and let them know. They’ll either refund the cost of the shipment or send you some new beans.

Image via Driftaway.

Gift subscriptions are a little different. You’ll select the grind, quantity of coffee per shipment, shipping frequency, and subscription duration. Gift subscriptions are paid upfront, and the first shipment will be a tasting kit which will include instructions for the recipient on how to provide feedback about the samples received. (Interestingly, when you purchase a gift subscription, in addition to the grind options available for personal subscribers, you can also choose to send your giftee cold brew bags or sign them up for a World Coffee Sampler subscription, where they’ll receive a tasting kit every single month instead of full-sized bags of only one coffee.) Buying coffee as a gift can be tricky; coffee is kind of weirdly personal! I really like that Driftaway offers a gift subscription that can be tailored to the recipient’s preferences.


My Driftaway Experience

When Driftaway reached out about sending coffee for me to review, I jumped at the chance. I’m a full-blown coffeeholic, and I enjoy sampling beans from different roasters and writing about how they taste. As I mentioned above, after you sign up for a subscription, the first shipment will be a tasting box. Well, I received two:

  • a whole bean tasting kit
  • a cold brew tasting kit

I received both of these kits from Driftaway so I can show you what to expect from two of their different subscriptions, the World Coffee Sampler subscription, and the Cold Brew subscription.

Let’s look at them one at a time. For this review, I’ll start by looking at the World Sampler Kit and then I’ll move on to the Cold Brew Kit. I’ll show you what I received in each one, talk about the beans, and give you my opinion on the coffees. Hopefully, this will give you an overview of what you can expect from each of these subscriptions.

If you sign up for a World Coffee Sampler subscription, every box you receive will look like the one I received for review. If you sign up for a Cold Brew Subscription, your first shipment will be a cold brew tasting kit, followed by shipments of single coffees that are picked just for you. 

 

Driftaway Tasting Kit Subscription

 

The first box I unpacked contained four, 4-oz bags of single-origin whole bean coffee. If you sign up for a Driftaway Tasting Kit Subscription, each shipment will look like this one.

Image via Driftaway.

Instead of receiving a full bag of one type of coffee every month, this subscription is for adventurous tasters who want to try new coffees and explore the world of single-origin beans one 4 oz sample at a time.

 

Included in the box, I found a booklet with information about Driftaway Coffee, some details on the kit I’d just received, and brewing instructions.

 

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys guided tastings, you can scan the QR code included in the shipment to attend a virtual tasting of the coffees in your box. I’m something of a DIY-er, so I decided to venture into the tasting solo.

 

Here are the four different coffees side-by-side. You can see a slight variation in roast level between the different beans. I brewed up a cup of each coffee and sat down to taste them all together. Each bag is assigned a different profile number (1 fruity, 2 classic, 3 balanced, and 4 bold), and the lower numbered coffees appear to be more lightly roasted than the higher ones. I tend to like light to medium roast coffee that’s balanced and a little bright. Would that be the case here? Would I be a number 1 kinda gal? Or might I surprise myself and fall in love with number 3 or 4? I was excited to find out! I started at the lighter end of the coffee lineup and worked my way into the bolder offerings.

 

Congo Kivu Nyamasasa– Profile 1 Fruity

Coffee #1 is from South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is a light roast coffee with a tasting profile of cherry, lime, and caramel. I started my tasting by taking a big sniff of the beans, and there’s definitely some fruity caramel in the aroma. This coffee smells great! After taking a sip, it was immediately clear that this coffee is very bright, with a nice warm acidity that hangs around on your tongue after you sip. I don’t get a lot of cherry or caramel flavor, but the lime tasting note is spot on for my palate. There’s a zingy aftertaste with this coffee that definitely reminds me of limes.

 

Zimbabwe Salimba Estate– Profile 2 Classic

Coffee #2 is a medium roast from Mt. Selina, Zimbabwe with tasting notes of almond, toast, and white pepper. As soon as I smelled the beans, I got excited. There’s this thing I like to call the “mall effect” when I’m talking about coffee. Bear with me while I try and explain it. So. I’m a child of the ’90s, and I have fond memories of spending way too much time walking around shopping malls when I was young. Every mall around that time seemed to have a coffee shop, and some of them seemed to be stocked with these magic coffee beans. Let’s be honest: all coffee smells good. But there’s a certain type of coffee aroma that is so good that it can stop coffee drinkers dead in their tracks, entice them out of the closest clothing store, and push them right into the coffee shop. That’s the “mall effect.” And these beans have it. They smell SO good! In the cup, this coffee is definitely less acidic than the first one, and there’s a cereal-y taste that’s a little nutty and super smooth. For me, this coffee doesn’t have a particularly strong or memorable flavor, but it’s just plain good. This is a great coffee.

 

Peru Cusco Espiritu Wari– Profile 3 Balanced

Next up is a light-medium roast coffee from Cusco, Peru that has tasting notes of dried fruit, chocolate, and baking spices. It’s interesting that this coffee is more lightly roasted than #2. I’d expected the beans to progress from light to dark throughout the tasting, so this caught me by surprise. Of course, some beans naturally have more flavor than others, so I suppose it stands to reason that some beans can be more lightly roasted than others and still have a bolder taste. The aroma of these beans struck me as a bit earthier than the previous ones, and while they smelled rich and freshly roasted, they didn’t tickle my senses in the same way as #2. After taking a sip, I was first struck by a spiciness that gave way to a rich, cocoa-y flavor. This coffee reminded me in a way of powered hot cocoa. I liked this coffee, but it didn’t dazzle me.

 

Colombia Nariño Tablon de Gomez– Profile 4 Bold

Finally, coffee #4 is a medium-dark roast coffee from Nariño from Colombia. The tasting notes are caramel, cinnamon, and sweet bread. Right off the bat, I knew this wasn’t going to be my favorite. I could tell from the smell and the taste that this coffee was more darkly roasted than the others, and for me, it was missing the nuance I found in the other cups. The taste was still nice, and if I got this in a restaurant or coffee shop, I would happily drink it, but compared to the others I’d previously tasted, it’s pretty clear this is not my preferred style of bean.

So, what are my final thoughts after tasting all four coffees? I think #2 and #3 are my top picks, and I really, really liked coffee #2. I guess “classic” coffees are my sweet spot!

Cold Brew Subscription

 

The second box I received from Driftaway is a cold brew subscription tasting kit. Unlike the Tasting Kit Subscription, which sends a tasting box every month, with the Cold Brew Subscription you’ll only receive a tasting kit the first month. After sampling the coffee in your first shipment, additional shipments will contain only one type of coffee that’s picked for you based on the feedback you provide about your tasting kit.

Image via Driftaway.

If you’d like to sign up for a cold brew subscription, you can select “Cold Brew Bags” in the checkout process.

 

I received a card in my box explaining how to make cold brew using the provided bags and what to expect from the different flavor profiles. This box contained three different types of coffee to try: #1 bright, #2 balanced, and #3 bold. It’s funny, whereas I tend to go for more lightly roasted beans when I’m drinking hot coffee, I find I prefer my cold brew a bit darker. I was curious to see which coffee I’d like best!

 

Congo Kivu Nyamasasa– Profile 1 Bright

The coffees in my cold brew tasting box were familiar; they were the same as the ones I’d received in my whole bean box! But beans can exhibit different flavors when they’re brewed differently, so I wanted to be fair in my assessment and try them all again. Each package in this shipment contained a cold brew bag filled with 6-oz of ground coffee. To brew, I added each mesh bag into a container with 5 1/4 cups of water and steeped it in the fridge for 16 hours. (No coffee makers required!) First up, the coffee from South Kivu, Congo. Brewed with the cold brew method, Driftaway calls out tasting notes of lemon, caramel, and chocolate. Cold brew is my preferred morning brew, so I was excited to try these! This first coffee was nice, but it was a bit brighter than I prefer. To be fair, I did get more chocolatey notes from this brewing method than I did with the hot coffee, but it still wasn’t quite for me.

 

Peru Cusco Espiritu Wari– Profile 2 Balanced

Cold Brew #2 was the light-medium roast from Cusco, Peru, with tasting notes of milk chocolate, raisin, and cinnamon. Boy, oh boy. I didn’t love this coffee the first time around, but this time it got me! I drink my cold brew black, and this coffee had everything I love about a good cold brew. It was chocolatey and had a little bit of fruity spice, but more than anything else it was silky smooth. Every sip was like a dream.

 

Colombia Nariño Tablon de Gomez– Profile 3 Bold

Last but not least, we’re back to the medium-dark roast from Nariño, Colombia, this time with tasting notes of caramel, malt, and dark chocolate. The first time around, this coffee was too darkly roasted for my liking, but I thought it was ideally suited for cold brew. I found the dark chocolate flavors richer and more interesting, and of all the cold brew coffees in this tasting kit, this one tasted the most familiar (like something I’d pick up in the grocery store).

My final thoughts? Tasting all three of these cold brew coffees side-by-side was quite an eye-opener. I definitely preferred #2 and #3 over #1, and I think #2 has to be my top pick. It was smooth and delicious! It’s worth pointing out that I ended my Driftaway experience here, but if I were to continue the subscription, my next step would be to submit my feedback to ensure future shipments feature “balanced” coffees like the #2 Peru Cusco Espiritu Wari.


My Verdict

For me, coffee is an intensely personal thing. It’s the first thing I consume in the morning, and in many ways, it sets the tone for my day. A bad cup of coffee is like waking up on the wrong side of the bed — it can throw me off my game. Good, high-quality coffee is something I’m happy to splurge on, and I really like that Driftaway takes the time to get to know their subscribers’ palates so they can send coffee that’s likely to hit the mark. It probably won’t come as a shock to hear that a subscription to Driftaway is not the cheapest way to get your coffee. Picking up beans at the grocery store is always going to cost less. That said, they won’t be this fresh, they won’t be delivered to your door, and they (likely) won’t be single-origin beans, which of course cost more. Looking at similar coffee subscriptions like Mistobox ($14.95 per bag with $5 shipping) and Trade ($15-$25 per bag with $2 shipping), Driftaway’s price ($17 per 11-oz bag) is in the same ballpark. Comparing to my favorite local roasters, French Truck ($14-$20 for a 12-ounce bag of single-origin coffee) and Congregation ($17-$19 for a 12-ounce bag of single-origin coffee), Driftaway’s prices are also on par.

I really enjoyed my delivery from Driftaway, and it was interesting to see the initial shipments from two of their different subscriptions side-by-side. The beans were great (some of the best coffee I’ve had in a while, to be honest), and I feel I’m walking away having learned something about myself and the kind of coffee I prefer. (I’m a “#2 classic” kinda gal when it comes to hot coffee and a “#2 balanced” cold brew drinker.) I enjoyed the entire experience, and I like that Driftway pays above market rate for beans (and is transparent about how much they pay) in an effort to support farmers and create a sustainable supply chain. They’ve found a fan in me. 

Want to know more about Driftaway Coffee?


Ready to explore the world of coffee? Want to see what other coffee subscription boxes are out there? Find more coffee subscriptions here!

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Written by Lindsey Morse

Lindsey Morse

Lindsey is a professional baker, cold brew coffee addict, and rosé aficionado who loves writing about food and wine. When she’s not sharing her love of subscription boxes with the world, you’ll find her in the podcasting studio, perfecting her cake decorating techniques, or cursing her way through the New York Times daily crossword puzzle.

Comment (1)

  1. I guess 10 pm was not the time to read this! I want to smell the coffee beans now! I think I need to try this box now. Fun review to read.

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