PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN
(CNN) —  

There are subscription services for meat, clothes, heck, there are even subscriptions for getting your toilet paper delivered. And, of course, there are services that can deliver freshly roasted coffee straight to your door.

Of all those various options, coffee subscriptions might make the most sense. After all, you drink the stuff every day, which means you go through it quickly. And if you’re a coffee lover, you may be stuck on your tried and true brand, so trying new coffees can be difficult since there’s a nearly endless list of brands of coffee to try. That’s where a subscription can step in and help, by having experts curate new coffees just for you. How could you say no to a new and different coffee every week?

There are tons of coffee subscriptions on the internet, all with different and overlapping coffees, formats and perks. We searched far and wide for the best and most popular services out there, and narrowed it down to 10 we tried for ourselves. If there was a coffee quiz, we took it. If the coffee came with a postcard, we read it. Most importantly, we ordered and tasted coffee from every single subscription to find the absolute best.

After nearly two months of quizzing, grinding, sipping and notetaking, we’ve come up with the best coffee subscriptions of 2020.

  • Best overall coffee subscription: Blue Bottle
  • Best coffee subscription for those who crave variety: Trade
  • Best coffee subscription for the budding connoisseur: Angel’s Cup
Best coffee subscription boxes of 2020
Best coffee subscription boxes of 2020
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold, but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

The coffee subscription from Trade was high on our list, scoring just one point shy of Blue Bottle. It has a helpful coffee quiz, plenty of customizable settings and more than 400 coffees to choose from. The quiz, which asked how we made our coffee, what roast level we preferred and what tastes we normally like, matched us with a dark roast filled with chocolatey-goodness that we loved. And with a seemingly unlimited variety of beans to choose from there will always be new and interesting coffees for you to try. Plus, Trade allows you to pick which coffees are sent to you, giving you more control than many other services. Even though Blue Bottle edged it out (mostly due to Blue Bottle’s outstanding taste), Trade is a subscription that will please even the pickiest coffee drinkers.

If coffee is more than just a morning routine to you, The Black Box subscription from Angel’s Cup will have you feeling like a coffee connoisseur in no time. This subscription sends you a box of four different roasts, with only the roast date and a five-digit number to differentiate them. The idea is that each shipment is a blind tasting, so once you brew and drink each coffee, you can go onto an app to rate it for yourself and record any notes. Then you compare your thoughts with the roast master and other members of the community who have tried that coffee. While the subscription service from Angel’s Cup didn’t score as high as our other two winners, its unique and engaging coffee-drinking experience was just too much fun not to highlight. It’s the perfect choice for someone who loves everything about coffee and wants to hone their taste buds with new and delicious coffees every month.

Best overall coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle
Blue Bottle
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription hit all of our marks during the testing process. It has multiple kinds of subscriptions perfect for all kinds of coffee drinkers. With its solid customizability, variety and — above all — outstanding taste, Blue Bottle beat out every other coffee subscription we tested.

We’ll dive into everything we loved about the Blue Bottle product in a moment. But first, we want to point out all the various subscription options available on the site. You can choose between subscriptions that send you blends, single origin, decaf and even espresso beans, depending on your cup of choice. The espresso, single origin and blend options have what’s called an assortment subscription, which is the best pick if you want to try different coffees all the time. The blends assortment and espresso assortments rotate between five- and four-set offerings respectively, so if you opt for the blends assortment subscription, for example, you’ll be getting one of five coffees each shipment. These start at $11 per shipment, but that’s for a 6-ounce bag, so you’ll probably want to upgrade to a 12-ounce bag at $18 per shipment. Or, you can select a single coffee and get that one delivered over and over again until you change it yourself.

But if you’re a more adventurous type and want new flavors with every shipment, Blue Bottle’s single origin assortment subscription is the one for you. Blue Bottle searches the world and sources high-quality beans, then roasts them lightly to bring out their natural flavors. Best of all, the coffee changes every two weeks so you can try brand new beans with every shipment. This subscription starts at $13 per shipment for a 6-ounce bag, but the standard 12-ounce bag runs for $22 per shipment.

None of that would really matter if the subscription experience — or even worse, the coffee — was bad. To Blue Bottle’s credit, the subscription was simple to navigate and receiving our boxes was a joy. Each shipment comes with your selected coffee, plus a little notecard that has information on your coffee’s history and taste. While these cards weren’t as fun and engaging as some of the others (such as Atlas Coffee Club’s postcards or Angel’s Cup’s blind tasting), the information Blue Bottle gives you is all you need to thoroughly enjoy your brew.

We also loved the customizability of Blue Bottle’s subscription. While it doesn’t provide as many options as some of the others, you can still select from four different coffee sizes — from 6 ounces up to 36 ounces — and four different delivery options between one, two, three and four week intervals.

The service really has all you’ll ever need to get the cup of coffee you want, but the biggest factor that tipped the scales in Blue Bottle’s favor was its taste. We tried both single origin and blend roasts from Blue Bottle, and every single time we ooo’d and ah’d at the bold, delicious flavors. Of course, flavor is subjective, but over a wide variety of roasts, Blue Bottle consistently tasted better in our tests. Does that mean you’ll love every coffee Blue Bottle has more than every other coffee we tested? No. But we think you have the best chance of getting an outstanding cup of coffee, no matter the roast or blend, with Blue Bottle.

When we tasted the coffees, we particularly loved the Giant Steps blend, which had punchy notes of cocoa, toasted marshmallow and graham cracker. We also fawned over a single origin roast from Guatemala that was extremely smooth and had a sweet taste that mirrored the included tasting notes which mentioned brown sugar and cinnamon.

No matter what you want from a coffee subscription, Blue Bottle tailors an experience that will always provide you with freshly roasted, delicious coffee right at your doorstep. With resealable bags, shipping included in the coffee’s price and tons of other features we absolutely loved, if you’re going to try a coffee subscription we can’t recommend Blue Bottle enough.

Best coffee subscription for those who crave variety: Trade (prices vary, starting at $14 per bag; drinktrade.com)

Trade
Trade
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

While Blue Bottle was our winner outright, nipping at its heels was the coffee subscription from Trade. Its enormous selection of more than 400 coffees is enticing to the coffee addict who wants to try new flavors all the time. Plus, Trade’s coffee quiz was surprisingly effective at finding a roast we loved, and can help guide you through the sometimes overwhelming options. While we didn’t love the taste as much as Blue Bottle’s options, we’re confident you’ll find a coffee match made in heaven with Trade.

Trade’s subscription works slightly differently than Blue Bottle. First off, Trade sources coffee from roasters from around the world, unlike Blue Bottle which has its own branded varieties. The next big difference is when you subscribe to Trade, you’re going to have to go through its coffee quiz. You’re asked seven questions such as how you brew your coffee, what you like and don’t like flavor-wise, if you typically add milk or sugar, your preferred roast level and more. After you complete the questionnaire, it presents you with multiple picks that they think you’d like based on your answers.

When we took the quiz, we matched up with The Overnighter from Joe Coffee, which had deliciously strong, chocolatey tastes that had us refilling our cup the whole day. While the coffee quiz from Blue Bottle touted 10 total questions in comparison to Trade’s seven, Blue Bottle’s quiz is totally optional and only really helps you find blends to try. Trade, on the other hand, forces you to take the quiz before you can even subscribe, so you’re more likely to find a coffee tailored to you right away.

Trade’s coffee quiz was one of the highlights of the subscription for us, but most of the other services had a similar quiz. What pushed Trade beyond those competitors wasn’t any one fancy feature, but its consistently scoring high across almost all of our tests.

You can customize certain factors of your subscription such as grind size, whether you want one or two bags delivered and whether you want those to be delivered every one, two or three weeks.

A nice touch of the Trade experience was a little note explaining why the curators picked each coffee for you. It told us that our coffee was good to brew in a french press, strong enough to handle milk and even provided a couple tasting notes, but it didn’t go into as much detail as some of the others with an extensive list of flavors to expect and a history of the coffee. Though if you love your coffee and want to learn more, you can always hop onto Trade’s website and read about the roaster and bean. Perhaps most importantly, there are some really tasty options in their immense variety of coffees, allowing Trade to easily push ahead of many of the other subscription services as a well-balanced option.

If you want a custom-fit coffee subscription experience with tons of variety and a service that can either use algorithms and curators to pick every coffee you get, or let you browse through the hundreds of options yourself, Trade is the subscription service we’d recommend for you.

Best coffee subscription for the budding connoisseur: The Black Box from Angel’s Cup (starting at $17.99; angelscup.com)

The Black Box from Angel
The Black Box from Angel's Cup
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

Angel’s Cup offers three different kinds of coffee subscriptions: All Stars, Cupping Flights and The Black Box. All Stars is more or less a standard subscription, in which Angel’s Cup sends you one bag of coffee at intervals of your choice. These bags were highly rated by other Angel’s Cup subscribers, so you’re sure to get a delicious coffee. But we recommend Angel’s Cup because of its other services, namely, The Black Box subscription.

The Black Box is basically an upgrade of the Cupping Flights. Both send you a box of their own branded coffee packaged in four small bags without any information so you can blind taste them. After tasting, you go to Angel’s Cup’s mobile app to input and rate your tasting notes, comparing your scores to the roastmaster and other people who have tasted the same coffee. This doesn’t inform what Angel’s Cup sends you in the next shipment (which is actually a feature at Driftaway), rather it’s so you can test and grow your palate.

The Cupping Flights subscription starts at $8.99 per shipment, and includes four 1-ounce bags, which is just enough for a big 16-ounce mug of coffee. It’s good if you’re the only coffee drinker in your house. If you have more than one person who wants in on the tasting, or if you just like to drink a lot of coffee, The Black Box sends four 2.75-ounce bags, each enough to make 44 ounces of coffee, or about four normal sized mugs. All four bags nearly add up to a standard 12-ounce bag, so you can expect your full shipment to last as long as your traditional bean bag. This subscription starts at $17.99 per shipment if you commit to 12 shipments.

The Black Box was one of the highlights of our testing, providing an engaging and memorable experience to our morning coffee routine. We loved visiting the app and inputting our own thoughts and gripes about each coffee. The app itself isn’t cutting edge and could use an update, but it’s a fun, interactive element no other service even came close to.

Angel’s Cup doesn’t offer a coffee quiz, there’s no way to change the amount of coffee you get besides choosing different subscriptions and the flights ship every Wednesday, which is more restrictive than the many others that ship to order. Despite those mild shortcomings, Angel’s Cup delivers delicious and intriguing coffees, and its blind tasting format made us want to hone our palette and become real coffee aficionados.

In regards to taste, the coffees we tried from Angel’s Cup all tasted great. Not as bold as Blue Bottle or personalized as Trade, but every cup was a high-quality brew that we’d have no qualms about drinking daily. They had a wide variety of flavors; some were subtle and fruity, while others were dry and toasty. Overall, we enjoyed the taste of the coffees from Angel’s Cup a lot.

If coffee is your passion (or maybe you need something new to kill time since you’re at home all day), The Black Box from Angel’s Cup is a fun way to pretend you’re a coffee connoisseur. What it lacks in customizability it more than makes up for with the best coffee drinking experience we had throughout our entire testing.

How we tested

We tested coffee subscriptions for nearly two months, researching each service’s website thoroughly as well as going hands-on with every single brand’s coffee to test the packaging, experience, taste and more. We tried a wide variety of coffees from each brand, receiving multiple bags of beans and different roasts whenever possible.

To test taste, we ground, brewed and drank each coffee in the same exact way, and wrote down what we liked and didn’t like, while reading the coffee’s tasting notes to see if they were accurate. However, since taste is subjective, we didn’t want to only test how the coffee tasted, but also the subscription services themselves. Through our research, we compared variables such as coffee variety, roast freshness, customizability, delivery options and more to see which service was the best. Here’s a full breakdown of all the tests we ran.

Subscription service

  • Coffee Variety: We went onto each subscription’s website to see how many coffees it offered, what kinds of coffee it offered and how often those offerings change.
  • Personalization: We went through any coffee quiz or questionnaire the service provided, and judged how easy it was to find a coffee you’d like right off the bat.
  • Size and delivery options: We counted the different size and delivery options for each coffee subscription.
  • Customizability: We looked on the websites to see how much you could customize your order. We counted all the options you could change such as the roast level, grind size and whether you prefer decaf or regular coffee.
  • Refunds and Exchanges: We researched if you could get a refund or exchange your coffee if you didn’t like the coffee you got in the last shipment.
  • Extras: We received each shipment, and in doing so looked for any extras including notecards, information sheets, tasting notes and more. We judged how much these extras added to the coffee subscription experience, and if they were helpful and informative.

Coffee

  • Taste: We tasted each subscription multiple times after grinding and brewing in the exact same way. We used an electric burr grinder and a french press, and drank each coffee black and with a splash of oat milk, both hot and iced.
  • Roast freshness: We looked on the websites to see how fresh each roast was, and also compared the roast date to the delivery date of each coffee shipment we got.

How we rated

While conducting all the tests laid out above, we gave each coffee subscription a score in each subcategory, then tallied those numbers for a total score in each category. We then added those scores to come up with an overall score. Our scoring system is as follows:

  • Subscription service had a total of 65 points: Coffee variety (15 points), personalization (15 points), size and delivery options (15 points), customizability (10 points), refunds and exchanges (5 points) and extras (5 points).
  • Coffee had a total of 35 points: Taste (20 points) and roast freshness (15 points).

Other coffee subscriptions we tested

Other coffee subscriptions we tested
Other coffee subscriptions we tested
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

Atlas Coffee Club (starting at $9 per shipment; atlascoffeeclub.com)

We’ve reviewed Atlas Coffee Club in the past, and while we loved it (and still do) it didn’t quite break out past its competitors. The coffee tastes great, it comes in extravagant bags that look great on a counter and the postcards included are filled with useful tasting notes and interesting coffee history. Despite these great attributes, Atlas just fell a little short with its limited variety and lack of coffee quiz. Atlas sends out one coffee a month from a different country, and you can only change the roast level and grind size, which was a bit more limiting than other services.

Mistobox (starting at $10.95 per shipment; mistobox.com)

Mistobox was a high-scoring competitor, actually scoring just one point below Trade. It offers an even wider variety than Trade with over 590 coffees at the time of writing. Mistobox’s coffee quiz has seven questions, which was an adequate amount to find a coffee we enjoyed. You can also get very specific with which kind of coffee you want, filtering your pick by grind, roast level and whether you want a single origin, blend, espresso or decaf bean. On the other hand, the coffee didn’t taste quite as great as some others, you can only order the bags in one size and the shipment was absent of any attention-grabbing extras. But if you’re looking for a subscription with a massive selection of coffee, Mistobox can go blow for blow with Trade any day.

Bean Box (starting at $16.95 per shipment; beanbox.com)

Bean Box didn’t impress us too much, as it didn’t have an especially wide variety, have tons of flexibility for size and delivery or have informative extras. The taste of the coffees we received was a little lackluster, and the beans came 10 days after being roasted, longer than other services that can get it to your door in just a few days.

Driftaway (starting at $14.57; driftaway.coffee)

Driftaway had some middle of the road scores and its small variety and limited size and delivery options knocked it down a peg or two. However, we loved the format or the subscription, and think it could be really good for someone who doesn’t exactly know what coffee they like. The first shipment you get is a tasting flight, and you rank which ones you like the best. Driftaway will then select coffees similar to that so you can build a flavor profile. Driftaway also puts sustainability at the core of its operation with practices such as eco-friendly packaging and carbon offsets for every shipment, which we really appreciated.

Other coffee subscriptions we tested
Other coffee subscriptions we tested
PHOTO: Natasha Hatendi/CNN

Crema Co (prices vary, starting around $14; crema.co)

Crema Co also scored very high, actually tying Mistobox at just one point below Trade. It touts a massive coffee selection with over 450 options and has a thorough, nine question quiz that’s fun and engaging. The taste of the coffees we got was alright, but didn’t blow us away. And while the package did come with a handwritten note that says who packed your box, there wasn’t any info on the coffee or tasting notes that we would’ve enjoyed. Our biggest gripe with Crema Co’s coffee was the bags it was packaged in. They were extremely hard to open and we ended up just slicing them with a knife. That means we couldn’t reseal the bag and would’ve had to store the beans in a separate air-tight container.

Peets (starting at $16 per month; peets.com)

We scored Peets with one of the highest scores in coffee taste, which was a surprise to us. The coffee we tried was dark and full of flavor, and out of all the coffees we tried we’d say it was the one we’d want to drink every day. However, the coffee variety was lacking with only around 50 options, and the coffee quiz only had five questions, which was fewer than many of our other top-ranked services. Peets also didn’t come with any extras, and the bag wasn’t easily resealable which is where it lost a handful of points.

Craft Coffee (prices vary, starting around $10; craftcoffee.com)

Craft Coffee didn’t have as big of a selection as others, and its coffee quiz just simply asks you to select a coffee you like from a drop down menu of popular choices you might find at the store. Craft does have a ton of delivery options, where you can get a shipment anywhere from once a week to every three months, but without any extras, a middle of-the-road taste and a bag that was difficult to open and reseal, Craft didn’t separate itself from the pack.