21 September 2017

Curated Brew Reviewed

The range of speciality coffee subscription services available these days is impressive, if a little overwhelming. For some time, I’ve received regular coffee deliveries from Pact Coffee. For maximum convenience, I get usually get Pact Coffee delivered to the office, and then stock my home ‘brew bar’ with coffee beans I’ve either bought in London or picked up on my travels.

It’s hard not to experience FOMO when I see people sharing their photos of really great coffee they’ve received from other subscription services — particularly those services that offer beans from a rotating selection of coffee roasters from the UK, continental Europe and beyond. I live by myself, however, and despite my best efforts there is only so much speciality coffee one woman can drink (and afford).

But when I first read about Curated Brew, thanks to a tip from London’s Best Coffee, I thought its focus on high-quality coffee from some of Europe’s best established and up-and-coming roasters, combined with the convenience of being able to pause or cancel one’s subscription at any time would suit me well. I signed up for Curated Brew four months ago — although because I skipped one delivery while I was in Boston, I’ve received three bags of coffee beans — and thought it was time to share my experiences.

First, and most importantly, the coffee has been fantastic. I received beans from one of my favourite Swedish roasters Koppi, Berlin’s excellent Five Elephant and the wonderful Danish Coffee Collective.

The Koppi beans in particular — a Finca El Porvenir coffee from Colombia — were awesome, with chocolate and berry notes when brewed through my Aeropress (first photo below), and it tasted just as good as a piccolo. Five Elephant’s Kenyan Kamwangi AA coffee, meanwhile, had lovely, light, floral notes brewed as a pourover (second photo below). Finally, Coffee Collective's Halo Yirgacheffe coffee had a delightfully complex taste, with nice peachy notes coming through. I've pulled a couple of good Halo espresso shots at home too. 

Some, although not all, of the coffee packages came with a card with more information about the roaster and the coffee. I loved all three coffees, but I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get the chance to try out a new-to-me roaster. Unfortunately, the month I skipped would have given me that opportunity, as the featured coffee was from Danish roaster April. September's coffee, which I am skipping, is from Colonna, and I'm sure it will be wonderful, although again, it's a roaster I'm familiar with already. Another minor frustration for me was that some months, the identity of the month's featured roaster was only revealed several weeks after I had been billed. It’s nice to be surprised (says the woman who plans every last thing!), but knowing what the coffee will be before I pay for it would help me decide whether I might want to skip a month.

Curated Brew costs £11.95 per month, including delivery, for a 250g bag of beans, which you can have as whole-bean or ground. This isn’t particularly cheap but it is excellent value given the quality of the coffee. The customer service has been great too — whenever I have emailed with a question, I have received a swift response.

All of that being said, I am not sure that Curated Brew is the service for me — at least for now — and this is solely because it doesn't suit my coffee lifestyle. Understandably, you can only receive the coffee at one specific point in the month — generally, although not always, the last week of the month. As I travel frequently and like to bring home coffee beans, this inflexibility makes it hard to plan and means I risk having a surplus or shortage of beans. Moreover, one of the reasons I signed up was the ability to pause or skip deliveries online but there isn’t an option on my account page (other than the 'cancel' button, which feels rather final) and instead, I had to email to get my account paused. This is not a huge amount of effort, of course, but more control would be much better.

If you like receiving excellent coffee from some really great roasters and don't have the same ‘stock control’ issues as I do, I think you might get on rather well with Curated Brew. I have currently paused/cancelled my account — I will be travelling a lot over the next couple of months, but I'm not sure that I will resubscribe when I get back. However, I will certainly continue to follow Curated Brew with interest — I suspect that as they grow, there will be more flexibility. The option to just buy a single bag of beans without subscribing would be really useful, for example, so that I didn't miss out on a must-try coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with curated brew! It is exciting to see subscription coffee services on the rise, and it is great that curated brew offers such a wide and exciting range of coffee, to get people trying new blends and learning more about the specialty coffee industry as a whole. We offer similar services at Roastworks coffee with a range of exciting new blends, come say hi at https://www.roastworks.co.uk/