You may not get the chance to enjoy coffee for much longer.
Studies say that over half the land available for coffee farming will be unsuitable by 2050. But there’s an even more immediate problem. We may see coffee shortages in the next three years. Coffee as a commodity is priced so low that farmers are switching to other crops en masse.
As a coffee lover myself, I have a hard time thinking about what a morning without my daily brew would be like. But, along with millions of others, I may have to find a new morning ritual.
I’m not giving up hope yet, though.
We can keep coffee alive by drinking the good stuff. Sounds like a win-win, right?
While many young coffee companies tout their sustainability efforts, few are as committed as Driftaway Coffee.
I tried a wide selection of their offerings to see if they were any good. My verdict is in.
The only question is: are you ready to drink great coffee and save the world?
How could you say no?
What is Driftaway Coffee?
For your first go-around with Driftaway, they send you a sampler pack with four different taste profiles. Fruity, classic, balanced, and bold—you choose what you like.
Once you let the team know your preferred morning cup, they send you an 11oz bag of your favorite joe every month. And it’s not the same thing every time. Every month, you’ll explore a different origin. From Kenya to Colombia, there’s something here for every coffee lover.
But pairing you with the perfect coffee isn’t the full scope of what Driftaway aims for.
They’re also committed to helping producers.
Just take a look at this graph that shows the price of commodity coffee over the past decade.
And ongoing climate change isn’t helping things either.
Luckily, companies like Driftaway have a solution.
By buying high-quality green, unroasted coffee for a premium, Driftaway helps farmers turn their cash crop from a commodity into a specialty. Coffee farmers don’t have to sell their crop for bottom-dollar.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to go to a coffee farm in Nicaragua and see first-hand how much impact the quality-premium has on the communities that produce our favorite morning drink.
The great thing is, we all get great tasting coffee out of it.
Driftaway also donates a portion of each pound they sell to World Coffee Research. WCR is constantly striving to breed new cultivars of coffee that can adapt to changing climates.
Looking closer at Driftaway, it’s clear they’re committed to finding a solution for the coffee crisis. But with so much competition in specialty coffee, good-deeds aren’t enough. They need to make excellent coffee, too.
Driftaway Coffee Unboxing & Review
My first delivery from Driftaway was the sampler pack featuring 2oz samples of four different coffees.
Each pouch comes with a card that has tons of information on the coffee you’re drinking. And not just information about the farmer. Driftaway features an image of the farm, the region the coffee was grown, the varietal, and the elevation of the farm.
Now, you may not care what elevation your coffee was grown at—I totally understand. You just want the coffee to taste great.
But for me, knowing small details really helps me understand the overall quality.
For instance, the Peruvian coffee they sent was fairly high grown—I knew it was great raw coffee. So when I looked at their roast, I could see why they went with a medium-light color to preserve the molasses flavors. Anything further would have dimmed that quality.
Driftaway is all about teaching people more about coffee, and they went beyond the basic information with their inserts.
Their packaging is also 100% compostable, including the gas vents in the sample pouches and the glue used to seal the box. Not every company goes as far as to teach their customers, and even fewer ensure that they’re minimizing their impact on the earth.
All of the above held true when I got my first two shipments of their standard subscription service, though these shipments came in 11oz bags.
After you’ve chosen your ideal tasting profile, you can choose to restock on coffee once a week, every two weeks, or once a month. Driftaway offers 11oz and 16oz bags, and you can save a little bit of money if you order six months at a time.
Based on reviews and my own experience, they do a good job making sure you’re getting what you need. You can suspend a delivery 24 hours before the scheduled shipment which is rare in the subscription space. The strongest subscriptions need at least three days before a shipment, but Driftaway is even more flexible.
My only issue with Driftaway Coffee is their website. They do everything coffee-lovers care about: roast great coffee, take care of their producers and don’t trash the planet. But their website is so vast that it’s easy to get lost in.
There’s a forum, a link for cold brew subscriptions, an option for corporate coffee-buying—it’s a little difficult to get a handle on exactly everything Driftaway does.
More basic questions like, “how do you choose which coffee comes next?” are left unanswered.
As a former coffee roaster, I totally trust Driftaway. I can see they buy high-quality green coffee, and their roaster does a phenomenal job. Their mission is something everyone can get behind. But I can see missing some of those subtle nuances if I hadn’t spent years learning about coffee.
I’d like to see them showcase exactly why their coffee is special and the thought behind their curatorial process.
The coffee is great. They source beans that are well into the specialty grade levels, which helps farmers stay away from terrible commodity prices.
Even the darkest roast didn’t turn oily or burnt, which shows that their roaster respects the raw ingredient.
If you like one of your coffees, you can write in feedback that will go directly to the farmer through the Driftaway app.
There are many farmers who’ve never tasted coffee even though they grow it day in and day out. Getting feedback from those who enjoy the final product helps farmers understand what they’re doing and why.
That knowledge helps them grow better coffee, which in turn fetches a higher price. It’s a virtuous circle and Driftaway knows how important their role is.
Other Sustainability Projects
Just a few months ago, in September 2019, Driftaway signed a price transparency pledge to help support producers struggling to endure low commodity prices.
Driftaway has paid well above average for their coffees historically, but now you can see exactly how much they’ve paid per pound for each coffee you receive.
These premiums encourage farmers to continue their focus on quality over quantity, and we all benefit.
Driftaway Coffee Gift Guide
Driftaway is also offering gift packages for the holidays.
You can choose between a 7, 11, or 16oz bag of freshly roasted coffee, or just go with their world tour sampler featuring four different two-ounce bags from different origins.
And if you feel like straight coffee isn’t enough, you can add on all sorts of goodies like brewers, grinders, and scales—everything you’d need to make an amazing cup of coffee at home.
I’m a huge fan of the Hario V60 (which you can pick up for a great price) and if your coffee-lover only buys ground coffee, you can change their life by getting them a grinder.
Whole bean coffee is scientifically better.
My Overall Thoughts on Driftaway Coffee
What I Like
Great coffee. The raw ingredients are well cared for and the roasts are spot-on.
The coffee industry is terrific when it comes to sustainability and giving back. There are few industries that focus on a fair supply chain as much as coffee. Driftaway is a shining star even with so many amazing companies out there.
The introductory sampler is great for coffee newbies and veterans alike.
The origin cards that come with each coffee are filled with useful and entertaining information. They make for a better overall experience when drinking your morning cup.
What I Don’t Like
Driftaway does so much. But it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting from them because their website is huge and hard to navigate. I’d like to see them simplify their site and hone their message down.
Driftaway Coffee is a great roaster that puts everything they have into making sure that their business leaves the world a better place.
Their subscription service is fun, and you’ll learn a ton just by sticking around for a few months.
If they’re able to simplify their message, they have a shot at becoming a national brand.
You can’t get by with mediocrity in the coffee business. And I don’t just mean the quality of the product. You can’t be mediocre with your ethics, either.
It seems like every new roaster pours all of their profits back into building schools and digging wells throughout the world.
In an industry filled with thoughtful and progressive companies, Driftaway earns its spot.
Their roasting is on point. Their shipping and customer service is good. And their mission to create a better world is fully underway.
Bonus: Where Does Coffee Come From?
Meet my favorite plant. His name is Lawrence. He’s a coffee plant.
There are two major species of coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta.
Arabica plants like Lawrence produce the specialty coffee we love and enjoy. Arabica is known for its flavor.
Robusta is known for its toughness. Pests don’t like it, and diseases can’t get to it. The coffee we get from Robusta is much higher in caffeine content, so it’s the secret weapon in high octane coffees. Great for a kick, but the flavor is a little rough around the edges.
In about five years, Lawrence will start producing coffee cherries. He won’t have very many fruits for the first two years after that. I forgive him.
Seven years from now, Lawrence will be at his peak. He’ll be churning out enough fruit to make a single pound of raw coffee every year.
I’ll collect the cherries and ferment them until the fruit falls off, leaving me with a small green seed. I’ll roast those seeds for 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then I’ll grind and brew those seeds to make a delicious cup of coffee, pat Lawrence on his little plant head, and start the process all over again.