Buying Low Acid Coffee Online - Part 2
I am now several weeks into my journey and I wanted to update everyone on how the adventure is going in my search for buying low acid coffees online.
Let me just say, that this trip has certainly had a number of surprises. But first, let me update you on our progress. I have visited every website for every coffee company in the United States that I have found that sells low acid coffee. At this point, the total is nearing 20 coffee roasters.
I have ordered the coffees from each of the various vendors’ websites or their third party order fulfillment centers. Incidentally, I was shocked at how many coffee roasters use order fulfillment services, such as Amazon for handling orders. More about situation that later.
I am currently awaiting arrival of the coffees. I am curious to see some of the logistical items such as fulfillment time, shipping method, packing, ship efficiency, and other factors relating to receiving my order. Did I get an order confirmation, ship notice, and an arrival notice? While some of these items are expected in ecommerce today, I am always curious to see how other people in the coffee industry do business.
Back to the online ordering and some of the other things that really surprised me. The first surprise was choice. Many of these coffee roasters had a limited choice of coffee offerings. While this is not a knock against them in anyway, as a roaster running a full service roasting company for a number of years, sometimes you get lost in your own operation. Now, by full service I mean, coffees from origin, signature coffee blends, decaf coffees, flavored coffees, and decaf flavored coffees. I would also include in the meaning of full service, a number of different roasts profile from light to dark and several in between.
I did not find one single full service coffee roaster. Again, this it is not a criticism, I have learned that people usually do what works for their business, and if being more limited in their offerings works for them, more power to them. It just means for the consumer, your choices might be more limited. For example, if you spouse wants a flavored coffee, but you like a light roasted decaf and both coffees have to be low acid, I was shocked to learn Mavericks Coffee was the only choice that I could find. While that may be an extreme example, many of the roasters did not even offer a light roasted coffee or a flavored coffee to name just few.
Given that out of all the coffee roasters in the United States, I only found about 20 roasters that produce a low acid coffee, having that limited selection was a shock.
Another surprise to me was the size of coffee bag. Many of the roasters offered very limited size options and the most common size was 12 oz. While there is not anything inherently wrong with a 12oz size, most 16oz size bags of coffee would fit in the same size box for shipping and would not increase the shipping charges at all. When it comes to shipping efficiencies both on cost and logistics for the roaster and the consumer, this surprised me. Again, this is not a criticism; I was just not expecting it.
For larger bags such as 5lb size, only a couple companies even offered them as an option.
I was happy to see that about half of the companies did offer organic coffees. I was not sure what to expect, but this pleasantly surprised me.
I mentioned earlier, third party fulfillment services. Again, in my little bubble at our coffee roastery, freshness is always a huge emphasis. I was surprised to see that from several coffee companies, your only choice was to buy their coffee from Amazon. I was actually not able to order from the roaster directly. Remember, coffee is not only a perishable product, but when you introduce age into the equation, which you do with a third fulfillment center such as Amazon, taste can be detrimentally effected very quickly.
Let me just make a note right here and know. It has been my intention to run a review with all the coffee roasters, as much as I could, on an even playing field, but since some of these coffee may have been sitting in a warehouse for some time, I almost feel guilty about having to cup these coffees against roasters that ship directly, especially roasters that might roast and ship daily.
Regarding the coffees themselves, I was not expecting that the some of the roasters just purchase green coffees that are called naturals. Naturals are coffees processed differently than traditional washed coffees. Naturals undergo more fermentation as they dry. These roasters did little to nothing once they received the coffee to address Chlorogenic acids levels. Certainly, there no law against that. I am wondering how much of an impact that a consumer would reasonable expect to receive if buying that coffee expecting it to be low acid, anticipating a positive impact on their sensitivity to acidity, an they are just drinking a regular roasted natural.
Transparency was another surprise to me. Being in the coffee industry and producing a coffee that is low acid, I was curious to see what approach other roasters have taken in order to lower acid levels in their coffees. Most of the roasters, gave very little information if any about their process, or their results. While I am not asking anybody to reveal their trade secrets, I was expecting a little more transparency.
For example, a roaster can claim to sell low acid coffee, but according to whom? There is no universal standard or rule of thumb. I certainly do not mind giving people the benefit of the doubt, but trust and verify also has its place. I was expecting to see results from a third party laboratory to substantiate some claims, or perhaps a scientific article to support the methodology, of their approach to reducing acid in the coffee. I was only able to find a couple roasters that offered some information. I was not anticipating transparency to be in such short supply. Again, I was not expecting roasting to give away their secret sauce, but just to inform consumers that are trying to make an informed decision about what the buy.
Let me also mention, that it was difficult to find a coffee that we could evaluate that was similar across the board between all the roasters. For example, not everyone carried a Colombia coffee or had a house blend. Another example would be that very few roasters even produced a light roast.
Of course even if they did, what two roasters considered to be a light roast might be entirely different anyway.
While these differences are to be expected, when comparing companies doing business all across the United States in a wide range of different markets, each one of these surprises that I found, made it that much more difficult to make an apples to apples comparison.
I anticipating receiving all the coffees over the next week or so from various roasters located around the United States. I will update you again when the low acid coffee start coming arriving.