Café Infinity bears similar attributes to other coffee subscription services on the home delivery market: promising to liberate coffee drinkers from the shackles of choice limitation, leading them to sweet green pastures of coffee freedom. Could this signal the end of specialized barista service or single source options, thereby ushering in a new era of coffee blending? Probably not (with good reason: people love their coffee spot), but I was eager to put the subscription services through its paces and discover whether or not it delivers freedom of choice.
Your cost point at Café Infinity is dependent upon which package is purchased. For this review, I received the Guru level for consideration: twelve individual three-ounce bags of assorted coffees from the usual popular growing regions, storage tins, labels, a carousel in which to house the coffee tins, and measuring scoops. Of the twelve bags of coffees, seven were medium roasts (two from Ethiopia and one each from Columbia, Honduras, Brazil, Guatemala, and Peru), three dark roasts (Papa New Guinea, Tanzania, Sumatra), and two light roasts (Mexico and Panama). Those looking for an introduction to the service may opt for the Discovery kit, containing eight tins and three-ounce bags. Refills, along with other supplemental materials such as kettles and brewers, are also available for purchase on their online shop. Single bag or subscription refills are also available, and flavors will change upon availability.
Once unpacked and ready for experimentation, the next step is to download the Café Infinity App, which works well on both iPhone and Android formats. After registering, the user can take a quick quiz to determine their flavor profile, check out suggested recipes, and jump right into constructing their combination of blends. The app updates often based on customization and adjusts accordingly for serving size, helpful for casual drinkers unfamiliar with getting exact combinations correct and avoiding a cup of motor oil or rotgut. However, it is limited to whatever blends are available through the store or supplied in the kits, running somewhat afoul of Café Infinity’s promise of limitless exploration. (It is the company’s actual name, right?) Hopefully, expansion beyond the realm of store constraints will be integrated sometime in the future.
For now, it does the job: giving a specific profile of each blend, along with a prediction of how things may turn out. Dimensions measured include aromatics, brightness, body, and flavor intensity. The app also features the ability to include up to six different coffees in your blend, adjusting the strength of each using slider scales. Once the blend is complete, another screen appears where the user can enter details, such as name, description, and flavor notes. While the app displays the final percentages of a saved blend, the location of the conversion options from blend percentage to measurements (grams or teaspoons) is not immediately clear, making it a bit of a challenge to get up and going.
So how did it go? My immediate urge was to pile up multiple sources, resulting in one too many a car crash mishmash. But in the end, the rule of simplicity won over, and I resolved never to use more than three in one given cup, the third source always below 10% of the overall formula. I ended up tinkering with this for a good deal of time and constructed 27 different recipe variations. Here are two of my favorites, along with the obligatory christenings:
Café Infinity Drinkhacker Blend #13 “Clem Fandango” – A blend of 60% Ethiopia Yirgacheffe and 40% Sumatra Aceh. The struggle to get the balance correct lasted over three attempts: the Sumatra ran too much interference at a higher percentage and dominated. Once settled, this simple formula was full of nutty and malt notes on the front, with chocolate and vanilla notes in the middle and a surprisingly floral finish. It would have been ideal during the winter/holiday months.
Café Infinity Drinkhacker Blend #22 “Glamour Profession” – A blend of 45% Honduras Macala, 50% Papa New Guinea Nebilier, and 5% Mexico Oaxaca. Possibly my favorite of all attempts, successful or otherwise. Loads of milk chocolate and toasted almond at first, followed by a fantastic burst of peach and graham cracker in a very lively cup somewhat high in acidity but full of flavor.
The provided equipment, app usability, and coffee quality all score high marks. The assistance and suggestions provided serve as a great springboard to experimentation. However, Café Infinity’s strengths ultimately lead to its prime weakness: leaving the user to experiment with blends at their own risk. Try as hard as they may, all of the suggested serving tips in the world can not minimize error to absolute zero if the user lacks experience and gets creatively excessive. The other remaining minor quarrel is with source transparency: while the app does a good job educating the user on the coffee geography and topography, the producer, cultivar, and process all deserve due credit in the spotlight and a nod to just how much effort and craftsmanship goes into making every batch.
Coffee enthusiasts with Moleskine notebooks filled full of past experiences with blends and beans may not find this to be revelatory. But novices or people ready to take coffee to a new level would find this to be a great platform from which to jump in, get educated, and have a fun time in the process.
A- / $49 (Discovery kit) to $79 (Guru kit) / cafeinfinity.com