Onyx Coffee Lab: Project Echelon Membership - Who is it For?
Onyx Coffee Lab has an exclusive yearly coffee membership called Project Echelon.
In this article, we'll talk about Onyx, explore Echelon, and help you figure out whether this is the coffee membership for you.
My First Experience with Onyx Coffee
One of the earliest coffees I enjoyed within a few months of owning an espresso machine was Onyx Guatemala Finca Isnul.
I got this coffee on a whim after trying some Onyx coffee at Reverent Coffee in Rancho Palos Verdes.
I was struck by the playful, citrus acidity balanced out by the more conventional nuttier notes.
Even early in my coffee journey, I could tell I was tasting coffee from a unique roaster with a penchant for selecting quality, exciting beans.
Since then, I've had a lot of other coffee from other roasters.
I often scroll through the Onyx Coffee Lab website even if I buy their beans less than I'd like to.
There's just so much coffee out there and so many roasters.
I've just been enjoying the variety.
Discovering Onyx Project Echelon
The other day while scrolling through the Keep Roasting Instagram, I spotted a post from Onyx promoting Echelon 2023.
Taken by the shiny gold box in the Instagram post, I immediately ended up on the landing page for Echelon.
In typical Onyx fashion, I was immediately drawn in by the landing page.
Their signature branding with a video background of cherries on coffee plants.
I was greeted with those gold boxes that initially drew me in with the Onyx branding and their tagline, "Never Settle for Good Enough." The marketing at Onyx is top-notch, from their Sprudgie award-winning packaging to their merch to their website.
Anyway, I started reading through the details on their landing page.
"12 Months of the Finest Coffee In the World”
That sounds dope.
Tell me more.
I start skimming the copy.
They discuss competition-winning coffees and extraction guides from the US Brewer's Cup Champion.
This sounds amazing.
It must be $50 a month or something.
I keep reading.
I see stuff about Onyx, including the brewing equipment, as part of the Echelon subscription.
I already have an espresso machine, but this still sounds interesting.
I keep reading.
"The full Echelon Membership is limited to the first twenty-five to sign up within the United States at this time. We are expanding the 2023 program to offer an Echelon coffee only option, and this is limited to the first one-hundred to sign up within the United States."
I'm immediately reminded of sneaker drops, video game console drops, computer parts drops, or any other drops that happen for items that have been in short supply these past few years.
My impressions were that there was no way I could join this subscription.
If it's in my budget, the spots are already claimed, but chances are it's not in my budget.
I keep on scrolling.
At this point, I really want to see the price.
I can't take the suspense.
I'm scrolling past some quality coffee equipment, all Onyx Branded.
This is a bunch of stuff I'd have already if I was making pour-overs daily. The complete kit includes the following:
Third Wave Water mineral supplement
Brew Guides by 2022 US Brewers Cup Champion Elika Liftee
Great! That's like $1000 worth of stuff.
How much more could it be with coffee?
I scroll down a little more, and my life almost ends.
“Initial Full Membership Fee: $2900.”
“Initial Coffee Membership Fee: $1750.”
So, for the price of a Rocket Espresso Mozzafiato espresso machine, I can get some pour-over equipment and 10 ounces of coffee per month for the following year.
I am immediately questioning life.
Who, exactly, is this for?
This is extremely rare, limited, small-lot coffee, so I assume the price is justified.
In fact, Onyx may be the most transparent coffee roaster around.
A quick look at one of their product pages, and you'll learn everything there is to know about a given coffee.
For example, this Gesha coffee out of Panama is $150 for 10 ounces, and the "Onyx Price" is $57.74.
That's about as transparent as it gets.
It is a business, so Onyx should be able to charge whatever they need to continue to be profitable and present new coffee at a high level.
Given Onyx's forwardness with everything they do, their integrity is more intact than many other coffee businesses.
I was still figuring out who Project Echelon was for.
I go back on Instagram to see what other people say because, clearly, I'm missing something.
It's a good mix of (to paraphrase) "Who is this for?", "$145 a bag?" and "This is amazing, and I will be a member someday."
I began to think about who Project Echelon was for.
I came up with ideas about who it's for and not for.
Project Echelon is not for espresso drinkers.
There are many reasons you would skip this as a person who primarily drinks espresso daily.
Considering that the full Project Echelon membership comes with everything you'd need to make a pour-over, this coffee is not intended for making espresso.
This aligns more with a coffee tasting, typically done by steeping coffee grounds, so pour-overs make sense here.
Furthermore, getting about 10 ounces of coffee each time will take a lot of trial and error and wasted coffee.
This coffee is worth its weight in gold.
By the time you get espresso dialed in, you'd have wasted half a bag of some of the rarest coffee on earth.
Project Echelon is for some coffee enthusiasts.
Most coffee enthusiasts who make pour-overs at home have the things they need to brew Project Echelon coffee.
That said, most coffee enthusiasts spend a good amount of money on coffee each month but likely far from the amount that this program requires.
Certainly not in a lump sum.
There's a lot of good coffee in the world at expected coffee enthusiast price points, so it would be hard to justify the amount of coffee you get in an entire year.
Project Echelon's full membership is for the expensive coffee drinker who wants more.
This is an odd one.
You likely already have a pour-over setup if you can justify paying for the full membership.
If this applies to you and you don't have a pour-over setup or want to upgrade, this is for you.
Project Echelon coffee membership is for the high-end coffee drinker who has everything.
This makes a lot more sense.
You want to experience rare coffee.
You already know how to make pour-overs and have your own equipment, and it's in your budget.
Project Echelon isn't for industry insiders.
If you're an industry insider with access to similar coffee and the means to acquire it, or you deal with coffee like this as part of your work, chances are you don't need this type of membership.
Project Echelon is for content creators.
If you make coffee content and you can justify the cost of either subscription, you have guaranteed yourself a year of content if you join the Echelon Full or Coffee Membership.
To top it off, only 100 people experience this as it happens.
You get to make great content about great coffee.
(If only I could justify it for this site.)
Project Echelon is for fans of Onyx Coffee Lab.
If Onyx is your go-to roaster, you try all their new coffee, and you own all their merch, then an Echelon membership is probably for you.
The coffee is excellent, and the packaging is exceptional.
The color palette for their marketing and merchandise is one of the best I've seen.
Echelon is the pinnacle for any hardcore Onyx Coffee fan.
Project Echelon is a fantastic gift.
If you have a couple thousand dollars to burn on the coffee enthusiast in your life, and you got Echelon for them, they'll be blown away by such a gesture.
The year-long coffee membership is an experience in itself.
The full Echelon membership includes equipment they'll use for years.
They'll be thanking you for a long time.
Onyx Coffee Lab: Project Echelon Membership is an enigma.
It's an aspirational coffee membership, like a coffee lover's dream.
To many, having access to rare, once-in-a-lifetime coffee for a whole year is priceless.
But, with the price point and the limited membership slots, it's out of reach or unjustifiable for the average specialty coffee drinker.
Are you already an Onyx Echelon member?
Can you justify becoming an Echelon member? Why or why not?