What Is Kona Coffee? All coffees that originate in the very small Kona District of Hawaii are termed pure Kona coffee. The state of Hawaii mandates that only coffee grown in this region can be referred to as 100% Kona coffee.
Have you tried a Hawaiian Kona blend? They can be decent, but a cup of 100% Kona coffee may be the treat you're missing!
In this Kona coffee review and buying guide we will explore how this coffee is grown, what makes it different, and where you can find and buy Kona from the best Hawaiian coffee brands in the USA.
Best Kona Coffee Brands
Kona Coffee Beans
Full / Smooth
Estate, Private Reserve, Grande Domaine
8 oz. or 1lb bags
Premium Kona - Award Winning Coffee by Forbes Magazine
Full / Aromatic
Judged Superior by AAOT
Rich / Smooth
Mild / Vibrant
Mild / Vibrant
Kona Coffee Reviews
Koa Coffee Plantation
Our Top Koa Coffee Pick
The Tri-Pack Kona Sampler has 3 varieties of 100% Kona each with their own unique characteristics.
See below for details on their Grande Domaine, Private Reserve, and Estate coffees.
3 reasons to consider this collection:
- As a gift for a coffee lover
- A way to try new varieties
- Save a few bucks by purchasing together and enjoy pure Hawaiian coffee
The Koa Coffee Plantation has been in business since 1997.
It is owned and operated by the Artuckovich family.
This plantation rests on the Mauna Loa slopes in Hawaii's "Kona coffee belt". The soil here is rich in volcanic ash and produces an equally rich and flavorful coffee.
Other Hawaiian Coffees they offer:
- Peaberry Kona Coffee – This is the very rarest bean of Kona coffees.
- Private Reserve Kona – This tasty coffee is a 100% Kona blend of Peaberry and extra fancy beans.
- Grande Domaine Kona Coffee – These coffee beans come from ancient trees planted over 100 years ago. This coffee is a Vienna roast made from the top 4 grades of Kona Beans.
- Estate Kona Coffee – These are the biggest beans produced on a single estate said to be extra flavorful.
- Swiss Water Decaf Kona – Water washed decaf with all the Kona flavor and no caffeine.
Koa Coffee started out as a very small plantation, but the business quickly grew thanks to the high quality of its 100% pure Kona coffees.
"Forbes magazine has called Koa Coffee the best coffee in America!"
Today Koa Coffees are a worldwide sensation produced with top-of-the-line equipment and carefully vacuum sealed to bring a rich, fresh roasted aroma straight to you.
Koa coffee is all about the smoothness, full flavor high-quality and exquisite balance of these offerings.
Our Top Volcanica Coffee Pick
Volcanica Peaberry coffee from the Gran Reserve comes in a 16 oz. bag.
Peaberry coffee beans are rare and offer a smooth and nutty flavor that's unlike other coffee beans.
They are shade grown which means the beans grow slower and the flavor is enhanced due to higher sugar levels.
As we're often concerned about the coffee farmers wages, Volcanica ensures us that they pay fair trade coffee prices that exceeds their base costs.
The gourmet coffees offered by Volcanica are not blends but pure mountain grown beans, often from a single farmer or family of coffee bean producers.
Their beans are simply grown under the best conditions in Hawaii.
Volcanica also offers extra fancy Hawaiian beans in 16 oz. bags!
Volcanica Coffee offers some varieties in K-Cups and sells their own reusable filter for brewing your favorite coffee in any machine.
Additionally, you can order your Hawaiian coffee either in whole bean, drip grind, espresso grind, or French press.
Volcanica Coffee Company launched in 2005 to provide coffee fans access to high altitude coffee grown in volcanic soil.
These growing conditions offer coffee plants fertile soil, sunny mornings, afternoon rains and temperate nights and result in rich, smooth coffee without a bitter flavor.
This award winning coffee is grown high on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa. Their peaberry coffee offers coffee fans a mild and nutty flavor, and was awarded a top ten ranking by Food and Wine Magazine in 2006.
Hawaii Coffee Company
Our Top Hawaii Coffee Company Pick
If you have been to Hawaii, this Royal Kona coffee will take you back the islands with it's aroma and smooth profile.
While come coffee comes with a certain level of bitterness, this brew may satisfy even the pickiest of drinkers and those who can't tolerate high levels of acidity.
While all of our picks would make great gifts for coffee lovers, this is one you might want to keep for yourself.
This is the largest Kona coffee roaster worldwide, and its coffees are phenomenally popular in stores, restaurants and hotels throughout the islands.
The Hawaii Coffee Company is a well-established producer of two very well known and popular brands:
- Lion Coffee is a traditional brand that began making a name for itself in 1864. It is made using only the very finest of beans, the best roasting methods and packaging that ensures dependable freshness
- Royal Kona Coffee is also a Hawaiian tradition having gotten its start in 1968. Royal Kona Coffee is 100% Kona, and it is the favorite of the finest restaurants and hotels throughout the Hawaiian Islands. It also features a Royal Kona Peaberry coffee.
Out Of The Grey - Greenwell Estate
Greenwell Estate Kona Coffee
Out Of The Grey Coffee offers a delicious collection of the best coffees from all over the world and sells them to order.
Many of their selections are certified organic and can be ground to any preference.
Curiously enough, their Greenwell Estate coffee doesn't give the person placing the order the option to select a particular roast.
We reached out to Out Of The Grey and asked,
“What type of roast does your "Royal Kona Greenwell Estate Coffee" have?”
Java Jack responded,
“Great question. We typically roast this coffee past medium, dark/medium. We feel that this is the real sweet spot for this particular bean. We are however open to roasting it a little bit different if you so desire.”
We're confident that this product has been roasted to the best temperature for optimum flavor of the berry.
This coffee distributor works with small coffee plantations for a unique bean, picked at peak ripeness and roasted to perfection.
If the mild, full flavor of Hawaiian coffee appeals to you, be certain that your Greenwell Estate beans have been handled with the utmost care.
Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine
The Imagine coffee bean by Buddha's Cup has an extra fancy rating; this indicates that this large and fruity bean is of the best quality size, weight and freedom from defect or disease.
These beans are strictly Hawaiian grown; no blending with Arabica beans from other regions to lessen the flavor intensity or quality.
Imagine beans are available only in whole bean, so you will want a good grinder to get the best possible flavor out of these beans.
Buddha's Cup coffee is grown on the big island of Hawaii. Their coffee plants thrive at 2200 feet in lush volcanic soil, sheltered and shaded by macadamia nut trees. While the name "Buddha's Cup" indicates a religious tradition, this coffee plantation is actually named after their son Justin, who weighed in at 11 1/2 pounds at birth.
Imagine Coffee beans are air roasted to maintain a fruity, sweet taste. While some coffee drinkers prefer a dark, and sometimes smoky roasted flavor, this coffee will remind you that coffee beans start out as a berry. The aroma includes a floral scent and the coffee can have a citrus flavor at the finish. This bean can be heavily roasted and not develop a bitter bite.
Hawaii Roasters 100% Kona Coffee
Hawaii Roasters' 100% Kona beans are handpicked and sun dried for optimum freshness.
Once the beans have dried, they're roasted in small batches for a unique and delicious coffee experience.
You will not need to worry about making a coffee purchase of product that's been sitting around for too long; your beans will be freshly roasted!
Pure Kona Coffee is a fragrant, fruity treat. These medium roast beans give you the best of both worlds; the artisanal roasting process produces a rich and flavorful cup of coffee while the 100% Kona beans produce a low-acid coffee most anyone can enjoy.
If digestive problems have cut into your coffee enjoyment, try Kona!
The Hawaii Roasters coffee plantation is located in the Kona Coffee Belt, a two mile by fifteen mile stretch of perfect coffee growing conditions.
The volcanic soil and elevation of this region mean that these coffee plants get exactly the amount of water and airflow that they need to produce delicious, plump coffee berries.
Blue Horse Farm-Fresh 100% Kona Coffee
Blue Horse Coffee is grown without pesticides or herbicides.
The mountainous conditions require that all planting, tending and harvesting be done by hand.
After each harvest, these coffee fruits are washed, sorted and air dried prior to roasting to be certain that the beans sold by Blue Horse are simply the best pick of each harvest.
The Blue Horse Coffee Plantation is located on the Big Island of Hawaii down the slope from the Mauna Loa and the Mauna Kea volcanoes. The old lava deposits from these volcanoes provide coffee growers (and coffee drinkers) an ideal soil for coffee plants.
Coffee beans are berries and the growing conditions in the coffee belt on the Big Island produce a lush fruit with a unique and remarkable flavor.
This coffee is not a Kona Blend or Kona Style; it's truly made only with Kona berries grown in the coffee belt. Your beans, following the careful harvest and selection process, will be roasted in small batches before packaging and shipping to your home.
A medium roast is a great option for pure Kona coffee. This roast is hearty enough to bring out the rich flavor of the coffee without adding a bitter edge. Kona coffee can have a citrus finish, and the combination of dark roast and citrus may be too harsh for some coffee drinkers.
Starbucks Private Reserve Kona Coffee
It boasts a citrusy/floral aroma and a sweet nutty/caramel flavor.
It comes from a well-established plantation situated at a very high altitude on the slopes of Mauna Loa.
This coffee is carefully cultured, gathered and prepared for optimum flavor and freshness. It has a delightful and balanced flavor that I think everyone can appreciate.
You may be able to find a Starbucks near you that offers Kona Private Reserve by the cup. This is a great way to sample it before ordering a bag of coffee beans for home.
Keala's Hawaiian Coffee
Keala's Hawaiian Kona Coffee
The extra fancy Kona coffee offered by Keala's is grown free of chemicals and offers hints of roasted coconut.
This coffee comes in a medium roast Kona coffee and is loaded with a fruity tang, such as is found in the passion fruit.
As the name suggests, Keala's Hawaiian Coffee brand offers coffee products grown all over the islands, not just in the Kona band.
This brand was created by Sean Lee, owner of a Seattle craft roasting coffee house. You can be sure that your Hawaiian coffee is a true artisan product.
Keala's Coffee sells only products made from these types of beans grown on the Hawaiian Islands.
If you enjoy Kona and would like to branch out, consider trying one of the other delicious Hawaiian coffee blends. The rich volcanic soil of the islands lends itself to the coffee plant, so you can be sure that your coffee will have gotten a great start in life.
How Is Kona Coffee Grown?
Coffee was brought to Hawaii by the Rev. Samuel Ruggles in the early 1800s. It took a while for coffee to be recognized as a profitable agricultural crop.
However, by 1899 there were a number of successful coffee plantations on Mount Hualalai and Mauna Loa. Today, Hawaii is home to approximately 500 small (5 acre) coffee plantations.
Kona coffee is especially rich because of the unique soil quality and perfect climate found in the Kona coffee region.
Although, the climate in Hawaii is generally excellent for growing coffee because of its typically cloudy afternoons, the climate in the Kona coffee region is ideal.
This is why Kona coffee is number-one in flavor and balance when compared with other coffee – even the many other fine coffees that hail from different areas in Hawaii.
"Even the best grocery store coffee can't compete with premium Kona coffee! "
In the Kona coffee region, Hawaii, coffee plants are in bloom and are pollinated between February and March.
Coffee berries develop between April and August and are harvested from September through January.
Each coffee tree produces between 20 and 30 pounds of coffee berries.
From September to January, the coffee mills are in operation 24/7. Workers are kept busy testing the berries for color and freshness before sending them to be pulped.
The pulper is a machine that strips the flesh (which will be used as fertilizer) from the berries leaving only the coffee beans. The beans are then fermented, cleaned and dried.
What Makes The Best Hawaiian Coffee?
You really have to taste this coffee to understand its unique quality. You can count on Kona to be smooth, sweet and flavorful with citrus or nutty aftertaste.
Sipping a cup of premium Kona coffee is unlike drinking coffee of any other type because it is simultaneously a relaxing and energizing experience.
Unlike most coffee, when you finish your cup of Kona coffee you will feel rejuvenated rather than jangled!
Pure Kona coffee is distinct other types of coffee; however, you may not know this because adulterated coffees are often sold as Kona coffee. You must read labels carefully to determine where your coffee comes from.
Pure Kona coffee comes from the Hawaiian Islands. Adulterated mixes containing only about 10% Kona coffee come from Brazil or Colombia.
The very best, classic Kona coffees are organically grown and come from mainstream tree varieties such as the Kona Typica.
Additionally, they are carefully prepared and processed to create the perfect balanced and nuanced flavor.
Grading 100% Kona Coffee
Since the 1980s, Kona coffee has been subject to a strict rating system. The reason for this is that toward the end of the 20th century, there were no laws governing the labeling of it. This meant that the name "Kona" could be used on any kind of coffee.
This was very bad for Kona coffee producers because it costs quite a bit more to grow coffee in the Kona region than in other coffee growing areas. Since the grading system has been in place, the market is fairer for both farmers and consumers.
Kona Coffee Grading System:
- Kona Extra Fancy – the very best with impressively superior flavor.
- Kona Fancy – also quite excellent, but made with slightly smaller beans.
- Kona One – usually found mixed with a higher grade to create a 100% Kona Coffee blend.
- Kona Select – may be sold as an affordable 100% Kona or used in a 10% blend (90% filler).
- Kona Prime – may be sold as an affordable 100% Kona or used in a 10% blend (90% filler).
According to Hawaii's Agricultural society, Kona coffees are required to pass inspection and be graded in order to be sold with the "Kona" label.
The beans are classified by a number of criteria including moisture content and size, shape and defects.
Larger beans with higher moisture content are better and more flavorful. Beans with a more uniform shape and fewer defects are preferred.
This grading criteria is only applied to coffee beans coming from the Kona District. Beans from other areas in Hawaii are simply separated by size, which results in uneven flavor extraction.
With these criteria in place, you can count on Kona Extra Fancy beans to be larger, more moist, more flavorful and free of blemishes and defects. All of these qualities make a tremendous difference in the flavor of the finished product.
What Is Kona Peaberry Coffee?
You should also know about Type II Beans. These are Peaberry beans, and they are the very best of the best.
They grow one bean per cherry; whereas, coffee cherries usually contain two coffee beans. This is why most coffee beans have one flat side.
Peaberries are significantly smaller than average coffee beans and are oval in shape.
They have a higher moisture content and far fewer imperfections than even Kona Extra Fancy beans.
These beans are simply produced by nature, and they are very rare. As a matter of fact, only about 3% of Kona coffee beans grown are Peaberries.
These beans roast beautifully and produce coffee that is smooth, full-bodied and has a bit of a bite! It's no wonder that coffee connoisseurs call Kona Peaberry coffee "Kona Champagne".
There is very high demand for Peaberries, but nature cannot be rushed! If you want absolutely top-notch Kona coffee, look for Peaberry beans, and be prepared to pay the price!
How To Buy The Best Kona Coffee
When purchasing Kona coffee, it pays to do your homework. Look into the background and history of the plantations whose products you are considering purchasing.
Farms that are well-established with a solid tradition of producing high-quality, pure Kona coffees are the only ones you can trust if you truly seek genuine Kona flavor.
Be aware that Kona “BLENDS” are usually low-quality mixes with a very low percentage of actual Kona coffee. In Hawaii blends are required to have at least 10% Kona or more.
Of course, when you simply see Kona coffees offered in shops you may very well be tempted to take a chance without doing your homework. This is fine, as long as you are willing to take the risk of getting a coffee that is not pure Kona.
For a safe bet when purchasing Kona coffee, you can always turn to our top picks that offer the finest of Kona coffees available in the USA.
Kona Coffee Plantation Tours
Coffee enthusiasts will be delighted to know that many of the brands offer coffee farm tour packages. Love Big Island mentions that it’s not uncommon to end a tour with a Kona coffee tasting experience.
Kona mountain National Park tours can be arranged as well. However, you will have to sort out your own air travel to Hawaii.
These are excellent ways to discover new tastes and favorites, as well as learn more about the beautiful Kona region. If space permits, you may want to buy Kona straight from the farm and take it with you.
How To Prepare Kona Coffee
You should know that no matter how much effort you put into choosing your coffee, you can ruin it by brewing it incorrectly. When you brew your coffee properly, you bring out all the flavor and nuance of your well chosen beans.
- Buy whole coffee beans & use a coffee grinder when needed
- Use an Aeropress or French press
- Use filtered water
- Do not boil or scald your coffee
- Use a warm mug
- Use natural ingredients ie. no artificial sweeteners
Steps & Directions
1. Grind Your Beans
For the freshest cup, buy whole beans and keep them in the freezer. Only grind them when you are ready to brew them.
2. Use A Press!
When preparing Kona coffee, you can naturally use any coffee preparation method that you personally prefer.
The Aeropress produces a crisp, clean taste.
However, there are a couple of devices that are generally considered best. They are the Aeropress and the French Press.
A French Press produces a heavier and richer flavor because the grounds sit in the water rather than having the water simply flow through them.
You may also use a standard coffee maker with a filter. If you do, be sure to use a natural, bleach free filter or a reusable filter for the best flavor. Your choice between these types of preparation or another favorite method will naturally depend upon your personal preferences.
No matter which method of brewing you choose, you should use a rounded teaspoonful of coffee grounds per four ounce cup. If you drink from larger cups or mugs, go with a slightly rounded tablespoon per mug.
3. Keep It Pure: Filtered Water
Use fresh, filtered water as opposed to bottled water or water straight from the tap. A good filtration pitcher will remove any chemicals and impurities from your tap water, and fresh filtered tap water produces a livelier, fresher taste than bottled water.
4. Control The Temperature
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the brewing method you have chosen very closely, and always be sure to keep an eye on the brewing temperature. Between 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect.
You do not want to boil or scald your coffee. This will ruin it.
While your coffee is brewing, keep your cup or mug in a warm place or fill it with hot water so that it will be pre-heated before you pour your coffee. When you do this, your coffee will stay hotter and more flavorful for a longer period of time.
5. Keep It Natural
You should also be sure to add only natural ingredients to your coffee. You have gone to the trouble of selecting the very best, natural, organically grown Kona coffee. Don't spoil it with artificial sweeteners and non-dairy creamer!
If you're a coffee drinker, you know that preferences in coffee are a particularly personal matter. You also know that coffee flavor and quality can vary widely from one brand to another.
When using the tips in our buying guide we feel certain that you will be able to choose a quality brand on your own.
If we had to choose just one option we would consider Koa Coffee’s Tri-Pack Sampler Collection.
While it might be a great gift idea, it also allows you to explore a variety of Kona coffees without the added costs of purchasing them separately.
Did you enjoy this guide? Our top picks are what we think is the cream of the crop, but you may have a different opinion. Let us know in the comments with your favorite Hawaiian coffee and experiences.
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