- The 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans
- The 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans Reviewed
- Buyers Guide To Choosing The Best Kona Coffee
- What Is Kona Coffee?
- What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?
- Why Is Kona Coffee So Good?
- Is Kona Coffee Worth The Price?
- Kona Industry Scams
- Where Is Kona Coffee Sold?
- Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground
- Kona And The Environment
- The Verdict: Kona Coffee Still Remains One of the Best
Kona coffee has maintained its reputation as one of the highest quality beans available. But the beans often come with a hefty price tag if you want a genuine high-grade bean that is 100% Kona.
We looked at the best Kona coffees available on the market and found the Volcanica Kona Extra Fancy to be the best choice to buy. It represents the best of what Kona coffee can do. It is extremely flavorful with a full-bodied taste, and it’s the highest grade of Kona you can get… but more on that later!
To taste a Kona is to savor a region’s natural environment.
Keep reading for our full reviews and a complete Kona 101 guide for everything you need to know below.
The 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans
Best Quality Kona
|Volcanica Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy|
|Check On Volcanica|
Best Peaberry Kona
|Volcanica Kona Peaberry Coffee|
|Check On Volcanica|
Best Variety Pack
|Koa Coffee Medium Roast Whole Bean Tri-Pack|
|Check On Koa Coffee|
|Koa Coffee Peaberry Whole Bean Medium Roast|
|Check On Koa Coffee|
Best Budget Pick
|Royal Kona Private Reserve Medium Roast|
|Check On Hawaii Coffee Co.|
The 5 Best Kona Coffee Beans Reviewed
We have reviewed the top Kona coffee beans available on the market right now.
You might want to savor the highest possible quality Kona or maybe you’re just getting started and want to try out the widest variety. If you’re on a budget we’ve got you covered too.
Below is a breakdown of the best Kona coffee beans available.
Volcanica Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy
The reason for buying a Kona coffee is to drink a high-quality brew from one of the best coffee regions. It is known for both its priciness and its quality.
It’s hard to be surprised by either when buying a bag of the good stuff. This Volcanica Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy doesn’t disappoint.
The higher price might dissuade some people from buying this item. But after all, this is for those who want a one-of-a-kind drinking experience. These are coffee beans for the connoisseurs, for those who might want to appreciate a moment with a dinner guest or other appreciators.
Volcanica Kona Peaberry Coffee
This isn’t just another premium coffee of the Kona variety. It’s a Peaberry. They are so highly regarded as a coffee that Peaberry beans have earned themselves the reputation of being the “champagne of Kona”. In other words, this Volcanica Kona Peaberry could be called the best of the best.
Food and Wine Magazine rated this as one of their “Top 10 Coffees” in 2006. Peaberry is a very rare bean. Only 5% of any crop will be peaberry and Kona is a rare crop already. It really is another one for the connoisseurs to cherish and enjoy what coffee can do.
Koa Coffee Medium Roast Whole Bean Tri-Pack
- Grande Domaine Kona Coffee - winner of the Kona Coffee Cupping Contest for outstanding quality and balance.
- Koa Private Reserve Kona Coffee - award-winning Kona coffee named by Forbes as being the “Best Coffee In America” in their “50 of America’s Best”.
- Estate Kona - a high elevation, single estate farmed bean. A classic taste of Hawaii.
Perhaps you have heard about Kona beans and you want to try some, but you don’t know what the best Kona coffee brands are. Or maybe you have tried it, liked it, and you want to experience more of the varieties.
In any case, this Koa Coffee Tri-Pack is for those who want to explore what Kona coffee is all about.
The 3 coffees available in this Tri-Pack demonstrate what makes the Kona region so special to coffee growing. These are medium roast coffee beans that come in either 3 8oz sizes or 3 1lb sizes.
Koa has won prestigious awards in the coffee industry and has been praised in numerous media outlets for their quality. They have won the Gevalia Cupping Competition and the PCCA Coffee of the Year. They were also featured in Forbes’ “Top 10 Coffees of the World” article.
Koa Coffee Peaberry Whole Bean Medium Roast
What all of Koa’s complimentary accolades mean is that Koa is one of the best Kona coffee brands out there. They are good at what they do with Kona coffee beans, excellent in fact. It makes sense that their Peaberry should be a success then, with Peaberry’s reputation as the “champagne of Kona”.
Kona is known for its high price, and peaberry even more so. Yet this Koa Peaberry is much cheaper than the industry standard. Premium beans could be more of an option for regular drinking if these prices were the norm.
This is a coffee for someone who wants to drink something between the daily cup and the exceptional.
With the price of this Kona being what it is, it comes as little surprise that Koa often runs out of peaberry beans to fulfill the demand for it. They sometimes have to import other peaberries from private farmers to meet the demand. And even then they still run out.
So grab it while you can!
Royal Kona Private Reserve Medium Roast
As Royal Kona’s most popular coffee, these Kona beans make a good cup of coffee for the daily drinker who wants a consistent and regular brew. The fact this is a Kona coffee for everyday consumption doesn’t diminish its quality.
Don’t be put off by the price tag – humble for the respected Kona name. These might not be the best Kona coffee beans available. But, the American Academy of Taste still took the decision to judge it as a “superior” coffee.
What you see is what you get here: a solid cup of Kona coffee that doesn’t break the bank.
Kona coffee beans are revered for their high standard. So to drink a budget Kona which doesn’t reach the upper limits of sensory experience might disappoint when there are other varieties out there. Still, a Kona coffee is a Kona coffee. This is never a bad thing when it’s 100%.
Buyers Guide To Choosing The Best Kona Coffee
What Is Kona Coffee?
Kona coffee beans are Arabica beans that are grown, harvested, and processed in the Kona region of Hawaii. This is a small area of land which spans the hills of Mauna Loa and Hualalai on the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island.
Easy enough to understand, right? Well, things get a little complicated further down the line.
Once the coffee is grown, harvested, processed, and labeled. For the average consumer who sees the word Kona on their bag of coffee beans, that is often not what they actually get.
There are a large amount of Kona coffee industry scams that are actually blended or use the region’s name to capitalize on their reputation. We’ll touch on this more below.
The Growing Process
The Kona region provides the perfect environment for growing distinctive coffee beans. Coffee isn’t available to be grown in most areas of the world due to its specific crop requirements for sun, soil, water, and altitude.
The Kona belt doesn’t just meet these fundamental requirements. It also supplies its own unique fertile conditions which aren’t found anywhere else. The rocky volcanic land is rich in nutrients for the plant to thrive off. It also allows optimal drainage of water when it rains.
The microclimate and diurnal rhythm of each day mean that mornings are bright and sunny. The afternoons are humid and often rainy. Night times are mild with few frost cycles throughout the year.
The way in which Kona coffee is cultivated and processed might seem laborious and time-consuming especially compared to today’s modern and optimized methods.
The method of cultivation is due in part to staying loyal to tradition and partly because of necessity.
The cherries are picked from late August to late January. Only the red ripe cherry is brought in to be processed to ensure the coffee beans are harvested at their peak maturity. This is a very intensive and “hands-on” approach for the coffee farmer.
A typical farmer will spend most of their time during this period handpicking the plants and return to harvest the same plant several times throughout the season.
The Processing Of Kona
Almost all Kona coffee is processed through the same methods of washing and sun drying. The washed process means the Kona beans are sent to a processing mill once they are harvested.
The beans are then separated from their cherries – the outer layer of the fruit. They will still be covered in their mucilage and parchment at this point.
The Kona beans are then fermented in a tank for up to 36 hours until the mucilage can be washed off. After this, the clean Kona beans which are still inside their parchment layer are taken to be dried in the sun.
The beans are placed on a special drying rack. These drying racks are known natively as a hoshidana. They have their own rolling rooftops to cover the beans from any frequent bursts of rain.
This washed process creates a more acidic coffee. It also helps create a consistent and clear flavor profile.
What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?
When it comes to taste it can be impacted by a number of factors:
- Growing conditions (soil type, altitude, rain pattern, humidity)
- Processing method (washed or natural)
- The roast
- How you decide to brew it
The Hawaiian climate has rich volcanic soil which favorably impacts the taste of the beans.
A typical Kona coffee bean can be expected to have undergone a washed process as stated earlier. This means it will be higher in acidity and offer a consistent clarity of flavor. Most also tend to undergo a medium roasting method. This allows the Kona coffee bean to reveal a medium body and a rounded flavor profile.
There are many flavor profiles you can expect to find with a typical Kona. Some are caramel, honey, chocolate, floral, citrus, wine, fruit, nuts, among others.
Why Is Kona Coffee So Good?
Kona has stood the test of time as a name within the coffee industry. Few varieties have reputations like Hawaiian coffee Kona. This is due to the unique qualities it bestows as a crop and the climate in which it’s produced.
Its rarity and the limited produce available are also what makes Kona so distinctive and coveted to this day.
The history of coffee has been a long and fruitful one.
Kona coffee has had a longstanding reputation since the 19th Century. At the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873, it was awarded for its excellence and its stature hasn’t faded since.
The famous novelist Mark Twain once wrote, “I think the Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other.” Many would agree with him and still do.
And here we are a century later, still singing its praises.
Is Kona Coffee Worth The Price?
Kona beans are produced in a unique environment with limited land available to produce them. The centuries-old reputation has never faded. The economics of supply and demand dictate that Kona will never be cheap to purchase. But for those who want a great coffee to savor, it is very much worth it.
Is rare champagne worth it, or an aged bottle of small-batch whiskey? Or a cigar? Yes, given the right occasion, but perhaps not when rushing out of the house before work every day.
Kona Industry Scams
I mentioned earlier that things get a little complicated when it comes to Kona and the consumer market. There came a slew of corporate interest around Kona coffee brands due to its popularity. Many companies wished to turn a lazy profit by exploiting its good name and reputation.
Avoid Blends At All Cost
The only Kona worth drinking is 100% Kona. A company can give itself the coveted legal title of Kona if only 10% of the blend contains Kona coffee. This may make for shocking reading. In the eyes of many, this feels like a scam.
You might buy a Kona coffee blend at what may seem like a discount price, but which is in fact only 10% of what you wanted.
The Hawaii State Legislature put forward a bill not long ago to try and combat this. The Kona Coffee Farmers Association was also fed up. They represent over 600 farms and sued multiple large retailers in 2019.
Something worth doing is worth doing right. So do yourself a favor: only buy 100% Kona.
Avoid Beans That Aren’t From The Kona Region
Not all Hawaii coffee is Kona.
Only beans from the small Kona region on the Big Island are. Even if a coffee company is from Hawaii and markets itself to suggest that it’s Kona, it isn’t.
Always read the label with care and check the coffee has been produced on the Kona coffee belt itself.
Check The Kona Grades To Avoid Confusion
The Kona industry can seem a little complex with how they grade their beans. From highest to lowest grading, the types of Kona are:
- Kona Peaberry
- Kona Extra Fancy
- Kona Fancy
- Kona Number 1
- Kona Select
- Kona Prime
What this means is that Kona Number 1 is in fact a Kona of the 3rd highest standard!
This tiered system has been a way for the Kona industry to certify its coffee but without denigrating its lower standards either. This system has caused some unnecessary confusion for consumers.
Don’t worry though we do a deeper dive into what separates them below!
The Kona Grades Explained
Let’s break these grades down even further as it plays an important role in the industry.
The Hawaiian agricultural industry knows how important and successful the Kona coffee trade is to them. They also know how many disingenuous companies are trying to market themselves on the back of their reputation.
The Hawaiian Department of Agriculture created the Kona grading system. It was conceived as a way of protecting Kona’s authenticity. The classifications take into account the beans’ size, shape, moisture content, and the number of defects.
- Bigger size = better bean
- Higher moisture content = more flavor.
A typical coffee fruit contains two beans within its cherry, which is why a coffee bean looks like it has been cut in half. But a Peaberry coffee bean contains only a single small and rounded bean. Only between 2% and 5% of a crop yield will ever be Peaberry.
A very rare coffee indeed.
Peaberry Kona comes with two grades:
- Peaberry Number 1 – The very best of the best, similar to Kona Extra Fancy with regards to its specifications. A 9-12% moisture is required and 18 imperfections per 300g.
- Peaberry Prime – Smaller than Peaberry Number 1 with a 9-12% moisture content also, but 25% of its beans are allowed to have imperfections.
Kona Extra Fancy
This is the very best Kona available on the market. An excellent coffee. It has a medium body, bright acidity, and clear tasting notes all the way through. There are almost zero classified imperfections allowed for this. This is a rare bean, with only 20% of every crop yield consisting of this variety.
This is another bean of superior quality. The beans are still large with high moisture content. They will have a consistent green color throughout and moisture between 9-12%. They differ from the Extra Fancy grade beans, however. For every 300g of beans that are assessed, 12 imperfections are allowed.
Kona Number 1
The fact this is the third-highest quality bean and yet named number 1 is rather bizarre. Anyway, these are still great beans. They are medium size in comparison. They still have a consistent green color. They must also have a moisture content of 9-12% and 18 imperfections are allowed per 300g of beans.
This grade doesn’t have to adhere to any color or size requirement, which means the beans tend to be rather small. They must still have 9-12% moisture but up to 5% of the beans are allowed to have imperfections.
This grade doesn’t have to adhere to any color or size requirements either. Its beans will also tend to be the smallest of the lot. The key difference here compared to Kona Select is that up to 20% of imperfections are allowed with this one.
Where Is Kona Coffee Sold?
Kona coffee is available to buy in shops in Hawaii, the US mainland, and the Asia/Pacific region. The best Kona coffee can be purchased all throughout the world online as well.
Producers like Volcanica and Koa sell it online and they also offer a repeat subscription service.
Whole Bean vs Pre-Ground
We would recommend you purchase your coffee whole bean and grind it yourself. If you don’t have a grinder, you can take it to a coffee shop and they’ll be happy to grind your beans for you according to your brewing method.
Kona travels a long way as well to reach your cup, and whole beans keep better for longer.
Kona And The Environment
Many coffee farms on the Kona coffee belt are committed to sustainable practices. Organic farming benefits not just the environment but their own farms as well. The rich volcanic soil remains protected from pesticides and maintains its fertility.
The rare land has been used for centuries to grow authentic Kona coffee, so it is seen as crucial by the farmers to maintain its unique qualities.
The Verdict: Kona Coffee Still Remains One of the Best
You are buying a special drink to relish when you buy Kona. That is if you make sure you buy the real Kona and not just the Kona name.
With so many Kona industry scams, be sure to avoid blends, false labels, and pick the right grades – we recommend extra fancy or peaberry.
We suggest these Volcanica Extra Fancy beans. These beans demonstrate what Kona has to offer as a premium coffee. You should expect high standards with Kona, and to taste an exceptional part of a unique Hawaiian landscape. Otherwise, it isn’t worth the expense.
If you would like to try an even rarer bean, we would also suggest this Volcanica Peaberry. Buying Kona coffee is like ordering a top-shelf drink at a fancy restaurant. This “Champagne of Kona” is a way of letting yourself indulge with the best Kona coffee.
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