Coffee aficionados swear that the best Kona coffee is silky-smooth, tasty, and with a heavenly scent that once you taste it, you get enchanted and do not want to try other coffee beans.
But before you rush to order several bags of Kona beans, a word of caution here. Kona coffee is one of the priciest coffee beans worldwide – a fact that motivates scammers to try and dilute the best Kona coffee beans with inferior and cheaper beans or not use any Kona beans at all.
Not to worry, though; we researched and put together the best, genuine Kona coffee brands for you.
So, let’s look at six of the highly reputed, reviewed, and rated Kona Coffee brands produced from the beautiful and fertile Hawaii Island.
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Quick Glance – Our Top 3 Picks for the Best 100% Kona Coffee
Summary: Best Kona Coffee
6 Carefully Picked and Tested Best Kona Coffee Brands
1. Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine
Imagine Kona Coffee is 100% pure Kona Hawaii coffee.
Other coffee brands usually claim to be Kona, when they only constitute 10 percent Kona beans plus 90 percent of other lower grade beans.
Imagine beans are 100% pure Kona coffee and graded extra fancy; the highest classification on the Kona grading scale.
Robust and Sweet Flavor
The beans grow at an altitude of 2220 ft in dark volcanic soils that produce superior quality Arabica beans.
Imagine 100% Kona Coffee is grown on a single estate. Partial shade from Macadamia nut trees produces a one of a kind flavor.
When sipping a cup of Imagine Kona Coffee, expect a robust and sweet flavor with no acidity. It is without a doubt one of the smoothest cups of coffee you’ll ever taste.
Better Tasting Cup o’ Joe
After handpicking and sun drying, Imagine employs the air roasting method to produce medium-roast beans.
This contemporary method of roasting beans placed on a bed of hot air leads to an even and precise roast for a better-tasting cup of Joe.
The resulting medium-roast beans are ideal for a French press, drip coffee machine, and cold brew.
Less than 1% of the world’s coffee is air roasted. This roasting process is super complex and prevents charring or burning. Imagine Kona Coffee earned the AVPA Paris Gold Award of 2018.
2. Kona Gold Rum Co. 100% Kona Coffee Whole Bean
Are you craving the best-tasting Kona coffee whole beans? Kona Gold Rum Co. scores brownie points in this regard.
The brand is renowned for producing pure Kona coffee beans cultivated in volcanic, mineral-rich soil.
A Super Delicious Cup
Each bean undergoes handpicking before being sundried to undergo slow roasting to seal in the rich.
The process ensures a highly aromatic and clean tasting cup of coffee. The medium/dark roast, also known as full city roast, blends crisp, fruity notes with sweet, creamy tones of brown sugar and molasses for a super delicious cup of coffee.
The Kona Gold whole beans coffee emerged the winner of the 2018 AVPA Paris Silver Award. Moreover, it took first place in the 2016 Kona Coffee Cupping Competition under the Kona Crown Competition Division.
The Hawaii Agricultural Society rates the Kona Gold Rum Co. medium/dark roast whole beans as Extra Fancy, the highest grade possible.
In fact, only 10% of the entire Kona coffee produced has this rating, which is usually based on the beans shape, size, defect ratio, and moisture content.
Other than its superior quality, the other element about this coffee that will blow your mind is its versatility. You can use it in drip coffee machines, automatic coffee makers, and pour over coffee machines. Do you enjoy French press or cold brew coffee? You can use these beans for that too.
It’s worth noting that the Kona Gold Rum Co. coffee is a medium to dark roast, which makes the drink strong.
While most coffee connoisseurs love this coffee’s intensity, some users may find it a bit overpowering
3. Volcanica Kona Peaberry Coffee
As a true coffee fan, you can appreciate the aroma of fresh coffee. Most people love Kona Coffee for its strong aroma that certainly stirs the senses.
But, what makes the Kona Peaberry stand out from the rest is its complex aroma.
Heavenly Aroma and Enchanting Flavor
The scent of this coffee can simply be described as heavenly. It’s an enchanting mixture of cherries and orange blossoms. The flavor is that of roasted almonds and chocolate.
Moreover, it’s bright, delicate, and with caramel notes along with a sweet, honey finish.
It’s hard to imagine how this coffee smells and tastes. Brew it to find out for yourself and prepare to be impressed!
Peaberry Coffee’s depth of aroma and appearance is due to its processing method and traditional growing.
The coffee is farmed in mineral rich volcanic soil. After harvesting, it’s French roasted and immediately packed to lock in the freshness.
Being the best Kona coffee you can find on the market, Volcanica Coffee Kona Peaberry is grown organically, no pesticides here folks.
Both whole bean and ground options are available but, we highly recommend going with the whole beans. There’s just nothing like having a grinder to grind your own coffee beans at home. You can literally taste the difference.
It’s ideal to consume this coffee as soon as it’s brewed. If you let it sit you’ll find that it’s quick to develop a bitter taste.
Volcanica Coffee Kona Peaberry is certified by the state of Hawaii and Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade Certified.
Lastly, it’s roasted to order for maximum freshness and backed by a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee.
4. Hawaii Coffee Company Royal Estate Kona Coffee
You know you’re getting quality coffee when you buy from the Hawaii Coffee Company. They’ve been in business since 1969 and are the largest Kona coffee roaster in the world.
If you’re looking for an exceptionally smooth Kona coffee, you won’t go wrong with the Hawaii Coffee Company medium roast. It’s full bodied and delightfully aromatic.
Royal Kona has a bright and fruity taste that you won’t find from other options in our list. It’s the perfect option for pour over coffee.
Superior Quality Beans
The American Academy of Taste judged this coffee superior and it’s the Hawaii Coffee Company’s most popular Kona coffee.
This is 100% pure Kona coffee from Hawaii’s Kona Belt, not a blend and the coffee is selected from the best Kona coffee harvests.
The Private Reserve is sourced from multiple farms, if you prefer your coffee from a single farm you’ll want to go with The Estate.
You can opt to purchase whole beans or an all purpose grind. Optimal freshness is a priority to the Hawaii Coffee Company and this coffee is roasted to order.
5. Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation – Vienna Roast Ground
The Vienna Roast from Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is 100% Kona Coffee and a medium roast.
With its rich and smooth taste it’s no wonder it’s one of the best Kona Coffee options on the market.
The beans go through handpicking and small-batch roasting to ensure they aren’t under roasted or burned. As a result, the coffee drink is fresh and of the highest quality.
Besides, roasting is only done once a buyer has placed an order for this coffee.
The beans are immediately nitrogen flushed, vacuum packed, and sealed within the same factory after roasting.
They’re then shipped within a few days of roasting. This procedure results in a fresh and flavorful cup of coffee.
This coffee’s aroma is rich and impressive. Your tastebuds will find each sip to have the classic bitterness that Kona Coffee is known for followed up by a luxuriously smooth finish.
Of course, some people may find the bitterness a bit overwhelming, as coffee taste typically boils down to a personal preference.
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation Vienna Roast can be enjoyed hot or cold and is perfect for espresso, mocha, macchiatos, lattes, and cappuccinos.
Prime Location and Large Beans
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is located at 3,000 ft elevation on the slopes of Hualalai volcano.
Their beans are known for being the largest in the Kona area. Each bean is hand picked and slow roasted in small batches to ensure uniform roasting and consistent quality.
6. Mark Ferrari Specialty Coffee 100% Kona
100% Kona Coffee from a family owned farm that’s been harvesting and roasting these incredible beans since 1986.
That’s what you’ll experience with Mark Ferrari Specialty Coffee. It’s grown in the Volcanic Slopes of Hawaii’s Big Island and Mark personally roasts each batch.
Taste Unlike Any Other
Being pure Hawaiian Kona Coffee, this coffee isn’t mixed with any other coffee variety, no blends here. It’s coveted as one of the world’s finest coffee because of its unique taste.
You’ll find you taste a nutty, wine like profile as you sip and the chocolate notes in the aroma never disappoint. It’s rich and smooth!
As you sip a cup of this coffee, you will notice its freshness. The beans undergo small batch roasting and that means you receive freshly roasted coffee with a rich flavor sure to stir your senses.
These beans are roasted to a medium level with slight dark notes to develop the full dimension of their flavor.
They’re perfect for a pour-over coffee and drip coffee machines. Fresh, superior quality, and pure Kona.
What Is Kona Coffee?
Kona coffee is the market name for Guatemalan Typica, a variety of Arabica coffee beans originating from the Mount Hualalai slopes and Mauna Loa in the Kona area of the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Kona district where this coffee is grown, harvested, and processed is often called the Kona Coffee Belt. It is a coastline strip that stretches for only 30 miles but produces one of the best world-class coffee beans.
Kona coffee is also known as Kona Typica and is one of the priciest coffees in the world.
The best Kona coffee is grown under special conditions that can only be found in Hawaii. It is almost impossible to mimic the growing conditions in any other part of the world.
What Makes Kona Coffee So Special?
Coffee is grown in many other parts of Hawaii, but Kona coffee stands out because of the unique microclimate in the particular area it grows.
The Kona Belt strip also is endowed with the following:
A healthy, high-yielding coffee tree is best grown in an area with a burst of well-balanced sunshine and shade so that the tree and fruits are not scorched due to excess sun exposure.
The Kona Belt has precisely that kind of balance.
The mornings are sunny, while the afternoons are cool due to the shades that protect the vegetation from the direct, scorching sun.
The area is also 8-9 degrees north of the Equator, creating a moderate tropical climate conducive to high-quality coffee growing.
The area is located about 1000 – 3500 feet above sea level and is on the mountains’ leeward side. These combine to provide the best conditions and an ideal climate for coffee growing in the world.
The volcanic soil in the Mauna Lau and Hualalai slopes is well-drained.
This volcanic soil is especially suitable for farming because it is new, having erupted from the earth’s surface not too long ago.
Therefore, it is rich in minerals and other nutrients like nitrates, phosphates, calcium, and potassium, all essential for plant growth.
The area receives just the right amount of rain that enables the coffee to flourish. Rain is common on the islands, providing the plants with water to survive.
The rain also provides shade against the sun. Together with the mild nights and low winds, the conditions are just perfect for coffee farming.
The beans are able to mature slowly at the optimal pace.
Coffee in other world regions are usually mass-produced and harvested by machines. Kona coffee on the other hand is handpicked and given extra care.
The ripe coffee fruits are chosen from the trees and then carefully handpicked.
Even then, only the best beans make it into the mill or the final product. Kona coffee is free of infestation due to the excellent care the farmers of Hawaii give their coffee trees.
As if this is not enough. The Kona Coffee Council ensures that only the real Kona coffee receives the 100% authentic label. Therefore, it is not easy to mimic Kona coffee; it is not difficult to spot fake ones in the market.
All this care and attention ensure the Kona coffee has a rich, sweet flavor.
What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?
When you roast Kona coffee, it first assumes a sweet, fruity taste and aroma.
The taste will vary depending on the roasting degree or duration, brewing method, and how fresh your beans are.
The best Kona coffee taste is aromatic with a unique flavor with hints of milk chocolate, brown sugar, honey, and bright fruit.
The typical Kona coffee taste is better known as having a crisp, bright and clean taste that leaves a lingering, pleasant aftertaste in your mouth, with traces of citrus and nuts.
It is a combination of the flavor, aroma, and aftertaste that gives Kona coffee its magic, additive, and hard-to-forge taste.
Because the real Kona coffee is not easy to come by, it is therefore expensive. For that reason, unscrupulous traders and companies have learned how to sell Kona blends to unsuspecting buyers.
You need to understand that the Kona blend is different from 100% pure Kona coffee.
If you come across a Kona blend in any store, know that it has only a percentage of Kona coffee, most often only 10% of Kona coffee.
The rest merely is less costly, low quality varieties of coffee beans or just non-descript crap. The taste is, therefore, different from the real Kona coffee.
Worse, some companies do not even bother to use 10% of Kona coffee in the Kona blend, as the strict Hawaiian Coffee Law requires.
That’s why you might as well stay away from all kinds of Kona blends. You should only buy the Kona coffee labeled 100% Pure Kona coffee.
Kona Coffee Grades
To prevent flooding the international market with low-quality or downright fake Kona coffee, Hawaiian laws require that coffee beans be subjected to the most rigorous testing in the world.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDA) gives the appropriate grade for each batch of Kona.
Only the beans that meet the required standards can be sold as authentic Kona coffee.
This helps to protect the farmers who work so hard to produce the authentic Kona beans.
The grading criteria is determined by the following four features of the bean:
· Defects – a bean with a defective shape is downgraded.
· Size – bigger beans are more preferred.
· Moisture Content – more moisture means more richness in flavor.
· Color – beans with uniform colors are considered the best.
Even before they get down to grading the coffee beans based on the above criteria, beans are first classified into two main categories based on the seed:
Type I Beans – each of these seeds is made up of two beans in the coffee cherry.
Type II Beans – the seeds have only one round bean in the cherry. Type II beans are also called peaberries.
Type I Beans
Type I beans generally have five different ratings, which are as follows:
1. Kona Extra Fancy
Kona Extra Fancy is the best Kona beans quality. They are clean, well-balanced coffee beans with a pleasant, spicy, full flavor and bright acidity taste.
Kona Extra Fancy beans are also the largest in size; each bean should not be able to pass through a round hole of 19/64″ in the bean-grading screen.
The moisture content stands at between 9-12% for every bean.
For defects, only 8 complete imperfections are allowed per 300 grams of the beans.
That is to say that only 20% of the crops are accepted. The beans must also have a uniform color after roasting.
Extra Fancy Kona coffee, being super-pure, is the most expensive and rare to come by.
2. Kona Fancy
Kona Fancy grade beans are the second largest, with a size that should not pass the 18/64″ of the bean-grading screen hole.
Only 12 imperfections are allowed for every 300 grams. The beans must have a uniform color, with 9-12% moisture content.
Kona Fancy is second in grading, but it is still a very high quality coffee.
3. Kona Number 1
It is quite confusing that Kona Number 1 should be at grade 3, but then the criteria put it here, and you can’t argue with the law. Again, what’s in a name? Anyway, these beans are medium-sized and should not be able to pass through a 16/64″ of the bean-grading screen hole. Only 18 full imperfections are permitted per 300 grams.
The beans also have to be in uniform green color, having 9-12% moisture content.
4. Kona Select
Kona Select grade is made up of beans of different colors and sizes because color and size requirements are not strictly observed.
These beans are small, with 5% imperfections per 300 grams. However, the moisture content still stands at 9-12%.
5. Kona Prime
This grade is made up of the smallest coffee beans, with up to 20% imperfect beans.
There are two other grades, but they are not classified as Kona coffee.
The first one is the X-3 Grade, which has over 35% of defective beans, though the moisture content still stands at 9-12%. It is also known as Hawaii No. 3.
The other one is the OFF-Grade, which is full of crap; these are beans that do not meet any of the above criteria.
Type II Beans
Also known as peaberries, these beans are smaller in size than the Type I Beans because each seed has only one bean. This is considered a defect or anomaly caused by a genetic mutation, and that’s why they are not in Type I Beans.
Typically, a cherry should have two beans. Peaberries are therefore rare, with only 3-4% of the whole yield ending up as peaberries.
However, these single beans are still able to produce flavor twice their size.
They are also rounder, with a high concentration of nutrients. There are two main categories of Type II Beans:
1. Kona Peaberry Number 1
They are the best of the Type II Beans. The beans should not pass through a 10/64″ of the bean-grading screen hole.
The moisture content stands at 9-12%, while the defects allowed are up to 18 per 300 grams.
2. Kona Peaberry Prime
These beans are smaller because there are no size requirements. The moisture remains at 9-12%, but 25% of defective beans are allowed.
Why Is The Best Kona Coffee So Expensive?
As earlier pointed out, Kona Coffee is quite expensive, and the price can only go up if you insist you have to use the best Kona coffee. The best Kona coffee is mainly made from the Type I Beans that qualify for Extra Fancy grade.
Alternatively, the best Kona coffee can be made from Type II Beans (peaberries) grade 1.
But why is the best Kona coffee so darn expensive:
1. Exclusive Origin
Coffee experts long learned that single-origin coffee tastes much better than blended coffee. Coffee blends are a mixture of coffees from different regions, so the flavor could be quite hard to narrow down.
But then there is the single-origin coffee that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.
A single-origin coffee has a unique taste that no coffee blend can mimic.
Kona coffee is one such single-origin coffee. It cannot be grown anywhere else in the world.
It is therefore unique and rare; this means it is in high demand and there’s a limited supply, so in turn it’s expensive.
Kona coffee originates from the Kona Coffee Belt region of Big Island Hawaii, which is the only United States area where coffee is commercially produced.
Due to the moderated sunshine, shades to protect the plants, regular rainfall, right altitude, well-drained new volcanic soil, ideal climate, and nice elevation, the area produces arguably the best coffee in the world.
2. High Labor Cost
Kona coffee requires intense care and attention for it to retain its high quality. As said, Kona coffee beans are painstakingly chosen and then handpicked.
This calls for intense labor output, considering that one coffee tree alone produces an average of 16 lbs of cherries.
Bear in mind that 1 lb of coffee beans needs about 7.4 pounds of cherries.
The processing of these beans still involves selecting the beans and grading them based on the aforementioned criteria.
In short, the process of growing, caring for, picking, grading, pulping, washing, drying, roasting, etc., are all done manually and so the labor requirements are intensive.
Labor is not cheap in Hawaii; the minimum wage is not as low as in other regions.
In fact, the cost of picking coffee in this particular region is 20 times higher than anywhere else outside Kona Coffee Belt.
All these costs are eventually pushed to the consumer, so it is no wonder that the Kona coffee is expensive.
Because Kona coffee is grown exclusively in one little corner of the world, its availability at any given moment cannot meet the demand.
Remember that Kona coffee makes up only 1% of the world’s coffee production.
The resources and production scale are limited, so the demand pushes the price up. In other words, if other world regions were able to produce coffees that tasted exactly like Kona coffee, there would be enough supply in the market to meet the demand. Hence, the price would come down.
One way traders have tried to meet the Kona coffee demand is to develop a Kona blend, which only has 10% Kona coffee, so it is not authentic. It’s just not the same nor does it come close to tasting the same.
You have to bear in mind that the ultimate taste of your Kona coffee, like any other coffee, still depends on other factors. These factors include the coffee freshness, degree of roasting, brewing machine, type of grinder, and more.
It is important to point this out because one can assume that coffee is going to taste great as long as it is expensive or it’s the best Kona coffee.
Again, the taste is also a personal matter, so continue to explore until you find the right roasting and boiling degrees that create the best Kona coffee for you. Experiment with different methods.
Remember to buy from well-reputed online stores so that you do not end up with fake, low-quality Kona coffee.
As we have found out, the real Kona coffee is not that easy to come by, but our list outlines the top six you can start with. So, go ahead and pick the best Kona coffee from this list, we hope you enjoy every sip!