The best Kona coffee is grown in the Northern and Southern Kona districts of the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s a rare, ultra premium coffee that’s highly sought after by coffee aficionados all over the world.
Hawaii’s sunny, mild climate combined with its mineral-rich, volcanic soil create the perfect conditions for growing this crisp, aromatic, and sweet tasting Hawaiian coffee.
Best Hawaiian Coffee
It has a more distinct flavor than other types of coffee. It usually contains notes of sweetness and fruitiness like molasses, orange, and blackberry.
If you’ve experimented with lots of different roasts of coffee beans from Arabica to espresso, your tastebuds will probably love pure Kona coffee beans. Emphasis on the word “pure.” It takes an entire coffee tree to produce approximately 2 pounds.
Kona Coffee Companies Comparison Table
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Top 10 Kona Coffee Brands
Although Kona coffee is highly sought after, it can be a challenge to research and find the best ones. The top two qualities it must have include: (1) it’s 100% pure Kona coffee, not a blend, and (2) it’s grown in the Kona region of Hawaii.
Having a high grade using the grading system recognized by the Hawaiian government is a plus. However, making sure your Kona coffee meets these standards isn’t easy. Many coffees on the market contain as little as 10% Kona coffee, but they’re legally allowed to advertise it as Kona.
It’s very misleading and confusing. You may buy a bag of coffee that says it’s Kona but find out later that it’s not 100% pure. In order to ensure you’re getting authentic Kona, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list and reviewed each one.
The criteria we used included: purity, country of origin, and grade. Keep reading until the end. There’s a complete guide to buying and selecting the best Kona brand for your taste preference.
Kona Gold’s awarding-winning coffee is our Best Pick. It’s our top recommendation for anyone who wants the full experience of Hawaiian coffee.
Each bag comes with 16 ounces of medium-dark roast whole Kona coffee beans. Since the beans are whole, it’s ideal for drip, automatic, French press, cold-brew, and pour-over coffee makers.
The flavor of Kona Gold is so unique due to its roasting process. Instead of conventional drum roasting, Kona Gold roasts their coffee beans under the Hawaiin sun. Air-roasting is preferred by many coffee drinkers. It yields a cleaner taste and higher aroma profile.
Kona Gold makes some of the best coffee in Kona, Hawaii. It’s premium and high-grade. Here’s what makes their Kona different. First, they’ve achieved Extra Fancy classification which is the highest grade awarded by the Hawaii Agricultural Society.
They’ve earned this grade by having some of the largest, most blemish-free, and moist Kona beans. Another quality that sets Kona Gold apart is that their Kona is grown in a single estate. This means that all of their coffee beans are grown on the same farm in the Kona region of Hawaii.
- Awarded highest possible designation: Extra fancy grade
- 16-ounce bag is long-lasting
- Strict cultivation process makes for clean-tasting coffee
- Premium price
Hualalai Estate Peaberry is an ultra-premium product. Peaberry is a subset of Kona coffee. It’s even rarer than 100% pure Kona. In fact, only 3-4% of Kona coffee crops are Peaberry. It’s 100% pesticide free and grown on premium estates in Hawaii.
Each bag contains 7 ounces of Peaberry Kona beans. They’re a medium-dark roast.
Peaberry Kona coffee beans look and taste different from both regular Kona and regular coffee beans. What makes Peaberry special is that these particular beans are actually defective.
The beans are smaller since they don’t fully form and split into two halves. They’re football-shaped, dark in color, and yield a more flavorful taste that’s slightly spicy. Peaberry Kona is also lower in caffeine and acidity.
It takes 200 pounds of coffee cherry from multiple coffee trees to make a pound of Hualalai Estate Coffee’s Peaberry. This explains the rarity even further.
Peaberry Kona may not be for everyone because of the lower caffeine content and distinct flavor. If you’re looking for sweet Kona, this one has notes of various spices. We’d also like to see this product offered in a larger size as 7 ounces will get used quickly.
- Pesticide-free for cleaner taste
- Peaberry Kona is more flavorful and rare
- Ultra-premium product at an affordable price
- Only 7 ounces per bag
- Lower caffeine content
- Distinct flavor may not appeal to everyone
Mountain Thunder is a high-quality Kona that’s affordably priced. It’s also long-lasting since you get nearly twice the amount of the average 7-ounce size.
If you’re looking to put your espresso machine to good use, Mountain Thunder Kona Espresso beans are a good choice. Each bag contains 1 pound of Mountain Thunder’s darkest roast of pure Kona coffee. Fortunately, these are pre-ground for you. Espresso beans have been known to clog coffee grinders due to their oiliness.
Of the many Konas we’ve seen, 7 ounces is the smallest size. It’s also the most common. Avid coffee drinkers know how quickly a 7-ounce bag of coffee goes.
Fortunately, Mountain Thunder offers their espresso roast at a whopping 1 pound per bag. It is a longer lasting option while still budget-friendly.
This company takes quality very seriously. All coffee beans are hand-picked and then roasted in small batches. The technique of small-batch roasting ensures quality and consistency in every batch.
Their packaging is another measure they take to ensure quality. First, each bag is flushed with nitrogen and then vacuum sealed for maximum freshness.
Then, the coffee is shipped out within a few days of roasting. Some coffee makers wait weeks or months after roasting, making for coffee that’s noticeably less fresh.
The only drawback may be the lack of versatility due to the coffee beans being ground in advance. Various brewing methods call for a finer or coarser grind size. With these grounds, you have no control over their coarseness.
- Compatible with espresso machines
- Contains 1 pound per bag
- Small-batch roasted for consistency
- No control over coarseness of grounds
- Not as versatile
You should consider Royal Kona if you’re looking for a high-quality coffee that’s budget-friendly. Their Kona is 100% pure and grown on private Hawaiin soil.
Each bag contains 7 ounces of medium roast coffee grounds. Since this Kona is intended for all purposes, it’s one of the most versatile.
Royal Kona makes affordable products, but they don’t slack on quality. Their Private Reserve is the result of growing Hawaiin coffee for more than 50 years.
These coffee grounds are harvested privately in the heart of the Kona Coffee Belt in Hawaii—a region that’s only 1 mile wide and 30 miles long. Royal Kona is also hand-picked to ensure quality.
Their coffee grounds start off as large Kona coffee beans. They are then processed into flavorful, gourmet grounds that are ready to brew.
One bag of Royal Kona makes up to 6 pots of coffee. This may be a drawback for some, as the 7 ounces per bag is the smallest we’ve seen.
- All-purpose grounds are versatile
- Privately harvested for quality
- 7 ounces of coffee grounds per bag
- Only makes up to 6 pots of coffee
- Grounds may be very dry
Kona Coffee & Tea Cultivating Community is an award-winning brand that is certified 100% single-estate. Their coffee beans are shipped in vacuum-sealed bags for maximum freshness. Each bag is made with only the highest quality beans using sustainable harvesting methods.
While pure Kona coffee growers confirm that their coffee is indeed grown in the Kona district, they don’t specify exactly where. Kona Coffee & Tea Cultivating Community is very specific about where their pure Kona is grown: on a family-owned, single-estate farm that’s elevated high in the Hualalai mountains. Their beans thrive in volcanic soil and are sun ripened for a deeper flavor.
Their medium roast bags each contain 14 ounces of whole beans. Since some Kona manufacturers only include 7 ounces per bag, this brand offers a larger size. However, that extra value is reflected in the premium price.
Harvesting Kona beans is no easy task. It’s actually too difficult for machinery because of Hawaii’s rough terrain.
All of these Kona beans are hand-harvested and hand-picked. This technique ensures quality and freshness since everything is done with manual human labor.
Each bag is also roasted to order. While some manufacturers produce Kona in bulk batches, you don’t have to worry about that with these beans.
This coffee has floral and caramel notes and a velvety texture. Its body is darker and bolder than expected. A reservation we have is that this Kona may not be a true medium roast. Drinkers may experience a darker roast than expected.
- Beans are hand-harvested and hand-picked
- Extra fancy and fancy grade
- Roasted to order for maximum freshness
- Roast may not be a true medium
- Flavor may be stronger than expected
- Premium price
The Mark Ferrari 2-pound bag may be a good choice if you want to stock up on your medium-dark roast coffee beans. This company is family-owned with nearly 40 years of coffee making experience.
Each 2-pound bag travels all the way from the Big Island of Hawaii where the Kona coffee district is located. It’s very rare for Kona makers to achieve Extra Fancy grade status, but Mark Ferrari is one of the few brands with this accomplishment.
The freshness of coffee beans can make all the difference in the way the coffee tastes once brewed. So Mark Ferrari Kona utilizes an artisan roasting method.
Each batch is roasted in small amounts to ensure freshness. This practice is common with espresso beans, and we like seeing this method employed with Kona beans as well.
Mark Ferrari is also known for their great-tasting coffee. Each bag has a deep flavor and aroma. They offer their coffee in various flavors, but the regular Kona beans make for a classic cup of authentic Hawaiin coffee.
This isn’t a budget-friendly Kona because of the price point. The price per ounce is slightly more expensive than average.
- Awarded highest possible designation: Extra fancy
- 2-pound bag is long-lasting
- Small batch roasted to ensure freshness
- Premium price
- Beans may be oily
- Produces a dark and bitter tasting coffee
Hualalai Estate Coffee is a trusted brand with high-quality, authentic Kona products. That’s why this decaf Kona is one of our top picks. Their decaf allows people who avoid caffeine to still enjoy the fruity notes of pure Kona.
Each bag contains 7 ounces of naturally decaffeinated coffee beans. They’re a medium-dark roast, which is typical for a Kona coffee.
There are many ways to remove the caffeine content from coffee beans. Some of them involve unhealthy solvents. However, Hualalai uses a much safer and healthier decaffeination process: the Swiss water method.
It’s chemical-free and leaves the great taste of the coffee beans. Therefore, Hualalai believes their decaf Kona is the best-tasting decaf out there.
Hualalai is different from other coffee makers in how their Kona beans are sourced. The company is located in Hawaii but they don’t farm their own coffee.
Instead, they source the best Kona beans from local farmers. This sourcing process allows them to avoid bad crops, bad seasons, and other factors that may yield less-than-perfect coffee beans.
Although they don’t grow their own coffee beans, Hualalai roasts and packages their own beans in Hawaii.
Sourcing from multiple farms can also be seen as a disadvantage. Many flavor profiles are combined from multi-source beans. It’s really a matter of personal preference though.
- Naturally decaffeinated for people who are sensitive to caffeine
- Coffee beans are free of chemicals through Swiss Water Decaffeination Method
- Pure Kona beans are locally source
- Only 7 ounces per bag
- Beans come from multiple origins
- Decaf may yield different flavor
Domain Kona is the maker of an excellent almost dark roast coffee. This authentic Kona is available in grounds. It’s perfect for automatic coffee makers and other brewing methods that call for coffee grounds. Each bag contains 8 ounces of coffee grounds all from a single origin. This one is almost dark roast.
The flavor of this Kona is what really sets Domain Kona apart. The darker roast is roasted for a long time which creates a rich, bold flavor. It’s especially elegant in flavor because of the Hawaiian origin of the beans.
Kona beans usually contain sweet and fruity notes but Domain Kona is different. You still get those subtle sweet flavors but there’s a noticeable smokiness to these beans. The flavor is also much deeper than other Konas that are lighter in flavor.
Domain Kona is roasted in small batches, picked by hand, and cultivated in Hawaii just like other high-quality Konas. The only drawback is that darker roasted beans tend to be oily in texture which can clog your espresso machine.
- Flavor is deeper and richer than other Kona coffees
- Single-origin coffee has a balanced flavor
- Contains notes of smokiness
- Dark roast beans may be oily
- More bitter tasting than traditional Kona
- Pre-ground makes it less versatile
Hualalai Estate Coffee is a trusted maker of high-quality, pure Kona. Now, they offer their authentic coffee in single-serve cups.
For people who have a Keurig or Keurig alternative, this may be a great option to enjoy Hawaiian coffee without dealing with coffee grounds or beans.
Each box comes with 12 cups of pesticide-free and medium-dark roast coffee. These cups use the same coffee as the Hualalai beans and grounds but in a more convenient format.
Automatic coffee makers that yield single cups of coffee are growing in popularity. Convenience is probably the reason why single-cup brewing systems make for the second most popular coffee-brewing method.
Fortunately, Hualalai’s single-serve cups are compatible with Keurig machines. Therefore, it’s the easiest and fastest way to enjoy Kona without traveling all the way to Hawaii.
The drawback with Hualalai’s single-serve cups is the price. Keurig’s K-cups are already more expensive than grounds and beans. If you add rare Kona coffee to the mix, the price shoots up even more.
- Single-serve cups are convenient
- Pesticide-free, recyclable cups
- Compatible with Keurig brewing systems
- Premium price
- Lack of versatility
- Only includes 12 servings
Kona Java is one of the few Kona makers that has had their coffee graded. This brand received a Fancy grade which is one of the highest designations. Each bag contains 7 ounces of medium roast coffee grounds.
Their Kona is as authentic as it gets. It’s grown on volcanic soil in Hawaii for a truly special and unique taste. With the Kona coffee district booming with new vendors, Kona Java got creative with a way to make themselves stand out.
Hawaii is known for its volcanic activity. Kona Java is using the Hawaiian volcano climate to its advantage. In this tropical microclimate where its beans are grown, the rich soil layered with volcanic ash make for a bolder, richer flavor than other Kona coffees.
From start to finish, Kona Java’s coffee is made with quality and authenticity in mind. They use harvesting and roasting methods that are traditional to their estate. The only drawback may be the 7-ounce bag size if you drink a lot of coffee.
- Awarded Fancy grade designation
- Grown on volcanic soil for unique flavor
- Traditional estate harvesting and roasting methods used
- Contains only 7 ounces
- Ground in advance, so not as versatile
- May contain coffee hulls, which need to be removed
Kona Coffee Buying Guide
Choosing the right Kona coffee isn’t as easy as it seems. There are so many coffees out there that claim to be real Kona. However, when you take a closer look you’ll find that they’re far from the real thing.
This guide will help you distinguish authentic Kona from the imposters. The criteria below will help you determine which one is right for you.
How to Select the Perfect Kona Coffee Online
Enjoying Kona coffee is a must when you’re on the Big Island of Hawaii. Unfortunately, we don’t all live in paradise.
So the most important criteria when selecting a Kona coffee is purity and origin. Pure Kona isn’t blended with other types of coffee and it always hails from Kona, Hawaii.
Other criteria includes the grade, roast profile, and type of Kona coffee. Let’s break this down a little further.
In recent years, coffee lovers have been shocked to find out about the Kona coffee scandal. In a nutshell, coffee makers labeled non-Kona coffees as Kona. The reason being is that Kona is a rare specialty item that can only be grown in one place in the world.
The Kona scandal was exposed several years ago, so lawmakers have since cracked down. Still, coffee that contains between 1% and 10% of Kona can legally be labeled as Kona coffee.
100% Kona Coffee
So how do you tell if Kona is actually pure Kona? You need to look for the phrase “100% Kona coffee.” Coffee makers can’t say their coffee is 100% Kona unless it’s true.
Additionally, you can also check the ingredient list on the packaging. You shouldn’t see any other types of coffee other than Kona on the ingredient list.
Kona Coffee Blend
When coffee has the word “Kona” written on it, it’s automatically a hot item. Coffee makers can get away with using this word on their packaging if there’s a tiny percentage of actual Kona in it.
In Hawaii, coffee must contain at least 10% of Kona coffee in order to be labeled a “Kona blend.“
In other places, however, coffee only has to contain a very small percentage of Kona to use the word “Kona” on their packaging. Most of us don’t live in Hawaii.
So the “Kona coffee” you get from the grocery store may only contain 1% of actual Kona. If that’s the case, you’re likely drinking 99% regular coffee that’s just labeled as Kona.
True Kona coffee comes from the Kona region of Hawaii. Some coffee makers will try to pass their coffee as Kona even though it comes from other cities and even other countries.
You might be wondering why Kona coffee must grow in Kona, Hawaii. The answer is because of the very specific climate in Hawaii. If you’ve ever visited one of the islands of Hawaii, you know that the climate is tropical.
However, there are 8 different climate zones on the Big Island, and they’re not all tropical. Surprisingly, Kona is not a tropical climate.
Kona has what’s called a microclimate. It’s a climate within a climate. The weather in Kona is tropical and semi-arid. Its volcanic, mineral rich soil provides an ideal setting for growing its Kona coffee.
The area where coffee beans are grown ultimately affects the notes and flavors. Kona is known for its sweet, fruity notes and light flavor. The darker roasts aren’t considered to be as rich and bold as other types of coffee such as espresso beans.
Other Hawaiian Cities
Occasionally, you might see a coffee labeled as Kona that comes from other regions in Hawaii. This is because “Hawaiian coffee” is a buzzword that’s associated with Kona. While other coffees grown in Hawaii are delicious in their own ways, they’re not true Kona unless grown in Kona, Hawaii.
If you see a coffee that says “grown in Hawaii,” it’s trying to get some of the attention that authentic Kona gets. Just don’t mistake it for pure Kona even though it’s close.
The top coffee-producing places are in South America, Asia, and Africa. For example, Ethiopia is known for its Arabica beans. Even though other places are capable of producing high-quality coffee, only the Kona district is able to make true Kona coffee.
If you see a “Kona” made in Indonesia or another country, you can trust that it’s not authentic.
Kona can be graded based on the quality, size, and shape of the beans.
The Hawaiian government has even summarized the eight grades of Kona coffee:
From highest to lowest, the eight grades include:
- Extra fancy
- No. 1
- No. 3
- Natural Prime
- Mixed Natural Prime
Generally speaking, grades 1-5 are considered high-quality Kona beans.
While this grading system exists, it’s not commonly used in the Kona marketplace. This is because there isn’t a single organization that regulates or certifies the coffee beans.
Only three Kona brands on our list utilize this grading system. Fortunately, they received either Extra Fancy or Fancy grades.
The highest grade that a Kona coffee can receive is Extra Fancy. This means the Kona beans are large and uniform in size. It also means there aren’t any defective beans, and you can trust they’re high-quality.
Our best pick, Kona Gold, is one of two brands on our list that have achieved this high grade. The other brand is Mark Ferrari Specialty Coffee.
Consistency is important in coffee beans, especially if you use a coffee grinder. Buying from either of these two brands will ensure you get one of the smoothest, most consistent cups of Kona from home.
The second highest grade Kona can receive is Fancy. This grade means the it is slightly less luxurious than Extra Fancy Kona coffee, but it’s still high-quality and premium. These beans may be smaller and less uniform but will still brew a consistent tasting pot of coffee.
One brand on our list, Kona Java, has received a Fancy grade. This is one of the highest quality Konas you can find.
Most likely, you’ll find Kona coffees that are 100% pure and grown in Kona, Hawaii but don’t contain a grade. Does this mean they’re inauthentic or low-quality? No.
As mentioned earlier, most Kona makers don’t utilize this grading system because there’s no regulation of it. If a Kona coffee maker does have a high grade, consider it a plus, but it’s not a requirement.
Different types of coffee have their go-to roast profile. For example, espresso beans are notoriously dark in roast. When it comes to Kona beans, they can range from medium to dark in order to achieve the signature taste.
Medium and Medium-Dark
Medium roast and medium-dark roast are the most common among Kona beans. Kona coffee is usually roasted to a higher degree than a light roast to balance out the light body and sweet, fruity flavor.
Some Kona brands, such as Kona Gold, roast their Kona beans under the sun. This is called air-roasting. This method is believed to infuse the beans with the natural Hawaiian elements—sunlight, crisp air, shadiness, volcanic activity, etc.—to heighten the classic Kona taste.
Dark and Espresso
If you use an espresso machine, then this is the roast profile of Kona for you.
Dark and espresso roasts are less common in Kona coffee than medium roasts but more common than light roasts. It isn’t associated with being bold or rich. However, roasting the beans for longer helps create those properties for people who enjoy the deep flavors of coffee.
The different types of Kona coffee vary based on the format of the coffee. This will also affect the different brewing methods that are compatible with each type of Kona. The two main types are whole bean Kona and Kona grounds. With the popularity of single-serve brewing machines, it has recently become available in single-serve cups.
If you like to grind your own beans, then whole bean Kona may be the right fit for you. The majority of Kona coffee is actually in whole bean form.
The advantage of whole Kona beans is that you can use them in almost any brewing method. Whether you use a pour-over coffee maker or a French press, you can brew Kona coffee using whole beans. Simply grind the beans to the desired coarseness and follow the brewing instructions for your method.
Regular Kona vs. Peaberry Kona
Within the narrow category of Kona coffee exists an even more rare type of coffee: Peaberry Kona. Around 3-4% of Kona beans are defective but in a good way.
Instead of splitting in half, the coffee beans stay intact and take on the shape of an egg or football. Peaberry Kona is considered luxurious and premium because of its rarity and unique flavor.
This type of Kona usually comes in the form of whole beans so users can see the beautiful defect. It is another great option for people who like to grind their own beans while experimenting with a unique type of Kona.
Some Kona coffees are pre-ground, so you can brew them as you would normal coffee grounds. For most, that will be with an automatic coffee pot. Coffee grounds are also compatible with pour-over, French Press, espresso machine, and other brewing methods.
The drawback of buying Kona grounds is that you have no control over the coarseness. For example, espresso machines require extra coarse coffee grounds while pour-over calls for a finer texture.
Some Kona grounds are labeled “all-purpose,” so you can use them with whatever brewing method you prefer.
After pour-over, single-serve is the most common type of coffee brewing method. Fortunately, Kona makers are starting to pack their pure Kona grounds into single-serve cups.
Hualalai Estate Coffee is one maker on our list that has a single-serve option. They’re even compatible with Keurig machines. This is one of the most convenient ways to enjoy Kona.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does Kona coffee taste like?
A: It is known for having notes of molasses and sweet fruits like oranges and berries. It is also light and refreshing. It doesn’t have a very deep flavor like an espresso. Rather, it has a light body.
The microclimate in Kona, Hawaii is responsible for the pleasant flavors and aromas of Kona coffee. The volcanic soil may even give it spicy or nutty notes. If you’ve never tried this coffee before, expect it to feel light in your mouth and have a refreshingly sweet and fruity flavor.
Q: How do you make Kona coffee?
A: You can make it how you would any other type of coffee. It all depends on how you brew your coffee. Most people use pour-over, so you may prefer whole Kona beans or ground Kona. If you use a Keurig machine, try the single-serve options.
Q: What is the difference between regular coffee and Kona coffee?
A: The kind you see in local grocery stores is nothing like authentic Kona. The main difference between the two is the origin. Most coffees are grown in Brazil and Vietnam. The climate and soil, which both affect the flavor of the coffee beans, are very different in these places.
Kona, Hawaii has great weather and rich volcanic soil where the coffee trees are grown. If you’ve ever tried it while visiting Hawaii, you know the flavor is far from bitter. Kona coffee has a naturally pleasant, sweet taste, which is why it’s highly sought after.
Q: What is Peaberry Kona?
A: Peaberry is a type of Kona coffee. It’s the result of defective Kona beans. However, this defect makes for great-tasting coffee. Peaberry Kona beans stay intact, so the flavor is slightly different.
It’s a deeper flavor with notes of spice. If you think Kona coffee is rare, you’ll be surprised to know that Peaberry Kona is even rarer. That explains why Peaberry Kona is considered a luxury.
Almost every adult has tried coffee at some point in their life. However, only a few people have tried authentic Kona coffee. If you’ve bought Kona at the store, there’s a high chance that it wasn’t actually authentic. It is one of the most commonly faked types of coffee out there. The supply is relatively low, but the demand is high.
Kona coffee is a specialty item, so it often comes with a steep price tag. However, it’s worth every penny. If you want to try one of the highest quality Kona coffees, consider Kona Gold. They’re one of the few brands to receive the highest grade that it can receive—Extra Fancy. Plus, the bag contains 16 ounces, which is more than most bags of Kona.
If you’re on a budget, you can still enjoy true Kona thanks to Royal Kona. It’s an affordable option that’s great-tasting, versatile and makes up to 6 pots of Kona coffee.
We hope that after reading our detailed Kona coffee reviews and comprehensive buying guide, you’ll have all the information you need to select a Kona coffee that is right for you.