Best Kona Coffee Brands: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

Reviewed by Urban Bean Coffee Team

on October 20, 2021

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Products Considered

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Hours of Research

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Experts Interviewed

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Customers Consulted

Due to the high price of Kona coffee, many scammers have appeared on the market.

They write "100% Kona coffee" on the packaging but actually sell a blend of Kona and other varieties. In some cases, they sell coffee without any Kona beans for the same high price.

But it is possible to find the best Kona coffee brands.

Before ordering and tasting their beans, we studied information about the companies themselves.

We collected information on how they feel about their business, how they monitor the growing conditions and quality of coffee, and whether their beans have certification or awards confirming the origin.

Every product on our list is 100% Kona. You won't spend money on beans of questionable origin.


OUR TOP PICK

Volcanica Coffee

Volcanica Extra Fancy Kona Coffee

The peculiarity of this variety is that only carefully selected beans come here. This is how premium Kona coffee is made.

Key Features

Highest classification grade
• Low acid content
 Fruity, floral, and sweet caramel flavors


BEST DARK ROAST

Koa Kona Coffee

Koa Coffee Peaberry Kona Dark Roast

If you are a coffee connoisseur who wants only the best, here is best Kona coffee brand, which was featured "Best in America" by Forbes.

Key Features

Perfect for any method of brewing

Full bodied and smooth taste

• Flavors of dark chocolate with citrus fruit 


BEST MEDIUM ROAST

Bean Box Coffee

Bean Box Kona Coffee

Medium-roasted Kona coffee is suitable for all brewing methods but best reveals its flavors and aromas in filter brewers and even drip coffee makers.

Key Features

Perfect for filter brewing methods

Coconut and passion fruit flavors

Balanced and smooth


BEST LIGHT ROAST

Lion Hawaiian Coffee

Hawaii Lion Kona Coffee

The blend of light- and medium- roasted Kona coffee beans make this coffee taste soft with a pronounced sourness.

Key Features

Budget-friendly price

Ideal for French press and cold brew

More acidic and has fruity flavors


BEST SAMPLE BOX

Tri-Pack Kona Coffee

Koa Kona Coffee

These beans were grown on different farms and were also roasted differently, so each bag of coffee will have a unique taste.

Key Features

Ideal for gifting

3 one-pound bags

 Ideal for getting to know Kona coffee


Best Hawaiian Kona Coffee Brands

What is the best Kona coffee brand? Let's take a look at which Hawaiian coffee brands have the best-tasting Kona coffee beans. For convenience, we have included a variety of specifications for each product.

1. Volcanica Kona Extra Fancy — Top Pick

This coffee is an ideal choice for those who want to immerse themselves in the world of premium Kona beans. This product has the highest rating—Extra Fancy—and is also HDOA certified.

Editor's Rating: 9.8

Volcanica Extra Fancy Kona Coffee

Specifications

  • Grade: Extra Fancy (the highest quality)
  • Type of Roast: Medium
  • Flavor profiles: Fruity, floral, and sweet caramel
  • Whole or Ground: Ground and whole-bean available

You can rest assured that these are pure Kona beans. Have doubts? Volcanica provides complete information about its products, right down to the name of the farm where the coffee beans were grown.

The coffee has fruity, floral, and sweet caramel flavors, and it also has a low acidity. Its pH is 5.2, while the pH of regular coffee is 4 (the higher the value, the less acidic the product).

This coffee is great for specialty brewing methods, including AeroPress, Chemex, Hario, and cold brew. With any of these methods, the coffee will reveal its taste most vividly.

The beans are grown on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, which has mineral-rich soils and a unique climate that allows the cultivation of one of the richest and most aromatic coffee varieties.


2. Koa Coffee Peaberry — Best Dark Roast

Want to experience something out of the ordinary? Koa’s Peaberry Coffee has a sophisticated dark chocolate with citrus fruit flavor.

Editor's Rating: 9.7

Koa Coffee Peaberry Kona Dark Roast

Specifications

  • Grade: Peaberry Number 1
  • Type of Roast: Dark
  • Flavor profiles: Dark chocolate with citrus fruit
  • Whole or Ground: Whole-bean coffee

Because the coffee is dark roasted, it will reveal its flavors and aromas very well when brewed in an espresso machine. You will notice flavor notes of dark chocolate and citrus fruit. The peaberry Kona beans also work well with other brewing methods.

To ensure that you get fresh beans, Koa Coffee uses special packaging that has a one-way valve to maintain freshness.


3. Bean Box 100% Kona — Best Medium Roast

Want to get best 100% Kona coffee beans in Hawaii? You are in the right place.

Editor's Rating: 8.7

Bean Box Kona Coffee

Specifications

  • Grade: Fancy
  • Type of Roast: Medium
  • Flavor profiles: Coconut and passion fruit
  • Whole or Ground: Ground and whole-bean available

It's noteworthy that these coffee beans are fully processed in Hawaii. It's harvested, processed, and roasted in Hawaii, so you get the freshest beans.

This Hawaii coffee company sells Kona beans of the highest quality. The coffee has a smooth body with a thick flavor. You can taste sweetness with notes of nuts and spices, as well as the floral aftertaste of jasmine.

Bean Box Paradise Kona coffee is organic. This coffee will please espresso lovers. Both whole beans and ground coffee are available.


4. Lion 100% Kona Coffee — Best Light Roast

Do you like light-roasted coffee beans? You’ll love Hawaii Coffee Company’s Kona coffee Hawaiian gold roast. 

Editor's Rating: 8.3

Hawaii Lion Kona Coffee

Specifications

  • Grade: Kona Number 1
  • Type of Roast: Medium-light
  • Flavor profiles: Floral and rruity
  • Whole or Ground: Whole-bean coffee

This 100% Kona beans product is a blend of light and medium roast Kona coffee beans. This coffee is more acidic and has fruity flavors. 

It is best for brewing in a French press and for cold brew coffee.


5. Koa Coffee Tri-Pack — Best Kona Coffees Samle Box

Just getting to know Kona coffee, or want to give a gift to a coffee lover? Look no further than the Koa Coffee Tri-Pack featured in Forbes’ “Top 10 Coffees of the World.”

Editor's Rating: 9.5

Koa Kona Coffee

Specifications

  • Grade: Only top Kona coffee grades
  • Type of Roast: Medium/medium-dark
  • Flavor profiles: 3 different flavor profiles
  • Whole or Ground: Whole-bean coffee

This set of 3 Kona coffees uses beans from a variety of farms, so each bag of coffee has a different taste. The medium and medium-dark roasts make this tri-pack ideal for any brewing method.

This set was assembled for a reason. Each of the Kona coffees in this pack is popular with consumers.

Each bag weighs 1 pound. This is just enough of each coffee for you to taste them before they lose their freshness.

Overall, Koa's Kona coffee is rich, soft, and aromatic and has a sweet taste. Koa Coffee contains only whole beans, so you can grind your own coffee for optimal freshness.


Buyer's Guide

What is Kona Coffee?

Kona coffee beans are an Arabica variety cultivated on the slopes of the Mauna Loa and Hualālai volcanoes in the North and South Kona districts of Hawaii’s Big Island. Kona coffee beans get their name from the region in which they grow.

The region's environmental characteristics play a large role in the success of Kona coffee cultivation. The area has an ideal climate for delicate trees: sunny mornings, rainy or windy evenings, and cool nights. Plus, the soil on and around the two active volcanoes is porous and mineral-rich. All these factors make it possible to grow great coffee beans.

What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?

Kona coffee is an Arabica variety, so it has a smooth taste with a wide range of flavors. But unlike other types of Arabica, Kona coffee is dominated by sweet or fruity flavors.

Kona coffee's flavor profile can vary depending on the roast, the farm on which the beans were grown, the quality of the beans, and other factors. Some beans have a more berry-like aroma, while others have a distinct vanilla flavor.

Kona's qualities are best manifested with a dark roast—either French or Italian. Medium roasts like Vienna or Full City are also suitable.

Kona coffees have low acidity, so it's gentle on the stomach. This is why we've included Kona coffee in our list of the best low acid coffees.

How to Avoid Buying Fake Kona Coffee

Kona coffee is one of the most expensive varieties in the world. Sometimes, unscrupulous producers dilute Kona beans with cheaper beans or sell other "fake" Kona coffee. To avoid buying fake Kona coffee, you should know these 3 rules:

Avoid Kona blends

Since Kona is a rather expensive variety, blends are common. Only 10% or less of the beans in these Kona blends are true Kona.

Real Kona coffee is sold in bags marked with a “100% Kona Coffee" label.

Buy Kona coffee grown in Hawaii

Look for Hawaiian coffee companies that include both "Hawaii" and "Kona" on their product labels. Better yet, look for brands that talk about the Mauna Loa or Hualālai volcanoes.

Go to a brand's website and see where it gets beans from. The coffee must be produced in the Kona area of the Big Island of Hawaii. If a different location is specified, the coffee isn't Kona.

Kona coffee grading

Each pack of Kona coffee is tested and rated by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). If you're looking for a premium product, look for the HDOA mark on the packaging.

The HDOA's evaluation is based on various criteria: shape, size, rarity, moisture content, and bean deficiencies. Usually, the most delicious beans are large in size.

Kona Arabica is classified by type of bean:

Type I — This coffee has two beans per cherry, which is normal. Further grading depends on quality.

  • Kona Extra Fancy — the highest-quality, most expensive beans 
  • Kona Fancy
  • Kona Number 1
  • Kona Select
  • Kona Prime

Type II — This is also Kona coffee, but it has only one bean per cherry instead of two. The bean is round in shape and is called a peaberry. This coffee will taste different from coffee made with Type I Kona beans, but it is still high quality and has its own sub-grades:

  • Peaberry Number 1 
  • Peaberry Prime

Number 3 or Triple X — This is the lowest grade of coffee and can't even be called Kona coffee. It's sold as "Hawaiian coffee" instead. Up to 35% of beans in Number 3 coffee can have defects. If you're looking for Kona coffee, avoid this category. [1]

This classification system can be a little confusing, but don't worry. We've already compiled a list of the best high-grade Kona coffees.

Why Is 100% Kona Coffee So Expensive?

Kona coffee has a unique, delicious taste due to the area in which it's grown. This area affects not just taste, but also price.

Kona is grown in the United States, where the cost of labor is higher than in other coffee-producing countries. While a farm worker in Colombia might earn just $4 per day, a coffee picker in the US could earn $10 per hour. [2]

Plus, the distance between Hawaii and the US mainland adds logistical challenges that increase the price.

But because Kona is real American coffee, it's worth buying—not just because of its unique taste but also to support local farmers and help develop the United States' economy and coffee growing industry.

Kona Coffee History

English sailors brought the first coffee seedlings from Brazil to Hawaii at the beginning of the 19th century.

It is believed that Spaniard Francisco de Paula Marina, an adviser to King Kamehameha I, first planted coffee on the island of Oahu. Then in 1828, American missionary Samuel Ruggles planted coffee trees on the Big Island in the Kona region, where they brought an excellent harvest. It was here that everything turned out to be extremely favorable for coffee growth: rich volcanic soil, special weather conditions and plantation heights above sea level.

Very soon, people began to plant trees all over Kona. So the industrial production of coffee in Hawaii was born, and the best Hawaiian coffee there was called Kona. The high-quality of Hawaiian Kona coffee was first recognized in 1873 at the World Exhibition in Vienna when its seller Henry Nicholas Greenwell was awarded the prize for the excellence of this variety.

Today, Mr. Greenwell’s store in Kealakekua is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and functions as a museum. The descendants of Greenwell continue to grow, process and roast Kona coffee, and also organize excursions to their farms, where they acquaint those who wish with the process of growing coffee, the ways of its processing and roasting.

At the end of the 19th century, German breeder Hermann Weidemann brought a new coffee tree to the Kona region.

This plant, originally related to Guatemalan Arabica, became known as “Kona typical”
(in Hawaiian it is “Melian Koppe” – American coffee) and is now the most cultivated in the Kona area.

In 1899, when world coffee prices fell sharply and it became unprofitable for large plantations to grow beans, they leased small areas of plantations (from 5 to 15 acres) to farmers – this was the origin of the family farm tradition that exists in the Kona region to this day.

Summary

Kona coffee is grown on about 700 farms, so choosing the best brand isn't easy.

Our advice is to buy 100% Kona coffee from the Kona region of Hawaii. Also, don't forget to pay attention to the coffee's grade. The more information you find about the producer and the product, the more likely you are to get high-quality Kona beans.

If you are looking for an easy choice, try Kona coffee from Volcanica. It has the highest grade—Extra Fancy—and is also HDOA certified. The coffee has a sweet flavor with hints of fruits and berries, and it also has a low acidity.

References:

1. Hawaii Coffee Association, GRADING STANDARDS FOR HAWAII GREEN COFFEE, retrieved from https://hawaiicoffeeassoc.org/page-1771566
2. Dan Gentile, USA-Grown Coffee Is Here. But Will Anyone Drink It?, retrieved from https://www.thrillist.com/drink/nation/america-is-growing-coffee-but-will-people-buy-it