Do you LOVE coffee? Does a substandard brew first thing in the morning make you miserable?
Is there something about that aroma of brewing coffee that just gets you excited?
If you love great coffee (and loath lousy coffee), perhaps you’re a bit of a connoisseur. And there are few coffee beans more sought after than the Kona coffee bean – cultivated on the edge of an active volcano, on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, Kona coffee is widely recognized as the champagne of the coffee world.
But it’s not cheap! “Reassuringly expensive” would probably best fit the description. You should expect to pay somewhat more for a superior coffee bean if you seek the perfect brew. And once you’ve found the perfect coffee beans, you’ll want the perfect Grind and Brew machine.
We’ve searched high and low for some of the best Kona coffees available. Read on.
best kona coffee on the market in 2021
1. Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee
The Royal Kona Whole Bean Coffee is 100% pure Kona coffee.
This natural, hand-picked coffee bean product has been dried in the sun and roasted on the farm by Hawaii Roasters’ 3rd generation coffee family. This level of expertise is what you pay for!
The medium roasted bean (often referred to a “full city roast”) is a beautiful chestnut brown, which brews a delicate, mild coffee; low in acidity and rich in nutty, fruity overtones.
The cherries are picked at the peak of their ripeness and sun-dried, which brings out the characteristic silky flavors of the dried bean. After the drying process, the beans are artisan micro-roasted in small batches, ensuring that each batch is roasted to perfection.
The coffee bean is selected from the best of harvests. The taste is complex, with a nutty, slightly fruity background character, and made with the perfect percolator, you’ll enjoy one of the best coffees you’ll ever taste.
- Artisan micro-roasted in small batches, ensuring consistency of the roast
- Whole bean, ensuring longer freshness
- 100% Kona coffee beans
- Featured on Food & Wine Radio Network, and KGO Radio
- A little expensive
2. Kona Coffee Beans by Imagine, 100% Kona bean
This Imagine 100% Kona whole bean has a sweet and robust flavor, without ever being acidic or bitter. This medium-dark roast has a super-smooth, rich flavor, with a substantial caffeine hit. This is gourmet, air-roasted coffee, produced on artisan plantations.
These gourmet coffee beans are graded “Extra Fancy”, which is the highest seal of distinction – only around 10% of Kona coffee receives this rating, so you’re getting something extra-special here.
These coffee beans have been air-roasted, making the ground-bean great for drip, French Press, percolators and cold brew machines. Over 99% of the rest of the world’s coffee beans are drum-roasted, so this air-roasting method is completely artisan, avoiding any burning or charring.
These beans are grown at 2,220ft above sea level to produce the best grade of arabica bean.
- Hand-selected, Extra Fancy beans, grown at 2,220ft above sea level
- Sweet, robust beans produce a super-smooth, rich flavor
- Strong caffeine hit without the overly acidic taste
- Artisan air-roasted
- This brew might not be to everyone’s taste. Some find the smaller beans too smooth, and the air-roast a little too subtle for some. If you want a super-strong coffee, this might not be for you.
3. Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee, Medium roast, whole bean
This Blue Horse coffee has been government inspected and certified as 100% Kona coffee, guaranteed to have been produced by one family plantation, not a combination of various farmers.
The cherries are hand-picked and dried by the sun, and grown in an environment without pesticides and herbicides, making this a great organic alternative.
The re-sealable bag has a ziplock opening, so that the bag remains air-tight, even after opening.
The Blue Horse Kona coffee contains 3% peaberry cherries, which are extremely rare. The other 97% are genuine Kona cherries from the same farm.
Available in both medium roast and dark roast. A dark roast will produce a smoother flavor, although the caffeine content is lower.
The coffee produced from these premium beans is mellow, clean and smooth, with very low acidity, with a beautiful aroma of cherry.
- Smooth coffee with very low acidity.
- Re-sealable bag with a ziplock for continued freshness.
- Sun-dried beans for a super-smooth taste
- Contains 3% Kona peaberry beans which are extremely rare
- Available in both medium- and dark-roast
- Some find the medium-roast too smooth for their taste. The dark-roast ensures a punchier, stronger flavor.
4. Hualalai Estate 100% pure premium Kona Coffee
Hualalai Estate coffee has been grown with no pesticides, making this whole-bean coffee completely organic. This medium-dark roast offers the perfect combination between complexity of flavor and a decent caffeine content.
This smooth coffee has a wonderful, bold flavor, with complex overtones, producing a delicious brew every time.
Hualalai Estate chooses the beans for the uniformity of their size, ensuring that the roasting process is totally consistent. Roasting inconsistently-sized beans present challenges to the roaster. Each bean roasts at different rates – some beans can burn, and some can under-roast. Hualalai Estate ensure that the consistent size provides the best quality roast.
The beans are oily in nature, so you may need to clean your grinder regularly when grinding these beans.
- Completely organic
- Uniformly sized beans, producing a consistent flavor
- Smooth coffee, with a bold, complex flavor
- Slightly oily bean. Can clog up your grinder, so ensure that you clean the burrs thoroughly after each grind.
5. Hualalai Estate 100% pure premium Kona Coffee
Kona Gold Rum Co. has won many awards, including the First Place in the 2016 Kona Crown Cupping Competition. These medium- to dark-roast beans have been rated as Extra Fancy – the highest possible grade – by the Hawaiin Society of Agriculture.
Once picked and processed, the beans are air-dried and sun-roasted on the plantation, which is the most natural way of preparing these superior beans for the best possible, aromatic flavor.
These beans are hand-picked and wet-method processed, giving the coffee a clear, bright flavor. This blend produces sweet, crisp notes of raspberry, apple, and peach; with a complex touch of molasses, clove, brown sugar and melon.
The full city roast produces an aromatic combination of crisp, fruity notes and the creamy shades of molasses and brown sugar, providing one of the most distinctively flavored brews featured in this article.
- Rated Extra Fancy for consistency of size, moisture-content and lack of surface blemishes
- Hand-picked and wet-method processed
- Grown and roasted on the same plantation
- Beautifully complex, smooth, aromatic flavor
- Suitable for drip, French-Press, cold brew and pour-over coffee makers
- Grinds well
- As with all Kona coffee, the price for some is prohibitive – some people expect more than what they get.
6. Volcanica Gourmet Coffee, Peaberry Coffee, Gran Reserve, Whole Bean
This Volcanica Gourmet peaberry bean product is the champagne of Kona coffee, and comes with an appropriately expensive price tag!
The Peaberry bean is considered the most prized coffee bean in the world – a whole bag full of them, therefore, is going to cost you considerably more than your average supermarket coffee.
The flavor is smooth and rich, with a super-low acid content. The aroma is of orange blossom and cherries, highlighting the overtones of chocolate and roasted almonds. Noted for its vibrancy, there are notes of caramel to be found, as well as a delicate sweetness of honey.
These precious beans are medium roasted and were vacuum-packed immediately so that you can get the best flavor and aroma possible.
This particular coffee was rated in the Top 10 Coffee chart by Food and Wine Magazine.
Volcanica Coffee is proud to support the Fair Trade movement, and pay their coffee suppliers a fair wage for all produce.
- 100% hand-selected peaberry cherries
- Complex flavors of chocolate, roasted almonds, caramel and honey
- Aromas of orange blossom and cherry
- Medium-roasted and immediately vacuum-packed for freshness
- Considered to be the champagne of the coffee bean world
- Fearsomely expensive! But you get an amazing quality coffee.
A buyer’s guide
When you’re buying your coffee, consider how quickly it’s going to be consumed. If you go through a pack of coffee in no time, then ground coffee will be fine.
Ground coffee is usually vacuum packed, but as soon as the seal is broken, it starts to degrade. But when you’re looking at real gourmet coffees, it’s almost sacrilege to buy pre-ground.
Whole coffee beans stay fresher for longer than pre-ground coffee. However, they need to be stored in an air-tight container to keep them as fresh as possible, as they will degrade over time as well.
Most products are cheaper to buy if you purchase in bulk, and that’s certainly true with coffee. However, do you really want to buy five bags of incredibly expensive coffee that are going to sit in the cupboard for a year before you get round to opening them?
The coffee bean actually grows as a fruit on the tree – the fruit is referred to as a “cherry”. The cherries are picked and roasted, which, in effect, transforms them from the red fruit into the distinctive coffee bean that we all recognize.
The peaberry Kona bean is the world’s most sought-after coffee bean. Peaberries are hand-selected from the crop and are differentiated by their perfectly round shape, bearing no blemishes.
They usually constitute just 5% of the overall crop and arguably produce the best-tasting coffee, but come at a super-premium price. Peaberries are considered “the champagne” of the coffee world.
What is Kona Coffee?
Kona coffee is cultivated on the Hawaiian slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Lopa, situated on the Big Island of Hawaii. The only coffee officially allowed to use the name “Kona” is grown in the North and South Districts of the island.
The Kona coffee belt is a small piece of land on the edge of an active volcano – just 40 square miles. The bean on the tree is little – it takes 8 pounds of fruit to create 1 pound of beans. A tree produces around 15-16 pounds of fruit per year, with an overall yield of just 2 pounds of coffee beans per tree.
This makes Kona coffee amongst the most expensive coffees in the world, at roughly $15-21 per pound of roasted Kona beans.
This high price has developed a market for Kona coffee blends – according to license, a Kona blend must contain at least 10% genuine Kona coffee beans.
Kona coffee is the “arabica” species of coffee, as opposed to “Robusta”. Robusta coffee has a higher caffeine content than arabica, but with that comes a more bitter taste. Arabica beans contain up to 60% more lipids and sugar than robusta, producing a smoother brew.
So, which is the best Kona coffee?
Chances are, if you’ve searched for the best Kona coffee, you’re not shy of spending a couple of dollars on a packet of coffee. However, I’m going to break the choice into two – the best Kona coffee, and the best “affordable” Kona coffee.
If you’re a true fan of coffee, you might consider roasting your own beans to get the flavors just right. However, with Kona coffee, it might be worth leaving it to the experts!
The best Kona coffee, without a shadow of a doubt, is the Volcanica Gourmet Coffee, Peaberry Coffee, Gran Reserve, Whole Bean. Once you’ve tasted the best, you’ll find it very difficult to go back to your standard coffee bean. This superlative brew may well ruin your enjoyment of other coffees, which are bound to pale into insignificance beside it, but the Volcanica Gourmet has to be the best.
With the smooth flavors of chocolate, roasted almonds, caramel and honey, there’s little about this coffee that you’re not going to love. The biggest dilemma is how you’re going to afford it!
We think that the best “affordable” Kona coffee is Hualalai Estate 100% pure premium Kona Coffee. Although it’s still expensive in comparison with most supermarket coffees, we felt that it represented the best value for organic Kona coffee, producing a marvelously smooth coffee, that’s super-low in acidity.