4 Best Kona Coffee Beans - 100% Kona Coffee

It’s no secret that Kona coffee beans are expensive. The best coffee Hawaii has to offer is grown in a micro-climate that is extremely ideal for coffee growth, but is it really worth such a high price tag?

You can skip to our best Kona coffees if you just want some ideas!

Let me lay out a scenario for you. You purchase two bottles of wine for a friend. One bottle is a decent mid-range dinner wine and the other is an expensive, top of the line bottle. If the person is not a wine lover, they probably aren’t going think that the expensive bottle is 10 times better than the cheap bottle, nor will they think the drastically increased price is worth paying.

The same can be said for coffee lovers and Kona coffee beans. For those of us with a passion for coffee, it doesn’t get any better than this. For the casual coffee drinker that can take it or leave it, it’s probably not worth the price. Let’s be clear, most of us aren’t drinking a 100 percent Kona coffee as a daily coffee, this is extravagant, special occasion stuff.

In the same way that you might bring out a pricey bottle of wine at a fancy dinner party, you may decide to treat yourself every once in a while! In the end, you really need to try it yourself and decide if you think it’s worth it. I personally don’t purchase it all the time because of the price, but I am always thrilled to receive it as a gift! (It’s become the go-to Christmas and birthday gift for several of my relatives... no complaints).

Here's a quick summary of our picks for the best Kona coffee beans!

The Coffee

Available As...

Kona Estate Coffee

Hawaiian Kona Estate Coffee

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, with floral, cocoa, nutty & herbaceous notes

Extra Fancy Kona

Volcanica Hawaiian Kona Coffee

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, notes of wine, nuts & cinnamon

Gold 100% Kona

100 percent Kona coffee Hawaiian Gold 100 Kona Coffee

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, notes of fruit, brown sugar & cream

Peaberry Kona

Peaberry Kona Coffee Hawaiian Peaberry Kona Coffee Whole Bean

Roast: Medium-Dark

Taste: Rich, notes of chocolate, nuts, spice & earth

Where is Kona coffee grown? The Kona Coast!

The Hawaiian coffee region where the famous beans come from is a micro-climate located on the western coast of the island. Only coffee that is grown in this region can be called Kona coffee. This region puts forth optimal coffee growing conditions year round. The typical day consists of an ideal balance between sun and rain, and remains quite warm even overnight. 

Kona coffee beans are grown at a high altitude, on volcanic slopes that provide consistently nutrient rich soil. Kona coffee farms are also highly regarded, as they tend to be independently owned and well taken care of. 

The combination of excellent growing conditions and the special care taken on Kona coffee farms result in some some truly remarkable beans.

Hawaii Kona Beaches

Kona beaches and Kona coffee... the dream.

Kona coffee blends and grading... go for 100% Kona coffee!

There are a few things that you should keep an eye on when it comes to picking a Kona coffee to try. If you dig a little deeper than the initial sales pitch, you’ll find that a lot of Kona coffee brands are actually not pure Kona coffee. Many are blends that contain a relatively small percentage of Kona beans. 

There is nothing inherently bad about these blends, but for what you’re getting, the price can often be inflated. The best Kona coffee brands are 100 percent Kona coffee.

Another thing to be aware of is the coffee grading system used in Hawaii. Hawaiian coffee beans are graded based on their size and shape. If you’re going to splash out for some Kona beans, we recommend going all out and getting Extra Fancy beans, the highest grade.

One exception to the Extra Fancy classification is that of peaberry Kona coffee. Peaberries are naturally smaller and therefore not graded as extra fancy. The concentrated nature of peaberries themselves make for very worthwhile cup of Kona as well. More on peaberry coffee.

Hawaiian Kona Coffee Taste Profile

So what does Kona coffee taste like? The truth is that Kona coffee taste profiles have a decent amount of variety to them. That being said, you can expect your Kona coffee to have at least a few of the following characteristic;

  • Clean, smooth & often syrupy body
  • Intense flora, fruity or spicy aroma

  • Rich, with notes of brown sugar, chocolate, nuts, fruit & spices

  • Balanced, mellow acidity
  • A nice sustained finished with hints of chocolate or spice

Kona Coffee History

The history of coffee in Kona, Hawaii, is closely tied to the development of the coffee industry in the Hawaiian Islands. Coffee was first introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the early 19th century. The first coffee plants were brought to Hawaii by Reverend Samuel Ruggles, who obtained them from Brazil in 1828. He planted the coffee seedlings in the Kona district on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Kona region, located on the western side of the Big Island, proved to be an ideal location for coffee cultivation. The area's rich volcanic soils, high elevation, ample rainfall, and sunny climate created optimal growing conditions for coffee plants.

The coffee industry in Kona began to take root, and by the mid-19th century, coffee plantations had been established throughout the Kona district. Many of these early coffee farms were small family-owned operations. In the late 19th century, Kona coffee gained recognition for its exceptional quality. The unique combination of environmental factors in the Kona region, including volcanic soil and favorable weather patterns, contributed to the distinctive flavor characteristics of Kona coffee.

Kona coffee production experienced significant growth during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By the early 1900s, Kona coffee was an established and respected coffee origin. However, the coffee industry in Kona faced challenges in the 20th century. In the 1890s, a devastating coffee blight, known as coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), struck the Hawaiian Islands, including the Kona district. This disease severely impacted coffee production and led to the decline of many coffee farms.

In the following decades, Kona coffee production rebounded, and efforts were made to improve coffee quality and expand the market for Kona coffee. The establishment of the Kona Coffee Belt in the 20th century helped protect and promote the Kona coffee brand.

Today, Kona coffee continues to be a prestigious and sought-after coffee worldwide. The region's small-scale, family-owned farms and sustainable practices contribute to the reputation of Kona coffee as a premium specialty coffee.

Kona coffee is carefully hand-picked, processed, and sun-dried on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano. The unique combination of factors, known as the "Kona typica" profile, results in the coffee's characteristic flavor and aroma.

To protect the integrity of Kona coffee, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture established stringent labeling laws to ensure that coffee labeled as "Kona" contains a minimum percentage of Kona-grown coffee beans.

Coffee tourism has also become popular in Kona, with visitors having the opportunity to tour coffee farms, witness the coffee production process, and enjoy the authentic flavors of Kona coffee.

Kona coffee remains an important part of Hawaii's agricultural heritage and continues to be a symbol of excellence in the world of specialty coffee.

Looking for the best Kona coffee? 

Worried about picking the wrong Kona coffee beans? Here are our picks for the 4 best Kona coffee beans, all of which are 100% pure. We feel that these options are well worth the price tag. Enjoy! You can click View Profile to see a detailed look at each coffee!

1. Hawaiian Kona Estate Coffee

Roasted By: Koa Coffee

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, with floral, cocoa, nutty & herbaceous notes

These single origin beans come from the community of Captain Cook, located in South Kona, Hawaii. This coffee is silky smooth, with rich notes of herbs, nuts & chocolate on display. A vibrant, yet balanced acidity adds a layer of complexity to the cup without comprising that signature smooth, mellow taste that is expected of Kona coffee. Assuming you want the real deal and not a 10% Kona blend, Koa's Kona estate coffee is one your best options!

Not available as single serve

2. Extra Fancy Kona Coffee

Roasted By: Volcanica Coffee

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, notes of wine, nuts & cinnamon

Extra fancy Kona coffee is about as good as it gets! This coffee features prominent wine notes, as well as complimentary notes of cinnamon & nuts. A mellow, balanced acidity is nicely balanced and contributes a layer of complexity to this cup. The hints of spice stick around in the form of a sustained aftertaste. We tend to trust Volcanica when it comes to highly specialized coffees, so far they have done us no wrong!

Not available as single serve

3. Gold 100% Kona Coffee

Roasted By: Kona Gold Rum Co.

Roast: Medium

Taste: Rich, notes of fruit, brown sugar & cream

It's important to make sure your Kona coffee is 100% and not a blend. Don't worry, all three of our recommendations are legitimate! This coffee is very rich and has delicious brown sugar notes to it. Cream & fruity notes are also balanced in this  tasty profile. As expected, a nice mellow acidity contributes without overwhelming. This one is well worth the steep price tag!

Not available as ground coffee

Not available as single serve

4. Peaberry Kona Coffee

Roasted By: Hualālai Estate Coffee

Roast: Medium-Dark

Taste: Rich, notes of chocolate, nuts, spice & earth

Last but definitely not least, we have a peaberry Kona coffee. If you're a peaberry fanatic, it really doesn't get any better than this. Everything you expect from Kona coffee is presented in concentrated peaberry style. These beans have a fantastic spicy aroma. A wide variety of flavor notes including nuts, chocolate, spices & some earthy character are on display. As always, a mellow acidity sits in the background. A spicy chocolate aftertaste remains after the cup is complete, making a second cup almost a necessity. Worth. Every. Penny.

Not available as single serve

That's a wrap! What is your favorite Kona coffee? Let us know, we're always happy to hear about these delightful beans!

Have a coffee question? We may have the answer. Ask away!

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