Best Kona Coffee Directly From Hawaii

best kona coffee

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Greetings, coffee aficionados! In this article, I’ve delved into the realm of Kona coffee beans, sporting my favorite Hawaiian shirt and sipping oversized cocktails for an entire week whilst sampling the best Hawaiian coffee.

For those who adore coffee but haven’t yet savored the joys of Kona, get ready for a delectable treat! Kona coffee possesses a distinct charm that sets it apart from the rest, and I’m here to guide you through its exceptional qualities.

After a week of dedicated tasting and research, I’ll also share my top recommendations and the best places to acquire authentic 100% Kona coffee beans if you want to give it a try for yourself.

Let’s dive in!

What Makes Kona Coffee Special

First things first, what exactly is Kona coffee? Well, it’s a type of coffee that’s grown exclusively in a place called the Kona district in Hawaii, USA.

What makes Kona Coffee stand out is the fantastic weather and soil in this region. You see, Kona has just the right climate and volcanic soil that coffee plants absolutely love. This unique combination gives Kona coffee its smooth and rich flavor, making it a favorite among coffee lovers worldwide.

Kona coffee comes from a type of coffee bean called Arabica, and it grows at elevations ranging from 800 to 2,500 feet above sea level. The coffee plants thrive on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, which provides them with nutrient-rich soil.

The climate in Kona is also perfect for coffee growing, with sunny mornings and cool afternoons, making sure the coffee cherries ripen just right.

To be called “true” Kona coffee, the beans have to be grown on coffee farms in a specific part of the Kona district, as required by the law. They also get graded based on their size, shape, color, and the quality of the roast. Kona coffee is known as a premium coffee, meaning it’s top-notch and has a higher price tag.

You can find it in specialty coffee shops and online, where it’s considered a luxury treat for coffee aficionados.

Best Kona Coffee Chosen By Mark Morphew

Now, let’s take a look at some of the best Kona coffee brands you can enjoy at home. All of the below Hawaiian coffee beans have been grown on the big island and are 100% authentic. You won’t get much better than this for home brewing!

Koa Coffee Triple Pack (Grande Domaine, Private Reserve & Estate)


Koa Coffee is a top-notch choice if you’re looking for the real deal. They’ve been in the business since 1997 and have won awards like the CCA Coffee of the Year.

Their triple pack includes three amazing Kona coffees: Grande Domaine, Private Reserve, and Estate.

Grande Domaine comes from century-old coffee shrubs and offers a rich, smooth taste without much bitterness. Private Reserve has even been named “Best in America” by Forbes.

It’s made from handpicked “extra fancy” beans, so it’s incredibly luxurious. Lastly, Estate is a blend that’s perfect if you’re on a budget but still want that genuine Kona coffee flavor.

Volcanica Kona Peaberry Coffee


Volcanica Coffee is known for growing coffee at high altitudes and in volcanic soil. Their Kona coffee beans are graded as “extra fancy,” which means they’re some of the best coffee from that region. 

They’re roasted slowly to a medium level, giving them a mellow and full-bodied flavor. These beans thrive in the Hawaiian microclimate, making them perfect for anyone who loves quality coffee and looking to try authentic Kona for the very first time.

Hawaiian Coffee Company Royal Kona Estate


The Hawaii Coffee Company is a respected brand with a history dating back to 1968.  all of their coffee is grown on farms they own located in the Kona coffee belt.

Their Royal Kona Coffee Estate blend is a firm favorite with coffee lovers. Their pure kona coffee has a clean and bright flavor with fruity notes, perfect for those who enjoy slightly lighter roasts.

KonaRed 100% Kona Coffee


KonaRed is another big island coffee brand that offers 100% certified Kona coffee that’s grown in the rich lava soil of the Kona region.

Each Kona bean is carefully handpicked and then roasted in small batches, resulting in a light-bodied roast coffee with a smooth, rounded flavor. It’s a great choice if you’re trying Kona coffee for the first time.

Blue Horse 100% Kona K-Cups


Blue Horse, is a small Kona-based business dedicated exclusively to Kona coffee from Hawaii. They’re known for offering 100% Kona coffee in K-Cups, a rare find. What’s remarkable is their deep respect for Hawaii, seen in their careful coffee bean cultivation. Blue Horse uses shade-grown, handpicked beans processed sustainably with Hawaiian sun and rainwater.

Online, you’ll find many “Kona K-Cups,” but most are just blends with as little as 10% Kona beans, hardly enough for that authentic Kona taste. Blue Horse, however, uses 100% Kona coffee in their K-Cups, and it’s identical to what’s in their whole bean bags.

Blue Horse stands out with small-batch production for freshness and generously filled K-Cups. When we sipped their coffee, we discovered a natural caramel sweetness, a creamy body, an enticing aroma, and delicate hints of toasted almond and floral vanilla. Surprisingly, no one felt the need to add sugar.

These K-Cups work with all Keurig machines, including the 2.0 models. But if you’re up for a bit more effort, opt for Blue Horse whole coffee beans and brew a fresh cup for a taste that’s absolutely worth it.

The History Of Kona Coffee

The story of Kona coffee goes back to the early 19th century when Chief Boki, the governor of Oahu, brought coffee plants from Brazil to Hawaii.

At first, these plants didn’t do so well because of too much rain and humidity in the Manoa Valley. However, in 1828, Reverend Samuel Ruggles brought coffee plants to the Kona Districts, where the volcanic soil and the perfect climate made them thrive.

By the mid-19th century, Kona coffee was booming. It was even shipped to the mainland United States and Europe. The 20th century brought some challenges like pests and World War II, but Kona coffee made a comeback in the 1950s and 1960s.

Today, strict rules make sure only coffee grown in the Kona Districts can be called Kona coffee. It’s a big part of Hawaii’s culture and economy.

Fact about kona coffee: Kona coffee is one of the most expensive coffee varieties in the world, often fetching prices of $30 or more per pound. Its high price is due to the limited cultivation area, labor-intensive harvesting, and meticulous processing that make it a rare and premium coffee choice.

The Ideal Conditions For Growing Kona Coffee

The place where Kona coffee grows, the Kona district, has an incredible climate and soil:

Climate: Kona’s weather is unique. It has sunny mornings, cloudy afternoons, and gentle nights. The area gets around 60 inches of rain each year, mostly between April and November. The temperature ranges from 60°F to 80°F, averaging around 70°F.

Soil: The soil in Kona comes from volcanoes and is rich in minerals. Coffee plants love it because it’s got just the right pH level (between 4.5 and 6.0). The soil is also full of organic matter, and the coffee plants get regular fertilization. These plants grow on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano, which provides the perfect setting for coffee.

In simple terms, Kona’s climate and soil create the perfect conditions for growing fantastic Kona coffee beans.

The Art Of Making Kona Coffee

Turning coffee cherries into that delicious cup of coffee is quite the process:

Harvesting: Kona coffee cherries are picked by hand from the coffee trees on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano. This happens from August to January when the cherries are perfectly ripe. Only the best cherries are chosen, which ensures the coffee beans taste amazing.

Drying: After the coffee cherries are picked, they’re spread out on drying racks to soak up the sun for a week or two, depending on the weather. They’re turned regularly to make sure they dry evenly. Once they’re fully dry, the outer layers are taken off, leaving only the coffee beans.

Roasting: The final step is roasting the beans to bring out their flavor and aroma. Roasting is a bit tricky because if you do it too long, the beans can turn bitter and burnt. If you don’t roast them long enough, they can be too acidic. Kona coffee is usually roasted to a medium level, taking about 10 to 20 minutes. After roasting, the beans are cooled and packed for sale.

This careful process results in high-quality coffee that people all over the world love.

Grading Kona Coffee: From Extra Fancy To Prime

Kona coffee gets graded based on its bean size, shape, and quality, much like how we grade things at school. The grades range from the best to not-so-best:

  • Kona Extra Fancy: This is the highest grade of Kona coffee. It’s made up of the biggest, most perfect beans. They all look the same, and there are no flaws.
  • Kona Fancy: Slightly smaller than Extra Fancy beans, but they still look good with minor imperfections.
  • Kona Number 1: These beans are a bit smaller than Fancy beans and may have minor flaws, but they’re still pretty great.
  • Kona Select: Made of even smaller beans than Number 1, these might have more flaws, but they’re still decent.
  • Kona Prime: This is the lowest grade of Kona coffee. It’s made of the smallest beans, and they might have more flaws than the others.

It’s important to know that the grading of Kona coffee isn’t controlled by the government, so some coffee producers might use different grading systems or not grade them at all. However, most good Kona coffee producers stick to the grading system I just explained.

Mark Morphew showing a hand full of kona coffee beans

Savoring The Flavor Of Kona Coffee

Now, let’s talk about what’s really exciting: the taste! Kona coffee has a unique flavor profile. It’s not too strong or too weak; it’s just right. Here’s what you can expect:

Flavor: Kona coffee is often described as nutty with hints of chocolate and caramel. It’s not super bitter or super sweet; it’s a perfect balance.

Aroma: The smell of Kona coffee is just as important as the taste. It’s rich and inviting, with a hint of nuttiness and a touch of vanilla and caramel. Smelling the coffee before taking a sip helps you know what flavors to expect.

Tasting Kona coffee is a delightful experience. The first sip gives you an overall idea of the flavor, but as you take more sips, you’ll notice all the subtle flavors that make Kona coffee so special.

Buying The Best Kona Coffee

When you’re ready to buy Kona coffee, remember these important tips to get the best quality for your money:

Price Factors

Kona coffee is known for its high quality and unique taste, which is why it can be more expensive than other types of coffee. The price can vary based on a few things:

  1. Grade: Higher grades like Extra Fancy cost more because they’re top-notch.
  2. Roast: Darker roasts cost more because they take more time and energy to make.
  3. Origin: Coffee grown right in the Kona district is often considered the best and might cost more.
  4. Authenticity Check: Sadly, not all Kona coffee is the real deal, and some sellers might try to trick you with lower-quality coffee. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the real thing:
  5. Look for the Seal: Real Kona coffee has a seal from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture that says it’s 100% Kona coffee.
  6. Check the Label: The label should clearly say “100% Kona coffee.” If it says “Kona blend” or “Kona-style,” it’s not genuine.
  7. Buy from Trustworthy Sellers: Look for sellers who are part of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association or have been certified by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be sure to pick out high-quality, real Kona coffee that’s worth every penny.

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Kona Coffee

Now, let’s talk about how to make that perfect cup of Kona coffee:

Grinding Your Whole Bean

Start by grinding your Kona coffee beans just before you’re ready to brew. This keeps the coffee fresh and flavorful. A burr grinder is your best friend here, as it gives you a consistent grind size. For a regular drip coffee maker, aim for a medium grind. If you’re using a French press, go for a coarse grind, and for espresso, you’ll need a fine grind.

Brewing Methods

Kona coffee offers many ways to brew it, each with its own unique flavor:

Drip Coffee Maker: This is the most common way. Add coffee grounds to the filter, pour water into the machine, and let it do its thing.

French Press: Perfect if you want a rich, full-bodied brew. Put coffee grounds in the press, pour hot water, let it steep for a few minutes, and then press down the plunger.

Pour Over: If you like control, this one’s for you. Add grounds to the filter, pour hot water in a circular motion, and watch it drip into your cup.

Espresso Machine: If you want a strong coffee shot, go for an espresso machine. Add coffee grounds to the portafilter, tamp it down, and attach it to the machine.

Remember, the grind size and brewing method can really change the taste of your Kona coffee. So, don’t be afraid to experiment to find your perfect cup.

A Personal Visit To The Big Island Of Hawaii

Now, let me share a personal story with you. Back in 2012, I had an amazing chance to go on a Kona mountain coffee adventure. I visited the beautiful Greenwell Kona coffee farm plantation in Hawaii.

There, I got to see how the Kona coffee bean is grown up close. Walking among the coffee trees, breathing in the wonderful Hawaiian air, and watching the hardworking farmers in action was an incredible experience.

Mark Morphew Q-Arabica-Grader
Mark Morphew at the Greenwell Kona coffee farm plantation in Hawaii

This journey made me appreciate Kona coffee even more and gave me a special understanding of the care and passion that goes into making these unique beans.

It’s a memory I treasure, and it’s why I’m so excited to tell you all about the magic of Kona coffee today. Seeing the whole process from the farm to your cup at Greenwell Farms has made me really passionate about this fantastic coffee. 


Kona coffee isn’t just any old coffee; it’s a flavorful journey. From the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano to your coffee cup, it’s a story of passion and precision. When you take that smooth, nutty sip of Kona coffee, you’re not just drinking coffee; you’re sipping the essence of Hawaii.

So, go ahead, and start your own Kona coffee adventure, and may every cup bring you closer to the magical flavors of the islands.

Aloha, and happy brewing!

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