Best Kona Coffee of 2021: Complete Reviews With Comparisons

Kona coffee is one of the most expensive types of specialty coffee beans growing on the western side of Hawaii.

The microclimate, the porous and mineral-rich volcanic soil, and the utmost care taken by generation after generation of coffee farmers give Kona coffee its unique taste.

If you’re on the hunt for the best Kona coffee, allow us to help you out by narrowing down the options to the best of the best.

Best Kona Coffee Reviews

1. Private Reserve 100% Kona Coffee, Medium Roast

best Kona coffee

This propriety coffee blend of 100% Kona coffee beans is sought-after for its smooth and rich flavor and slightly sweet after-taste.

In fact, these quality coffee beans have been awarded as the “Best in America” by Forbes Magazine.

Product Highlights

These Hawaiian coffee beans are an excellent pick if you love medium-roast coffee.

The secret blend comes from one Kona coffee farm and various coffee grades of medium-roast whole beans.

They carry much more of a balanced flavor and moderate amount of caffeine that’s perfect for making espresso.

Each bag of beans is roasted to perfection to showcase the flavor unique to the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island.

These medium roast Private Reserve Kona coffee beans are available in eight-ounce, one-pound, and two-pound packaging.

What We Like

The Private Reserve Medium Roast Kona Coffee has a very mild, no-acid taste that’s perfect for brewing your morning cup.

Having more body and balanced acidity, it is incredibly sweeter than light roast coffee.

Plus, it has a beautiful harmony of natural coffee flavors that you won’t even find the need to add sugar to your cup of coffee.

What We Don’t Like

If you prefer a more robust coffee flavor, the Private Reserve Kona coffee made with medium roast gourmet beans might be a bit tame for you.

Pros:

  • Very smooth
  • No-acid taste
  • Mild hints of sweetness

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Not too strong

2. Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee, Medium-Dark Roast

This Mountain Thunder blend is a medium-dark roast that delivers a bold flavor with slightly less caffeine.

Product Highlights

The Mountain Thunder Breakfast Roast comes from Kona beans cultivated on a long and wide farm.

This Kona coffee farm boasts the ideal volcanic soil, cool mountain weather, abundant rain, and higher elevations that coffee plants prefer.

These are medium-roasted in small batches for premium quality and freshness.

Each batch of whole beans is processed within 24 hours after harvest to retain their flavors.

Once the correct moisture content is achieved, the beans are stored and aged in a controlled environment.

This resting period helps bring out the aroma and flavor of the beans.

What We Like

Mountain Thunder’s Breakfast Roast is the way to go for coffee drinkers who don’t like their cup to be too light.

It’s made with 100% premium Kona coffee and comes pre-ground for standard drip coffee brewers.

It’s also perfect if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home.

Despite the bold and robust flavor, this coffee has slightly less caffeine per cup than most lighter roasts.

We also like that this Hawaiian blend comes at a much lower price than most Kona coffee brands.

What We Don’t Like

While it tastes great, the Breakfast Roast is a little weaker than we prefer. 

Pros:

  • Low-acid coffee
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Comes pre-ground

Con:

  • Lacks some punch

3. Blue Horse Kona 100% Coffee

Handcrafted for dark coffee lovers, the Blue Horse Kona coffee features a rich flavor of chocolate and hints of almond and vanilla flavor notes.

Product Highlights

Blue Horse Coffee is a family-run farm where coffee beans are grown under shades, resulting in a sweeter taste and minimal acidity levels.

This specialty coffee features dark and slightly oily beans that bring about a bittersweet chocolate flavor and muted acidity.

Despite the strong taste, it has a slightly lower caffeine content than lighter roasts.

Blue Horse Kona beans are hand-picked and sun-dried and are free from herbicides and pesticides.

What We Like

We appreciate that the production involves a careful harvest and selection process.

The beans are roasted in small batches to bring out their rich and bright citrus flavor without adding a bitter edge.

The beans are even shipped in a zip-lock bag to ensure freshness. Obviously, the resealable package is also a plus.

What We Don’t Like

This Kona coffee has a deeper flavor than most medium-roast beans and has some kind of burnt-like flavor profile that you’ll find in dark roasts.

It is also one of the most expensive blends out there.

If you don’t mind the price, though, the Blue Horse Kona is a terrific choice that will definitely elevate your coffee experience.

Pros:

  • Rich Kona coffee flavor
  • Organically grown
  • Whole beans
  • Comes in a resealable packaging

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Might be too intense for some coffee drinkers

4. Helios 100% Kona Coffee

These handcrafted medium-roast whole Kona coffee beans are of extra-fancy grade.

This means it contains only the largest, moisture-heavy, and blemish-free Kona coffee beans.

Having such a high grade, you are sure to notice that the Helios pure Kona coffee tastes incredibly fresh.

The beans are roasted in small batches and only when you place an order.

Product Highlights

You can be sure that Helios coffee is not blended with other coffee varieties.

By simply inspecting the beans, you will notice that they are bigger and uniform in size, suggesting quality beans.

That said, this coffee tastes incredibly fresh. 

Once you open the bag, anticipate a rich and intense aroma.

Even so, Helios Kona coffee has a smooth and mild taste, perfect for coffee drinkers who prefer a lighter roast and mellow flavor notes.

What We Like

The uniquely designed Helios coffee bags ensure the outstanding quality and freshness of the beans.

Each packet comes with a special one-way degassing valve that removes any excess air from the bag after being opened.

Helios Farm rests on Hualalai and Mauna Loa slopes in Hawaii’s South and North Kona districts.

The beans are grown and cultivated in rich soil packed with minerals, creating an ideal environment for producing coffee with a smooth and delicate taste and bright acidity.

What We Don’t Like

Although it has a rich and pleasant aroma, this coffee may taste a little too mild for some people.

Pros:

  • Highly aromatic
  • Extra-fancy grade
  • Beans come in airtight coffee bags

Cons:

  • Might be too mild for some
  • Bright acidity

5. Hualalai Estate 100% Kona Coffee

This premium-grade medium-dark roast coffee features delicious fruity notes, a fuller body, and a light spice that delight many coffee enthusiasts.

It’s not surprising, too, since Hualalai Estate has grown Kona coffee for more than 25 years.

They sell some of the finest American-made coffee in Hawaii and the rest of the U.S.

Each bag contains high-grade coffee beans of the same size to ensure a uniform and consistent roast.

Product Highlights

Hualalai Kona coffee is naturally grown and is always pesticide-free.

You will find that artisan coffee roasters roast the fresh and full-bodied Arabica beans.

They are then immediately packaged right after to seal in the rich and fresh flavor.

This rich-tasting coffee is perfect for pour-over, French press, cold, and dip brew coffee.

As such, it’s pretty dark and strong and has a silky taste.

What We Like

From the beans’ similar sizes, you can see just how much care is put into preparing each bag.

This way, you can be sure to get a more consistent flavor.

What We Don’t Like

While the coffee tastes heavenly, it’s pretty evident that this brand is a lot pricier than its competitors.

Pros:

  • High-grade coffee beans
  • Rich and silky taste
  • Naturally grown

Con:

  • More expensive than most Kona coffee brands
best kona coffee

Buyer’s Guide

Finding the real deal when it comes to Kona coffee can be tricky, with so many brands claiming that they offer authentic ones.

Here are the things to look for when shopping for Kona coffee:

1. The Source

Coffee brands that include the term “Kona” in their name don’t always mean they are made of pure Kona coffee beans.

Some may include a blend of other coffee bean varieties.

For example, some manufacturers combine Brazilian and Colombian beans with Kona to create a less expensive version of this world-renowned coffee.

As you may have noticed, labeling laws require the percent of Kona beans per bag.

This means that if you want pure Kona coffee, you should look for products labeled “100% Kona Coffee.”

It’s also worth checking the farm location indicated on the packaging.

Not all coffee beans grown in Hawaii are considered Kona coffee, only those grown in the Kona District.

Coffee trees in this region thrive on the rich volcanic soil of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa Mountains.

The trees typically bloom in the winter and are ready for harvest in autumn.

Such a unique environment gives Kona coffee a distinct advantage over other coffee varieties grown in other parts of the world.

Even though coffee grown in other Hawaii districts is also good-tasting, you must look for estate-grown beans if you’re after authentic Kona coffee.

Other terms for estate-grown are “single-origin” and “single-sourced.”

All these suggest that the beans are grown and processed on one farm.

Also, the farmers and manufacturers have given utmost care to preserve the quality of the beans.

2. The Processing

The best-tasting Kona coffee is made from beans that are hand-picked, pulped, dried, and hulled.

They are then roasted depending on the desired results.

Roasting is the most crucial step in making Kona coffee.

A good roasting process can make a world of difference, which is why it’s considered a form of art by many in the trade.

High-quality Kona coffees are hand-picked and roasted in small batches to ensure consistency in flavor and freshness.

Some farms pay special attention to the size of the beans.

Having similar bean sizes prevents uneven roasting, wherein some beans are over-roasted while others are undercooked.

A thorough inspection of the beans upon opening the bag will tell you right away if care and attention were put in during the processing of the coffee.

3. Coffee Grade

The grades of coffee shown on the packaging can help you identify outstanding coffee from a pool of good coffee brands.

The Hawaii Agricultural Society oversees the grading of Kona coffee.

The classification is based on several factors, such as the size, shape, moisture content, and blemishes or defects on the beans.

Based on these factors, there are five grades of Kona coffee based on the quality of beans:

  • Extra Fancy
  • Fancy
  • Number One
  • Kona Select
  • Kona Prime

Extra Fancy is the highest grade. It features the largest, most moisture-dense, and blemish-free beans.

Its moisture content is typically between nine and 12 percent, and imperfections for every pound of beans will not exceed 10.

Fancy Kona coffee is the second-highest grade.

This coffee has 16 or fewer defects or imperfections per pound of beans and has between nine and 12 percent moisture content.

The third best grade is Kona Number 1, followed by Kona Select and then Kona Prime.

4. Roast Level

Coffee drinkers have varying preferences in terms of flavor, acidity, and bitterness. 

Generally, there are three primary roast levels of Kona coffee. These are:

  • Light Roast
  • Medium
  • Dark

Light Roast

Light roast coffee beans are subjected to a temperature of about 350 to 410 degrees.

The beans typically pop or crack at around 350 degrees, suggesting that they have reached a light roast.

Light roasts are generally sweeter but have a strong coffee scent.

They also have a mellow body, bright flavor, and crisp acidity.

If you like to taste the unique characteristics of Kona beans, you should go for a light roast.

Medium Roast

Medium roast coffee has a moderate body and acidity and a rounded flavor profile.

You will also notice that it has a brown color and has an oily surface.

Roasting coffee beans to a medium level preserves many of the unique flavors of Kona.

Medium roasts reach 400 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this point, the beans have gone a little beyond the first crack but have not yet achieved the second.

Medium roasting results in a sweet caramel flavor and tastes slightly darker and sweeter.

Many people prefer medium roasts because they are more approachable. 

This coffee is also less acidic and intense, creating a beautiful balanced flavor profile to showcase the natural flavor of Kona coffee.

Dark Roast

Dark roast coffee is characterized by its dark brown hue, almost close to a blackened color.

The beans have a robust, fuller body flavor and have drawn-out oil that glosses the surface of the quality beans.

To be considered “dark,” the coffee beans are heated to 440 degrees and higher, at which point the beans have reached the end of the second crack.

Dark roasts tend to have the least unique flavor profile, but they have the most richness.

They also have deeper flavors of spice, dark chocolate, and woodiness, as well as some nutty undertone.

Dark roast coffees are also the least acidic and have a bold, rich aroma.

Deciding on the Roast Level

Roast levels play a crucial role in the coffee’s clean taste and fragrant notes.

To choose the roast level that’s best for your taste, follow these tips:

  • Choose a light roast if you want to experience the natural flavor notes of Kona coffee.
  • Pick medium to medium-dark roast if you prefer coffee with lower acidity and fewer bright notes.
  • Go for a dark roast if you like a richer taste with hints of chocolate or spice.

5. Freshness

Since you are paying for premium coffee, you want to make sure you only buy freshly roasted beans.

To ensure freshness, consider purchasing Kona coffee that is roasted to order and in small batches only.

Next, examine the packaging. 

Look for coffee brands with airtight packaging or a one-way valve that does not let air enter the bag and causes the beans to go stale.

Also, look for bags with solid sides. 

Avoid Kona coffee with transparent panels in its packaging because light can affect the freshness of the beans.

Lastly, purchase whole beans as much as possible. They stay fresh longer than ground coffee.

best kona coffee in hawaii

Kona Coffee FAQs

1. How do you make a perfect cup of Kona coffee?

If you’re using whole beans, grind it first using a coffee grinder.

As you probably already know, there are different grinds for different methods of brewing coffee.

If you’re using a coffee maker or following the drip-coffee method, opt for a medium grind.

For pour-over coffee, boil water up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit first.

Next, place one tablespoon of ground beans inside a filter and then pour a cup of hot water.

Remove the filter and enjoy your coffee.

You can also prepare your cup of Kona coffee using a French press or following the cold-brew method.

Both these brewing techniques allow for the coffee’s natural oils and flavor to remain in your cup.

2. Is Kona coffee strong?

Kona coffee is a mild and highly aromatic coffee.

In a cup of authentic Kona coffee, expect the taste of brown sugar, milk, honey, chocolate, and a hint of bright or citrus fruity flavor.

This coffee is bright, crisp, and clean and has a smooth and slightly syrupy body.

3. What’s the difference between 100% Kona and Kona blends?

Most Kona blends only contain about 10 percent of Kona beans.

Roughly 90 percent of them are from cheaper coffee varieties, which means you are less likely to taste the flavor notes of Kona beans.

To experience the unique taste of Kona coffee, make sure to buy 100% Kona coffee.

Also, avoid coffee with labels like “Low HDA grades of Kona coffee” or “Beans sourced outside the Kona district.”

These terms suggest that you are not getting pure Kona coffee.

4. How is Kona coffee made?

The process of making exceptional coffee starts by hand-picking coffee cherries.

It takes about 10 pounds of coffee cherries to make one or two pounds of Kona coffee.

Once cherries are picked, they are dried out and processed.

There are several methods for drying and processing Kona coffee.

The most common is by separating the inner bean from the fruit using a pulper.

After separating the beans, they are soaked for a certain period and then placed on a drying rack for about two weeks.

The finished beans are then classified by grades and then roasted.

5. What’s the best way to enjoy Kona coffee?

There is not a single way to enjoy Kona coffee.

Since it’s premium-grade coffee, you will definitely appreciate its taste regardless of whether you prefer black or have it doused in cream and sugar.

However, many Kona coffee lovers recommend adding minimal mixers to this popular Hawaiian drink.

6. How do you keep Kona coffee fresh?

Like all coffee, Kona beans tend to lose their freshness as soon as they are roasted.

Thus, you want to make sure you’re buying Kona coffee that is properly packaged.

After opening the package, transfer the beans into an airtight container to preserve their freshness and only grind a small amount immediately before brewing.

A bag of Kona coffee will stay fresh for about two months after opening.

7. Why is Kona coffee so expensive?

The main reason why Kona is so expensive is the labor costs.

Kona coffee is hand-picked by farmers pretty much all year, whereas, in other parts of the world, coffee cherries are picked by a machine.

The sharking of coffee trees and mixing over-ripe and under-ripe beans of various sizes results in low-grade coffee that often tastes sour.

From the moment the cherries are picked, they go through strenuous quality checks to ensure that each batch is perfect for brewing.

Another reason Kona beans are expensive is that it only makes up about one percent of all the coffee in the world.

Due to the limited supply, Kona coffee remains one of the most prized coffees out there.

Which Kona Coffee Tops the List?

After careful consideration, there’s no doubt that the best Kona coffee from this list is the Private Reserve 100% Kona Coffee.

A quick look at the beans themselves will tell you just how excellent is the quality of these coffee beans.

Plus, they are roasted in small batches, so you only get the freshest bag of whole Kona coffee beans.

If you don’t mind the premium price tag, you will fall in love with this Kona coffee brand.

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