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Best Kona Coffee: 2024 Top Picks (Plus How To Spot A Scam)

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Picture it: a warm breeze rustling the palm trees, tropical birds calling to one another in the distance, drops of rain gently falling. 

Now imagine that as a cup of coffee. This is what pure Kona coffee tastes like.

Drinking 100% authentic Kona coffee is a thrill for the senses. The best Kona coffee is rich, full-bodied, enticingly aromatic, and smooth as silk. 

Pure Kona coffee is special. (read: expensive) It’s considered the best Hawaiian coffee, and many would say it’s the best coffee, period.

With the rise in popularity and reputation for being pricey, there are a lot of scammers out there selling “Kona” coffee that’s only a fraction of the real thing (or, in some cases, not actually Kona coffee at all).

So before you hit the “complete purchase” button on that order of Kona coffee beans, get the low-down on the best Kona coffee, what to look for, and our favorite roasters and purveyors of this unique coffee bean.

So, let’s get roasting.

Best Kona Coffee

In no particular order, here are our Top 5 Kona Coffee Bean Picks at a glance:

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Kona coffee for espresso

Where Is Kona Coffee From?

Kona coffee is grown in the Kona district on the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Only coffee grown in Kona’s North or South areas may be called Kona coffee.

Coffee grown in other parts of Hawaii or other islands within the state may not use the Kona name. The Kona growing region is known for its near-perfect climate and the rich, volcanic lava rock slopes.

Coffee plants can be challenging to grow, so they are only successfully farmed in a limited number of regions across the globe. The Kona coast is considered the ideal of these coffee-growing regions due to its unique combination of sunny mornings, rainy afternoons, and mild nights.

These optimal growing conditions result in the best Hawaiian coffee that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Kona coffee farm

What Does Kona Coffee Taste Like?

The best Kona coffee, 100% Kona, has a rich aroma and a delicate yet distinct flavor. It may be roasted to any level; however, most Kona coffee roasters prefer a medium roast for this coffee bean.

The flavor of Kona coffee is incredibly smooth, with a subtle sweetness on the finish. It is a perfectly balanced cup.

But this is true only for the best Kona coffees on the market. Many fakes out there claim to be Kona coffee but are instead a Kona blend consisting of only 10% Kona coffee beans and 90% cheaper, less flavorful beans.

Is Kona Coffee Worth The Price?

Why is Kona coffee so expensive? The high cost of Kona coffee is due to the extra work and care put into cultivating these particular beans.

Because Kona coffee cherries don’t ripen simultaneously, farmers must hand-pick all coffee cherries to ensure they are harvested at peak ripeness. This is no small feat when you’re harvesting on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano.

The Hawaiian coffee harvest begins in late August and runs through late January, with each tree harvested several times each season.

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Kona peaberry coffee
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Coffee beans from Hawaii

At the time of writing, there are over 650 coffee farms in the Kona growing region of the Big Island, clustered along approximately 20 miles of road of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa slopes.

Many of these Big Island coffee farms sell their coffee cherries to Kona coffee producers, but as of late, there has been a growing trend of direct-to-consumer sales, and now there are over 100 private-label Kona coffee companies.

But is Kona coffee worth the price?

In a word, yes. When you sip the best Kona coffee and experience its unmistakable flavor, you will immediately understand why it’s so special.

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What To Look For When Buying Kona Coffee

To be called Kona coffee, a blend of beans need only contain 10% Kona coffee beans

Most reputable purveyors will disclose the blend and be forthcoming with the amount of Kona coffee versus other beans present in the Kona blend. Many of these companies blend the Kona coffee beans with some of the best Hawaiian coffee beans to ensure optimal flavor at a more reasonable price.

So, if you want to save a few bucks, choose a Kona blend from any of our best Hawaiian coffee brands below, and you won’t be disappointed.

Unfortunately, others are less honest and seek to scam you out of your hard-earned dollars. They may advertise their coffee as Kona coffee yet have little to no Kona coffee beans in the blend.

The best Kona coffee is 100% pure Kona coffee beans, period. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy a blend of Kona with other coffee beans. But if you’re seeking the real deal and want to know what the hype is about, opt for 100% pure Kona coffee beans.

Be careful when purchasing a Kona roast on Amazon, and only buy from brands you know and trust. Make sure the coffee is certified as 100% pure Kona coffee beans. 

A good rule of thumb is that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The best Kona coffee is expensive. There are no two ways around it. So expect to pay a premium and not opt for the cheap option because it is likely not legit.  

The Best Kona Coffee Beans

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Best Overall: Koa Coffee Private Reserve Medium Roast

The Private Reserve Medium Roast from Koa Coffee is possibly the best Kona coffee we’ve tried. It’s so good that it was once named the Best Coffee In America by Forbes

Koa Coffee is a family-run estate that has grown coffee in Kona since 1997 and has earned a reputation for being one of the best Hawaiian coffee companies. Despite improvements in the roasters and packaging, they continue to operate their Big Island farm very much as they did in the early days. 

The coffee cherries continue to be picked by hand at the peak of freshness; no mechanical harvesting here. Koa Coffee ships all of its coffees to the US for just $7 and offers subscription services to guarantee you can get your Kona coffee fix anytime.

Koa Coffee offers a wide range of Kona coffees, all stellar examples of this great bean. We love the Private Reserve for its perfectly balanced flavor, enticing aroma, and smooth finish. It’s a crowd-pleaser.

The Private Reserve is a secret blend of Koa’s Kona beans and has been a customer favorite for years. It is available in both medium and dark roasts, which are exceptional. We recommend the medium roast for pour over or drip brewing

If you prefer espresso or French press, go for the dark roast for an experience you won’t soon forget! 

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kona coffee company

Best For Espresso: Lion 24k Gold French Roast 100% Kona

Kona Coffee makes an exceptionally smooth and rich espresso, and the 24k Gold French Roast from Lion Coffee is our top pick for all your espresso needs.

This roast is lively and bold, with a smooth finish. It’s also delicious when brewed with a French Press for a full-bodied cup.

Lion Coffee is one of the best Kona coffee purveyors in the US, with a long history of providing authentic Kona coffee to the rest of the US. Lion Coffee is a subsidiary of the Hawaii Coffee Company.

With $5 shipping, a discount on your first order, and a subscription service available, Hawaii Coffee Company is your go-to for all your Kona coffee and Hawaiian coffee needs!

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carta coffee merchants

Best Light Roast: Carta Coffee Merchants Meridian Roast

If light roast coffees are more your speed, you can’t go wrong with the Meridian Roast from Carta Coffee Merchants. Carta Coffee Merchants is a farm-to-consumer operation located in Kona, HI. 

The Meridian Roast is the newest release from Carta and features 100% Kona coffee from their Nolyssa Farm, plus Kona beans from other like-minded farmers in the area. This proprietary blend of 100% Kona beans is a special one.

This is a complex roast featuring the best of all worlds. Bright acidity and citrus flowers are balanced with hazelnut and dark chocolate. The finish is creamy and smooth. 

We recommend brewing this roast with the pour over method to extract all subtle nuances. The Meridian also makes a fantastic cold brew!

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Best kona coffee in Hawaii
Best kona coffee from Hawaii
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Kona coffee direct from Hawaii

Best Peaberry: Koa Coffee Peaberry Medium Roast

Koa Coffee makes our list again with their Kona Peaberry Medium Roast coffee. Without a peaberry variety, no list of the best Kona coffee would be complete.

What is Kona peaberry coffee?

Most coffee cherries have two flat-sided seeds (beans) within. But about 3-5% of any coffee cherry crop features only one oval-shaped bean; these small, rounded beans are known as peaberry coffee beans.

Kona peaberry coffee is some of the best Kona coffee, not only for its exquisite flavor but also for how rare it is. Only 3-5 bags out of every 100 bags of Kona coffee are peaberry beans.

We can’t get enough Kona Peaberry Medium Roast from Koa Coffee. We love how incredibly smooth and rich it is, with a touch of caramel on the finish. It lacks any bitterness and has a clean aftertaste with minimal acidity.

We highly recommend getting your hands on a bag of this exceptional Kona coffee any chance you get. Due to its rare nature, Kona Peaberry is not always available and sells out quickly. Bookmark our link and check back often to snag a bag when it’s back in stock. 

This is one splurge you will not regret, and might just be some of the best Hawaiian coffee you’ve ever had.

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Coffee beans from Hawaii

Best Premium Grade: Volcanica Coffee Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy

Speaking of splurges, the Hawaiian Kona Extra Fancy from Volcanica Coffee is just that. This pricey coffee is about as high-end as possible and worth every penny.

Kona coffee is divided into eight grades, with Extra Fancy being the best. Most of the best Kona coffee on the market is graded Prime or better (1-5), and only sub-par blends feature the lower-grade varieties (6-8).

This Hawaiian Kona coffee is certified 100% extra fancy Kona coffee beans. It is of exceptional quality, and the flavor demonstrates the meticulous selection process of cultivating these extra-fancy beans.

While Volcanica is not a Hawaiian Kona coffee company and is not based in Hawaii, they source the extra fancy Kona coffee directly from Hawaii’s Aloha Farms in Kona and roast them to perfection.

The result is a bright, clean cup with floral and citrus notes and a smooth caramel finish. The acidity is balanced, and the aroma is out of this world. This is an exceptional Kona bean and one of the best Kona coffees we’ve tried.

Volcanica offers a subscription service for all its coffees, including a 10% discount. They also offer free shipping on orders over $60 and a flat rate of $6.95 on all other orders. Reason enough to make this bean a monthly splurge if you ask us.

Airscape coffee storage canister in turquoise
Airscape Stainless Steel Coffee Canister

How To Store Coffee Beans Properly

So, now that you’re familiar with the best Kona coffee brands, you’re ready to start shopping, tasting, and enjoying an epic cup of coffee.

But wait, how should you store your Kona coffee beans? It’s pretty simple. If your beans came in a foil bag with a one-way air filter (let’s air out but not in), leave them in there.

Seal the bag and store it in a cool, dark place away from heat sources. The coffee will last you up to 2 weeks by doing so.

If your beans came in any other bag style, transfer them to an airtight container and store them in a cool, dark place.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Kona coffee be used for making espresso and lattes?

Yes, Kona coffee can be used for making espresso, lattes, cappuccinos, and a variety of other espresso-based drinks. In fact, its smooth and rich flavor makes it an excellent choice for specialty coffee drinks. However, keep in mind that Kona coffee is a premium coffee and can be expensive, so it may not be the best choice for everyday use.

What makes Kona coffee from Hawaii so special?

In short, the growing and harvesting process. Kona coffee is grown in the volcanic soil of the Kona region on the Big Island of Hawaii. The unique climate and soil conditions in this region produce coffee beans with a distinct flavor profile. It’s special because Kona is the only place on the planet considered to have optimal coffee-growing conditions. It is truly the best of the best.

Is Royal Kona Coffee a good brand to try?

Royal Kona Coffee is a popular brand of Kona coffee that has been around for over 50 years. They offer a variety of Kona coffee blends, including 100% Kona coffee and Kona coffee blends. While opinions on the brand may vary, many customers enjoy their coffee and find it to be of good quality.

What are the different grades of Kona coffee, and how do they differ?

There are four main types of Kona coffee: Kona Extra Fancy and Kona Fancy are the best of these. Next are Kona #1 (commonly used at restaurants) and Prime (while the lowest ranked, it is often much better quality than other coffees on the market). Kona Extra Fancy is the highest grade and consists of the largest, most perfect beans. Kona Fancy is the second-highest grade and consists of slightly smaller beans. Both grades are of high quality and have a smooth, rich flavor. However, Kona Extra Fancy is considered to be the best of the best and is typically more expensive.


Heather Calatrello

Heather Calatrello owner of ShedLight Coffee Roasters