Guide to The Best Kona Coffee Beans (and where to buy them)

If you love coffee you have probably heard of Kona. Considered one of the best gourmet coffees in the world, Hawaiian Kona coffee is a smooth, rich, complex and deeply aromatic coffee.

To help you choose the best Kona coffee beans, in this article we share the best Kona coffee brands to try, plus we explain how to make sure you are purchasing pure 100% Kona coffee.

If you have never tried these gourmet coffee beans, you are in for a treat!

The Best Kona Coffee Beans – Our Premium Pick

Koa Coffee Peaberry Medium Roast

This exclusive Koa peaberry coffee is one of the best kona coffee brands. 

Shipped direct from the farm, be warned you may not be able to go back once you try these kona coffee beans from Koa Coffee!

Best Hawaiian Coffee Beans 2020 Comparison Table

We have shortlisted the best 100% pure kona coffee bean brands for you in this handy comparison table.

Read on as we discuss the features in more detail in our Hawaiian kona coffee review section below. 

Hawaii Coffee Company Royal Kona EstateRoyal Kona Estate CoffeeMedium4.8Check
Koa Coffee Peaberry Whole BeanKoa Coffee Peaberry Kona BeansMedium4.6Check
Volcanica Hawaiian Kona CoffeeVolcanica coffee hawaiian kona coffee beans smallMedium4.7Check
Kona Gold Rum Co Whole BeansMedium-Dark4.5Check
Hualalai Estate Premium PeaberryMedium-Dark4.4Check
Blue Horse KonaMedium4.5Check
Imagine Kona CoffeeMedium-Dark4.2Check

What is Kona Coffee?

Kona beans are highly prized arabica coffee beans grown on the slopes of two volcanoes in the Gold Belt of the Kona District on Big Island, Hawaii.

Kona Coffee District Hawaii Map

Just 30 miles long by 2-3 miles wide, the famous coffee belt includes both North and South Kona on the west coast of Big Island. 

Gourmet kona coffee beans are perfect for your french press, chemex or drip coffee makers as well as espresso.

There are also one of the most expensive coffee types in the world.

Why are Kona Brands So Special?

Coffee production is only successful in a limited number of regions around the world. Coffee plants need the right combination of sun, rain and quality soil to produce great tasting coffee.

What makes Kona Hawaii coffee so highly prized is that this coffee belt has all the critical factors to produce the best tasting gourmet coffee:

  • Nutrient rich volcanic soil on the slopes of Hualalai and Mauna Loa volcanoes.
  • Little need for irrigation.
  • Well drained slopes for ideal coffee growing conditions.
  • The perfect island microclimate of warm sunny days, humid wet afternoons and mild overnight temperatures.

Few coffee growing regions in the world can tick all these boxes and this is what makes Hawaiian Kona espresso beans so special.

Plus, when you combine these climatic factors with strict quality controls, hand cultivation and generations of family run business experience, the result is world famous quality coffee.

What Does Kona Taste Like?

Kona is renowned as being a highly aromatic, smooth, rich, sweet and medium bodied coffee.

The flavor notes will vary by farm, but many describe their roasts having flavors such as citrus, honey, caramel and chocolate. The aftertaste is often nutty without the bitterness found in many coffee roasts.

It is also considered a low-acidity coffee, which is great for digestion.

Why is Kona Coffee so Expensive?

In addition to the highly valued taste of this gourmet coffee, the high price tag is also higher due to a number of factors relating to their production:

  1. The Kona region only has ~800 coffee farms, most on small acreages.
  2. Coffee is hand picked in small batches at peak ripeness during the year.
  3. Labor costs are higher on Kona coffee farms.
  4. Total yield is low due to the small number of farms and slow maturation period.

The combined result of a superior quality coffee in low quantities and high demand is a high price.

Growing Kona Coffee
A full bag of Kona Coffee beans. Credit: Christopher Michel – Growing Kona CoffeeCC BY 2.0Link

What is the best Kona coffee Brand?

So how do you choose between the different kona brands? It is worth noting that just because coffee is grown in the Kona region, doesn’t automatically mean it will taste great.

Differences in the quality of the soil, growing and production techniques as well as roasting methods produce distinctly different coffees. 

To help you choose the best Hawaiian Kona coffee beans, we have reviewed some of the top 100% pure kona coffee brands here. 

Choose from this list and you can be confident you are buying pure kona coffee.

Hawaiian Kona Coffee Reviews

All of the coffee beans we review in our best kona coffee reviews are 100% Kona whole bean coffee.  

Some companies do sell ground coffee, but honestly, if you are paying top dollar for pure Kona, you need to grind those beans at home to achieve the best tasting coffee. 

Hawaii Coffee Company Royal Kona Coffee Review

Royal Kona Estate Coffee Beans

Hawaii Coffee Company is the largest Kona coffee maker in the world and one of the best Hawaiian coffee brand choices. With a number of brands under their banner, the Royal Kona Private Reserve Estate is our top rated Kona coffee.

100% Kona coffee, Extra Fancy Grade and hand-picked from a single estate, it has a distinct aroma and smooth finish.

Royal Kona coffee is medium roast but has a light, clean, lively taste unlike some other Kona roasts.

It is great for any style of coffee, but if you love to make black coffee in your Aeropress or Chemex, this is a great choice.

Medium roast

Extra fancy grade

Single estate origin

Shipped direct from the farm

Decaf and Peaberry available

Where to buy Royal Kona? Hawaii Coffee Company sell Royal Kona coffee whole beans direct from the farm.

Koa Coffee Peaberry Medium Roast Kona Coffee Review

KOA Coffee company was founded in 1997 and has rapidly established itself as a leading Kona brand.

Koa Kona coffee have a range of awards under their belt including Forbes best Kona coffee in America. They are renowned as one of the best hawaiian coffee brands and they produce some of the best pure kona coffee roasts. 

This medium roast  has a smooth, well balanced, crisp flavor and a sweetness often seen in Peaberry coffee. It is perfect for your french press or cold brew coffee maker and is a great choice for black coffee drinkers.

The ultimate in luxury, this gourmet coffee is one of the best Kona peaberry coffee options and makes a great gift for the coffee lover. 

Medium roast

Exclusive peaberry coffee

Shipped direct from the farm

Wide range of roasts available

Where to buy Koa Coffee? Koa Peaberry coffee demand often outstrips supply. The best place to buy Koa coffee beans is direct from the farm. 

It isn’t cheap, but it is worth trying at least once, so you should grab a bag when it is available.

Volcanica Coffee Hawaiian Kona Coffee Review

Volcanica Kona coffee beans

Volcanica Kona coffee is a premium extra fancy grade 100% kona coffee shade grown on the Greenwell Estate in Hawaii.

It is a super smooth full bodied brew with a rich buttery flavor and an interesting mix of floral notes and caramel undertones.

Roasted in Atlanta, Georgia, this whole bean kona coffee it is one of the best kona coffee from Hawaii.

Medium roast

Extra fancy grade

Single estate origin

Peaberry available

Shipped direct from Volcanica

You can buy Volcanica on Amazon, but we recommend purchasing direct from the company when buying premium Kona to guarantee maximum freshness.

Kona Gold Rum Co Kona Coffee Beans Review

This medium dark coffee by Kona Gold Rum Company was awarded first place in the Kona Crown Competition Division at the Kona Coffee Cupping Competition in 2016.

Hand picked, sun dried and air roasted, these pure Kona coffee beans are the highest Extra Fancy grade and are a top rated Kona coffee on Amazon. 

The taste is smooth, highly aromatic with crisp fruity flavor and tones of molasses and  brown sugar. It is low in acid and makes a superb cup of coffee.

Medium-dark roast

Extra fancy grade

Single estate origin

Great for espresso

Roasted on site

Many Kona coffee roasts are on the lighter side, so this medium dark roast is a great choice for espresso machines or an auto drip coffee maker.

Hualalai Estate Kona Peaberry Coffee Review

Hualalai Estate Coffee source the best kona Peaberry coffee beans from farms across the Kona region to produce a consistent quality coffee every time.

Promoted as pesticide free (although not certified organic), Hualalai kona coffee is a medium dark roast has a full bodied taste and a more robust flavor than other companies on this list. 

Medium dark roast

Peaberry coffee

Multi-estate origin

Pesticide free

Strong and robust flavor

If you love strong coffee then the Hualalai peaberry kona coffee is a great choice.

Blue Horse Kona Coffee Review

Blue Horse Kona coffee beans are a mellow medium roast 100 percent Kona coffee. It is naturally low in acidity with spicy afternotes.

Blue Horse has a lighter flavor so is best for french press, cold brew or chemex coffee drinkers. For espresso drinkers we recommend the dark roast.

Medium roast

Estate grade

Single estate origin

Dark roast available

Pesticide and herbicide free

Shipped direct from the farm

When you buy online, Amazon manage delivery with priority UPS shipping. Delivery is direct from Hawaii and takes only 2-3 days!

Imagine Kona Coffee Beans Review 

Imagine Kona coffee beans are a medium-dark Full City roast grown at high elevation and sun dried, derived from Extra Fancy grade beans.

Kona by Imagine is air roasted instead of drum roasted. This reduces the risk of charring and contributes to the sweet, robust flavor noted in this authentic kona coffee. It lacks the bitterness associated with many dark roast coffees.

Medium-dark roast

Extra fancy grade

Single estate origin

Air roasted

Peaberry available

Imagine is a good choice if you are looking for quick delivery of kona extra fancy coffee beans direct from Amazon.

Kona Grades Explained

The State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture overseas strict standards to grade Kona beans. We summarise the grades here to help you choose between the different the brands.

There are two types of coffee bean. Type 1 is your typical double coffee bean. It contains 2 beans per cherry. The quality is assessed based on the size, shape, moisture content and purity of the bean. There are eight grades:

  1. Extra Fancy (the highest quality)
  2. Fancy
  3. Number 1
  4. Select
  5. Prime
  6. Number 3
  7. Natural Prime
  8. Mixed Natural Prime (the lowest quality)

Whilst all of the top 5 grades will produce a quality coffee, the best rated kona coffee is the Extra Fancy Kona coffee. Kona extra fancy beans are the ultimate in quality and will cost more than the other grades.

Type 2 beans are also known as Peaberry coffee beans. These have just 1 bean per cherry and make up only 5% of all beans.  There are two grades:

  1. Number 1
  2. Prime

Kona coffee peaberry beans are the champagne of the Hawaiian coffee world and naturally command the highest price.

Peaberry coffee beans have a higher moisture content, less defects and produce a smooth, full bodied coffee considered to be one of the best tasting coffees in the world.

Best Hawaiian Kona Coffee Brands - Kona Coffee Cherries

Are You Buying Real Kona Coffee?

Due to the premium price and value placed on Kona coffee, you need to be wary as there are many Kona blend coffee brands out there. Many Hawaiian coffee brands are not 100% pure kona coffee.

A Kona blend coffee needs to include just 10% Kona coffee beans. They are often priced higher than other great espresso beans like these ones but a blend is not 100% Kona and it will have a different flavor to the real deal.

It is often difficult to tell at first glance when you buy kona coffee beans whether it is genuine Kona coffee, or a Kona coffee blend.

Here are some tips to ensure you are buying 100% kona coffee in Hawaii:

  • Labelling: Genuine Kona will be labelled as 100% pure Kona. Coffee blends will not. In fact they often avoid mentioning it at all.
  • District: Confirm it is grown in the Kona Hawaii district.
  • State: Check the coffee is Hawaiian coffee. Many companies will name their foreign coffee as Kona or Hawaiian coffee to trick the unknowing consumer.
  • Grade: Expect to pay a premium for Peaberry and Extra Fancy Kona coffee beans. If you are looking for the top rated Kona coffee beans, the grade will usually be listed on the packaging.

Where To Buy Kona Coffee Beans

Kona beans are more difficult to find that your everyday coffee beans but the good news is you can buy many kona brands online (although it is also a great excuse for a Hawaiian vacation!).

For some Kona coffee brands including our favorites, Koa Coffee and Hawaii Coffee Company you need to order direct from the farm. This is the best place to buy kona coffee online for guaranteed freshnesss.

On Amazon kona coffee brands include Blue Horse and Kona Gold Rum Co. We recommend you purchase from the producer through Amazon where possible to ensure maximum freshness. And of course be wary of the blends when you are browsing through options.

How to Order Kona on Amazon

The easiest way to ensure you never run out of genuine Kona coffee beans is to order kona coffee online through Amazon Prime.

If you aren’t yet signed up to Amazon Prime you can sign up for a 30 day trial here. With free two day delivery, you can have the best espresso beans delivered straight to your door anytime.

Whichever way you decide to purchase your coffee we hope you enjoy one of the best hawaiian coffee beans on our list. But be warned, it may be hard to go back once you have tried one of the best coffees in the world!

Find all our coffee bean reviews here. For tips on coffee brewing, see our brew guides here.

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Coffee beans closeup with text best kona coffee beans
Kona Coffee Beans and the best Kona coffee brands

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About Rachel

Creator and writer for Creators of Coffee, Rachel is an everyday coffee lover who also loves to research and share practical tips on everything to do with coffee. Favorite way to make coffee: With an Espresso Machine