• Joe Brewer

Best Kona Coffee of 2022: Complete Reviews With Comparisons

Updated: 11 hours ago

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Kona coffee is one of the most expensive 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 narrow down the options to the best of the best.


Best Kona Coffee Reviews










Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee

​Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee

Helios 100% Kona Coffee

Hualalai Estate 100% Kona Coffee



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


Best Kona Coffee of 2022 | Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee | Brewing java | Take control of your home brewing

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This Mountain Thunder blend is a medium-dark roast that delivers a bold flavor with 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 whole bean batch is processed 24 hours after harvest to retain its 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 for coffee drinkers who don't like their cups 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.

Despite its 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 weaker than we prefer.


Pros:

  • Low-acid coffee

  • Budget-friendly price

  • Comes pre-ground

Con:

  • Lacks some punch


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2. Blue Horse Kona 100% Coffee


Best Kona Coffee of 2022 | Blue Horse 100% Kona Coffee | Brewing Java | Take control of your home brewing

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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.

This specialty coffee features dark, slightly oily beans with 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, sun-dried, and 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. 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 a burnt-like flavor profile that you'll find in dark roasts.

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

The Blue Horse Kona is a terrific choice to elevate your coffee experience if you don't mind the price.


Pros:

  • Rich Kona coffee flavor

  • Organically grown

  • Whole beans

  • Comes in a resealable packaging

Cons:

  • Expensive

  • It might be too intense for some coffee drinkers


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3. Helios 100% Kona Coffee


Best Kona Coffee of 2022 | Helios 100% kona Coffee | Brewing Java | Take control of your home brewing

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

It contains only the largest, moisture-heavy, and blemish-free Kona coffee beans.

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

The beans are roasted in small batches 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.

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 unique one-way degassing valve that removes 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 too mild for some people.


Pros:

  • Highly aromatic

  • Extra-fancy grade

  • Beans come in airtight coffee bags

Cons:

  • It might be too mild for some

  • Bright acidity


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4. Hualalai Estate 100% Kona Coffee


Best Kona Coffee of 2022 | Hualalai Estate 100% Kona Coffee | Brewing java | Take control of your home brewing

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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 surprising that Hualalai Estate has grown Kona coffee for over 25 years.

They sell some of the finest American-made coffee in Hawaii and the rest 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 fresh and full-bodied Arabica beans.

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

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

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


What We Like

You can see how much care is put into preparing each bag from similar sizes of beans.

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


What We Don't Like

While the coffee tastes heavenly, it's 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


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Buyer's Guide

Finding the real deal for 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 "Kona" 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 percentage of Kona beans per bag.

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 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 hand-picked beans, 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 difference, so many in the trade consider it a form of art.

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

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

Similar bean sizes prevent 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 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 Kona Prime.


4. Roast Level

Coffee drinkers have varying preferences regarding 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 about 350 to 410 degrees.

The beans typically pop or crack around 350 degrees, suggesting reaching 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 medium body, acidity, and a rounded flavor profile.

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

The beans have gone beyond the first crack but have not yet achieved the second.

Medium roasting produces 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 beautifully balanced flavor profile to showcase the natural flavor of Kona coffee.

Dark

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 the most richness.

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

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


Deciding on the Roast Level

Roast levels are crucial 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 ensure 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 beans' freshness.

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


Kona Coffee FAQs


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

Grind it first using a coffee grinder if you're using whole beans.

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

Opt for a medium grind using a coffee maker or following the drip-coffee method.

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

Next, place one tablespoon of ground beans inside a filter and 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.

These brewing techniques allow 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, clean, and has a smooth, 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 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 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 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 ensure you're buying properly packaged Kona coffee.

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 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.


Which Kona Coffee Tops the List?

After careful consideration, there's no doubt that the best Kona coffee from this list is the:

Mountain Thunder 100% Kona Coffee, Medium-Dark Roast

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

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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