Food and drink

What Makes Kona Coffee So Special?


The world runs on coffee. If you adore good coffee, you have probably seen Kona coffee on the shelf of your local shop. Kona is not cheap coffee and totally worth your investment.

Real Estate

There are a lot of wonderful coffee options grown in Hawaii, but Kona coffee is even more specific. Kona is grown in the Kona belt, which is only thirty square miles.

The temperature is constantly near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The plants get plenty of sunlight early in the day and are shielded by afternoon clouds. Coffee plants are understory plants, so the additional vegetation in this thirty square mile belt gives the plant plenty of shade so it can thrive.

Volcanic Soil

The Kona belt is also a specific elevation. This area is between 800 and 2500 feet in elevation and includes an active volcano. The soil here is loaded with nutrients and the topography allows for great drainage.

Because the ground here is so steep, the coffee has to be grown and harvested by hand. Coffee is a fruit and each coffee “bean” is actually a split fruit inside a husk. Kona peaberry coffee is rare. The peaberry bean is a single berry inside the husk. It’s still a seed, but it doesn’t have that center seam. These beans are also referred to as a caracol or “snail” from the Spanish.


This region of Hawaii gets steady sun, but the cloud cover that shows up before the day gets too hot protects the plants and the coffee fruits. Whether they are a traditional split bean or a single peaberry, the fruit grown in the Kona belt is particularly sweet and has a slightly chocolate flavor.

Generally, the recommended roast for Kona coffee is no more than medium-dark, often referred to as a Vienna roast. These beans offer great flavor at this roast. Going too dark can lead to a char or bitter edge to your coffee.


Understory plants collect moisture from rain, from dew and from fog or mist of cloud cover. One of the big risks in a highly moist environment is that the leaves of the plants, the flowers and the fruits will mold.

Kona coffee is free of risks. Thanks to

  • intense morning sun
  • breezes up the side of the volcano
  • steady warm temperatures

These plants are hard to harvest from, thanks to the steep terrain. Mechanized coffee harvesting at this angle is simply not possible. For those who work the soil, the harvesting schedule can be worked quite effectively thanks to the steady morning sun and afternoon cloud cover and ambient moisture.


The elevation of this coffee belt is ideally suited to growing healthy coffee plants. Part of the plus of this coffee belt includes the fact that moisture doesn’t stand on this soil. The steep terrain means that the roots of the Kona coffee plant are never water-logged.

Caffeine Content

Kona coffee -both peaberry and standard seed- is in the middle of the pack in terms of naturally occurring caffeine. It’s more than traditional Colombian coffee and less than other specialized varieties.

However, the longer you roast your coffee beans, the less caffeine you will have in your fresh-brewed cup of coffee. If you can stick with a medium to medium-dark roast, you can capture more caffeine.

Best Brew Method

Standard coffee beans can tolerate drip style, pour-over and French press. Kona peaberries may be overly acidic in the French press. If you have the time, consider setting up your Kona coffee for a 24-hour cold brew.

Too much heat and extraction time are not good for any intensely fruity coffee. If you really need a dark roast coffee, Kona may not be a good choice for you. Stick with Vienna roast and plan to drip, pour-over or cold brew it.

Kona coffee can be purchased from several retailers. Carefully review when it was roasted and how dark it is. Purchase your Kona beans from a retailer that ships them in a one-way bag. You should be able to pour out beans and reseal the bag with minimal risk to the flavor of the roast. Enjoy!


Award-winning writer, blogger, social media consultant and charity campaigner. Social Media Manager for BritMums, the UK's largest parent blogging network Freelance clients include Firefly Communications and Save the Children UK. Works with brands on marketing projects. Examples include Visit Orlando, Give As You Live, Coca-Cola and Kodak. Cambridge Law graduate with many years experience working across three sectors in advice, media relations, events, training and project management. Available for hire at affordable rates.

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