Kona Coffee - Overrated?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.

Postby ThomasCee » Apr 16, 2018, 4:18 pm

So I just have to ask, because I simply can't figure it out...

They seem to take deep pride in their work http://www.kona-coffee-council.com/
-I've had 4 different 100% Kona coffees, and 3 of them were extremely boring, roasted well into the carbon tasting range, with no real interest to them at all. They were "fine", I don't hate those kinds of coffees (I don't claim to puke on Starbucks type roasts), but it seemed like a complete waste of what a supposedly fine coffee was supposed to be.
-The 4th Kona, was mildly interesting. Not roasted quit as dark, but still darker than I would have thought it should be, and the taste wasn't full of carbon, but it was still relatively uninteresting.

Am I missing something? Am I trying to taste fireworks when I should be looking for mild and well behaved? I have air popper roasted beans that tasted far more (to me) interesting then these.

Cone drip brewing is being used.

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Postby yakster » Apr 16, 2018, 5:30 pm

Kona coffee IS mild and complex. You're not going to taste fireworks or rough edges, it can be notoriously hard to roast to bring out the best, but when properly roasted it's very enjoyable (to me).

LMWDP # 272


Postby mivanitsky » Apr 16, 2018, 6:00 pm

Good Kona coffee is.

Most Kona coffee is bad, badly roasted, adulterated, or not actually Kona.


Postby stherric » Apr 16, 2018, 6:16 pm

It's usually poorly processed and even more poorly roasted. Good Hawaiian coffee exceptional, albeit expensive. Rusty's Typica roasted by Passenger coffee comes to mind as a really good one.


Postby Headala » Apr 16, 2018, 6:51 pm

I travel to Kona quite a bit and have been to a lot of the farms there.

Unfortunately, it seems the Kona coffee industry largely caters to the tourist crowd. Over-roasted, flavored, batch-brewed, etc. A few cafes in town even serve Kona espresso...which is one of the worst ways to brew Kona coffee IMHO. Kona coffee these days I think is more about the name and tradition than the taste of the product. I personally know a farmer who grows Kona coffee, but doesn't drink it because it's worth more to sell.

I have had some Kona that I consider "great", but certainly not worth the price they charge. I originally bought greens there for $8/lb, about 15 years ago. Worth it. Now the cheapest I can find greens there is about $20/lb. Compared to the last Crown Jewel I got from Royal, a Kenyan Nyeri that I would consider "stellar", for about $9.50/lb. So these days I would say not worth it.

However, on the Big Island there is also Ka'u coffee which is IMHO much better than Kona, and cheaper. Don't tell anyone.


Postby Unrooted » replying to Headala » Apr 16, 2018, 7:10 pm

I'm going to Kauai next month, is there good coffee to be found there?


Postby Headala » replying to Unrooted » Apr 16, 2018, 7:45 pm

I have no experience with coffees there; I'd love to go there someday but I go to Kona for work. :(


Postby BuckleyT » Apr 16, 2018, 8:41 pm

If you have time to search the back posts here it becomes apparent that Kona has been co-opted. Most of the varietal has its name applied by vendors who are greedy or incompetent or dishonest or all three. Cognoscenti who love Kona often have a relationship with a trusted farm or roaster. Since, as you discovered, these are not readily available, you will have to depend upon networking a bit to find your way into a reliable "Kona coterie". This site is as good as any. I do not drink Kona. I imagine there are those who are not eager to share such information, but with patience, you may well find someone who is amenable. Sources may be found in some of the older posts here on H-B, but they might be out of date.



Postby Tonefish » Apr 16, 2018, 9:10 pm

I find most Kona greens (not blend) I've bought and roasted to be pretty exceptional relative to other beans I've roasted over the last decade. I do not roast KOna dark though and now that I roast and drink espresso almost exclusively, I would likely not buy Kona again. I've been through probably 100 lbs from at least five different farms in the last decade and did not find any to be subpar. Their bug issues several years ago also had a big effect. I have not looked into the recovery lately.
LMWDP #581 .......... May your roasts, grinds, and pulls be the best!


Postby BaristaBob » Apr 16, 2018, 11:13 pm

Been to Hawaii (big island and Maui) four out of the last six years, and have visited a few coffee farms. My recommendation, anything from Hula Daddy...they only roast medium to light. It's excellent but on the pricey side. Also Greenwell Farms...oldest Kona Coffee producer. Outside the 20 mile perimeter of Kona, coffee can no longer carry the Kona label, so other coffees exist such as Hilo Gold, and Ka'u. Ka'u is relatively new and is carving out a niche for itself. The growers of Ka'u are taking a good run run at Kona with success.

While in Maui last year, I fell head over heels for Maui Mokka. If you enjoy chocolate forward, low acidity coffee this is king!

Hope that helps...Kona coffee is not over-rated, you just need to know the main players.
Bob "hello darkness my old friend..."