Grades of Kona Coffee

Not All Beans are Created Equal

While Kona coffee is considered some of the best coffee in the world, there are different grades of beans and some are considered better then others.

  1. What are the different seed types?
  2. What is the description of a Type I bean?
  3. What is the description of a Type II bean?
  4. Once the Kona coffee beans are determined to be either Type I or Type II, then how are they graded further?
  5. What are the different grades of Type I Kona coffee?
  6. What are the grades of Type II Kona coffee?
  7. What is the basis of the State of Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s grading system?
  8. What grade is the very best of all gourmet Kona coffee grades?

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The seeds are classified as either Type I or Type II.

Type I Kona coffee beans have two beans per cherry.  These beans are oval on one side and flat on the other side.

Type II Kona coffee beans have just one bean per cherry instead of two.  These gourmet coffee beans are round and they are known as Peaberry.

Further grading of the best Kona coffee beans is based upon several factors including moisture content, size, and purity of bean type.

Grades of Type I Kona coffee include Kona Fancy, Kona Extra Fancy, Kona Number One, and Kona Prime.

Grades of Type II Kona coffee include Peaberry Number One and Peaberry Prime (these are sometimes referred to as “Peaberry Coffee”) or Peaberry Kona Coffee.  A lower grade called Number 3 cannot be classified as Kona coffee.  Only one to three percent of all Kona coffee is sorted to the Peaberry grade, and because there is only one seed per cherry it gets more nutrients from the coffee tree, and is considered to have more flavor, and also has a lower acidic content.

The Kona coffee grading system is based upon the beans’ size, weight, color, aroma, and number of defects, which are hollow, deformed, or chipped beans that may affect the uniformity of roast and can spoil the taste.  Other grading factors include cleanliness, mildew, and moisture content.  Inspectors also “cup” the coffee, sampling the brewed coffee to assess its aroma and flavor.  The state certification is required by Kona coffee processors and farmers who want to sell the gourmet coffee beans outside of the Kona district.

Many people consider Peaberry Kona coffee to be the “champagne” of gourmet coffee, while others praise the cupping characteristics of Extra Fancy, which are the largest and heaviest of all of the Kona coffee beans.  Others believe that the slightly smaller yet denser coffee beans of Fancy and #1 produce the finest cup of coffee.  So which is the very best gourmet Kona coffee?  You be the judge!

Next: Growing Kona Coffee

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