How is Kona coffee made? The historical process of making Kona coffee gives its special taste and aroma. Discover how farmers make Kona coffee from planting the variety, pruning, harvesting, and roasting.
How Is Kona Coffee Made?
The process of making coffee starts with planting Kona Arabica seeds. When the tree bears fruit after two years, farmers would prune the trees and handpick the ripe cherries. From there, the beans would undergo harvesting, milling, fermentation, grading, and roasting before getting packed.
The whole process may vary depending on the farm. However, here at the Bay View Farm Estate, we follow the natural process of making Kona coffee to ensure freshness and authenticity in flavor.
It's important you know that part of making Kona coffee depends on the variety used. When Reverend Samuel Ruggles successfully planted the Arabica variety in Kona in 1828, sugar plantations then switched to coffee plantations. It may take up to two years before a Kona tree bears fruit.
- Tropical fruiting varieties can grow in farmlands or containers. However, the Kona Coffee Belt spans approximately 30 miles long and 2 to 3 miles wide. Thus, farmers have a vast area to plant the seeds in large beds, including shaded nurseries.
- Planting distance may depend on the variety, topography, and soil fertility. In general, Kona Arabica requires 78 inches x 118 inches monocropping intervals.
- The geographical location of the Kona Coffee Belt provides unique growing conditions. The fertile soil provides nutrients and minerals to the cherries. The elevated slopes also improve drainage to prevent nutrient runoff and soil erosion.
- A combination of morning sunlight, afternoon showers, and light winds in the night contribute to a microclimate. With ample shade, the beans can mature slowly and get as many nutrients as possible.
Farmers make Kona coffee by pruning the unproductive branches of the coffee plant. This usually occurs between January and April, when the moisture levels are ideal for new growth.
When a coffee tree consumes the mineral salts from the soil, it can no longer yield berries. This is why Kona farmers would need to prune to prepare for the next harvesting period.
Harvesting and Milling
The harvesting and processing are essential steps in making Kona coffee. Kona coffee needs to get pulped, dried, and hulled before roasting and packing.
- Due to the island's topography, Bay View Farm Estate farmers handpick the coffee cherries at peak ripeness or once they turn cherry red. An expert picker may harvest 100 to 200 pounds of coffee cherries every day, producing 20 to 40 pounds of beans.
- The farmers may use machinery to sort the beans into various grades depending on the shape, weight, and size. Grades include peaberry, extra fancy, fancy, No.1, and prime. Peaberry and non-fancy are the most valued types.
- The beans get fermented in water for 12 to 24 hours at the mill to eliminate the sugary pulp. After rinsing the beans with pure volcanic aquifer water, farmers will dry them to reach the parchment stage. This stage means the beans would only have about 11% to 12% moisture.
- After fermentation, farmers would spread the beans on an above-ground drying platform. In this way, Kona's warm sun and gentle breezes will dry the beans at the ideal moisture level.
- The beans will move to a dry miller to remove the outer skins. This is what you see as green coffee.
Roasting is another crucial part of making Kona coffee, as it helps you extract the flavors. This is why we offer a Kona coffee sampler pack, so you can taste the differences between light, medium, and dark roast Kona beans.
The beans would get roasted inside a heated drum. This machine would constantly turn to guarantee equal roasting on all sides.
- Light: Light roast Kona coffee nears the stage of the first crack at 350 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Medium: The medium roast waits for a little beyond the first crack at around 400 to 430 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dark: Dark roasts reach toward the end of the second crack, hitting up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, the dark roast would become French roast.
Is Kona Coffee High in Caffeine?
Kona coffee contains almost the same amount of caffeine as other types of Arabica coffee. However, beans roasted longer tend to have lesser caffeine content. This is why dark roast and French roast coffees are suitable for those who want to control caffeine intake.
How Can I Be Sure I'm Buying Authentic Kona Beans?
To ensure you're purchasing authentic Kona beans, learn where to buy Hawaiian coffee. You can source beans from online stores of manufacturers and Hawaiian farms. Additionally, check if the packaging uses 100% Kona since 10% Kona includes other roasts or varieties.
Kona beans would undergo planting, pruning, harvesting, milling, fermentation, grading, and roasting before you brew a cup of coffee. This whole process provides the top-tier quality of Lava Lei 100% Kona coffee.