Is Kona Coffee Good For Espresso?

kona coffee for espresso
Not long ago I was buying a small bag of beans over at my local supermarket. These days I buy a lot of my beans from Quackenbush, my local roaster, but I still do buy beans at Safeway from time to time if I’m running low or if I want to try something different that doesn’t cost much.

In any event I bought about a quarter pound of a Kona Coffee Blend (pure arabica) from Safeway while it was on sale and I brought it home to try it out. At the time I was new to buying whole beans (still am to some extent) and I didn’t really know what it was good for and what it wasn’t.

I ended up having the store grind it for me at a fine espresso size and then when I went home I decided to use it in my stovetop espresso maker. Let me just say it was magnificent although I’m not sure if it was as good as it could have been because since that time I’ve figured out my own preferred method for grinding beans for the Moka pot and I probably would have gotten a fresher batch of beans had I bought it from a roaster.

Who knows how long those beans sat on the store shelf or in a Safeway truck before they ever made it to my kitchen. :/

In any event since that time I’ve learned a lot more about beans and espresso and home brewing techniques. Traditional espresso is usually a mix of mostly arabica beans with a bit of robusta. The roast is usually nearly as dark as you can get it without charring the bean. Also the age of the roast is quite young. Meaning, not much time has past between roasting the beans and brewing the grind.

Even still all rules can be broken so long as you understand what you are doing.

100% arabica Kona coffee can be used for making excellent espresso. I had some myself a couple months back and it would be even better today if I did it again. Instead of buying lightly roasted Kona beans from the supermarket that were probably aged longer than one might like I would buy a darker roast of Kona coffee from a reputable roaster that can ensure their beans are fresh.

Of course if you don’t have the palate to tell the difference then none of this matters but to most espresso junkies it’s worth taking the extra step.

Making espresso is the technique – it’s not the ingredients that count.

Kona coffee is some of the best coffee in the world and many people prefer it to all other regions. There’s nothing to stop you from using Kona or Kona blend coffees while making your morning espresso.

For my next batch of Kona I’ll be trying out the espresso roasts of Koa. They’re not local to me for sure but they specialize in Hawaiian Coffee and they can guarantee their coffee beans are about as fresh as you can get without roasting them yourself.


Is Kona Coffee Good for Espresso

The search for the best espresso beans still continue. To this end, coffee roasters have created espresso blends to mix and match beans until they achieve the perfect combination that will yield a good shot of espresso.

For many people espresso and coffee are the same but for coffee aficionados, there’s a huge difference. Espresso is a kind of extracted coffee. But not all coffee is espresso.

It takes a special type of extraction to get espresso. Pressure is the leading factor needed to extract espresso from coffee beans.

Espresso is made from introducing highly pressurized hot water in tightly packed fine coffee grounds. This can yield a nice espresso shot with a crema on top.

Still, the perfect espresso beans has yet to be found.

3 Elements to make a good espresso shot

The three elements needed to make a good shot of espresso: roast, grind and, pressure.

Espresso roast – There is a special way of preparing coffee beans for espresso. Often, these beans are roasted to a darker finish to create a stronger and bolder coffee taste than regular drip or brewed coffee. If you are planning to make espresso at home, opt for espresso beans and grind them on demand.

Espresso grind – Regular brew is coarse. But espresso beans need to be grounded to a fine powdery texture. This kind of grind slows down water penetration and requires pressure to extract the perfect espresso shot. It will be a good investment to have a burr grinder for your homemade espresso.

Espresso pressure – This is the third and most important element because pressure is what makes espresso so creamy and flavorful.

“Espresso machines work by forcing extremely hot water through finely ground coffee at enormous pressure—ideally, nine times atmospheric pressure, or nine bars. That’s about 130 pounds of pressure per square inch, or roughly twice the pressure in your average truck tire.”

Given these considerations, will Kona coffee be a good candidate for espresso beans?

What is Kona coffee?

Kona coffee is a kind of single origin coffee that only grows in the Kona Coffee Belt region of Big Island Hawaii. Kona coffee is sought for its unique flavor and bold, earthy taste. These factors contribute to the popularity of the Kona coffee:

  • Lots of sunshine which coffee plant loves and a temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lush green foliage and shade to protect the plants from too much sunlight
  • Just the right altitude. Kona coffee plant grows in a slope about 3000 feet above sea level, it gives the coffee a mild taste
  • Regular rainfall that perfectly balances the amount of sunshine that coffee plant gets
  • Good soil drainage protects the plants from over-watering.
  • Rich volcanic soil thanks to the volcanic eruptions by Mauna Loa and Hualalai

Is Kona coffee for espresso?

Coffee drinkers often debate between single origin and blend coffee. Since the taste of espresso is unique, many coffee roasters opt for blending coffee beans to get the right espresso kick, bold flavor and crema. But if we insist on getting a single origin coffee for espresso, the Kona coffee is one of your best options. Here are the reasons why:

  • Kona coffee taste is unique. Because of the rich minerals found in the soil of the Kona Coffee belt region, the Kona coffee has a delicious mild taste with a nice kick. Because the beans are already packed with flavor, it is one of those rare beans that only need medium roast and you already get the right bittersweet drink and retain the unique Kona character.
  • Kona coffee creates a nice crema. One of the most loved features of espresso is the crema that sits atop the espresso shot. It locks in the flavor, sweetness and other undernotes of the espresso shot.
  • Kona coffee levels up your espresso experience. If you are used to the bitter taste of espresso, you will be pleasantly surprised with Kona coffee. It has that unique earthy, bold flavor but not over-empowering and you get a nice sweet under-note in the end.

The only downside of using Kona coffee for espresso is the price. According to online stores, one pound of Kona coffee can cost up to $60.

Tips to remember when buying Kona coffee

There are so many ripped off Kona coffee sold out there. Here are some tips to help you buy authentic Kona coffee.

Buy form actual Kona coffee farm growers

Since most Kona coffee are bought from local farmers, get in touch with local growers. Many of them sell online. You can buy directly from them and ensure that you get 100% Kona coffee. Who else would know its authenticity than the one who planted and harvested it?

Buy fresh grown coffee beans

In some cases, coffee beans from last year’s crop are just roasted this year. While they are “fresh roasted” they are not fresh grown. Ask when the coffee beans are harvested. It is better to get coffee beans from this year’s crop and have it roasted. This will yield better tasting coffee and espresso.

Buy from someone passionate about Kona coffee

You can explore groups and forums that talk about Kona coffee. Most probably, you will meet a farmer or a Kona coffee supporter online. Connect and chat with them. Kona coffee is expensive. Make sure you get your money’s worth.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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