Kona Coffee Grading System

Kona Coffee beans are graded by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) based on a classification system that takes a number of factors into account: shape, bean’s size, cleanliness, moisture content, color, number of defects the beans contain, as well as aroma and flavor when it is brewed. 

Type I beans:

In this category, there are five grades of Kona coffee beans: 

  • Extra Fancy: These coffee beans are the largest variety of the coffee beans, with a fuller flavor. Its size will not pass through a 19/64″ round hole of the bean grading screen. The HDOA official allowance for defects is 8 full imperfections per 300 grams. These beans are about 20% of what a crop will produce.

  • Fancy: These are the second largest beans. Its size will not pass the 18/64” of the bean grading screen hole. The HDOA official allowance for defects is 12 full imperfections per 300 grams.

  • Number 1:  Medium-sized coffee beans with a milder, following the Fancy grade. Its size will not pass the 16/64” of the bean grading screen hole. The HDOA official allowance for defects is 18 full imperfections per 300 grams.

  • Select: A smaller variety of beans sizes that allow up to 5% of defects.

  • Prime: The smallest of the beans that qualifies for being labeled as “Kona” coffee. These beans are allowed up to 20% of defects.

Type II beans:

  • Peaberry: This is a “pea” shaped bean that is considered an anomaly because it is a result of only one coffee bean developing within a coffee cherry. Typically, two beans grow within the cherry and it is very rare that a Peaberry bean is developed. These beans are very small in size, but result in twice the flavor to create a very robust coffee. 

As stablished by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), there are two additional grades of Type I green coffee beans that cannot be labeled as Kona Coffee, due to factors like size and number of defects: The “Hawaii No. 3” or "X-3" and "OFF- Grade". Learn more

Then, what is the difference between Estate grade and Estate grown?

The term Estate grown means all the beans are all from the same farm, never mixed with beans of another farms, or with beans imported from another countries, and that the farm manages all the stages of the production cycleLearn more.

Estate grade is used to describe the coffee sold containing a mix of the top grades of Kona beans. This combination of beans produce a brew with a rich, delicate flavor that makes the "Estate" grade very demanded.

Guide to Roast Levels

Roasting terms are not very precise. Usually, coffee roasts types are identified by their color and the temperature reached during the roasting process. There are four main roast types : light, medium, medium-dark and dark. Although some coffees are naturally darker or lighter than others, these are convenient ways to categorize roasts.

When purchasing coffee, you should expect different characteristics from each roast type (level):

1. Light Roasts:

  • Retain Most of the Original Coffee Characteristics

  • Have a light brown, tan, color and lack of oil on the roasted beans. They have the highest acidity and are the brightest of the three roast levels.

  • Are sometimes called Half City, Light City, New England, or Cinnamon roasts.

  • Beans reach an internal temperature of 180°C – 205°C (356°F – 401°F). At or around 205°C, the beans pop or crack and expand in size. This is known as the “first crack”. So a light roast generally means a coffee that has not been roasted beyond the "first crack".


2. Medium Roasts:

  • Roasted just past the "first crack", the beans have a darker brown color than a light roast and will look richer. Some of the coffee’s oils may be visible on the beans. 

  • At this roast level, the coffee’s qualities begin to give way to the roast’s flavors and aromas, creating a balance between acidity and body. You’ll still be able to taste the original coffee, but the brightness of the beans will be complemented with the fuller body that is introduced by the roasting process.

  • Reaches temperatures that range between 210 °C (410 °F) called American, and 219 °C (426 °F) called City. Are also known as Breakfast, or Regular roasts.


3. Medium-Dark Roasts:

  • Roasted just before the "second crack", the beans are a darker brown color than the medium roasts, and have an oily surface.  It gives you a strong, rich flavor, without being too bitter.  

    • 225 °C (437 °F), Full City Roast.

Some coffee roasters consider this roast a dark-roast, but medium-dark it is an oficial classification, separated from the dark roasts.


4. Dark Roasts:

  • Roasted until reaching the "second crack", the beans are a  dark brown color with an oily surface.  It gives you a strong, rich flavor; the darker the roast, it has less acidity.

  • The brightness of light roasts is replaced with body in dark roasts.

  • Historically, dark roasts have been popular in Europe, where are named as Continental, Italian, French, and Spanish roasts. Espresso roasts are also dark roasts.

  • Reaches temperatures that range as follows:  230 °C (446 °F), Vienna Roast; 240 °C (464 °F), French Roast; 245 °C (473 °F), Italian Roast.

Note: First and second "crack" are audible, physical cracks, that sound like hearing popcorn popping, as a result of expansion of the coffee beans during the roasting process, when its moisture begins to evaporate. This moisture forms steam and pressure, that forces the coffee beans to "crack" while expanding.


Which Roast is better? 

Roast level is largely a personal preference, as each level produces different qualities in the coffee. It is all about the taste, the flavor, the aroma. Knowing the features of light, medium or dark roasts, can help you identify the roast level(s) that you might like. 

Since the caffeine level decreases as the roast gets darker, you may prefer a lighter roast in the morning (with more caffeine) and a darker one later in the day. 

Our usual Medium- Roast is like a "City", and the Medium - Dark Roast is equivalent to a "Full City", which has become the most popular roast within our customers.