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Kona Coffee...Is there a similar tasting coffee that doesn't have a price tag fitting of gold?

I just purchased a french press for my boyfriend as one of his Christmas presents, and would like to buy him some coffee to go along with the press. I am a non-coffee drinker who knows nothing about coffee, but I have heard him mention on a few occasions that he enjoys Kona/Kona blends, though he seems to drink other flavors too. Since Kona is so expensive, I'm wondering if there was a Kona-like coffee that was less taxing on my wallet which I could purchase. Does anyone have any suggestions for either specific coffee "flavors" or at least what genre of coffee I should be looking into?

Oh, and it should be noted...when he usually drinking Kona it is from Wawa, a local convenience store that has decent, though definitely not high-quality beverages. So, I think it is safe to say that whatever they are passing off as Kona likely is not 100% (or frankly even any %) pure Kona Mountain Estate coffee. Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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  1. Kona is not that great considering the options, more so considering price. You should probably check out Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' site.

    1. I agree, Kona has never been impressive. I am a dark, strong coffee lover and Kona was thoroughly unimpressive. If your boyfriend likes mild, acidic coffee than there are plenty of just as good and cheaper options. Try many of the South American blends from Starbucks or the lighter roasts from Peet's.

      1. Trader Joe's has some Kona that is around $14 a can, that may be in your price range. Haven't tried it myself, but maybe someone else can chime in if you have your heart set on getting him some.

        1. hello, your best source will always be from a place where the roasting is done on-site, or where they are close enough to the roasting facilities, and have a high sales volume, so what you're getting is very fresh, roast-wise. Without going into complex flavor profiles, many coffee drinkers have a preference in their comfort range of two general characteristics: body and acidity (as I said, flavor is very subjective and more complex, especially since you referred to what is likely a blend and not a single varietal; if it's good arabica frehly roasted, it won't be flavorless). One of the best coffees that is very consistent due to the way it is marketed through a govt. auction system, and is in the same range of body and acidity as kona, would be Kenya. If you find a purveyor as I described, try their Kenya, it will retail for $7-8 for 1/2 lb. cheers

          1. I agree wholeheartedly to the 1st two posts regarding Kona. I've never been impressed with it, and have always wondered why it gets so much attention. There are much more interesting Arabicas out there, grown at much higher altitudes and therefore resulting in a harder, denser bean.

            One I strongly recommend to most drinkers is a good Ehtiopian Sidamo, more specifically a Yrgacheffe. Try to find a roaster that will roast it lighter than what is prevalent these days with the big name roasters. I feel this bean requires a light touch in order to preserve it's wonderful aromas and delicate flavors. (I have pictures up on my Flickr site with more details on the roast levels that I personally prefer, http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam...

            )

            It's vibrant and cleansing acidity makes it very food compatible, but its bouquet makes it a pleasant drink all on its own.

            I suspect that once he tastes a carefully roasted Yrgacheffe, he will not likely return to Kona ever again... (BTW the Yrgacheffe should be priced similarly to the Kenyas recommended by moto.)

            And congrats on the french press purchase; it makes for a great gift. It's the simplest thing one can do to upgrade their coffee experience, short of getting into the world of semi-commercial espresso machines.

            8 Replies
            1. re: cgfan

              cgfan,
              Any french press advice you'd like to pass along? Can you remind me how specifically the beans should be ground in order to be best utilized by the press? And, is the grinding something you tend to do at home with your own grinder, or do you purchase your beans ground this way? Thanks!

              1. re: Laura D.

                Hi Laura, I can't give you too much advice on the coffee, we buy organic beans ( a reg. roast and if we want to really splurg will buy a Jamacian Blue), but I can answer your question about french press methods. We grind our beans fresh, a course grind is best for french press, boil the water and after is just comes to a boil,remove from heat and let it rest for 30 seconds or so and then proceed with the rest of the steps. Cover with a towel when you let the coffee step for the rec. time. It's an easy method-once you get used to it. Hope this helps.

                1. re: jackie de

                  Thanks Jackie....I'm not sure how much instruction the press came with, and while I read online a brief blurb about making sure to use a coarse grind for the press, that's about all I read. So, I'll make sure to follow your process since it sounds like it yields great results. Thanks again!

                2. re: Laura D.

                  It will aways be best if you can grind at home, and even if that means using a blade-type grinder instead of a burr-type grinder. Always try to grind for each batch, and do not grind ahead of time.

                  Most will have a blade-type grinder at home, and if he doesn't have one, they're not that expensive. However burr-type grinders are preferred, and personally, especially for something like French Press, I'd suggest the German made Zassenhaus brand. They're a kick to use since they're manual, and it sort of fits the whole aesthetic of the French Press. (I personally do not like to hear the "hyperactive" sounds of the typical electric grinder in the morning, while I find the slow grinding sounds and the hands-on process of the Zassenhaus to be soothing and almost therapeutic.)

                  Grind coarsely, and use 1 coffee measure per 6 oz. of water. Pour over the grinds with the plunger out. The coffee will form a crust as it floats to the top; break this crust and stir to evenly moisten the grinds and get them temporarily in suspension.

                  Immediately put the plunger in the French Press, keeping the screen just below the water level to force the grounds below the surface of the water, and make sure the sliding dome is also in place. Now just wait a few minutes and when you're ready slowly plunge the grinds all the way to the bottom.

                  What you want to do here is to stop/slow-down the brewing by confining the grinds to a small area at the bottom of the caraffe. Then slowly pour out the coffee, and finish the rest in a reasonable amount of time. If not, then pour out the entire contents into a thermal caraffe in order to prevent over-brewing.

                  You will note that with French Press, you can actually feel a textural difference in the mouth feel. You will be preserving in the brew more of the all-important oils that's the main vehicle to carry the complex flavors to your palette. The method also insures that the coffee is evenly extracted, avoiding the areas of under and over-extraction that can easily occur with the widely-used drip methods.

                  Note: for some reason over the past year Zassenhaus grinders have not been coming in from Germany and will be hard to find. If you don't mind, used ones can be found on eBay. The French company Peugot also makes similar grinders, but I do not have any experience with them. But I would generally avoid all others, as most are produced cheaply just to create a period look, rather than the Zassenhaus which comes out of a long-standing tradition and is the real thing...

                  BTW I forgot to mention this little tidbit earlier. Coffee originates from Ethiopia, so by buying Ethiopian you are tasting what coffee originally tasted like before it travelled to other growing areas. Much like the tea ceremony and Japan, there is a coffee ceremony in Ethiopia, wherein they'll roast the beans over a fire in small batches in the home. It's an integral part of their culture, and I heard that cafes can be found all over their cities...

                  1. re: cgfan

                    CG,
                    I just purchased a grinder this morning, and luckily it appears to be the blade rather than burr type. We'll try it out and see how it goes, and, if it seems worthwhile, I'll look into purchasing a Zassenhaus--either new or on ebay.

                    Thanks for all of the explanation. I think I'll literally copy and paste your instructions into a word document, and provide them with the press. Thanks again!

                    1. re: Laura D.

                      I don't know if you made a typo or read cgfan's post incorrectly, but a heads up that burr grinders are better than blade grinders for producing an even grind.

                      1. re: Pei

                        Pei...I did misread. Oh well, I knew I couldn't get that lucky! Anyway, Macy's had a limited selection of coffee grinders, and this one was a reasonable price, so I'll make sure it gets used first, and then perhaps will invest in a nicer, burr-style one. Thanks for catching that!

                        1. re: Laura D.

                          Don't worry, it's still better than pre-ground! For the life of me I can't taste a significant difference between the two if the beans are fresh and the coffee doesn't steep too long.

                          And when you invest in a burr grinder, you can keep the blade grinder for churning up spices!