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Behind The Coffee Roasting Process

Behind The Coffee Roasting Process

At Kona Coffee & Tea we take our seed to cup operation very seriously, in fact we maintain meticulous control of our little coffee seeds (yes, coffee is the seed of a fruiting shrub) from the moment they are planted into the ground to the very second we hand it off to you. 

Kona Coffee & Tea’s 100% Kona coffee comes from the Waiono Meadow Estate Farm PHOTO: Ike Huffman, Hale Magazine

With almost 200 acres of planted coffee trees, we oversee our sustainable and regenerative farming practices, our very own milling operations (where the coffee is processed), our roasting operations (the cooking or browning of the “bean”), our packaging and distribution center, and of course, our flagship Kona Coffee & Tea Café in downtown Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, where our hand-selected baristas are among the top award winning baristas on the islands…the final front line to your Single Estate - 100% Kona Coffee drinking experience. 

The Roasting Process

Today, we focus on the roasting process and give you a glimpse into what is often a mysterious and heavily guarded trade, shrouded in secrecy. 

A German coffee roasting machine from the late 1800’s remains the blueprint for the vast majority of the best machines today, including ours.

Roasting begins when the solid, green coffee beans are poured into a red-hot cast iron rotating drum of the coffee roaster. You may have seen (or smelled) our roasting machine located in the back of our Kona Coffee & Tea Café. In more than 100 years of coffee roasting history, the best coffee roasting machines have remained largely unchanged since their inception. They appear almost like an industrial homage to yesteryear. 

Below the rotating drum are high powered flames that heat the drum, with the bouncing coffee inside, up to 400 degrees and higher. It’s the roastmaster’s job to carefully manipulate the flame and airflow at certain exact times in the roast to slow or speed up the development of the coffee. This brings out the subtle, delicious nuances that make one roast different from another. Then, when the time is right, the roaster dumps the coffee out into the circular cooling tray below where it is cooled down to room temperature, thus ending the roasting process. It takes a skilled and experienced roaster to master these tricks, and even more-so to maintain consistency over time. Their knowledge is then handed down to the few worthy individuals, in secretive, gold-plated tablets in a long-forgotten language (just kidding).

Marc, a part of the roasting team, staring into the finished product as it cools. Photo: Ali Rowe 2021

Although anyone may technically be able to learn to roast coffee, not everyone has the passion and dedication needed to develop the skills and instincts to be great. In addition, Kona coffee is a unique coffee to roast, in itself. As a coffee growing region, Kona is like none other on the planet. Two massive volcanos, Mount Hualalai in the north and Mauna Loa to the south, make up the Kona coffee growing region. It is on these sacred slopes, at a specific elevation, that the coffee grows. The region is only about 30 miles long and about 2 to 3 miles wide and is made up of rich, volcanic soil that is naturally high in minerals needed to grow coffee. Perhaps it is this reason that the coffee grown on the steep slopes of Kona is one of the most sought after coffees on Earth.

At Kona Coffee & Tea we have been roasting 100% Kona coffee for over 20 years. We roast small batches daily to ensure freshness. We are great because we insist on greatness. We have extremely high standards, quality and consistency controls, and do not deviate from our mission of sharing only the very best Single Estate - 100% Kona Coffee. It is for this reason that the consistency of flavor and aroma of our coffee has been maintained over the years. Direct from our farm to your cup, this dedication to quality and consistency is what brings you all back day after day, and we intend to maintain and surpass our expectations. 

Photo: Ali Rowe 2021

Kona coffee beans in parchment, green, roasted, and brewed forms. PHOTO: : Dayva Keolanui


We are in a truly great position in Kona in that we can experience the effects different roasts have on the same coffee. At Kona Coffee & Tea, we grow and process all of our coffees ourselves. Thus, we can truly isolate the difference roasting makes in taste and the overall profile of the final cup. This can be extremely difficult for roasters buying coffee on the green coffee market. Although we start with the same green coffee, the degree of roast has an enormous effect on the flavor of the final cup.

Our 100% Kona Light roasted coffee can be said to be the truest expression of Terra (growing conditions, etc) of the Kona Coffee Belt. People that favor light roasts tend to appreciate the brighter and more fruity flavors that highlight the characteristics of the growing region at the forefront. When it comes to brewing, light roasted coffees tend to require a more exacting technique and recipe.

Kona Coffee & Tea Medium roast is the most popular of our roasts and not surprisingly so. The Medium roast offers an optimal mix of terra and roast profiles. There tends to be less brightness than in light roasts while also offering the depth and complexity brought about by the roast profile.

Dark roasts are rich with flavors acquired through the roasting process. Here you will see less bright flavors and more deep, dark flavors like cocoa or roasted nuts. You may lose some body in the darker roasts but not a lot and switching to a French Press or similar immersion method of brewing will more than make up for that. Dark roasts are generally sweeter tasting and often welcoming to the addition of cream or milk.


Generally, lighter roasts offer more fruit flavors and pop, while the darker roasts bring in more richness and depth. Even with our farm, milling, and roasting remaining consistent, annual changes in weather and other growing conditions subtly change the flavors found in the final cup. Every year is different, because every drop of rain, every second of sunlight, and every degree of roast effects the outcome. We hope you can taste the hard work that we’ve put into the 100% Kona coffee we sell and we welcome to you to try all three roast levels at our cafe, or in your home.

What’s your favorite roast?
Let us know by commenting below or share

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