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Use kcat with Aiven for Apache Kafka®

The kcat tool (formerly known as kafkacat) is a generic non-JVM producer and consumer for Apache Kafka®. It can be used to produce and consume records to Apache Kafka topics as well as to list service configurations.

Install kcat

kcat is an open source tool available from GitHub at Installation instructions are provided in the repository README.

Retrieve Aiven for Apache Kafka® SSL certificate files

Aiven for Apache Kafka by default enables TLS security. The certificates can be manually downloaded from the service overview page in the Aiven console, or via the dedicated Aiven CLI command.

Setup a kcat configuration file

While kcat accepts all connection configuration parameters in the command line, using a configuration file helps minimising the code needed for any following calls. A kcat configuration file enabling the connection to an Aiven for Apache Kafka® service with TLS security must contain the following entries:

  • bootstrap.servers: Aiven for Apache Kafka® service URI, that can be found in the service overview in Aiven console
  • security.protocol: security protocol, SSL for the default TLS security settings
  • ssl.key.location: location of the service.key file downloaded from the service overview in Aiven console
  • ssl.certificate.location: location of the service.cert file downloaded from the service overview in Aiven console
  • location of the ca.pem file downloaded from the service overview in Aiven console

An example of the kcat configuration file is provided below:

Once the content is stored in a file named kcat.config, this can be referenced using the -F flag:

kcat -F kcat.config

Alternatively, the same settings can be specified directly on the command line with:

kcat \
-b \
-X security.protocol=ssl \
-X ssl.key.location=service.key \
-X ssl.certificate.location=service.cert \

If SASL authentication is enabled, then the kcat configuration file requires the following entries:

If you're using Aiven for Apache Kafka®, you can retrieve the kcat command parameters using the dedicated Aiven CLI command.

Produce data to an Apache Kafka® topic

Use the following code to produce a single message into topic named test-topic:

echo test-message-content | kcat -F kcat.config -P -t test-topic -k test-message-key
  • -P: sets the producer mode
  • -t: specifies the topic
  • -k: sets the message key

The output of the above comment is a message sent to Apache Kafka® test-topic containing test-message-key as key and test-message-content as payload.

kcat can use a file as input input and specify a delimiter (-D) for splitting rows into individual records for bulk loading of data.

Consume data from an Apache Kafka® topic

Use the following code to consume messages coming from a topic named test-topic:

kcat -F kcat.config -C -t test-topic -o -1 -e
  • -C: sets for consumer mode
  • -t: specifies the topic again
  • -o: defines the topic starting message offset (negative values are considered relative to the latest offset)
  • -e: stops kcat once the end of the topic is reached; without it, it will continuously poll Apache Kafka for new messages.

The above command retrieves the last message (-o -1) from the topic named test-topic. Consult the kcat helper (by adding the -h flag) for the full list of parameters.


When consuming from a topic, setting the -f flag to %t-%p: %o %S returns the topic name, partition, offset and size for each message.