Illy vs Lavazza: Which Is the Best Italian Coffee Brand?

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Lavazza was my first introduction to true Italian espresso, and that is a moment that changed my perspective on coffee forever. The aroma, the flavor even the appearance of the beans was different.

I was hooked.

But Lavazza isn’t the only historic Italian coffee brand. Illy is a company known for their espresso. It’s what they do, and they do it better than most. But are they better than Lavazza? It’s like asking me to choose between my oldest friend and my closest confidant, but I’ll do it: prepare for the battle of Illy vs Lavazza.

The Most Unique Thing About Italian Coffee Brands

First, let’s talk a bit about coffee from Italy in general.

Ready to get your mind blown? This next fact may come as a surprise to casual Italian coffee drinkers.

What can’t you grow in Italy’s climate?

Coffee beans.

That’s right, there is no such thing as an Italian coffee bean. Italian coffee makers didn’t become world-renowned for growing the best beans.

That’s going to make this a bit different than my usual articles. The best Cuban coffee brands earned their name using only Cuban coffee beans. Brazil is famous for coffee because Brazilian coffee beans make up the plurality of the world market. Ethiopian coffee beans introduced the drink to the world.

Italy had no beans of their own to start their coffee empire. So how did they become the country we associate most with such quality coffee drinks as espresso and cappuccino?

Italian coffee roasters put their country on the map by mastered the arts of sourcing, blending — and, of course, roasting coffee beans. That’s what makes those multinational coffee beans into what we’ve come to know as Italian coffee.

What Is Italian Coffee Like?

Coffee from Italy tends toward dark roasts that aren’t overly oily. In many cases, though, you will see medium roasts as well. Don’t expect to find much in the way of light roast from Italian coffee roasters (although they do exist)!

A cup of coffee, with the crema shaped like Italy

This dark roast preference is strongly connected with the Italian coffee lovers’ devotion to espresso. Dark roasted beans are more porous, so you can pull more flavor from them during the espresso brewing process. Light roasts make a more sour espresso since this is the predominant flavor from under-extracted coffee grounds.

As some of you may know, the Country of Italy differs a lot from north to south, and Italian coffee culture is no different. When it comes to coffee from Italy, northern Italians prefer pure Arabica beans. Southern Italy tends more toward a blend of Arabica beans and Robusta beans.

Illy and Lavazza: The History of Italian Coffee

There is a long and vibrant history behind Italian coffee culture, dating back to the 16th when Venice became one of the first European ports to start importing coffee beans. The true revolution didn’t happen until 1901 when a coffee historian named Luigi Bezzera came up with the idea of producing a short, concentrated coffee beverage by forcing pressurized water through coffee grounds — a drink that came to be called espresso.

Several Italian brands of coffee started to rise up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Two of those companies have risen above the rest, taking control of an impressive share of the Italian coffee market and garnering a significant international audience. As you might have guessed, those two are Illy and Lavazza Illycaffè S.p.A., more often known as Illy, was founded in 1933 in Trieste, Italy by Francesco Illy, a WW1 officer. Francesco Illy was also the inventor of the first compressed air coffee maker, an important predecessor to the modern espresso machine.

Luigi Lavazza S.p.A., or Lavazza for short, dates even further back to 1895 when it was founded in Turin, Italy by Luigi Lavazza, an Italian businessman. Both Illy and Lavazza are still run by either 3rd or 4th generation members of their respective families.

Illy vs Lavazza: Type of Coffee Beans

Illy uses only 100% Arabica beans in their coffee, which have more sugars and are known for their unique flavor profile. This choice goes a long way toward their reputation as a high-end coffee brand.

A side-by-side look at Arabica and Robusta coffee beans

Lavazza also uses primarily Arabica beans, and they have some blends that feature 100% Arabica beans. More often, though, they have between 20% – 40% Robusta beans. As I mentioned earlier, these beans add an earthier flavor and a higher caffeine content. If you are looking for a stronger cup of coffee or a thicker layer of crema on your espresso, Arabica/Robusta blends are the way to go.

The Quality of Illy vs Lavazza

Lavazza’s claim to fame, and a primary driver of their dominance in the Italian market, are their ground coffees which have become the most popular choice for the beloved Italian Moka Pot. Lavazza’s inclusion of the earthier and more caffeine-filled Robusta beans makes a better brew for Moka Pots than pure Arabica beans.

Illy’s focus, on the other hand, is on the Italian espresso market, where they are generally considered to be a higher-end product than Lavazza.

Illy vs Lavazza: Coffee Tastes and Varieties

Lavazza’s coffees

Lavazza has, as of my last count, 19 different blends to choose from each with its own flavor profile. Here are a few highlights.

Lavazza Espresso Italiano

  • 1 2.2 pound bag of Lavazza caffe espresso Italian whole coffee beans
  • Rich bodied medium roast with highly aromatic notes
  • Non GMO, 100 percent Arabica
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Best used for espresso but also suitable in any coffee maker

Let’s start at the 100% Arabica end of the spectrum where things are only moderately intense. Espresso Italiano is a medium-roast that uses beans from Central and South America, blended to produce a rich-bodied, highly aromatic brew. You’ll find notes of fruits and flowers in this blend.

Lavazza Gran Espresso

  • One 2.2 pound bag of Lavazza Gran Espresso Italian whole coffee beans
  • Balanced and rich flavor medium roast with notes of cocoa and black pepper
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Best used with Espresso machine
  • Produced in a nut-free facility center, Contains only coffee

Gran Espresso is a balanced, full-bodied, and aromatic medium roast. The notes of cocoa and black pepper are powerful, offering an invigorating taste and aroma to this 40% Arabica, 60% Robusta blend.

Lavazza Super Crema

  • One 2.2 pound bag of Lavazza Super Crema Italian whole coffee beans
  • Mild and creamy medium espresso roast with notes of hazelnuts and brown sugar
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Best used with espresso machine
  • Produced in a nut-free facility center, Contains only coffee

This one — my personal favorite — is composed of 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta. Super Crema is aromatic, full-bodied, and designed to produce a rich crema. The notes of hazelnut and brown sugar are absolutely delicious in this medium roast.

Lavazza Crema E Gusto

  • Full-bodied dark roast with creamy and full-bodied, with spices notes
  • Dark Roast
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Suitable for brewing in any coffee maker
  • 1 2.2 pound bag of Lavazza crema E gusto whole bean coffee

Crema E Gusto is a dark roast that uses a combination of Brazilian Arabica beans and African and Indonesian Robusta beans, producing a rich, full-bodied brew that is fragrant, intense, and well-balanced, with aromatic notes of spices.

Illy’s coffees

Illy has a much more narrow selection of coffee bean varieties, and it’s all built around the Classico roast, their flagship product. Illy’s main offerings — including the Classico — are blended origin roasts from 9 sources. Although the specific blend is a closely held secret, you can get a taste for everything that goes into it through their line of Arabica Selections.

Illy Classico

  • 100% Arabica coffee: we could offer you every roast and blend under the sun, but we'd rather give you the perfect one.
  • Allergen Information: abalone_free

Illy’s Classico Medium Roast is known for its sweetness and the subtle notes of caramel, jasmine, and orange blossom.

Illy Intenso

  • Intenso Dark Roast: Composed of 9 of the finest Arabica coffee sources worldwide, Intenso, Dark Roast is intense, robust and full flavored with notes of deep cocoa.
  • World’s Most Ethical Coffee: illy caffè was named on Ethisphere’s list for the seventh consecutive year, among just a handful of honorees in the beverage industry, highlighting illy’s achievement of leading with integrity.
  • 100% Arabica Coffee: We could offer you every roast and blend under the sun, but we’d rather give you the perfect one. We’ve spent eight decades refining a singular, signature blend of ground coffee—celebrated as the pinnacle of what coffee can be.
  • Unique Pressurized Coffee Packaging: Our unique pressurized packagaing preserves the flavor and complexity of the illy blend while enhancing the coffee’s aroma and ensuring optimal freshness.
  • Sip. Savor. Be Inspired: illy believes in sustainable quality and boasts more than 30 years dedicated to perfecting coffee bean growing methods to obtain a harvest that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable and responsible.

Given their reputation as the Italian choice for espresso, you were probably expecting Illy to have a dark roast, and they do. The Illy Intenso Dark Roast is the same blend as the Classico, but the additional roasting offers a robust flavor with hints of cocoa and dried fruit.

Illy Forte

  • Forte Extra Dark Roast: Composed of 9 of the finest Arabica coffee sources worldwide, Forte, Extra Dark Roast has a enduring richness with notes of dark chocolate and an intense aroma of toasted bread.
  • World’s Most Ethical Coffee: illy caffè was named on Ethisphere’s list for the seventh consecutive year, among just a handful of honorees in the beverage industry, highlighting illy’s achievement of leading with integrity.
  • 100% Arabica Coffee: We could offer you every roast and blend under the sun, but we’d rather give you the perfect one. We’ve spent eight decades refining a singular, signature blend of ground coffee—celebrated as the pinnacle of what coffee can be.
  • Unique Pressurized Coffee Packaging: Our unique pressurized packagaing preserves the flavor and complexity of the illy blend while enhancing the coffee’s aroma and ensuring optimal freshness.
  • Sip. Savor. Be Inspired: illy believes in sustainable quality and boasts more than 30 years dedicated to perfecting coffee bean growing methods to obtain a harvest that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable and responsible.

Illy’s Forte extra bold roast is the richest option in their lineup, with an intense toasted bread aroma and notes of dark chocolate.

I don’t generally recommend Forte though, for one important reason: As far as I’ve ever seen, it’s only sold as grounds, not as whole beans. This disadvantage is slightly offset by Illy’s use of inert gas-filled steel containers which keep the grounds fresh longer, but they’ll still lose their freshness very quickly after the first time you open the container.

Illy Arabica Selection Collection

  • Explore the individual taste and distinct aroma of each single origin Arabica coffee, found in the legendary illy blend, each highlighting the singular style, culture and flavor of these distinctive geographic region
  • Carefully selected and meticulously roasted, illy coffee beans invoke a sensual beauty and poetry in the passionate coffee lover.
  • Our unique pressurized coffee packaging preserves the flavor and complexity of the illy blend while enhancing the coffee’s aroma and ensuring optimal freshness.
  • Each pressurized can contains 8.8oz of Whole Bean MonoArabica Brazil Single Origin Coffee.
  • If you are not completely satisfied with your illy purchase, we will refund your order. No questions asked.
  • illy has 4 different research facilities to continuously strive to offer the best possible coffee, everyday.
  • Certifications: illy has 5 certifications including 4 quality certifications and 1 sustainability certification.

If you want to dive deeper into their catalog, each of the single-origin coffees has its own unique flavor, all with the quality of an Illy roast. You’ll get to see all the types of coffee it takes to make the complex Illy blend, including single-origin Indian, Brazilian, Guatemalan, Ethiopian, Costa Rican, and Colombian coffee beans.

Other Products From Illy and Lavazza

Ready to drink coffees

  • Introducing illy cold brew ready to drink Classico, delivering a mild and balanced taste profile
  • Cold brewed for 12 hours
  • The taste is uniquely naturally sweet and balanced with less acidity
  • All Natural, No preservatives, added colors or flavors
  • 100% Arabica coffee

Illy has branched out into ready-made coffee drinks. Illy’s coffee drink options include Classico Cold Brew, Cappuccino, Caffe Latte, Mochaccino, Caffe, and Caffe unsweetened. Lavazza has similar options in Europe, but they don’t seem to be available in the US yet.

Instant coffee

Neither company has as many options in instant coffees as they do for whole beans, grounds, and capsules, but both the Lavazza Intenso instant coffee and Illy blend instant coffee are good quality for instant coffee.

Coffee makers

When you’ve been around as long as these two coffee companies and covered the wide range of coffee products that they have, it only makes sense that you’d branch out into espresso makers and coffee machines.

  • Effortlessly prepare Espresso and coffee with easy to use one-touch operation
  • Compact design with fully frontal use (4. 80" X 10. 60" X 10. 50")
  • Room for two cups and the commands make it possible to memorize and select two different Espresso sizes
  • Water tank: removable, Can be refilled even when the machine is in function; capacity 0. 70 liters (23. 70 oz)
  • Works with illy iperEspresso capsules

In the case of Illy, they’ve focused entirely on the capsule-based coffee machine market. Their iperEspresso line is similar in concept to the Nespresso. I’m not going to do a full head-to-head comparison here, but the Nespresso produces better quality machines, whereas Illy machines are typically preferred for the quality of the coffee itself.

  • Works with Lavazza Blue capsules
  • 2 Coffee selections: simple touch controls, 1 programmable free dose and 1 pre-set.
  • Visual alerts: fitted with a visual indicator to show when the water tank is empty or the capsules drawer is full.
  • Capsule drawer: maximum capacity of 5 exhausted capsules.Frequency: 5060 Hz
  • Transparent water tank capacity: 0. 2Gl
  • Removable cup support: can be adapted perfectly for any type of cup, from espresso cups to mugs.
  • Power supply: 110V; Machine start-up time: 28 sec.
  • Sizes: 5. 3" x 13" x 10. 2"
  • Weight: 7. 7 lb
  • Stand-by function for instant use and Energy saving, ABS

As is Lavazza’s style, they didn’t put all their beans in one basket when it came to coffee machines. They have not one but two lines of capsule machines: Lavazza Blue and Lavazza Espresso Point. For most users, the Lavazza Blue Classy Mini is really the only one worth considering, as it is their flagship consumer option.

  • Stovetop pot brews rich, aromatic espresso in just a few minutes.
  • Distinctive Italian design is durable, reliable, simple to use and easy to maintain.
  • Handle and knob stay cool on the stovetop
  • Includes: 1 Lavazza Limited Edition Black Carmencita Stovetop Coffee Maker + 1 8 OZ. Tin Can of Lavazza Caffe Espresso
  • Lavazza Carmencita Gift Set
  • Do not wash with soap or in dishwasher

Not interested in capsule machines? If you want more of a classic Italian coffee-making experience, there’s a Lavazza for that. The Lavazza Carmencita is a redesign of the classic Moka pot that you’d find in any Italian coffee lover’s home.

Other Notable Italian Coffee Brands

Vergnano

  • Imported from Italy.

Caffè Vergnano is one of the oldest Italian coffee brands, dating all the way back to 1883. They strive for a balance of deep traditions and forward-thinking innovation. Their signature blend, Espresso Crema, uses Arabica and Robusta beans and has a sweet, chocolatey flavor.

Danesi

  • Danesi Gold is blended to savor a rich and mellow coffee. With its sweet honey and caramel flavor, it combines green beans selected from Latin America, Africa and Indonesia.
  • Slowly roasted, it produces a graceful taste and a long lasting aromatic finish. The well balanced acidity is ideally combined with a rich and silky textures body.

Danesi’s Caffe Espresso Gold blend is made from 100% Arabica beans and is known for its smoothness, sweetness, and intensity. But to me, the highlight is that along with the chocolate flavor, you’ll notice hints of lemon, not a flavor most of us associate with coffee. Oh, and I feel obliged to mention that they are one of the first coffee roasters to achieve ISO 9001 quality certification for their roasting process.

Segafredo

  • The best selling Segafredo and the completely righteous.
  • A powerful coffee that presents itself with spice, structure and excellent body.
  • Intermezzo No, but an excellent coffee for any occasion.
  • This blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans used to be called, as it was sold only in Italy just Vinegar Rossa, also because this is one of the oldest recipes behind Segafredo.
  • The Segafredo Intermezzo was for many years the only good espresso, which was available in whole bean in Germany, and has made ​​over decades practical groundwork for today's espresso shaft.

Segafredo is probably most well-known for the unique rectangular shape of their vacuum-sealed packages. Although their operations have expanded significantly in the past couple of decades, they continue to source their Arabica and Robusta coffees primarily from Peruvian, Brazilian, and Costa Rican coffee beans.

Kimbo

  • Product of Italy
  • European dating, they put the day first, then the month, then the year.

Most Italian coffee bean blends tend toward more Arabica beans than Robusta beans, but Kimbo breaks with that tradition. Their Extra Cream Espresso blend is 35% Arabica beans and 65% Robusta beans. If you are looking for a rich, thick crema on your espresso, you need to give Kimbo a shot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Illy or Lavazza make coffee pods?

Yes! Both Illy and Lavazza have a few varieties of coffee pods.

  • This variety pack includes 1 box of Illy Arabica selection Brasile, 1 box of Illy Arabica selection Columbia, 2 boxes of Illy Medium roast, 2 boxes of Illy Dark Roast

There are Illy k-cups available for their Classico, Intenso, Forte, and decaffeinated blends. They’ve even added Keurig pods for several of their Brazilian and Colombian single-origin roasts. 

Lastly, Illy has capsules for their own machine: the iperEspresso.

  • 6 Packs of 10 single serve Nespresso pods of the Armonico (2 boxes), Decaffeinato Ricco, Avvolgente, Leggero, and Deciso coffee blends (60 cups total)
  • Blends range from medium roast to dark, espresso roasts and intensities of 4 to 10 out of 13
  • Armonico espresso and leggero lungo blends are 100 percent Arabica
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Can only be brewed using a Nespresso OriginalLine machine

Lavazza offers several varieties of k-cups, including their Espresso Italiano, Classico, and Gran Aroma light roast. They also have a line of Nespresso OriginalLine capsules, and these are some of the best Nespresso-compatible capsules on the market.

Of course, Lavazza also offers capsules for their own machines: the Blue and the Espresso Point.

Do Illy and Lavazza have decaf coffee beans?

Yep! If you are looking for decaf options, Illy and Lavazza both have them.

  • Decaf Medium Roast: Composed of 9 of the finest Arabica coffee sources worldwide, Decaf Medium Roast is our classic roast coffee has a lingering sweetness and delicate notes of caramel, orange blossom and jasmine.
  • World’s Most Ethical Coffee: illy caffè was named on Ethisphere’s list for the seventh consecutive year, among just a handful of honorees in the beverage industry, highlighting illy’s achievement of leading with integrity.
  • 100% Arabica Coffee: We could offer you every roast and blend under the sun, but we’d rather give you the perfect one. We’ve spent eight decades refining a singular, signature blend of ground coffee—celebrated as the pinnacle of what coffee can be.
  • Unique Pressurized Coffee Packaging: Our unique pressurized packagaing preserves the flavor and complexity of the illy blend while enhancing the coffee’s aroma and ensuring optimal freshness.
  • Sip. Savor. Be Inspired: illy believes in sustainable quality and boasts more than 30 years dedicated to perfecting coffee bean growing methods to obtain a harvest that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable and responsible.

The decaf variant of Illy’s famous blend is available as ground coffeewhole beansk-cupsiperEspresso capsules, and E.S.E. pods.

All of those are based on their Classico medium roast, decaffeinated by steaming and then rinsing with dichloromethane or ethyl acetate. This is a common approach to decaffeination, but it takes out too much of the flavor, which is why the Swiss Water Process is preferred by most high-end brands.

  • One 1.1 lb. Bag of Lavazza Dek decaffeinated Italian whole coffee beans
  • Creamy dark roast with smooth flavor and exceptional aroma with notes of raosted cerals and barrique.
  • Decaffeinated using a natural process
  • Blended and roasted in Italy
  • Best used with Espresso machine
  • Packaging may vary
  • Produced in a nut-free facility center, Contains only coffee

Lavazza has both medium-roast and dark-roast decaf options, and these are available as ground coffeewhole beansk-cupsKeurig Rivo podsNespresso capsulesLavazza Blue capsules, and Lavazza Espresso Point capsules.

Lavazza uses a carbon dioxide decaffeination method that is more environmentally friendly than Illy’s process and leaves much more flavor and aroma in the beans. It’s comparable in product quality to the Swiss Water Process, but not quite as good for the environment.

Which One Is the Best Italian Coffee Brand: Illy vs Lavazza?

Let me just come out and state the obvious: Illy is more expensive. In some cases, you’ll pay 2-3 times as much for it. The smoother, more refined flavor might be worth forking out the extra dollars if you can afford it. But Lavazza beans are still a cut above most other brands you’ll find at your local grocery store.

In short, you can’t go wrong with either of these options. Both make excellent espresso coffee beans, and both also offer delicious medium or dark roast filter coffee. Either one will provide a coffee experience that opens your eyes to the worthiness of Italy’s renown in the coffee world.

There are few experiences that are as universally delightful as waking up to the aroma of a freshly brewed Italian coffee blend. Magnifico.

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