Illy Vs. Kimbo (The Two Italian Outstanding Coffee Brands)

Last Updated on May 8, 2022 by John Moretti

Italian coffee has grown to prominence due to the nation’s passion for producing outstanding coffee in a fiercely competitive market that demands excellence. So, let’s spill the beans on whether Illy or Kimbo truly epitomizes Italian coffee perfection.

Illy is an Italian company with a wide range of quality products ranging from medium to dark and decaffeinated roasted Arabica coffees that are sourced from various countries. Neapolitan Kimbo prides itself on crafting 15 outstanding coffee blends from 100% organic Arabica and/or Robusta beans.

There’s no doubt that Illy and Kimbo both deserve accolades for producing superb coffee with the rich Italian aroma we have come to love. Although you might miss out on the best Italian coffee, stay with me here!

Illy’s Italian Victory

Illy is a quintessentially Italian, quality coffee brand that has a long and illustrious history dating back to 1933 when its intrepid founder, Francesco Illy, opened a little illycaffè and subsequently invented the first commercial espresso machine

Since those early heydays, this third-generation family-led company has been globally renowned for crafting superb velvety espresso and other exceptional coffees proudly displayed in their silver-red elegant yet sophisticated iconic cans.

cup of coffee  in red coffee machine

Illy branded coffee products, including Illy Issimo energy drinks, are available in roughly 140 countries. The company’s phenomenal growth has resulted in the Illy Group of companies with a strong presence in France, Germany, Spain, Benelux, and North America.

This Italian staple’s philosophical approach to the business is to marry fine art and science with taste to amplify the proper enjoyment of drinking an exceptional cup of coffee. Their bespoke “illy art collection” is evident in designer cups and proudly Italian coffee shops.

Illy’s passion for producing outstanding coffee led to the establishment of the ‘Università del Caffè’ which has since become a thought leader in delivering quality coffee across the globe through cutting-edge research, innovation, and training initiatives. 

Kimbo’s Neapolitan Success Story

a restaurant

Kimbo was founded by siblings Francesco, Elio, and Gerardo Rubino in Naples during the fifties when they opened Café do Brasil, a small roasting company. 

However, the Kimbo Caffè was only established in 1963 as modern packaging technology advancements enabled the brothers to can and distribute their Kimbo products on an industrial scale more widely, including their more affordable Kosé coffee range.

The Kimbo brand subsequently became the second most popular package coffee brand behind Lavazza in 1994, resulting in their significant market share in Europe, the USA, Japan, Australia, and the Middle East. 

However, a significant family dispute amongst the Rubino founder’s heirs led to several new Café making Brasil leadership appointments and business strategies to increase Kimbo coffee exports from Campania.

On the 50th anniversary in 2013, cousins ​​Alessandra and Paola Rubino decided to change the company’s trading name to Kimbo, and it has since gone from strength to strength.

To this day, Kimbo has been a central figure in Neapolitan households as enjoying coffee together is believed to unite disparate communities. However, the fact that Kimbo still upholds traditional coffee roasting practices has led to their meteoric success.

Illy Vs. Kimbo: Who’s Coffee Is Truly The Best?

While the Illy and Kimbo brands are outstanding, deciding which coffee brand is the best would ultimately depend on your taste. So, let’s compare both brands in terms of their quality, value for money, and most importantly, their espressos.  

The Best Quality Coffee Brand

hand holding tall cup

Illy has a wide range of quality products ranging from medium to dark and decaffeinated roasted Arabica coffees mainly sourced from Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Nicaragua, India, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

Unlike Kimbo, Illy cannot confirm that all its Arabica bean suppliers produce 100% organic coffee, although they do endeavor to use sustainably produced ingredients.

Illy’s bespoke Arabica coffee roasting practices result in a coffee with a uniquely balanced variety of floral, chocolaty – caramel, fruity, yet spicy notes due to its varied intercontinental origins.

However, Illy does produce sterling single-origin Arabica bean coffee, including Idillyum, a seasonal low-caffeine coffee brand sourced from El Salvador.

Illy’s product range varies from pre-ground coffee packaged in pressurized steel cans to retain their profound aroma, including whole bean packaged coffee, ESE pods, and iperEspresso capsules.

Although they have also started producing illy Issimo coffee-flavored energy drinks in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, which are available in several flavors ranging from: cappuccino, caffè, latte macchiato, and mochaccino. 

coffee pods

On the other hand, Kimbo is an excellent choice for discerning coffee lovers who prefer sustainably produced, 100% organic Arabica coffee in accordance with stringent Fairtrade practices.

The company features 15 coffee blends with a uniquely Neapolitan taste with varying roasts and strengths to cater to all tastes ranging from latte macchiato, cappuccino, and lungo to robust espresso.

Kimbo products are available in pre-ground or whole coffee bean 1 kg packages, including their Dolce Crema, Crema Intensa, and Espresso varieties, including capsules and pods.

The Verdict

Although Illy and Kimbo produce excellent quality coffee, choosing one over the other is impossible. However, the fact that Kimbo can vouch for their supplier’s ethical farming practices could sway conscientious buyers in their favor. 

The Best Value For Money

coffee beans

Illy has perfected the art of roasting exceptional coffee blends to produce outstanding products. It is evident that they offer discerning consumers value for money if they are prepared to spend more.

On the other hand, Kimbo makes an effort to travel to all their coffee plantation suppliers to ensure that they produce the best sustainably produced quality coffee roasts, which might be worth paying for.

Whose Espresso Is The Best?

cups of coffee

There’s nothing more Italian than a great Espresso, so let’s look at who’s is the best and why.

Illy espresso is perfect for coffee lovers who love a dark chocolatey, strong espresso to kick start their day. However, because they only use Arabica beans, Illy’s espresso only contains 60 milligrams of caffeine, far less than espresso produced with cheaper Robusta bean varieties.

Kimbo espresso is excellent for those who prefer espresso with a kick. This potent blend of 80% Arabica and 20% Robusta beans from Asia and South America creates a full-bodied coffee with a decadent aroma in the authentic Neapolitan style.


While Illy has cornered the market by producing outstanding whole-bodied coffee in their iconic silver packaging, Kimbo has reached global notoriety for crafting ethically produced roasted blends that will satisfy even the most discerning coffee connoisseurs.