Last Updated on February 1, 2022 by John Moretti
If there’s one thing that Italians are proud of, it’s their coffee. I, for one, am amazed by the intricate flavors each brand in Italy has put on the table over the years. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular Italian coffee brands, Illy and Lavazza, and compare them to find out which one emerges victorious in the brew game.
Both of these brands have their presence in more than 100 countries throughout the world and are often a subject of debate when it comes to choosing the best coffee brand in Italy.
These brands have been around for decades. That being said, there isn’t one single choice that can suit absolutely every individual. Your personal taste preference will play a crucial role in the selection of who’s the best.
Let’s get started.
Illy Vs. Lavazza Quick Overview
|Bean Type Used||100% Arabica beans||Robusta and Arabica beans|
|Products Offered||Ground coffee, coffee beans, K-cup pods, E.S.E pods, capsules||Coffee beans, instant coffee, ground beans, coffee capsules/pods|
|Aroma||Slightly acidic aroma with sharp undertones||Hint of dry fruits and chocolate|
|Flavor||Balanced and smooth||A smooth and peaty texture|
|Packaging||Comes in pressurized air-free cans topped with a metal seal||Vacuum-packed|
|Price Range||$10 to $8.8 per oz can||$5.8 to $8 per oz can|
Illy offers lots of variety in their coffee line, along with different seditions in roast levels. They also have a subscription service which comes in quite handy for long-term users. You can manually choose between whole, ground, and pod coffee options as well.
Lavazza, on the other hand, focuses on sustainability but offers a relatively less number of pre-ground options. The coffee that you get from Illy is made up of Arabica beans while Lavazza uses a mixture of Robusta and Arabica.
Illy also offers support for more espresso machines if you are into using them. While Lavazza offers a blend of origins, Illy is quite limited in this aspect.
But the oxygen-free packaging in Illy is better than the overall competition. However, these additional perks come bearing a high price tag in comparison.
To sum up, if you aren’t limited by budget and want to try a coffee that is smooth and has a refined taste, then you should go for Illy. Whereas, the budget-oriented people should go for Lavazza, which also has a better workplace culture and a smaller environmental footprint.
Illy: Brand Overview
Founded in 1933 by Francesco, Illy’s caffe played a crucial role in the making of the Illeta, which further set the foundation for the company. Stale coffee beans were a primary concern of manufacturers at that time who wanted to widen their shipment base.
Francesco revolutionized this by introducing a new method of packaging on pressurization. This allowed the company to spread its wings across Holland and Sweden in the 1940s. This resulted in fresh coffee beans even weeks after roasting.
Later on, Franceso’s son, Ernesto, joined hands with his father and put his chemistry doctorate to good use. They established an in-house lab where they made small alterations to their coffee and worked on its chemistry to provide the best taste possible.
At the beginning of the next decade, they started rolling out ground coffee in small cans to reduce their footprint. They established their headquarters in Via Flavia, Trieste, in 1965, which still stands to this date.
This is where they introduced the first pre-measured espresso pod, which allowed people to make a delectable cup of espresso regardless of whether they were at home or in a café. Ernesto further showed his brilliance by patenting a photo-chromatic method in 1988 to filter out the beans that were superior in quality.
This family business is now run by Andrea Illy, who happens to be the third generation progeny of the founder. Due to the company’s constant efforts and high-quality standards, they are now known across 140 countries. They are especially famous for their decaf and dark roast coffee blends and continue to prosper by bringing in multiple single-origin sources.
Lavazza: Brand Overview
From being a small store in Turin to turning into one of the most successful coffee companies, Lavazza’s journey is surely a remarkable one. Luigi Lavazza, an expert in coffee art and blending styles, founded the company in 1895. This brand aims to positively impact the lives of those who drink coffee.
Luigi spent time in Brazil where he witnessed how undervalued coffee as a commodity was. He took this opportunity and started mixing top-quality coffee from all over the world. His wife and daughter were also two of the five core members of the company and helped with its upbringing.
They later introduced an innovative packaging system called Pergamin which infused two layers of paper while packaging. This preserved the taste of the coffee and prevented the flavor from fading away. People could now purchase coffee in larger batches without a problem.
While the first generation focused on quality enhancement, Luigi’s children took charge of expanding their supply chain and switched to selling packaged coffee instead of loose coffee. They patented their cylindrical tin in 1949, which had a pressure cover and coated walls.
As a result, the smell of the coffee was always contained, keeping the coffee aroma intact. This also increased the shelf-life of their coffee.
Their impact on sustainability has been quite significant. They are known to have an excellent workplace culture and take good care of all of their employees. Lavazza started a non-profit organization in 2004 under the name The Giuseppe e Pericles Lavazza that focused on uplifting the living conditions of people in coffee-producing countries.
They have improved the lives of more than 8,000 farmers and continue to encourage their economic growth and standard of living. They also created a coffee machine named ISSpresso, which can be used in space.
Lavazza makes more revenue than Illy and also houses a larger workforce.
Illy vs. Lavazza (The 6 Differences)
1. Target Market
Lavazza has a stronger hold over the pre-ground coffee market. This is one of the top choices for buyers when it comes to Moka pot brewing. All of their blends contain a sizable proportion of Robusta coffee and taste excellent.
On the contrary, Illy is better known among espresso enthusiasts and is considered superior when it comes to taste.
2. Bean Selection
Illy uses 100% Arabica beans, which kind of limits it in certain taste aspects, while Lavazza provides a blend of Robusta and Arabica. More than 75% of the coffee produced is Arabica while Robusta takes up the remaining quarter.
A majority of Robusta-based drinks taste better due to high-sugar concentration and multiple flavor profiles. Robusta is ideal for people who prefer a stronger cup of coffee rich in antioxidants and caffeine.
3. Flavor Profile
In simple terms, Illy is a better option. With Illy, you get hints of toast, fruit, chocolate, and caramel, alongside a sweet and velvety texture. The aroma is mostly due to honey and almond.
Their Arabica beans are grown across four continents and mixed with nine separate batches of high-quality coffee beans. The residents in the north side of Italy like mild-tasting brews that have an acidic profile of pure Arabica beans, whereas the south side leans towards woody and bitter tastes.
Thus, Illy is preferred on the northern side.
Lavazza coffee is characterized by its golden cream and warm color. This coffee will generally give you a peaty flavor and is always roasted until the first crack.
It is worth noting that the method of brewing has an impact on flavor. For instance, coffee made in an automatic drip maker usually differs in taste from a cup made with a French Press. Furthermore, if your beans have been sitting out in the open for a long period of time, then they will lack all the flavors and aromas.
4. Product Availability
Both of these brands have lots to offer regardless of what brewing style or equipment you work with. Starting with Illy, they have 5 different lines of products which include K-cup pods, E.S.E pods, capsules, ground coffee, and whole beans. You can select each of these products by their roast level and origin.
Lavazza offers multiple lines, including ground, whole bean, espresso capsules, and instant coffee. You can choose your beans as per the blend you require (100% Arabica, Arabica and Robusta, etc.)
You may be thinking, why is packaging important if I store my coffee in an air-tight jar anyway?
Well, the true difference comes while the coffee is being transported. The quality of the packaging is directly proportional to the freshness and shelf-life of your coffee.
Illy has better packaging practices out of the two brands. Since they dispatch all their coffee in pressurized air-free steel containers, there’s no chance that any flavor will turn stale. They have replaced the oxygen inside the can with methylene chloride, which helps with the preservation of the coffee.
Lavazza offers two forms of packaging: paper and steel canisters. Air-free cans and vacuum-packed paper bags do a good job in preserving the freshness of the coffee.
Illy’s coffee usually costs more than Lavazza. The price you pay also depends on the quantity and type of coffee that you purchase.
That being said, both of these brands give discounts to users if they buy multiple cans at once and even ship the product for free when bought in bulk. In general, though, you can expect Illy’s blends to cost $3-5 more for every 8.8-ounce canister of the same type.
- As coffee markets grow, so do the demands of the consumer. In order to stay relevant, Illy offers many different varieties of coffees which can be filtered based on roast type and origin.
- Their beans are medium-roasted and taste like caramel, while their decaf offers a deep cocoa aftertaste. The taste you like can also be indicated by the origin as follows:
You get to choose from different pod types as per your preference.
- Decaffeinated: caramel
- Medium Roast: chocolate and caramel
- Extra Dark Roast: dark chocolate
- Dark Roast: deep cocoa
- Brazil: caramel
- Colombia: fruit
- Their taste is superior to the competition and packs an acidic punch with an overall balanced profile. It tastes sweet and velvety on the first try, leaving behind a toasty taste afterwards.
- The packaging quality is excellent and prevents the beans from having any kind of contaminating exposure.
- Illy offers a subscription scheme in which you can schedule a monthly delivery based on the kind of beans that you have ordered. This also has some price benefits in the long run.
- They feature a huge array of coffee machines, drip brewers, espresso machines, and milk frothers.
- Since their coffee is directly imported from Italy and is only sourced from high-quality farmlands, the price is considerably higher than most of the Italian coffee brands. You might even end up paying as high as $16 for 8.8 oz of coffee.
- In my testing, I felt that their coffee lacked a deeper flavor and at times missed on the dimensional intricacies that other brands have to offer. But this con is usually overshadowed by their consistent taste profile.
- They feature lots of options for every type of coffee lover, just like Illy, along with certain customizations that you can get as per your taste preference.
- This coffee will give you a balanced and smooth flavor profile where the acidic quotient is always toned down. Their beans are naturally sweet. They use Indonesian Robusta which is better in quality than the beans cultivated in Uganda or Vietnam.
- Their air-tight double-layered packaging looks quite attractive and ensures that your coffee stays fresh for a long time.
- They feature a coffee blend instead of Illy’s single origin coffee. This means that these beans have more antioxidants and caffeine per serving as compared to Illy.
- They are budget-friendly and can often be found at discounted rates across various online stores. An 8 oz container will cost you anywhere in the range of $5-6.
- They do not offer a subscription service like Illy which can be a disadvantage to those who want to save some cash when buying in bulk.
- They also lack coffee gear. As opposed to Illy, Lavazza just has two espresso machines on their website, one of which is no longer available.
Illy Coffee Recommendations
1. Illy Classico Ground Espresso
This blend is made up of 100% Arabica beans and comes in a medium roast. They mix the beans from the 9 best Arabica sources, providing a rich and premium flavor. This coffee is one of their bestselling products and offers balanced flavors of chocolate and caramel with every cup.
This brew has a distinct fragrance and is complemented by a well-balanced flavor. I would strongly advise you to try this out if you own a French Press. The orange blossom and jasmine aromas are sure to impress you.
2. Illy Moka Ground Classico Coffee
If you have a moka pot at home then this medium roast could be the perfect fit for it. These heavy-bodied beans have notes of caramel and orange and also leave a fruity tinge behind when consumed.
Lavazza Coffee Recommendations
1. Lavazza Super Crema
This coffee is very popular among the masses due to its hazelnut and honey-infused notes. This blend is the perfect balance between price and quality and features a mild and creamy flavor loved by espresso experts all over the world. It is roasted up to the first crack so as to ensure that it doesn’t give off a bad taste.
2. Lavazza Gold Selection
Many coffee enthusiasts mention that this is the best coffee that Lavazza has to offer. An amalgamation of washed and natural beans from the grounds of Brazil, Asia, and Central America is sure to impress you. This coffee never feels overpowered regardless of the amount of syrup that you add to it.
3. Caffe Espresso
This coffee is made out of 100% Arabica beans and comes from the plantations in South and Central America. These medium-roasted beans give out a gold-colored crema and feature emulsifying aromas of flowers and fruit.
4. iTierra Brazil
Made up of pure Arabica beans imported from Brazil, this coffee should be your pick if you prefer intense and robust flavors. The taste profile revolves around honey and chocolate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Italian coffee grown in Italy?
Even though Italy has some growing areas where Arabica coffee is grown, the majority of beans are sourced from Africa and Central America.
What is the difference between Italian coffee and Italian roast?
Italian coffee is mostly roasted in Italy instead of being imported. These beans are medium-bodied and are low on acidity. The Italian roast is known for being a medium-dark drink in which the beans are roasted with high temperatures.
How do Italians take their coffee?
A majority of Italian people like their coffee without any sugar and milk (black). They prefer sticking to the original taste of the blend and believe that milk and sugar alter it. They prefer their coffee in the purest form possible.
After weighing in all the options, picking one brand as victorious can be quite tricky. The ideal choice will mostly come down to preference in most cases.
For instance, if you like using an espresso machine, then Illy is a better pick. Their subscription service also gives them an edge over Lavazza. This lets you buy in bulk without having to worry about storage.
Lavazza, on the other hand, is a more affordable offering but has less pre-ground options.