7 Best Italian Coffee Bean Brands
Close your eyes. Imagine you’re sitting in an outdoor cafe on the streets of Rome, sipping a perfectly sweet espresso and nibbling biscotti.
Feels good, right?
To recreate the experience at home, without the cost of a plane ticket, get your hands on one of these top Italian coffee brands.
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How to Choose the Best Italian Coffee Brands
Italy is the homeland of espresso coffee, and its coffee culture is world-famous, which is crazy because you can’t grow coffee in Italy.
That’s right. There’s actually no such thing as an Italian coffee bean.
Instead of a coffee-growing climate, Italy has some of the world’s best at SOURCING, BLENDING, and ROASTING quality coffee beans. Want to taste that expertise for yourself?
Keep reading for our top buying tips to find the best Italian coffee brands.
Illy and Lavazza Dominate.
There are plenty of Italian coffee roasters, but two companies rule the roost. Illy and Lavazza. With over two centuries of experience between them, either of these coffee brands is a safe bet for coffee lovers after a surefire taste of Italy.
But which one is for you?
Illy is considered the higher-end of the two, and that is reflected in the price. They use 100% Arabica beans’ blends, which means Illy coffee has more delicate flavors and refined sweetness. Illy is an excellent choice for both espresso and filter coffee.
In contrast, Lavazza coffee often uses a mix of arabica and robusta coffee beans in their blends, which makes them less expensive and higher in caffeine. The robusta adds a darker, earthier flavor and ensures a thick layer of crema. Lavazza is a great choice for espresso, Moka pot, and French Press.
Medium and Dark Roasts Run the Show.
Italians prefer medium-to-dark roasted coffee because Italian coffee culture centers around espresso.
Darker roast coffee beans are more porous, which means you can extract their flavor faster. This is crucial when pulling a 25-second espresso shot (1).
With espresso, light roasts are at risk of being under-extracted and tasting sour. So many people roast darker for espresso, to ensure the beans are very soluble.
That’s why we recommend medium or dark roasted Italian coffee brands. You don’t want a taste of under-extracted beans in your espresso.
Also, medium-to-dark-spectrum is most roasters’ AREA OF EXPERTISE, and it ensures you’ll get the authentic Italian experience, primarily if you use a high-quality espresso machine.
You can expect flavors of chocolate and caramel, with a natural sweetness and low acidity.
Buy Whole Bean If You Can.
As always, we recommend buying whole bean coffee and grinding it yourself as close as possible to brewing. This guarantees the maximum flavor from your coffee beans.
The best Italian coffee brands are quite forgiving for pre-ground coffee beans because their flavors are so bold.
Illy’s proprietary sealed canisters are a great way to ensure your ground coffee is as fresh-tasting as possible.
If you are buying pre-ground coffee beans, it’s essential to pay attention to the GRIND SIZE.
Most North American brands only offer one grind size designed for drip coffee machines, but Italian brands are more likely to offer an ultra-fine espresso grind. Make sure you get the right grind for your brewing method.
While you’re here, watch our fun video on drinking espresso like an Italian:
Don’t Fear the Robusta Bean.
The Robusta bean is a divisive varietal in the coffee industry. It has long been considered lower quality than the Arabica bean. But is this really true? And if it is, why do so many skilled Italian roasters use it?
The Robusta bean is easier to grow (it’s more robust), which makes it cheaper. It also has more caffeine. It’s added to espresso blends for two reasons. It contributes a dark, earthy flavor, which nicely balances the sweetness and acidity of the arabica. And it gives a denser, foamier crema (2). If you don’t believe us, believe the professional roaster:
For us, the most beautiful properties of Robusta coffees are the thick, foamy crema, the body, and the absence of acidity
That’s why espresso and Robusta are a perfect combo.
So why does the Robusta bean have a bad rap? Some tasters feel it has an unpleasant rubbery taste, but growers think that it has more to do with poor processing than with the bean itself.
Basically, there’s no reason to shy away from Robusta beans, especially in the hands of Italy’s skilled roasters. If you’re brewing the Italian way, using an espresso machine or a Moka pot, these coffee beans can add incredible character to your cup.
The 7 Best Italian Coffee Beans in 2020
If you’re looking for great beans for making an espresso, a brand from espresso’s homeland is a safe bet. So what is the best Italian coffee? Here are 7 Italian coffee brands sure to give your cappuccino a dose of authenticity.
||Pellini No. 82 Vivace||
||FORTE by Filicori Zecchini||
||Lavazza Crema e Gusto||
||Lavazza Gran Filtro||
||Lavazza Super Crema||
Illy Coffee is one of the best Italian coffee brands, equally popular within Italy and worldwide. What’s their secret? Tasty, approachable coffee, delivered fresh.
Their flagship blend is the Classico, a carefully chosen mix of nine Arabica coffees sourced around the world. Illy buys their beans at above-market prices to ensure long-term relationships with farmers. That means they’re always getting THE BEST OF THE BEST.
Italians are known for their blending and roasting expertise, and the Classico medium roast is a great example.
You’ll get a smooth, rich, and full-bodied cup. The flavor is well-balanced, with notes of chocolate and caramel and a bit of toast from the roasting process. A hint of sweetness makes this an especially fine coffee for espresso.
Weirdly, one of Illy’s most important features doesn’t involve the coffee beans at all. They reimagined the coffee canister (3).
Illy beans are shipped in a pressurized, oxygen-free tin that guarantees your coffee will still taste fresh, even when shipped worldwide. As a bonus, you can reuse the canister .
Pellini is a family-run Italian company, founded to spread Italian espresso culture around the world. For an authentic taste of Italy in the comfort of your kitchen, fire up the espresso machine and give these beans a try.
Pellini No. 82 Vivace sounds a bit like the title of an Italian opera. And maybe that’s fitting because the tastes and aromas of this coffee will bombard your senses in much the same way.
It’s made up of a blend of 90% Arabica and 10% Robusta beans. The addition of Robusta gives it a full-bodied mouthfeel and ensures a rich crema atop your espresso. This dark roasted coffee’s flavors are bold and powerful, with a nice balance between sweetness and earthiness and very low acidity.
Rich and flavorful, this coffee brand and variant is great for espresso or topped with foamed milk in a cappuccino.
Filicori Zecchini’s FORTE blend is another fine choice for Italian espresso and coffee lovers, with an exceptionally bold flavor. After all, “forte” is Italian for “strong.”
Despite being bargain-priced, Filicori Zecchini offers some of Italy’s tastiest blends. How do they pull that off?
It’s very clever. They reverse the roasting and blending process.
Most companies create a blend and then roast it. At Filicori Zecchini, they roast each bean varietal on its own first and then blend. That means each type of bean is perfectly roasted to suit its unique character.
They source their beans from the same farms in Brazil, Guatemala, and India throughout the year, even when prices fluctuate. So you know the coffee is always the quality you expect.
Flavor-wise, this coffee is as advertised: STRONG. It’s a dark roasted blend of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta. It has a bold and earthy taste, with notes of toasted cereal and medium acidity. We’d recommend this one for an espresso or Moka pot brew, but probably not for a pourover.
Along with Illy, Lavazza is the other leading Italian coffee brand. Their specialty is arabica-robusta blends, and many Italians use Lavazza coffee beans at home for brewing in the Moka pot (4).
The Crema e Gusto beans are among their darkest and boldest roasts, making them an excellent pre-ground option. They’re so flavorful that even when they’re not at peak freshness, you’ll still get a tasty brew.
The Crema e Gusto blend is made up of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta beans sourced from Brazil and India. The high proportion of robusta ensures a dense crema and dark, earthy flavors. The Arabica adds sweetness and more subtle flavors of chocolate and vanilla.
The resulting coffee has a syrupy mouthfeel and low acidity best enjoyed from a Moka pot, French Press, or espresso machine.
Yes, I just said Lavazza specializes in Arabica-Robusta blends, but there’s an exception to every rule. And this delicious 100% Arabica dark roasted blend is it.
The Gran Filtro is richly flavored and full-bodied coffee, with a strong aroma and lingering aftertaste. It has a sweeter flavor without the Robusta beans than the Crema e Gusto, with more powerful notes of caramel and chocolate. The smoky flavors of the dark roasts keep the sweetness from being overpowering.
The blend is mostly Brazilian coffee beans, which contribute chocolate and caramel flavors, while a minority of Indian coffee adds a hint of spice. This produces an exceptionally versatile coffee. Like most Italian brands, the Gran Filtro makes a great espresso or Moka pot, but it can yield a tasty filter coffee as well.
Lavazza’s Super Crema medium roast is made up of a blend of 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta beans. This is the heaviest concentration of Robusta beans of any on this list. But the quality of the Robustas is high. You won’t taste any dreaded rubbery notes here.
In fact, it’s the extra Robusta that gives this coffee its name, Super Crema (5). If you enjoy a rich and dense crema atop your espresso, these are the beans for you.
The taste is surprisingly light, almost refreshing, even with the extra robusta. The dominant flavors are brown sugar and hazelnut, with an unexpected fruity aroma. We love this one in the summer as an iced Americano.
If you think removing a coffee’s caffeine is a surefire way to remove its flavor, Illy Decaf is here to prove you wrong! It’s the decaffeinated version of their best-selling Classico blend, and the flavor is fully intact.
The Classico consists of 9 different Arabica beans from around the world, expertly blended by Italian roasters and roasted to medium.
Illy uses the carbon dioxide decaffeination process, which is MORE NATURAL than solvent-based decaffeination methods. Though not as environmentally friendly as the Swiss Water process (6).
This decaf is full-bodied, with a rich mouthfeel but subtle flavors. The taste is the chocolate and caramel you expect from Italian coffee, but the aromas are more floral, jasmine, and orange blossom. The aftertaste lingers with notes of cocoa and dried fruit.
There’s no better place for espresso coffee lovers than Italy to find the bold and rich flavors you crave. It is the homeland of espresso, after all!
This year, our choice for the best Italian coffee beans is Illy Classico, a well-balanced and approachable brew. One sip of its smooth chocolate and caramel flavors will transport you straight to the streets of Rome.
Italian roast coffee is one of the darkest roasts. It is also known as Dark French, Neapolitan, Spanish, or Heavy roast. The beans will be a nearly black color and coated with an oily sheen (7). They’ll have a very toasted flavor, almost bordering on charred.
The most popular brands of coffee within Italy are Lavazza and Illy. Illy’s Arabica coffees are preferred by northern Italians, while southern Italians prefer the strong flavor of Lavazza’s Arabica-Robusta blends. Most Italians consider Illy to be a higher-end product for use in espresso, while Lavazza is preferred for moka pot brewing at home.
One reason Illy coffee is so expensive is because they use only high-end, pure arabica beans. Another reason is their proprietary oxygen-free canisters, which are pricier (but better) than the simple bags used by other companies. If you’re ordering from North America, the cost of shipping is a third factor.
- Pines, H. (2019, July 8). Roasting for Filter Coffee vs. For Espresso. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/07/roasting-for-filter-coffee-vs-for-espresso/
- Impallomeni, F. (2019, October 23). Can Fine Robusta Be Considered Quality Coffee? Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2019/10/can-fine-robusta-be-considered-quality-coffee/
- Illy, F. (n.d.). The Story of the Illy Family. Retrieved from https://www.amici.ch/en/blog/the-story-of-the-illy-family-n92
- Nosowitz, D. (2018, December 7). The Humble Brilliance of Italy’s Moka Coffee Pot. Retrieved from https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/make-coffee-moka-pot
- Wang, X., Lim, L-T., Tan, S., Fu, Y. (2019). Investigation of the factors that affect the volume and stability of espresso crema. Food Research International. 116, 668-675. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2018.08.095
- Leiden, K. (2018, January 31). CO2 decaffeination: A decaf coffee without the chemicals. Retrieved from https://zephyrsolutions.com/co2-decaffeination/
- A Taste of Culture – Italian vs. French Coffee. (2019, December 25). Retrieved from https://theprimadonnalife.com/lifestyle/a-taste-of-culture-italian-vs-french-coffee/