The espresso market is fiercely competitive. Let's face it, espresso lovers have especially high standards. No matter how you make your espresso at home, good espresso starts with good beans. In this article, we take a look at arguably the most known name when it comes to top espresso: illy. In this illy espresso review, we review 2 of their most popular espresso blends to help you decide whether it's a good fit for you.
There are tens of thousands of positive illy coffee reviews online. However, I needed to have my own experience with their espresso to have a real gauge of its quality. When it comes to espresso, I typically stick with small specialty coffee roasters. I wasn't anti-mainstream espresso or anything. There was just natural attraction I had for coffee produced by mom and pop roasters.
Like many other espresso lovers, I'd known of the illy brand for longer than I recall. I just never had the opportunity to sit down and try it until now. Illy was kind of enough to send us their most popular espressos so we could see for ourselves.
Before getting right into the coffee, it's worth mentioning a few words about the company for context. Illy is often regarded as the godfather of the modern day espresso and credited with revolutionizing the industry particularly with their espresso machines. Their storied history which began in 1933 is unparalleled and they have done more to change the landscape of espresso than just about any other company.
illy Espresso Review – Classico (medium roast)
We start of this illy espresso review by looking at their Classico Blend.
As soon as you open the well-branded tin can, the aroma of deliciously potent coffee permeates the air. I loved it.
I brewed my espresso and was admittedly anxious to see how it tasted. For the record, I'm personally not a fan of really bitter espresso. I know some espresso lovers live for bitterness, but that's not me. The Classico blend was strong, robust, full of flavor, but not too bitter. I was surprised by how much of the beans natural flavor was expressed. There are delicate notes of caramel and citrus that punctuate the entire experience.
This is a blend of 9 different Arabica beans sourced from around the world. Keep in mind, that this was a very intentional blend and it's obvious judging by the taste. I've encountered blends before that seem more like a hodgepodge of random coffee beans than a curated selection of flavors. Fortunately, illy has achieved a wonderfully strong and rich blend with their Classico blend.
I appreciated illy's decision to medium roast this blend. The end result is a very balanced blend that's full of natural taste while delivering a desirable smokiness. This is an excellent option for the discerning espresso drinker who favors a medium roast.
illy Espresso Review – Intenso (dark roast)
As per the name, the Intenso blend is very intense. It's basically the Classico but dark roasted. The Intenso sources the same coffee as its medium roasted cousin. There's a natural bitterness to this coffee that's really bold but still balanced. Some illy espresso reviews out there that claim the Intenso is too bitter. Of course, what counts as “too bitter” varies from one person to the next. Even though I prefer the medium roast, I still thought the Intenso was a grand example of authentic espresso.
The Intenso is very strong coffee and certain to please any espresso lover who likes deep smokey flavor in their coffee.
The dark roasting of this coffee also brings out a subtle cocoa taste paired with the very robust coffee flavor.
A Note About Illy Decaf Espresso
I rarely add details about the decaf versions for my reviews. But this illy espresso review would simply not be complete without a mention of it. I've been recently looking to reduce my caffeine intake so it was the perfect time to try a illy's decaf espresso. I was stunned by how full-flavored this decaf espresso was. It's not diluted in the least and was a very enjoyable way to wind down in the evenings.
Illy's decaf espresso is the perfect option for me when I want the robust flavor of coffee but not the effects of caffeine. The company decaffeinates their beans by using Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination Process. This process ensures the coffee is 99.9% caffeine-free while still preserving all the critical flavor compounds within the coffee bean.
In concluding this illy espresso review, I was thoroughly surprised and impressed by the aroma, body, and flavor of all illy's espressos (and that certainly includes the decaf as well). Often times, global mainstream brands have the tendency to sacrifice quality on account of sheer volume. I think I subconsciously suspected the same might be true of a giant like illy. I was so very wrong. And I couldn't be happier.
Common Questions about illy Espresso
- How many espressos can you make per can?
Using a standard super automatic espresso machine, each 8.8 oz can can produce about 28 shots
- Can you use this espresso in a reusable K-Cup filter?
Some were concerned the fine grind of illy espresso wouldn't work in a reusable K-Cup filter. I can confirm personally that it can. While you naturally won't get the same type of pressure as a full out espresso machine, you can still enjoy a fantastic espresso using this method.
Note: Illy also offers their impressive espresso in the for of K-Cups.