Coffee and Italy go hand in hand.
It’s not because Italy produces coffee, because they don’t have the right climate for growing coffee. Italy has excelled in creating specific coffee traditions that have thrilled the whole world and have rightly put them on the coffee map.
Most coffee lovers are enchanted by cappuccinos and lattes. When we want that taste of Italian coffee culture at home, we need to pick a good Italian coffee brand.
What should you keep in mind when planning your Italian coffee experience, and what are the best Italian coffee brands?
Picking The Best Italian Coffee Brands
When you think of coffee culture In Italy, your mind might head naturally towards an espresso machine. And Italian coffee was, quite literally, born for espressos.
Over the decades, they have created and experimented with the best blends for the smoothest, most intense espressos. But when you brew Italian coffee at home the way the Italians brew it, you’ll use a Moka coffee maker.
Any way you brew it, your goal is the same.
What’s your aim when brewing a cup of coffee Italian style? Full-bodied, intense, aromatic. And to get that perfect cup, you need to start with the right coffee.
Italian coffee is known as being strong, dark, and intense. Those strong roasts have become distinctive of Italian coffee, and there’s even an Italian roast.
But it’s not just about the strong tastes. Italians often consider a darker roast easier on the stomach because it has less acidity.
To achieve that right balance of strength, sweetness, and a hit of balanced bitterness, coffee blends are essential. Italian espresso coffees have traditionally been blends. They follow recipes to create those blends.
Like recipes for other beloved Italian foods, blend recipes create the flavors people prefer. A good blend helps baristas and home coffee lovers brew the sweetest, most balanced coffees every time.
When you go to pick the best Italian coffee brands, you will find that a traditional Italian roast is a dark roast.
Expect the beans to look oily and shiny. There’s nothing wrong with them: when coffee is roasted dark, the oils in the bean structure are released and coat the beans.
An oily appearance also doesn’t mean the beans are better, though they do look pretty. It just means they were roasted dark.
Most Italian coffee brands also have low acidity. If you’ve been thrilled by the complex flavors and bright acidity in specialty coffee, you’ll have a different experience when tasting traditional Italian brands.
The dark roast lowers acidity and also mutes the complexity of flavors. You’ll be left with heightened sweetness, which is good for espressos, but a narrower range of flavors.
The flavor range will be geared towards more notes of chocolate and nuts and fewer notes of fruit or berries.
That may seem comforting to you, although to some people it sounds boring. When approaching coffee traditions, you have to meet them on their ground to appreciate the benefits.
Illy And Lavazza Are King
Two coffee brands, Lavazza and Illy, dominate the Italian coffee market in the United States.
A favorite Italian coffee brand, the family-owned Lavazza company is certainly not new to the coffee industry. Luigi Lavazza started out selling coffee in the late 1800s.
He even visited Brazil to get a better understanding of coffee plants. Lavazza is still a family-run business.
Lavazza coffee beans are a creation of Lavazza himself, his miscela Lavazza, the characteristic blend that sets his coffee brand apart from the crowd. All those decades of selling coffee have helped Lavazza get their blends right.
Well-known in the United States, Illy is another popular coffee brand and also a family-owned business.
Contrary to what many Italian coffee aficionados may think, founder Francesco Illy was Hungarian, and in 1933 he founded Illy Caffe.
With a focus on science applied to coffee, this brand of Italian roast spread throughout Europe and the United States.
Many people recognize that iconic can that Illy coffee is packed in, a method that keeps elements like humidity and light out and helps ground coffee taste fresh for longer.
Lighter Roasts Are Uncommon
As we mentioned, coffee culture in Italy focuses on darker roasts. Traditionally dark roasts have been used for espresso because it’s easier to get a balanced shot.
A strong, dark roast also holds up to the addition of cream or sugar in traditional Italian espresso drinks.
Lighter roasts are nearly unheard of in traditional Italian culture. In fact, many people feel that lighter roast coffee just doesn’t taste like coffee to them.
So, while the term Italian roast is not synonymous with espresso roast, the two can be similar.
Dark roasts that are popular for espresso have lower acidity and are easier for pulling balanced shots. When a roaster takes time to roast a coffee dark, the sugars have a chance to caramelize more, resulting in a sweeter coffee.
Don’t expect lighter roasts on this list of best Italian coffee brands. These Italian coffee beans are dark, sweeter, and mostly have chocolate notes.
Robusta Is A Thing
Robusta has always played a key role in Italian coffee. It lends that…well, robust intensity to Italian drinks.
Now maybe you’re confused. Perhaps you’ve heard people talking bad about Robusta, and you wonder why it found its way into your favorite Italian coffee blend. It is true that, when compared to Arabica coffee beans, Robusta coffee tends to be bitter with flat tastes.
But Robusta in an espresso blend can be a good thing. Robusta can have a fuller body and create a denser, though fleeting, crema.
To decide which blend is best for you, consider how you will brew the coffee (in an espresso machine or a Moka pot) and how you will drink it (black, with water, or with milk).
When should you use espresso blends with Robusta?
- If you brew an espresso – often, more Robusta creates a more satisfying crema. Go for a darker roast with some Robusta.
- If you brew in a Moka pot – to counteract any potential bitterness when brewing on your stovetop, consider a blend with more Arabica to make sure you’ll get a smooth cup that’s still flavorful.
- If you drink your coffee black (no milk) – choose a blend with more Arabica to get smoother tastes.
- If you drink your coffee with milk – a higher percentage of Robusta will stand up to the sweet milk.
Although Italian blends often have Robusta coffee, there are now single-origin coffees from Latin America and beyond that incorporate more Arabica or are even made of 100% Arabica coffee.
And while Italian coffee is generally used for espresso or Moka Pots, you can also use it in a drip coffee maker.
Here’s my list of top Italian coffee brands.
Best Italian Coffee Bean Brands 2022
1. Illy Classico
The Illy Classico is smooth and rich, yet balanced coffee with 100% Arabica beans.
It’s what some people call “coffee that tastes like coffee.” Illy Classico is a whole bean coffee that’s a full-bodied medium roast. It does well for espresso drinks that you’ll add milk to. As a bonus, it has those typical (but natural) flavors of chocolate and caramel.
- 100% Arabica
- Smooth and rich
- Full-bodied medium roast
- You need to grind this whole bean blend yourself
- Not specifically for espresso
The air pressure can keep the elements out, so humidity, oxygen, or sunlight won’t affect your Italian coffee beans. And coffee enthusiasts can use the cute cans to store other things besides coffee.
This coffee can be used for any brewing method, from French Press to espresso. A good choice for your Moka Pot, since the Arabica beans help to lessen any potential bitterness.
2. Lavazza Super Crema
Super Crema is Lavazza’s most popular blend.
As the name suggests, this whole bean blend promises to produce that extra crema on top of the espresso. Lavazza Super Crema has a higher percentage of Robusta that creates more crema.
- More crema due to 40% Robusta beans
- Slightly fruity tastes
- Blend from South America, Asia, and India
- If you don’t like Robusta, avoid this coffee
- If you’re looking for a coffee without acidity, this isn’t for you
In this blend, you’ll get 60% Arabica and 40% Robusta. The Arabica beans come from Brazil, Colombia, and India, while the Robusta beans hail from Indonesia and Vietnam.
Expect notes of hazelnut and brown sugar from this medium-light roast. You’ll also get slightly fruity notes from a slightly lighter roast and a blend with more Arabica.
This blend is good to use in an espresso machine but also does well in an immersion method. This coffee is a bit more mellow, which some coffee enthusiasts might find a bit weak for beverages with milk. It also has a bit more acidity than some of its darker roasts.
3. Lavazza Gran Espresso
If you’re looking for a creamy espresso with a pleasant aftertaste, try the medium-dark roast Lavazza Gran Espresso.
- Creates creamy espressos
- Medium-dark roast makes it easy to pull espresso shots
- Whole beans so you can grind it according to your brewing method
- More bitter than 100% Arabica blends
- Slight black pepper taste might not appeal to everyone
Strong with a hint of chocolate, this full-body coffee keeps bitterness at bay with 40 percent Arabica beans from Brazil and Honduras and 60 percent washed Robusta beans from Uganda.
The Arabica gives it some aromatics, and there’s a slight taste of black pepper. It’s best for pulling espresso shots. And make sure you have a grinder for this whole bean coffee.
4. Forte Filicori Zecchini
Forte by Filicori Zecchini is, as the name suggests, a strong Italian roast coffee. Bold and dark, it’s great for espresso drinks with milk.
This is the darkest roast the brand offers, an intense cup with intense aromas. The dark roast keeps the acidity low and the body full.
- Rich crema
- Less bitterness
- Sustainable coffee
- Earthy taste
- Roasted very dark
Filicori Zecchini has been in the coffee industry for over 100 years. It’s another family-owned business that is still popular in Italy. They pride themselves on working with coffee that’s sustainable, both socially and environmentally. They nurture long-standing relationships with farmers.
They roast each type of coffee separately before blending them. This practice of roasting first according to the bean and then blending can result in superior flavor, since each type of bean differs in its roasting needs.
They source their beans from Brazil, Central America, and India for this blend.
This brand is good for lovers of very dark Italian coffees. The whole bean blend doesn’t clog up automatic machines or grinders the way the darkest roasts do.
But note that the coffee does have a slightly earthy flavor, no doubt from the addition of Robusta beans.
5. Lavazza Crema E Gusto
The Lavazza Crema e Gusto ground coffee blend has 70 percent Arabica and 30 percent Robusta.
That gives it a push of intensity with enough Arabica to be smooth. And the dark roast makes Lavazza Crema E Gusto bold. Expect a creamy feel from the Robusta coffee beans and rich chocolate notes.
If you enjoy a traditional Italian roast espresso the Crema e Gusto fires on all cylinders!
- Blend of Arabica and Robusta beans
- Creamy body
- Roast may be too dark for some tastes
Made with Brazilian Arabica beans and Robusta beans from Africa and Indonesia, this Italian ground coffee gives a consistent crema and full body. Lavazza boasts that this coffee is non-GMO.
6. Lavazza Gran Riserva Filtro
While many Italian coffee brands tend to focus on brewing in espresso and Moka Pots, the Gran Riserva Filtro caters to those who love filter coffee.
Chocolate and caramel notes invade this 100 percent Arabica that’s intense but keeps bitterness low by using only Arabica beans. It stands up well to milk-based beverages.
- 100% Arabica
- Created for filter brewing methods
- Dark roast goes well in milk-based beverages
- Darker roast might not appeal to everyone
- Not ideal for espresso machines
While this whole bean coffee has been roasted dark, it’s not as oily as other Lavazza coffees so it doesn’t clog grinders or coffee makers.
Since it was created for drip coffee makers or French Press, this wouldn’t be my first choice for an espresso machine.
7. Illy Decaf
When you’re hungering for your coffee fix at night and need a decaf, you can turn to Illy for the answer. I have often turned to Illy Decaf because it is an easy decaf coffee to find in supermarkets, while the can keeps the ground coffee fresh.
- Medium roast
- Ground fine for drip coffee makers
- Pre-ground coffee may not be ideal for your brewing method
- Not suitable for French Press
A medium roast, this 100% Arabica blend is ground fine for espresso or coffee makers. How do they decaf it?
According to Illy, they use a Natural Liquid Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination Process that removes the caffeine using Co2. According to the website, a 25 ml cup of decaf coffee has 2.6 mg of caffeine.
Related Read: Decaf Coffees
8. Illy Italian Espresso Pods
Claiming to be the first Italian roaster to produce coffee pods, Illy coffee has their Italian Espresso Pods that are K Cup compatible.
- 100% Arabica bean blend
- Caramel and chocolate flavors
- Rich cup
- Pods add to environmental waste
- Pods are more expensive than buying coffee in bags
These ground coffee pods are filled with their Illy Classico coffee (see above), a 100% Arabica blend that gets a medium roast. Espresso lovers are drawn to the classic chocolate and caramel flavors in a rich yet smooth espresso coffee.
If you’re a coffee lover who uses pre-ground coffee pods, try these. You can get them in a 10-count pack or all the way up to 80-count packs.
The Final Verdict
Italian coffee lovers looking for that Italian coffee experience have plenty of choices for delicious coffee.
There are numerous medium blends on the market that provide a rich cup. Or try a darker roast for a more intense experience. Which are my two recommendations for the best Italian coffee beans?