Curious about how Illy coffee tastes and what they have to offer?
Illy coffee offers quite a bit so they could suit a variety of needs, preferences, and brewing methods:
- Whole bean coffee
- Ground (brewed) coffee
- Espresso capsules
- Espresso Blend and Moka coffee
- ESE pods
- Illy ready to drink
- iPer coffee capsules
- New Illy® K-Cup® Pods
For the sake of this review of Illy coffee, I used the Ground Drip Medium Roast Coffee.
Review of Illy Ground Drip Medium Roast Coffee
With so many options to choose from that would appeal to a range of palettes, I tried to stick to a middle-of-the-road option, a medium roast that could be used in a drip coffee maker, pour over, or French press. Though this one isn’t currently listed as one of their best sellers, it does have a 4.7-star rating of 5.0 stars on their website. Ordering it seemed like a safe bet.
Illy Coffee Aroma
At first sniff, right after the can was opened, I was disappointed. The coffee smelled sharp, acidic, and a little stale. At the risk of sounding like a coffee snob here, I reminded myself that I usually drink coffee from a local roaster (because there are a few very close to where I live), so it’s fresher as far as roasting and grinding go.
Compared to big coffee brands across the board that I do still drink from time to time, this was one-half to one step above. Compared to the fresher, local coffees, I’d say the aroma was a couple of steps down. I couldn’t detect any specific notes because the sharpness was so pronounced.
I wasn’t excited about making it or drinking it black for the sake of this review. It didn’t smell that much more appetizing than the bags of coffee I could purchase at any grocery store at any point in the brewing process. I knew it would be easy to drink with a flavored creamer or half and half and sugar, but I usually drink coffee black and wanted a fair comparison.
The fragrance improved as it brewed, but I still wasn’t eager to taste it. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised. Where flavor was concerned, the cup I poured for myself from the Chemex far outperformed the cup made in the Ninja Coffee Bar machine. My take on the aroma was the same regardless of brewing method.
I made the coffee in a Chemex with a Chemex brand bonded paper filter (oxygen-cleansed, not bleached) immediately after opening the can. I used about four tablespoons of coffee and water right off the boil. The second cup I drank was roughly a week later, from a half-pot of coffee made in a Ninja Coffee Bar according to the Coffee Bar guidelines and scoop. I used an unbleached Melita filter for that.
The flavor took a few seconds to grow on me each time because I was put off by the aroma of the coffee throughout the brewing process. By the second or third sip of the cup from the Chemex, I was able to appreciate a balanced, mellow flavor with only the faintest hint of the staleness I expected. Not as delicious as something from the local roaster, of course, but a step above other options.
The coffee tasted smooth and I could easily detect the chocolate and caramel notes. I had forgotten how the Illy website described the flavor and the notes were still pronounced enough for me to call them what they were. There was a little acidity there, but it didn’t make drinking the Illy coffee an unpleasant experience.
As mentioned earlier, the aromas never impressed me and I didn’t have high hopes for the flavor. However, the flavor of the Chemex cup was enjoyable enough to finish the whole cup of black coffee. When I made the coffee a few days later using the drip brew method, it was more difficult to drink a full cup black.
The loss of detectable caramel and chocolate notes in my second cup could be due to the difference in brewing methods or a loss of freshness once the can of coffee had been opened. Most likely, it was a combination of both, as that has been my experience with other brands. Even with coffees from local roasters, I notice a difference in freshness and flavor when I compare brewing methods and from the beginning of the week to the end.
If you think you’ll drink your whole can of coffee over the course of a week via pour-over methods, you may not be too disappointed. However, if you take longer to drink the bags or cans of coffee that you purchase and plan to make it in a drip coffee maker, you may be disappointed after the first or second cup or pot.
The Illy Grind
The website says the ground drip coffee is more coarsely ground, but it was more finely ground than most coffees I have tried, from the grocery store to local roasters I’ve asked to grind beans for specific brewing methods.
I made it in a Chemex and in a Ninja Coffee Bar machine using a paper filter, not the permanent filter it came with. I feel that it would have clogged the permanent filter. Though the can says the coffee inside is good for a French press, I would have the same concern—clogging—with that method. I feel that I would have had excessive amounts of sediment in my cup if I had used the French press, too.
Illy takes great care to ensure the freshness of their good coffee. This one (and all the ground and whole bean options) comes in an air-free, pressurized can with a metal seal. To open the seal, you pull the tab back and peel the top away. However, the tab broke off and it took more effort to get to the coffee inside.
Peeling the top away resulted in coffee grounds spraying out onto the counter and the floor, so it was a messy experience that probably would still have happened even if the tab hadn’t broken.
Something about this coffee made me feel more alert and slightly more jittery than other brands. I would not be able to drink two or three cups of this back to back without a headache and inability to function as I would like.
That’s not really a bad thing, though, from a financial standpoint. I usually feel like I need two cups of any other coffee I drink (excluding some Starbucks coffees), which means I make more in the mornings. If you’re someone who can make a single cup at a time but often finds yourself making a second one to get going in the morning, this could save you time and money if it affects you the way it affected me.
Keep in mind, the lighter the roast, the higher the caffeine content. A medium roast like the one I ordered will be more likely to wake you up quicker than one of the darker roasts they offer.
- How good is Illy coffee compared to Italian coffee?
As an Italian coffee roastery, they do a pretty good job: They roast just a variety of Arabica coffee beans, without any kind of Robusta. It can be compared to Italians suppliers like Lavazza, Molinari…
- Do Illy capsules fit Nespresso machines?
Sadly, no. The Illy Coffee pods can only be used in coffee machines made for iperespresso. Why? Well, most of these are branded by Illy. So if you want to buy the Illy coffee pods, you will need an iperespresso machine.
- Does Illy Coffee make k-Cups?
Yes! You can find Keurig K-Cup Pods by Illy. They offer a lot of options in roast and provenience. You can buy them directly on their website, or you can find some options on Amazon as well.
If you are looking for ground coffee or whole bean, expect to pay about $15.00 per 8.8 oz canister. Winners of the International Coffee Award will run about $17.00. Single serve options will vary in price from $14.00 to $19.00.
Personally, I was able to pick up a bulk 6-pack here for $84.00. This gets your average cost down to $7 per bag, whcih is a LOT better than the individual units.
If the prices put you off a bit, know that by subscribing buying a lot at once, you can save 10 percent and get free shipping on orders of $75.00 or more. Once you’re confident that you’ll love a specific coffee type long enough to drink it for months, you can save even more by getting six cans of the same type, taking the price down $1.00 per can (check here for the latest price).
If you’re only purchasing one can from the Illy website, shipping costs may make you rethink your decision. Shipping to Georgia via FedEx was $7.95.
Before you order online, however, check your local grocery stores. You may find that you can purchase your favorite Illy coffee (or at least the one you want to try first) there for less without worrying about ordering in bulk or paying for shipping. The selection may be limited there, but it’s a good place to start if you’re unfamiliar with Illy coffees or want to try a new one.
The Illy.com Shopping Experience
Because not everyone’s grocery store will have Illy coffee, I’ll briefly touch on the shopping experience. It was:
- Quick and easy to find what I wanted
- Easy to check out with a credit card, debit card, or PayPal
- Incredibly fast! I received the shipment notification within 24 hours and had the box in my hands two days later
I also received two K-Cup samples in my order. I’ll pass those along to a friend since I no longer have a Keurig.
Note: I’ve also found really good prices on whole bean canisters (in bulk) via 1stincoffee here. The best prices are not always directly via the Illy.com site.
Can You Sample It?
Unfortunately, no samples are available at this time. My guess is, it would be difficult to keep the samples as fresh as the coffee in canisters, so a sample wouldn’t be a fair representation of the taste of a full can.
Do I Recommend Illy Coffee?
Yes and no.
- You can find it locally or like to order several months’ worth at one time (note: this is a GREAT pace to order a bulk 6-pack).
- You’re currently underwhelmed by the flavor of your current coffee and want to step things up a notch in hopes of being able to drink it black or closer to black
- You truly enjoy trying different coffees
- You will be using a pour over method to make your coffee
- You drink several cups of coffee in the morning just to wake up and wish you could just have one, maybe two cups instead
- You will have to order online but don’t want to order several cans at one time
- You’re always going to add lots of creamer, flavored syrups, half and half, etc, to your coffee and have no interest in drinking it black or cutting back on what you add to your morning or afternoon cup of coffee
- You have access to reasonably priced, locally roasted coffee
- Your budget is already tight
Bottom Line: The bottom line of my Illy coffee review? It’s good—better than a lot of what’s on the market, especially in grocery stores and big box stores. It won’t completely knock your socks off, but is an authentic Italian coffee experience.
Special Note: Illy DID make my list for the top coffee brands to pair with a Ninja Coffee Machine system, so if you have one, Illy is definitely a good try.
Gordon is seriously addicted to coffee. He also likes to write. Match made in heaven? Yes. After years of boring casual coffee drinkers to death with bean origin stories, he took to writing publicly here at 2Caffeinated.