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Illy and Lavazza are both household names in the world of Italian coffee, and these two brands are found pretty much anywhere. In terms of quality, they both produce the same standard of Italian coffee, so deciding which to choose might be difficult, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with either of them.
However, if you want to delve a little deeper, there are a few subtle differences that could be deal breakers depending on how much you enjoy your authentic classic Italian style of coffee.
In this article, we have pulled back the veil from both of these Italian coffee giants and laid out everything you ever needed to know about Illy and Lavazza.
Armed with this new found knowledge, you can then decide which coffee brand you prefer.
Starting with Illy. Founded in 1933 by Francesco Illy, this Italian coffee roasting company grew on the back of its espresso blends. It later expanded into the bigger coffee bean market by offering unique coffee blends for all popular brewing styles. You can learn more about the history and the roots of Illy over at their website.
The company is known for its signature blended coffee in three different roast profiles: regular, dark roast, and decaf. Their primary focus is on Arabica coffee beans and blends.
Moving away from blends, in their range, you can also find a selection of single origin Arabica coffees sourced from growing regions such as Colombia, Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia, Costa Rica, and India. If you’re looking for a particular blend of Arabica coffee or a specific roast, the chances are Illy has what you’re looking for.
In recent years Illy has grown from more than just a coffee roasting company, and they now have an extensive range of coffee makers, a deluxe espresso machine selection, and other coffee-related accessories.
Illy is a large company that has its roots deeply embedded in the coffee industry. Not only do they cater to the retail market, but they also have major contracts with well known 5-star hotel chains and restaurant establishments.
With such a broad customer base, they produce coffee products to every end of the market. From pre-ground coffee, whole beans, coffee capsules, and E.S.E. espresso coffee pods – Illy has something for everyone.
Illy also has a popular coffee subscription service where you can choose from their extensive range of different coffees to be delivered directly to your door.
Lavazza’s roots can be traced back a little further than Illy’s. This Italian family owned business was founded in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza. If you want to delve deeper into the history of the Lavazza company, check out this excellent interactive tour.
Lavazza operates similarly to Illy in that they also import coffee from prime growing regions around the globe. Such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Indonesia, and Uganda, to name a few.
However, Unlike Illy, who focuses mainly on 100% Arabica coffee blends, Lavazza produces not only Arabica coffee blends but also different bean types, with their most popular blends being Arabica and Robusta coffees.
Lavazza is also a popular brand served in five star hotels, restaurant chains, and even office complexes. It’s not uncommon to find only one of the two coffee giants at any hotel, either Illy or Lavazza, due to exclusive contracts to serve only their coffee.
Lavazza has an exclusive range of coffee brewing machines for both pods and pre-ground coffee and vending machines that are marketed towards office environments. Something which Illy doesn’t have at the time of writing.
Finally, Lavazza supports sustainable coffee production. In fact, they are one of the leaders when it comes to sustainability practices in the coffee industry. Their forward thinking and sustainability focus aims to keep high quality coffee around for another 100 years.
One of Lavazza’s newest range of coffees, “The ¡Tierra! Project,” is an initiative range of coffee beans to promote sustainable agriculture programs in Peru, Honduras, and Colombia.
Like Illy, Lavazza produces a wide range of different types of coffee suitable for almost all brewing styles, such as whole coffee beans, pre-ground coffee, Lavazza pods, and “bean to cup” vending machine products.
Comparison: Illy And Lavazza
Now you know a little more about the history and products of both Illy and Lavazza, let’s take a closer look at each company in a bit more depth.
Both Lavazza and Illy cross paths in regards to the target market. Lavazza is extremely popular in Italy mainly due to their pre-ground coffees, which are tailored towards Moka pot coffee brewing – It’s a staple in almost all Italian kitchen pantries.
On the other hand, Illy is just as popular in the Italian espresso market, where they are regarded as a producer of top quality espresso coffee both at home and in cafes and restaurants.
Recently, Illy has begun focusing more of its resources on the U.S retail coffee market, and since shifting its business model, they have seen a 50% increase in at-home coffee sales.
Both coffee companies target consumers at home, but they are best known for their premium coffee sold mainly in hotels, restaurants, and cafes. Comparing the two, Lavazza is the king of corporate coffee, and they have an office-based coffee subscription service (Lavazza Blue), and they also install coffee vending machines.
To summarize. Both Illy and Lavazza produce products for both home and commercial establishments.
Lavazza has a slight edge in the commercial space with their exclusive office based subscription service. Both are almost neck and neck in the hospitality sector and are popular coffee brands in hotels, restaurants, and cafes worldwide.
Robusta And Arabica
From our research, it appears that Illy only uses 100% Arabica beans in their products. In contrast, Lavazza produces a range of coffee blends of Arabica and Robusta and 100% Arabica coffee products.
Flavor Profiles And Blends
How certain coffees taste can be very subjective, and which types of coffee you prefer comes down to personal preference. With that being said, there are a few subtle differences between Illy and Lavazza, which might help you decide which brand of coffee you might prefer.
If you prefer a stronger cup of coffee, and by stronger, we mean the caffeine content, you’re better off choosing Lavazza. They have an excellent range of coffee blends containing Robusta beans that typically produce a robust and bold cup loaded with caffeine.
If you want to try a more extensive range of various coffee roasting profiles, Lavazza also comes out on top here and has a broader selection than Illy.
Lavazza does use an irregular roasting scale which can be confusing if you’re new to the brand. From what we can gather, their lowest roast level, according to their scale, is on par with a classic light to medium light roast.
You will struggle to find any light roast coffees in the Illy range. So that could be a dealbreaker if you enjoy light to medium roast coffees.
Let’s take a closer look at Illy’s and Lavazza’s popular flavor profiles in more detail.
Popular Illy Coffee
The Illy brand tends to demand a higher price than Lavazza, but even with the slightly higher priced coffee Illy still has a large loyal following and is hugely popular worldwide – especially for their pre-ground medium roast Moka Pot coffee.
Another favorite Illy coffee is their medium and dark roast espresso ground Classico coffee. This has been made specifically for the espresso machine and comes already ground extra fine.
Staying true to their Arabica coffee blend tradition, this blend incorporates nine different Arabica coffees roasted to a medium profile.
The resulting coffee is rich and balanced with subtle hints of chocolate and caramel.
If you’re craving for an intense and dark Italian espresso, the Intenso dark roast is definitely one to try.
This Arabica blend contains a selection of 9 different coffees but is much more robust and full flavored compared to the Classico coffee blend. You can unmistakably taste hints of dark chocolate bitterness.
Popular Lavazza Coffee
One of Lavazza’s best selling coffees in the US and Europe is the Gran Crema blend.
This contains a mix of 70% washed Arabica coffee beans sourced from Central America and Brazil, and the remaining 30% washed Robusta coffee beans from Indonesia.
The mild sweet Arabica balances well against the more bitter and woody Robusta, which translates to a deep chocolatey intense espresso with a rich crema.
The Lavazza Super Crema is another best Lavazza coffee blend that consists of different Arabica varieties sourced from Colombia, Brazil, and India and Robusta beans from Vietnam and Indonesia.
The blue bags from Lavazza are typically marketed towards commercial establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and cafes, but you can still purchase them for home brewing.
When brewed, you can clearly pick out the aroma of sweet honey, almonds, and even dried fruit, and an impressive crema is guaranteed.
Prefer dark roasted coffee? The Crema E Gusto is probably one you should try. This dark roast coffee blend mixes sweet Arabica from Brazil and earthy Robusta from Indonesia and Indonesia.
The resulting brewed coffee has an earthy undertone balanced with sweet notes of chocolate and, surprisingly, a slightly spiced aftertaste.
Bean Grounds Verdict
So is Illy better than Lavazza? There is no clear winner in this Italian coffee comparison.
Both Lavazza and Illy produce some great tasting coffee blends to suit all preferences. However, Lavazza has a slight edge in terms of variety with its Robusta and Arabica coffee blends.
Also, it’s worth noting that Illy typically charges a slightly higher premium for their coffee products versus Lavazza, so that is one thing you need to take into consideration.
Lavazza definitely leads and takes a considerable portion of the office and corporate market due to their office-based coffee subscriptions service (Lavazza Blue) and their coffee vending machines.
Lavazza also has a booming coffee subscription service for the home. However, in recent years, Illy has made some strides in the home coffee subscription service, and they are not far behind.
If you’re looking at Illy vs. Lavazza both are excellent options, and it comes down to which type of coffee beans you prefer and, more importantly, how much you are willing to spend.