Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Is Illy Coffee Overhyped and Overpriced?

Before I influence you with my impressions of Illy, what is your opinion?  Is is priced reasonably in relation to quality?  What does it taste like?  How does the dark roast differ?  Post a comment now before reading any further.  (Technically, I have already biased you with my title.)

Two days ago, I broke down and purchased some Illy coffee.  Seduced by the premium price, fancy packaging a la tin can, and the curiosity of what I might be missing, I plopped my hard earned cash on the iconic red can.  Thankfully, the supermarket placed Illy on sale for two dollars less than normal!  Coming to 12.99 for 8.8oz of whole bean, medium roasted Illy coffee.

A pretty penny to be sure. 


Naturally, I am a big fan of fancy, intriguing packaging.  The reflective, circle tin can along with the simple Illy logo appeals to my appreciation for aesthetics.  Yet, a fantastic taste is what turns a first time customer to a return customer.  (We hope!)  After removing the metal seal, pouring the beans into the grinder, and firing up the espresso machine, I tasted the vaunted Illy brand.  What did I think?

It was a deflating "decent."  Perhaps, my expectations exceeded what I secretly knew.  No roast date, the coffee is being sold at a supermarket, and Italian coffee generally has a reputation for solid but simple tasting coffee.  In conjunction with the elevated price and only receiving 8.8oz of coffee it's difficult to justify buying it every week.   With that said, the espresso embodied a smooth and moderately bright taste which is quite pleasant, but leaves a small, but noticeable, ashy aftertaste.

I found Archer Farms' Peru San Ignacio a superior supermarket coffee, which at 4-5 dollars cheaper and more flavorful than Illy, would be my choice between the two.  Am I being too harsh?  Is my coffee palette not refined to marshal out the nuanced flavors of Illy?  Sound off in the comments section.  


  1. Overpriced, overhyped, nicely packaged charcoal.

  2. It would be interesting then, to read a history of Illy and to see the progression of their company. Where does it veer off, or if it always the same? I didn't add this to the post, but now they have a membership program which binds you to buy their coffee and in return you get a reduction in price for an espresso machine. I haven't done the math to see if its a good deal or not.

  3. That is, if you like their coffee.

  4. I often have the same thought when I'm tasting coffees - " Is my coffee palette not refined to marshal out the nuanced flavors of..." However, I think with rare exceptions our palette and gut keep us on the right path.

  5. Exactly what I was thinking Mike. Eventually, you come to realize that taste is relative to other coffees you have had. The more you taste, the better you get at it, not because you can distinguish between acidity, flavor...etc. Though that does help.

  6. Their can of moka is pretty tasty, but quite expensive at $14/8.8oz can. I would not have bought it without having a gift card.

  7. Thank you for the comment Chuck! Is the Moka pot coffee from Illy a different blend or is it simply a different grind? I wonder if there are other companies that offer coffee as "moka pot" coffee that are roasted with the moka in mind. Hmmm

  8. It's all relative. Compared to regular preground canned grocery store main brands, it is incredibly more expensive but can make the best tasting coffee you've ever had...that is until you've had coffee made from quality fresh roasted, fresh ground coffee. After that you're hooked on great coffee and its goodbye to Illy.

    1. Agreed. A quality coffee in contrast to grocery store brands, but lacking when compared to the highest tier.