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Illy vs. Lavazza: Which Should You Choose?

Illy vs Lavazza - which to choose

Arguably the two most prominent names in Italian coffee, Illy and Lavazza are found pretty much anywhere coffee is sold. And both are providers of excellent, classic Italian coffee. So, which should you choose? In this article, we put the two Italian coffee giants under the microscope to help you decide.

Before we dive in, we should say that you really can’t go wrong with either, but personal taste and a few subtle differences mean you might prefer one or the other. Either Illy or Lavazza can provide delicious coffee for your morning ritual or a nice espresso after dinner. All right, let’s get started!

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Illy Overview

Illy
Image Credit: PoYang_博仰, Flickr

Illy is a family-owned coffee company founded in 1933 by Francesco Illy in Trieste, Italy. Illy is more than just a producer of coffee beans. In addition to the coffee itself, Illy has an impressive line of coffee makers, espresso machines, and other coffee-related accessories.

When it comes to coffee, if you want a particular origin or a specific roast, odds are Illy has what you’re looking for. They offer Arabica beans from around the world, including South and Central American origins (Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala) and African origins (Ethiopia).

Illy typically roasts their beans from medium to extra dark, making them a perfect choice for French press, Moka pot, and traditional espresso.

There is also a subscription service that lets you choose what coffee you want, how often you want it delivered, and what type of coffee machine you’ll use to prepare your coffee. These choices all weave nicely in with the selection of coffee makers available from Illy and means you can have coffee delivered ready to be used with your favorite brewing method.

Pros
  • Good variety of origins
  • Excellent variety of coffee makers
  • Decent selection of roast levels
  • Subscription service
  • Whole bean, ground, or pods available
  • Competitive prices
Cons
  • No light roasts
  • Relatively small selection of whole been options
  • Uses exclusively Arabica

Lavazza Overview

Lavazza coffee
Image Credit: marbus_79, Pixabay

Like Illy, Lavazza has been a family-owned business since its founding in 1895. Started in Turin, Italy by Luigi Lavazza over 100 years ago, the Lavazza company has been producing quality coffee ever since.

Lavazza imports coffee from around the world and uses beans from South and Central America (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras), Africa (Uganda), Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States. The brand has a number of Arabica/Robusta blends, making their offerings slightly more specialized than Illy’s.

Finally, Lavazza is proud to be an industry leader in the movement towards creating and fostering sustainability practices in coffee production. This commitment to making delicious coffee in a responsible way is indicative of a forward-thinking company outlook that promises to keep producing excellent coffee for another 100 years.

Pros
  • Single-origin and blends available
  • Impressive selection of whole bean coffee
  • Nice variety of roast levels
  • Offers Robusta-Arabica blends
  • Focus on sustainability
Cons
  • Not many pre-ground options
  • Non-standard roasting level
  • Small selection of coffee makers

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Taste/Flavor Profile

Edge: Lavazza

Taste is a very personal experience, and what coffee you prefer is entirely up to you. That being said, there are a few differences between Illy and Lavazza that can help inform your decision.

Lavazza Cappuccino
Image Credit: anaterate, Pixabay

When it comes to taste, the best way to know which you’ll prefer is to know what kind of coffee you like in general. If you want a stronger cup of coffee, you’re better off going with Lavazza. They have several blends that use robusta beans as part of the mix, and this will guarantee a strong, bold cup.

Lavazza is also a good choice if you want a wider selection of roast levels. Even though they use an atypical roasting scale, customers generally agree that their lowest level is a light to medium-light roast.

Illy doesn’t use Robusta beans and doesn’t have a proper light roast in their lineup. Based on this lack of selection alone, we give the slight edge to Lavazza. Illy makes some delicious coffee, however, and which individual coffee you enjoy the most could easily come from Illy or Lavazza. If you’re unsure, Lavazza has a bigger selection and a wider variety of roasts, making them the better choice.

Quality vs. Price

Edge: Illy

For simplicity, we’re going to keep this section about the price of the coffee itself. Illy has more coffee at a lower price than Lavazza, although the two are priced similarly. The overall quality across all offerings means that pound for pound, Illy is the better value.

Lavazza does have some great coffee, but the quality comes with a slight increase in price. If you’re looking for a premium, whole bean coffee, you’ll probably be happy with Lavazza. But if you’re on a budget, Illy’s coffee won’t break the bank.

Coffee Makers/Accessories

Edge: Illy

This is where Illy shines. Illy’s website has a whopping 50 different coffee machines to choose from! There are standard drip brewers, espresso machines, Moka pots, French presses, milk frothers, and we could go on. The bottom line is if there is a coffee machine or accessory you’re looking for, there is a good chance Illy carries it. Couple this with the ability to purchase coffee specifically for the brewing method you want, and Illy really excels in this category.

ILLY coffee latte
Image Credit: CCY18999, Wikimedia Commons

By comparison, Lavazza doesn’t nearly meet the high expectations set by Illy. They offer only two espresso machines on their website. That’s it. If you are looking for a choice and a wide variety of machines and brewers all from one location, the choice is simple: Illy.

Subscription Service

Edge: Illy

This is an easy choice because Lavazza doesn’t offer a subscription service as of this writing. Illy’s subscription service allows you to choose the coffee you want and how often you want it delivered. In addition, you get to choose between whole bean, pre-ground, or a specialized pod for use in one of their many coffee machines. Do you like grinding your coffee right before you brew it? You can get whole beans. How about a fine grind for espresso? Sure thing. The choices are endless and matched only by the convenience of having coffee delivered directly to your door on a regular schedule.

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Illy vs Lavazza: Which is right for you?

We think that overall, Illy gets the slight edge over Lavazza. However, it’s a more difficult choice than the category results above might suggest. Lavazza holds an edge in the variety and quality of individual roasts available. This is important, to be sure, but if we weigh all of the pros and cons, Illy still comes out on top. Illy’s impressive range of coffee machines and accessories combined with the subscription service makes it the winner in our eyes. Illy is a one-stop-shop, and the convenience of coffee prepared specifically for the machines they offer puts it over the top.


Featured Image: Illy vs. Lavazza. Left: Illy (Source: StockSnap, Pixabay), Right: Lavazza (Source: Edsel Little, Flickr)

Dan Simms

Dan has been a coffee fanatic since caffeine became a necessity in college, and since then his enthusiasm has only grown. He has come a long way since his days of drinking mass-produced coffee, and he now has a love and appreciation of the entire coffee experience from farm to cup.

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