The Top Espresso Brands
If you are going to brew a great cup of espresso, you need to use the finest ingredients. If you don’t know an espresso bean from a green bean, I have good news for you. There are a number of different espresso brands that you can buy online that are simply excellent.
The process of making espresso is somewhat like the use of computer programs. The adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies. That is to say, you can have the finest espresso machine in the world, but it is not going to produce a quality cup of espresso if the beans used are of low quality. I really can’t emphasize this enough. This is not an area to be cheap! If you love espresso, you must return digitally to the place it all started.
Espresso is one of those items that was created in one location far in the past and, perhaps miraculously, that location has remained as the focal point of quality production through the decades. In this case, we are talking about Italy. Espresso is uniquely Italian. The process for making it was first patented in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo. With the beginning of the industrial revolution, it became a part of the social culture in the country as people would retire to espresso cafes to discuss life and relax. Once ingrained in the cultural tapestry, espresso became both a drink and a subject of national pride as it slowly spread throughout the rest of the world.
In my humble opinion and the opinion of many others, Illy is the unquestioned best espresso brand in the world. Illy is an Italian company in Trieste, Italy. It was started in 1933 by Francesco Illy, who was ironically from Hungary. Illy is still a family run business today. Any family that has been growing and producing espresso coffee grounds since 1933 certainly knows what it is doing!
To me, Illy is the best espresso brand because the family has honed its growing and processing techniques into an art. When you think of a classic cup of espresso, it has hazelnut brema that is thick and lined with dark stripes. This image comes to mind because this is the way Illy espresso brews. A cup of Illy espresso is like a shock to the mouth, but with hints of flavor that will have you wanting more. The flavors all come in the blink of an eye and then slowly play out as the intense taste recedes. Illy is the number one espresso brand used in coffee shops around the world. One cup of this liquid gold and you will know why.
If there is a brand that can even be mentioned in the same breath as Illy, it is Lavazza. Lavazza is another Italian coffee company that was started in Turin. It is actually older than Illy, having been around since roughly 1895. The company started out as a grocery store that happened to serve coffee before slowly becoming a coffee company per se. Luigi Lavazza, the founder, is credited with creating the first espresso bean blends and it has to be said the company still produces a great espresso ground today.
Lavazza is a great coffee because it entertains the subtle espresso flavors that are missing from bland American coffees. The company produces a wide variety of offerings, but each is delicious and filled with different flavor blends that tickle and tempt the palette. This is hardly surprising given the fact espresso comes from Italy.
How does Lavazza compare to Illy? I find Illy to be more intense and true to the European espresso experience. For some reason, Lavazza products in the United States seem to be a bit tame. This may be intentional given that American coffees are not intense, and Lavazza may want to blend in to the bigger market for revenue reasons. I am not suggesting Lavazza is a bad espresso in any way, only that it doesn’t match up to Illy.
Are there other espresso brands out there? Absolutely. Starbucks even offers one. Are they any match for the Italian brands? Please. They aren’t even close. The problem really is found with the American taste preference. We are used to slugging down regular coffee which is rather bland. Given this, the number of people in the country who truly appreciate a great espresso is relatively small. With a lack of demand comes a lack of production, which is why there is no real high quality competition to the Italian brands.
Illy and Lavazza are more expensive than the lesser brands out there, but you get what you pay for when it comes to espresso. Trust me – try an espresso made from Illy or Lavazza offerings and you will curse the time you have wasted over the years drinking lesser espressos.