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Italian Roast Coffee: History, Popular Brands and Much More

What is Italian roast coffee beans

Italian roast coffee is a popular and highly-regarded coffee blend among coffee enthusiasts. This type of coffee undergoes a meticulous process that involves extensive roasting of coffee beans until they reach a stage of oiliness and darkened complexion that is nearly black in appearance. The roasting process results in a unique and unmatched flavor profile that has contributed to the widespread popularity of Italian roast. It can be enjoyed either on its own or with a splash of milk, and its versatility only adds to its allure. Italian roast coffee has cemented its place as an iconic roast due to its distinct flavor and preparation method.

Quick History of Italian Roast Coffee

It is a well-established fact Italians have a great passion for coffee, and are credited with popularizing espresso globally. However, it is interesting to note that coffee does not have its origins in Italy. The Italian climate is not suitable for growing coffee, and therefore, coffee beans must be sourced from other regions of the world and roasted in Italy to produce the rich and exquisite blends that we associate with Italian roast coffee.

The term “Italian roast coffee” is named after the dark roasted coffee blends that are widely prevalent in Italy and were first produced during the 16th century. At that time, Turkey was the primary exporter of coffee, and this roast clearly displays the influence of Turkish coffee with its strong flavor and dark color. When Italians started roasting coffee, they would mix beans sourced from various parts of the world, resulting in a unique blend of flavors.

From a historical standpoint, Italian coffee beans are a myth. Nonetheless, Italian coffee roasters have gained recognition for their exceptional skills in achieving the perfect roast for a diverse range of coffee beans sourced from all over the world. It is noteworthy that a coffee marketed as “Italian Roast” may not necessarily originate from Italy. In fact, in Italy, it is simply referred to as “coffee.”

What is Italian Roast Coffee?

Italian Roast Coffee Beans and espresso cup

Italian roast coffee is a well-known coffee blend appreciated for its very dark roast and oily beans. This coffee type is believed to have originated from the southern regions of Italy, where it is extensively used in the preparation of espresso. It is renowned for being the darkest roast available, as it is roasted beyond the “second crack,” resulting in a robust, bittersweet yet charred flavor that numerous coffee connoisseurs enjoy.

The process of producing Italian roast involves roasting the beans at a temperature of 455 ℉, which results in the beans becoming dark and oily, further enhancing the coffee’s flavors and aromas. As a result, the resulting product is a coffee blend that is low in acidity, making it smooth and suitable for individuals with sensitive stomachs.

The flavor profile of Italian roast coffee is heavily influenced by the roasting method, which is essential in highlighting the smoky and chocolatey taste that characterizes this coffee blend. This is because when the beans are roasted beyond the “second crack,” a significant portion of the oils and flavors become apparent on the surface, thus providing a rich and robust coffee blend.

What Type Of Coffee Beans Does Italian Roast Use?

The choice of coffee beans used in the preparation of Italian roast coffee plays a crucial role in determining the final taste and aroma of the blend. Italian roast can be made using either 100% Arabica coffee beans or a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans.

Arabica coffee beans are the preferred choice for most coffee blends, including Italian roast coffee. This is because Arabica beans have a smoother and sweeter taste, with distinct flavor notes of chocolate and sugar. Arabica beans also have a lower acidity level, making them a gentler option for individuals with sensitive stomachs.

On the other hand, Robusta coffee beans have a stronger, harsher, and more bitter taste with earthy and grainy flavor notes. Robusta beans contain significantly higher levels of caffeine than Arabica coffee, making them a preferred choice for coffee drinkers who prefer a bold and intense flavor.

Roasting Process of Italian Roast Coffee

Freshly roasted coffee beans | Roasting Process

To truly appreciate the unique and intense flavor of Italian roast coffee, it’s important for coffee enthusiasts to understand the roasting process. All coffee beans, including Arabica, Robusta, and Excelsa, begin as green beans. During the roasting process, the beans undergo a color change and develop distinct flavors.


The beans go through a series of color changes as they roast, beginning with yellow, then light brown, and gradually becoming darker. When the beans reach approximately 385°F, they emit a cracking noise, indicating that the coffee is nearing full roast. However, for Italian roast, the roasting process continues beyond this point.

At around 440°F, the beans undergo a “second crack,” which produces a softer sound than the first crack. This is when oils within the bean begin to seep out to the outer shell, creating the shiny, oily appearance characteristic of Italian roast coffee.

The roasting process for Italian roast coffee is unique, involving heating the beans to a high temperature for a longer period than other roasts. This creates a full-bodied flavor that is rich with notes of dark chocolate, caramel, and roasted nuts.

Best Brewing Italian Roast Coffee Method

Brewing a dark roast like Italian roast requires specific techniques to ensure a balanced and flavorful cup. One crucial aspect is using a coarser grind than you would for lighter roasts. Darker roasts have higher porosity and can over-extract if the grind is too fine. Additionally, you’ll need to use more coffee grounds to achieve the desired taste.

To prevent bitterness and over-extraction, it’s vital to lower the water temperature when brewing Italian roast. Aim for a temperature range between 195-205°F (90-96°C) to ensure the full-bodied taste that Italian roast is known for.

Using an espresso machine is the ideal way to brew Italian roast coffee since it produces the signature crema-topped espresso that’s synonymous with Italian coffee culture. The slightly bitter and robust flavor pairs well with creamy and sweet dairy in traditional milk-based drinks like cappuccinos and lattes. However, if you don’t have an espresso machine, you can still enjoy Italian roast coffee using a Moka pot or French press. It’s important to note that darker Italian roast is best suited for espresso, while a French roast is versatile and suitable for various brewing methods.

Best Italian Roast Coffee Brands

Italian roast coffee beans is exceptional when it comes to espresso, standing out in its own distinct league. The Italians have an unmatched love and proficiency in coffee, having mastered the art of roasting and brewing. In case you’re searching for the most exquisite Italian coffee, your search ends here. We have handpicked four Italian coffee beans that are sure to provide you with an authentic and memorable espresso experience.

Leading the pack is Lavazza’s Gran Espresso Coffee, comprising Arabica beans sourced from Central and South America, African, and Indonesian Robustas. The blend of beans creates a rich and intense flavor with a subtle hint of chocolate and dried fruit. The dark roast provides a bold, full-bodied taste, making it ideal for a strong espresso.

Illy is another famous Italian coffee brand. Their classico illy roast coffee is a blend of 100% Arabica beans sourced from nine different countries. The beans are roasted perfectly, providing a smooth and velvety texture with a sweet and fruity aroma. The flavor is well-balanced, with subtle hints of caramel, chocolate, and floral notes. Illy is a high-end brand that has earned the trust of coffee lovers worldwide.

Kimbo Espresso Coffee is yet another fantastic Italian coffee brand renowned for its superior quality beans. The company, established in Naples, Italy, has been roasting coffee since 1963. Their Espresso Coffee blend is a combination of Arabica and Robusta coffee bean, roasted flawlessly to create a rich and full-bodied flavor with a hint of sweetness.

Last but not least is the Pellini No.82 Vivace Roasted Coffee Beans. This relatively new Italian coffee brand has quickly gained a reputation for its exceptional quality and taste. The beans, a blend of 100% Arabica beans, are roasted at high temperatures to bring out the unique flavor profile. The coffee has a low acidity level, with a smooth, chocolatey flavor and a hint of sweetness.

Ultimately, selecting the ideal Italian roast coffee brand that suits your personal preferences and taste requires experimentation. Trying out various brands and roasts is a good approach until you find the perfect match that satisfies your discerning palate.

Lavazza Gran Espresso Whole Bean Coffee Blend 
illy Classico Ground Espresso Coffee
Kimbo Superior Blend Whole Beans 2.2lb/1kg
Pellini No.82 Vivace Roasted Coffee Beans

When to Use the Italian Roast

Italian Roast Coffee Grounds

Italian roast has become a prevalent preference owing to its robust and smoky flavor profile. For those seeking a complementary beverage to this roast, the Americano and cappuccino provide excellent options. The Americano’s fortitude and espresso’s bitterness create a harmony of flavors that complement the intensity of the Italian roast.

The Americano is a milder coffee drink that is made by adding hot water to a shot of espresso. The Italian roast’s bold flavor profile pairs perfectly with the Americano, resulting in a rich and smoky taste that is sure to satisfy coffee aficionados.

For those who prefer a milky and frothy drink, the cappuccino is a great option. This popular Italian drink is made with espresso and steamed milk or cream. The Italian roast’s strong flavor profile cuts through the creaminess of the milk, creating a well-balanced beverage with a rich and bold taste. The combination of the creamy milk and the bold coffee is truly a match made in heaven.

Difference Between French And Italian Roast Coffee

Distinguishing between Italian and french roast coffee can be challenging since both are dark roasts. However, the primary difference lies in the specific temperature at which the beans are roasted. Raw coffee beans have minimal flavor and are dense; thus, roasting is necessary to bring out their taste. The roasting process involves gradually heating the beans, resulting in various coffee roast levels, ranging from light roast coffee to dark.

Light roast is achieved when the roaster reaches 385 ℉. The beans display their most delicate notes, and it’s advisable to use gentle brewing methods such as pour-over. Medium roast coffee is achieved at 410 ℉, offering a perfect balance between the beans’ original flavor profile and the caramelization from the Maillard reaction.

Dark roast, which includes French and Italian roast, is achieved at 430 ℉. The difference between the two lies in the temperature at which they are roasted. French roast is achieved when the roaster hits between 440 and 455 ℉. The beans have a very dark brown color and a light sheen of oil. Italian roast, on the other hand, is achieved at a slightly higher temperature than French roast, approximately 455-460 ℉. The beans have a shiny, dark brown appearance, and their flavor profile is bold and intense. Italian roast is characterized by a bitter taste and a smoky aroma, with hints of chocolate and caramel. It is typically used in espresso blends and brewed best with an espresso machine.


Is There Less Caffeine in French and Italian Roasts?

When considering the caffeine content of coffee, it has been noted that darker roasts such as French or Italian roast, both contain less caffeine than lighter roasts. This phenomenon can be attributed to the increased porosity of the beans during the roasting process, resulting in a higher rate of caffeine extraction during brewing.

During roasting, coffee beans undergo an expansion and gas release that leads to the formation of small cracks and pores on their surface. These openings make it easier for water to penetrate deeper into the beans, resulting in greater caffeine extraction during brewing. While darker roasts may have a bolder flavor profile, they tend to have lower caffeine content compared to their lighter counterparts due to their increased porosity.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, Italian roast coffee is a type of dark roast coffee that undergoes longer roasting at a higher temperature than other coffee roasts. It has a distinctive dark color and a robust flavor profile with notes of smokiness and chocolate. Italian roast is commonly used in espresso drinks and favored by those who prefer a bold and intense coffee experience. Although it may not be everyone’s preference, Italian roast coffee remains a popular choice for those seeking a strong and rich cup of coffee.