Italian Roast Coffee: Everything You Want To Know Before You Buy!

Italian Roast Coffee

 

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure

A lot of coffee lovers see Italy as the gold standard of coffee culture. After all, the names of most coffee drinks are Italian, the Moka pot and espresso machine were invented in Italy, even the drink sizes at Starbucks are Italian! But despite this gold-standard status, Italian Roast Coffee isn’t very popular in the United States. Why?

Italian roast coffee is a very dark roast that’s common in southern Italy. The beans are oily and appear almost black, which means very little of the raw bean’s natural flavor remains.

While southern Italians prefer this dark roast, Americans generally prefer a medium roast. But Italian roast has been gaining in popularity.

If you’ve been curious about Italian Roast coffee, you’re in the right place!

In the next few minutes, we’re going to talk about the characteristics of an Italian Roast, how it’s made, and even some alternative roasts.

Let’s dive right in!

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What Is Italian Roast Coffee?

Italian Roast is the name of a dark roast coffee common in southern Italy. During the roasting process, a high degree of heat is applied until the bean cracks once, releasing moisture; then cracks for a second time, releasing oils. It’s this “second crack” that results in the Italian Roast’s dark, shiny color.

Where Does Italian Roast Coffee Come From?

Italian roast coffee doesn’t come from Italy. Like other coffee beans, Italian roasted coffee beans are sourced mainly from South American, Asian, and African countries.

Any coffee beans you buy will have been grown relatively near the equator, in a region called the Coffee Bean Belt. Since Italy is too far north for coffee plants to thrive there, Italy has to source beans from other countries.

If you’re wondering specifically where your bag of Italian roast coffee was sourced, you’ll have to search the brand’s website for information.

But, it’s likely that your beans are a blend sourced from several countries. And honestly, Italian roast is so dark, you won’t be able to taste the bean’s natural flavors regardless of the source.

What Type Of Coffee Beans Does Italian Roast Use?

Italian Roast Coffee

The coffee beans used can be either be 100% Arabica or a blend of Arabica and Robusta beans.

Arabica coffee is naturally a preferable choice for any type of coffee because of the simple fact that they are high-quality.

This is, however, not the case all the time. Although Robusta coffee beans are generally considered a lower-quality source of coffee, some high-quality Robusta beans are actually better than low-quality Arabica beans.

But, that’s rarely the case.

And, the choice of the coffee beans type will largely depend on your preference. If you like your coffee bitter, Robusta beans are an appropriate choice for you.

Moreover, the caffeine content in the Robusta bean is significantly greater than in Arabica coffee. So, it also comes down to how your taste buds respond to the flavor and taste.


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Roasting Temperature For an Italian Roast Coffee

There’s some conflicting information out there about the roasting temperature of Italian roast coffee. Some say that the roasting temperature should be 464°F.

Others say 464°F is the appropriate temperature for a French roast and that Italian roast should actually be at 473°F.

The reason for the variance is that there’s no standard naming convention for different coffee roasts. So, what one roaster calls an Italian roast may not be what another roaster calls an Italian roast.

But one thing that everyone can agree on is that an Italian roast is one of the dark roasts.

It’s roasted at a high temperature until the beans pass the second crack, oils are released, and bittersweet/burnt flavor notes become more distinct.

Illy Italian coffee

How Far Is The Italian Coffee Roasted?

Italian Roast Coffee

The short answer is to the “second crack”. The coffee beans are subjected to high temperatures for long periods of time.

The color and texture of the beans continue to change as time passes. The second crack is the stage where your coffee beans produce a cracking sound, although softer than the first crack.

This is where the oils from inside the coffee beans start to migrate towards the surface. The second crack marks the point where the coffee’s natural flavor notes start to diminish relative to the roast flavor.

What Does Italian Roast Taste Like?

Italian roast is known for having bittersweet to burnt flavors, a thin, water-like body, and very few of the natural flavors present in the raw bean.

The flavor notes that the Italian roast coffee attains after being subjected to extensive heat isn’t very close to the natural flavor of the coffee beans.

So, as the beans get roasted until the second crack, the coffee loses its natural and unique flavor and fully takes on the flavors from roasting.

After the roasting process is over, and you prepare yourself a cup of Italian brew, there won’t be much left of the original flavor notes of the coffee beans.

And, as it’s closer to a dark roast, you won’t get the caffeine kick you would have if the beans were lightly roasted.

Since dark roasted coffee has a lower acid content, Italian roast isn’t bright with the high flavor notes of light roast-level coffee.

And, because Italian roast coffee offers a sweet balance between a dark and medium roast, you will get a strong bitter-sweet to burnt flavors.

What Are Some Roast Alternatives If Italian Roast is Too Dark?

Italian roast coffee

If you feel that Italian roast

  • is too bitter
  • has a burnt taste
  • lacks brightness
  • is too watery

then you most likely need to shift to a lighter roast.

In this case, there are a few alternatives you can try.

Let’s discuss each of them separately.

French Roasts

Although this roast level is a dark roast, the end result is not as dark as the Italian roast. This makes it a great option if you are looking for something less bitter and brighter than the Italian roast.

The high temperatures and long roasting times bring out the oils from inside the beans to the surface in a French roast. So this roast level dark is oily, but it’s not as oily as the Italian roast.

This roast will make a good alternative to Italian roast coffee if you want a little more caffeine kick and a little less bitterness.

Vienna Roasts

Another way to get a less bitter, less dark coffee is to go for the Vienna roast. In this roasting method, the coffee is roasted until the point where the oil starts to expel itself out from the center of the beans.

The Vienna roast lies somewhere between medium roast and dark roast, which means you get less bitterness and darkness than the Italian roast coffee.

Full City Roasts

Italian roast coffee

If you want a darker coffee bean without going past the second crack, try the full city roast.

The beans in the full city roast process are roasted until the point before the second crack. So, they retain some of the acidity but will also have some qualities of dark roast coffee beans.

Moreover, the full city roast beans are typically oily in nature as they are very close to reaching the second crack. So, a considerable amount of oil seeps out of the beans.

What To Do If Italian Roast Is Too Bitter?

While Italian Roast is naturally bitter, it might be that you’re over extracting your coffee. Instead of considering your Italian roast beans a lost cause, consider changing your brewing process first.

Here are two things you can try to make your Italian coffee less bitter and avoid over-extracting your grounds. Increasing the size of your grounds, and reducing the exposure time to water.

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Increase The Size Of The Grounds

The greater the size of your coffee grounds, the lesser will be their surface area. Low surface area means less exposure to water and fewer extracts.

So, to reduce the amount of extract from the beans and the bitterness of your coffee, consider increasing the size of your grounds.

Reduce The Exposure Time To Water

Some brewing methods will expose your coffee to water for an extended period of time. If you are using one of those and want a less bitter coffee, maybe it’s time you shift to another method of brewing. One with less water exposure time.

Best Italian Coffee Roasters

Italian roast coffee

Italians have developed multiple coffee roasting methods; their popularity exceeds the boundaries of the country.

Italian roast coffee is arguably the most loved coffee in the southern part of Italy. But, that doesn’t mean you have to stick to it.

There are two popular options you can choose if you want to enjoy Italian brand coffee but not necessarily Italian roast.

These are Illy and Lavazza.

These two roasters are incredibly popular and have established their dominance in Italy.

Let’s take a deeper look into both.


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Illy

Illy was founded by Francesco Illy nearly 100 years ago. It’s a family company created and headquartered in Italy and has made its name in the espresso coffee market.

Illy has a specially formulated signature blend that includes decaf, regular, and dark roasts. Not only that, but Illy offers Arabica beans sourced from Costa Rica, India, Ethiopia, Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala.

And, the fact that Illy offers 100% Arabica beans has established its reputation and makes the company stand out from the rest.

Consumers in Italy regard Illy as a high-end coffee company that caters to the needs of Italians for their Espresso cravings.

Illy Italian coffee Classic Image

Lavazza

Lavazza was started in 1895 by Luigi Lavazza in Turin and is another of the popular Italian coffee brands.

The coffee beans that Lavazza uses are sourced from the U.S., Mexico, Uganda, Indonesia, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica. 

Lavazza doesn’t stick to one type of coffee bean, it uses both Arabica and Robusta beans for their products. Some coffees are 100% Arabica coffees, while others may include both types in the form of blends.

Lavazza is famous for its pre-ground coffee that the users like to use in Moka pot brewing. And, you have the option to select from different Moka blends.

Lavazza Coffee Image

Italian Roast Coffee – The Bottom Line

Italian roast is a very dark roast coffee. So, if you like your coffee with less caffeine, a bittersweet to burnt taste, with little acidity, Italian roast coffee is for you.

Italian roast coffee beans, contrary to what the name suggests, don’t have Italian origin. In fact, the coffee beans for Italian roast are sourced from several different countries, much like any other high-end coffee roast.

The name can be attributed to the fact that it’s quite popular in the southern part of Italy.

If you find that Italian roasts are too bitter, consider going to a slightly darker roast such as Vienna or Full City roast coffee.

On the other hand, if you want coffee from an Italian company instead of an Italian roast, check out Illy and Lavazza. These are the two coffee brands that are dominant in Italy.

Cheers, coffee lovers!

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