What does innovation truly mean?

The habits and tastes of coffee lovers are in constant evolution. Illycaffè knows the importance of products that move with the times and anticipating new ways to live the coffee experience has always been our objective.

To keep offering the best coffee in the world, we have made innovation one of our fundamental values, deeply rooted in our family company ever since the days of its founder, my grandfather Francesco.

Francesco, who founded Illy in 1933, didn’t have a science background, but he did recognize the value of technological innovation. He had an uncommon ability to create and construct. I think he was an absolute genius. His first revolutionary invention was pressurized packaging; the year was 1934. By adding inert nitrogen gas under pressure, an oxygen-free environment forms as the illy coffee cans are sealed, preserving essential aromas and letting the coffee’s naturally occurring oils mingle. The second invention came just one year later, in 1935: the Illetta, the mother of the present-day espresso machine and a true innovation which, for the first time, separated pressure and heating elements. Francesco realized that coffee brewed at lower temperatures was less bitter and much more fragrant. But he needed to resolve the problem of the pressure which is generated by the boiling water’s steam. Since the highest possible temperature that also safeguards the aroma of coffee is 90°C, my grandfather found the solution in the form of an adjustable air compressor to provide the necessary pressure. 1974 saw illy’s third revolutionary invention: pre-tamped, pre-dosed, expertly ground espresso in single serve paper pods. The system, called E.S.E. (Easy Serving Espresso) became an industry standard. But the innovations didn’t stop there.

The Illetta was actually just the first in a remarkable series of espresso machines. In 1994, my brother Francesco created the Francis Francis coffee-machines. The first machine (X1, launched in 1995) soon became a legend, quickly followed by a double version, the X2, which is still used in thousands of restaurants all over the world. A few years later, we proposed a professional version, the XP1. Another great success was the unusually shaped X7. Next came the X8 and the most recent illy coffee-machine is the X9. For our clients who prefer minimalistic lines, we created the Y series. The Y1 has won the Red Dot Design Award, one of the world’s most important design awards.

The next step was Iperespresso, a unique capsule method for preparing coffee, an innovation which (not by chance) was created by the family which invented high-pressure espresso. Iperespresso machines are constructed by illy for illy; they are “made to measure” for our coffee (just like a Formula 1 car is constructed for its pilot). These coffee machines, too, are unique, true works of art which harmoniously combine technology and design. They offer espresso lovers the unique experience of a perfect espresso, just like at a coffee shop, with all the embedded knowledge of top baristas – but at home. The Iperespresso capsules are filled with the precious illy blend, nine of the world’s best arabica coffees. The aromatic intensity and complexity and the velvety consistency of this coffee are immediately perceptible, thanks to the extraction process which is able to distill the quintessence of espresso – it is a true “elixir.”

Now, we have taken the revolution one step further and have created the Personal Blender. This amazing innovation is composed of a Francis Francis coffee-machine equipped with nine dispensers, each containing a different arabica bean (from Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Tanzania, Nicaragua and El Salvador), a coffee grinder and a press. You can create your own coffee blend by choosing among the arabica beans to create the desired degree of sweetness, bitterness, acidity and so on. A command then sends the composition to the coffee-machine, which gathers the desired quantity of each type of bean and pours them into the coffee grinder, which produces 8 grams of coffee and sends it to the filter. The coffee is then pressed and inserted into the coffee machine, which makes the cup of espresso. We are in the process of patenting the Coffee Blender and we truly believe it represents the future of espresso machines. Thanks to this groundbreaking machine, coffee lovers will be able to drink their own personalized coffee blends whenever they like, at home and at espresso bars.

My grandfather ushered in a new age for fine coffee in 1935 with his Illetta machine. And his legacy of innovation still lives.

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