Illycaffè (branded as illy) is an Italian coffee roasting company that specializes in the production of espresso. The company was founded by Francesco Illy in 1933 and was later led and expanded by his son Ernesto Illy. Today, Andrea Illy is the Chairman, representing the third generation of family leadership, and Massimiliano Pogliani is the CEO. The company has more than 800 employees and reached a gross revenue of €361 million in 2012. Illy produces one blend in three roast variations: normal, dark roast, and decaffeinated. In addition, illy offers Monoarabica, single-origin arabica beans from six different countries: Brazil, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Colombia, Costa Rica, and India. Seasonally, the company offers Idillyum, a low-caffeine arabica that is grown in the rich, volcanic soils of El Salvador.
The history of illycaffè is inextricably linked to the lives of the company's founder, Francesco Illy (known as Illy Ferenc in Hungarian), and his family. Born in Temesvár in Empire of Austria-Hungary (since 1918 Timişoara, Romania), Francesco later went to Trieste, Italy, during World War I as an officer in the army. After the war he remained in the city, which had recently come under Italian rule, and in 1933 set up a business in the cocoa and coffee sectors, eventually deciding to concentrate exclusively on coffee. From the beginning, Francesco was interested in espresso coffee. In 1935, he invented the first automatic coffee machine which substituted compressed air for steam: the illetta, the predecessor of today's espresso machines.
Francesco also devised a new packaging system for preserving coffee in which the cans were filled with inert gases instead of air pressurization. Illy coffee was soon "exported" outside the immediate Trieste area, and was eventually sold all over Italy.
After the World War II, control of the company passed to Ernesto Illy (1925–2008), the son of the founder, who started a research laboratory that soon became the source of numerous new inventions and patents. It was Ernesto, a scientist and researcher, who established cooperation agreements with universities and research centres, and who promoted premium coffee around the globe. Ernesto's son Andrea Illy is currently the Chairman of the company, Andrea's sister Anna Illy and brothers Francesco Illy and Riccardo Illy are on the board of directors.
The illy brand of coffee is available in many countries, though with significant price differences depending on import duty rates.
Currently, illycaffè S.p.A. is a large international company, selling its coffee-related products in approximately 131 countries worldwide. The illy group is made up of several companies located in North America, France, Germany, Spain and Benelux. The group employs approximately 800 people throughout these six locations.
Since the end of the 1980s, illy has not purchased green coffee from the international commodity markets, but directly from the source. Illycaffè exclusively purchases coffee of the arabica species, in particular from Brazil, the largest producer worldwide, but also from Colombia, India, and countries in Africa and Central America. Illy's Università del caffè (University of Coffee) offers free training for growers. In Brazil, a nine-month program (one week per month) includes 360 hours of lectures. Illy buys between 10% and 30% of coffee produced by growers trained at the University of Coffee at a premium price, but does not require that the growers enter into an exclusive contract with the company.
From 2004 to 2012, illycaffè funded the Ernesto Illy Trieste Science Prize to give recognition to science researchers from the developing world, in collaboration with The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS). Illy was featured in the 2006 documentary Black Gold, in reference to its marketing of coffee from Ethiopia.
Illy coffees are blended from arabica beans from multiple sources. The grounds are packaged in steel canisters and pressurized with an inert gas rather than air. For the production of decaffeinated coffee, the illy method involves the coffee beans being first steamed for 30 minutes and then repeatedly rinsed with either methylene chloride (dichloromethane or DCM) or ethyl acetate for about 10 hours. The solvent is then drained away and the beans steamed for an additional 10 hours to remove any residual solvent.
On 22 May 2009, in partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, illy launched a line of coffee-flavoured energy drinks called illy issimo. On 9 November 2009, AirTran Airways became the first small regional airline to serve illy issimo to passengers on board flights. Illy issimo was available in five flavours as of 16 May 2011: caffè, caffè no sugar, cappuccino, latte macchiato, and mochaccino.