You’ve heard of Illy coffee, but did you know the brand was started by the same man who invented the espresso machine? Dr. Francesco Illy, who simply dreamed of producing the best coffee in the world, started the brand in 1933 after moving to Triest, Italy. 

Dr Illy didn’t just patent his rich, flavorful coffee. He also invented a unique pressurization system to help Illy coffee be distributed across the world without losing its freshness and flavor. Then, in 1935, Dr Illy also patented the Illetta, which supplies the blueprint for modern espresso machines. So not only did he provide the world with the most flavorful coffee possible; Dr Illy also provided us with arguably the best method of preparing it. 

In 1957, Dr Illy’s son, Ernesto, joined the company. With a degree in Chemistry, Ernesto Illy was perfectly positioned to establish the first Illy research laboratory in collaboration with prestigious international scientific institutions. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, growth continued throughout Europe, with Illy’s home-use coffee finally reaching the United States in 1980.  And that’s how Illy became the first Italian roaster to bring espresso culture to America. 

Those who think a certain coffee machine manufacturer invented single-use coffee pods might be surprised to learn that the concept dates all the way back to 1974! Illy was actually the first brand to release single-use pods – a revolutionary concept at the time, no doubt! These pods allowed the user to prepare the perfect cup of espresso anywhere, any time. 

It’s easy to see how Illy paved the way for the future of coffee, with all other manufacturers following in their footsteps. In the second blog of this series, we’ll explore how Illy continued to innovate throughout the 1990s and into the new century, never passing up an opportunity to improve on the perfect cup of brew. 

Come visit us at Parlay Café, where we exclusively brew Illy!


Don Mastrangelo
Owner, Parlay Café