Francesco Illy founded illycaffè in 1933.  His 1935 invention of the illetta, considered the blueprint for modern espresso machines, revolutionized coffee preparation.  His innovative method of packaging, based on pressurization, enabled illy’s initial exports to Sweden and Holland during the 1940s.  Francesco Illy’s method remains the standard for preserving and enhancing coffee’s freshness during transport and storage.  

Ernesto, Francesco’s son, earned a doctorate in chemistry and joined the company in the late 1940s.  His passion for learning gave rise to illy’s formal scientific and technological research efforts, starting with an-house laboratory dedicated to coffee chemistry.  In the 1950s, he spear-headed the company expansion into homes, selling smaller cans of ground coffee for the first time. In 1965 he moved the company to its current Via Flavia headquarters, still in Trieste.

In 1974, Dr. Illy furthered the company’s lead in coffee innovation with ESE, the first pre-measured espresso pods, making café-quality espresso simple and easy at home or the bar.  In 1988, he introduced and patented a photo-chromatic means to identify the highest quality beans, one by one, right at the source.

The 1990s saw the creation of the illy Art Collection, a new logo by renowned pop-artist James Rosenquist, and establishment of the Brazil Award recognizing excellence in coffee cultivation. Today, illy is synonymous with premium Italian coffee in over 140 countries worldwide under the guidance of Ernesto’s son, Andrea Illy, who continues the tradition of innovation and coffee excellence.

A JOURNEY THROUGH TIME

The illy story is rich in innovation, borne of a scientist’s curiosity, and artist’s feel for beauty, and a coffee purist’s quest for ultimate quality and pleasure in the cup.

  • 1933
  • 1934/35
  • 1947
  • 1965
  • 1974
  • '80
  • 1988
  • 1991
  • 1992
  • 1994
  • 1996
  • 1999
  • 2003
  • 2007
  • 2008
  • 2011