Green coffee’s journey to illy’s roasting facility in Trieste, Italy starts in each source country in 60-kilo jute bags, precisely arranged so air circulates inside and between each bag, thereby eliminating any risk of mildew during shipping by sea.
illy’s coffee transport knowledge is unmatched, and its methods unique, ensuring green coffee’s integrity from country of origin to illy’s home port of Trieste.
Upon arrival in Trieste, each bag is numbered and prepared for inspection. The selection process begins as beans are placed on a vibrating screen, a large sieve that separates out foreign matter. A vacuum removes tiny particles, and a magnetic separator removes metallic fragments. Finally, advanced imaging devices "photograph" each bean and eliminate any that are fermented, unripe or otherwise unfit. Why such intense scrutiny? Because it takes just one imperfect bean in 50 to taint espresso in the cup. illy screens as much as 45 tons of coffee per day.
illy blends nine distinct Arabica beans before roasting, assuring each bean’s distinct characteristics develop at the same rate under the roaster’s heat. This is precisely how illy achieves remarkable consistency in its blend, can after can.
Blending is truly an art. Coffees from different origins carry distinct aromas, and varying balances of bitter, sweet and body characteristics. Nothing less than mastery is required to create a harmonious whole.
Coffee harvests vary year to year, producing different characteristics even in the same bean, so a rigid formula cannot be followed during blending. Understanding how each of the nine beans interacts, and the role each plays is required. Otherwise said, illy achieves consistency by understanding and embracing diversity, paradoxical as it may sound. The same result, through different means.
Roasting is coffee’s version of high drama: 15 minutes, the critical time when some 800 substances emerge under heat, each contributing to the taste and aroma of the illy blend—and to its very heritage.
In a large rotating drum, the coffee is brought to about 200°C (392°F), at first drying the beans, turning them golden in color and creating toasted aromas. As roasting continues, the bean’s volume increases by 60 percent, and they begin to turn a light brown. During stage three, beans acquire their familiar rich, brown color, losing about 18% of their weight and becoming brittle. The process must end at precisely the right time. Over-roasting destroys essential, volatile aromatic compounds and upsets the ideal balance of acidity and bitterness.
Roasting now complete, a critical, calibrated, air-cooling phase goes into effect to literally stop the beans from cooking, keeping aromas intact and preserving the blend at its best. Beans experience a steady and necessary carbon dioxide loss for days after roasting.