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.


Francesco Illy founds illycaffè

Francesco Illy, of Hungarian descent, travels from Vienna to Trieste, the coffee city, at the end of the First World War. In 1933 he founds illycaffè based on a dream: to offer the best coffee in the world.



illycaffè patents its revolutionary pressurisation system, which the company still uses today to pack its products: the properly ripened coffee can thus travel worldwide whilst keeping its aroma and freshness.


Illetta, the first high pressure espresso machine

Illetta, the very first modern espresso machine, is created thanks to the patented system of separating water heating and pressure.


illycaffè in Europe

illycaffè becomes the ambassador of espresso culture in Europe and begins exporting through its first foreign base in Switzerland.


The first research laboratory

Ernesto Illy, the founder's son, joins the company after gaining a degree in chemistry and sets up the first research laboratory, creating synergies with prestigious international scientific institutions.


Quality at home

With the new production department, a small can for home use is created: smaller and round for ground coffee.


Growth continues in Europe

The company reaches northern Europe with its first branch in the Netherlands.


New headquarters

illycaffè moves to its current premises in Via Flavia. The founder's dream continues: Ernesto Illy now focuses on international development.


The first single portion on the market

illy is the first company to market coffee pods – single-serve doses of ground, tamped coffee - which make the perfect espresso at any time and in any location: a radical innovation in the history of coffee which will pave the way for illy’s internationalization.


illycaffè in the U.S.A.

illycaffè arrives in the United States, the first Italian roaster to export espresso culture across the ocean.


illy quality in each single bean

illycaffè patents the digital sorting machine, which analyses the colour and shape of beans to ensure each one is perfect.


illy a pioneer in selection at origin

The Prêmio Ernesto Illy de Qualidade do Café para Espresso is created, through direct relationships with growers, ensuring the best quality at the origin and, thanks to the collaboration of Ernesto Illy and his daughter Anna, transforming coffee production in Brazil.


illy Art Collection

Beauty and goodness: Francesco Illy comes up with the idea of the iconic cup, designed by Matteo Thun. A contemporary interpretation of the centuries old art of decorative porcelain, the illy Art Collection has been added to over the years by consolidated and upcoming artists, becoming the largest collection of art objects in the world.


Communication of the unique illy blend

A new advertising campaign focuses on the uniqueness of the illy blend, conceived by Riccardo Illy. 9 origins of the highest quality Arabica coffee to affirm the brand's leadership in bars and at home.


X1: design and technology for espresso

60 years after Illetta, the grandson Francesco Illy sets up Francis Francis! and creates the X1 for home espresso: it is still a style icon today.


James Rosenquist and the new logo

Art and science of Espresso: the legendary American "pop" artist James Rosenquist create the new illy logo, to express uniqueness also in the stroke.



AromaLab launches at Trieste's Science Park Area: a laboratory for studying the single aromas in the unique illy blend.


l’Università del Caffè

With a mission to spread coffee culture around the world and share knowledge to improve quality, the University of Coffee covers the entire supply chain, from plant to cup.


The can changes

The "250 grams" home can is a miniature version of the one used in bars, immediately becoming an international icon.


Sebastião Salgado

After an encounter with the great photographer Sebastião Salgado comes a journey into the paradise of coffee, to pay homage to the men and women growing it. The project lasts 14 years and travels to 10 countries, culminating in the "Scent of a Dream" exhibition.


Single-brand stores

illycaffè launches espressamente illy, the authentic Italian bar project, followed, in 2015, by illy Caffè and illy Shop.


iperEspresso, the third-generation espresso

Thanks to the two infusion and emulsion phases, the Iperespresso capsule, covered by 5 international patents, produces a coffee with an intense aroma and velvety consistency.


The quintessential moka pot

illy research develops illy moka, to improve the organoleptic properties of the Italians' favourite coffee. New grinding and a coffee pot that does not "burn" the coffee.



illy entry in the share capital of Mitaca, a specialist in portioned systems for offices.


illy Ready-to-Drink

Coca-Cola and illy bottle cold coffee and the unique illy blend becomes available "on the go".


Responsible Supply Chain

Andrea llly launches the idea of certifying sustainability. Issued by DNV GL, RSCP certification assesses the social, environmental and economic impact on all stakeholders in the chain.


Soft Can

Created in response to the 20-20-20 objectives of the European plan, illy Soft Can is the first home pack made from pressurised flexible material.


Most Ethical Company

For the first time, illycaffè joins the list of the World's Most Ethical Companies, drawn up annually by Ethisphere Institute.


EXPO Milano

The largest celebration of coffee in history: illy, an official partner of Expo 2015 and the International Coffee Organization, coordinates a special programme of events and hosts the Coffee Cluster, the coffee pavilion visited by over 13 million people.

Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award

The Premio por la Qualidade do Cafè para Espresso goes global: the Ernesto Illy International Coffee Award is launched, paying homage to the talent and hard work of quality growers.