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What is Italian Roast Coffee?

Medium ground Italian roast coffee can be enjoyed in a drip brewer.
Espresso is made with the same roasting style as Italian roast.
Italian roast coffee may be purchased at coffee shops.
Whole coffee beans.
A cup of Italian roast coffee.
A cappuccino made with Italian roast coffee.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 July 2014
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Italian roast coffee is named after the dark roasted blends commonly found in Italy that were first made in the 1500s. At that time, Turkey was the main producer and exporter of coffee. This roast certainly exhibits Turkish influence in its dark color and strong flavor.

Coffee roasted in this way, and espresso, so beloved in Italy and in the US, usually both derive from the same roasting styles. The difference between Italian roast and coffee used for espresso is mainly in the grind of the beans. For espresso, you use a very finely ground coffee, but for coffee for drip coffee makers, a medium grind is preferred.

Many people enjoy Italian roast because though the blend is dark, it tends to have a sweeter and less acidic taste than other dark roasts like French Roast. Contrary to popular belief, dark roasted coffee like Italian or French roast is not any stronger than lighter roasts. In fact, the opposite is true. A longer roasting time depletes the natural caffeine sources in the beans and results in a coffee that contains less caffeine, though this difference can be marginal.

Still, serving an Italian roast over a Colombian or Kona roast might ensure that your guests can still get to sleep that night. Lightly roasted coffee on the other hand might make for a jittery and not so enchanted evening for your guests. You can also find decaffeinated Italian roast at stores that sell whole beans.

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While you may be able to find an Italian roast or two at a local grocery store, the best versions will be whole bean varieties you can buy at coffee shops. For coffee connoisseurs, purchasing the whole bean is a must since it makes for fresher tasting coffee and allows you to employ different grinds, like a finer grind for espresso and a drip grind for your regular coffee maker.

The key to making the perfect Italian roast, according to Dr. Ernesto Illy of Illy® Coffee is a finely perfected roasting technique. You may have tasted coffee in the past that almost has a burnt flavor and is too bitter. If you over-roast the coffee, according to Dr. Illy, you will end up with bitter coffee and ruin the flavor. Illy® also uses a pressurized packing method, which guarantees the freshness of their coffee for up to two years.

If you do want to enjoy an Italian roast blend, consider drinking it as the Italians do, without milk. While cappuccino may be a common morning way to serve coffee in Italy, most coffee drunk in the latter part of the day is espresso. If espresso seems too strong, try it with a cube of sugar, or try a simple drip version of coffee.

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serenesurface
Post 9

@rockyraccoon-- Yea, it's good but it's expensive! I also feel a little uneasy about getting pre-roasted Italian coffee. I think it's best when it's ground at home, so I try to get the beans. I don't think they sell the whole beans do they?

By the way, does anyone know if I can use Italian roast in a French press or is it too fine for that? Usually I use medium ground for French press but I've noticed that finer coffee gives better results. I also want the oil in the French roast to come out better, so I'd rather not put it in a espresso machine.

burcidi
Post 8

@MikeMason-- I prefer Italian roast, but I don't think that they all taste the same. It depends on the quality of Italian roast coffee beans. Italian roast is a heavy roast, so it's bound to be darker than usual, but the flavor depends on other things too. It depends on where the coffee beans came from, the oil content, etc.

Also, I have seen Italian roast labeled as espresso roast but people don't realize that it's basically the same thing and can be used to make things other than espresso.

stoneMason
Post 7

Wow that cappuccino looks so good! I love Italian roast coffee. I like that it's strong and slightly bitter. I enjoy French roast coffee too. In fact, I think these are quite similar but I'm no coffee expert so I could be wrong.

What do you coffee lovers personally prefer-- French roast or Italian roast? Why?

fBoyle
Post 6

@ankara-- I agree with the Italians, the best way to have Italian roast is without milk and sugar. Both milk and sugar change the taste of the coffee and you lose the aroma of the Italian roast in the other flavors.

If for some reason I have a slightly over-roasted and bitter coffee, which has happened in the past, I might have a small piece of chocolate with it. But otherwise, I don't add any milk or sugar to Italian roast.

I think this is also the tradition because Turkish coffee that Italian roast originates from is also drank this way, without milk. A cup of Italian roast is supposed to be strong and dark. It's the cup you have after a meal to help digest the food and stay awake.

bluedolphin
Post 5

I've had Starbucks,' Illy's and Tully's Italian roast and I think they're all good. I always have it with milk though.

discographer
Post 4

Thank you for the explanation of light and dark Italian roast coffee. I buy Italian roast for my morning cup of coffee and I have been getting light roasted thinking that it won't be as strong.

I will make sure to pick a dark roast next time!

anon129034
Post 3

Peet's coffee from the SF bay area is the best Italian Roast. FYI - Starbucks got its start with the help of Alfred Peet's roasted beans.

ether
Post 2

While Italian Roast coffee is less bitter and acidic than espresso, many coffee shops subsitute Italian Roast for espresso if the espresso runs out or is not available. Most people cannot detect a difference in espresso beverages made with Italian Roast because so many other ingredients go into the drinks.

rockyraccoon
Post 1

Starbucks brand coffee has a great Italian roast that is availble at most Starbucks locations.

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