Sunday, January 14, 2007

Coffee Snob: Why I Like Italian Coffee Best

Starbucks LogoMy husband and I enjoy coffee. We often get Starbucks cards for Christmas because our relatives know we love to drink it. We have tried a great many different brands (from a great many various continents and countries). We like to eat international foods when we go out to eat (and even at home we cook international foods)... so sometimes we try new coffee and tea flavors to match our cuisine just for fun.

painting by Anthony UlinskiI was quite content to think that the coffee I had been drinking at international restaurants (even Starbucks) and at home was good stuff. However, a well-meaning friend of ours recently introduced us to some wonderful coffee that has trumped it all. We liked it so much that we got rid of all of our American and Mexican coffee at home that we previously purchased. No one can say we have never "given" at the office now. I am sure my husband's buddies at work are glad to have all those new brands to try... and since most of them probably have never tried Italian coffee, they won't know that the office stuff stinks.

You can guess from the title of this post what kind of coffee we were introduced to: Italian. I'm not sure the bean itself actually is grown in Italy. It is probably from the Mid-East. Yet the difference in Italian coffee (I believe) lies within the cooking methods and brewing methods. It is so sad that many Americans have never really had GOOD coffee before. It is interesting to note that there are oils in Italian coffee after you brew it. I have NEVER seen oil in American coffees (I have been told it is because the plant oils have been burned out by over-cooking of the bean). No matter what the reason is for the taste difference, it has surprised me enough to make me a believer in the Italian brand.

Bialetti Moka ExpressWe bought a hand-crafted Bialetti Moka Express coffee maker that you use on the stove-top as well. I think cooking the coffee over the burner rather than percolating it has a lot to do with retaining the flavor of the bean. We are actually making espresso and mixing it with milk and sugar... a "caffè e latte" or "coffee with milk" - what you would simply call a latte here in the States.

My husband is now using a lot less sugar and cream because the coffee we are making is not as acidic and bitter. I am sure he is right (it does taste smooth), but I haven't given up on my hazelnut creamer just yet. I have been told that it is sacrilege to introduce flavored coffee creamer into pure Italian espresso (but that has not scared me off). I am sure that if I found a good hazelnut syrup, I would not mind just mixing that in with my frothy, warm milk. ...Anyone have a favorite hazelnut coffee syrup to recommend?

LavAzza CoffeeItalian coffees cost a bit more, but if you are willing to do some research, you can find it at a reasonable price. I found a place online where you can buy LavAzza for only $6.95 plus shipping. I like LavAzza decaf myself. Amazon's prices are considerably higher at over $20 dollars a can! Grocery stores where we have found it in Texas range between $9-13 dollars, but here in Arkansas, we found a store that carries a version of LavAzza (not decaf) for $6.99 (not bad since we didn't have to include shipping). Illy is another great coffee brand from Italy that is just a tad bit more expensive than LavAzza. I Illy Coffeehaven't seen a decaf version of Illy, but they may have one. I love the little silver tins that Illy coffee comes in.

While you are thinking about trying some Italian coffee out, you can stop in and read more about Italian coffee (and coffee in general) at

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Toni said...

For me, coffee is coffee. I think Viennese coffee tastes fantastic, and Guatemalan coffee tastes wonderful, but the truth is I wouldn't have known the difference in a blind taste test! Thanks for the tpi on Italian coffee. I'll give that a try on my next trip to Starbucks.

Sprittibee said...

I never thought it was that big of a deal where the coffee was from, either... but when I tasted stovetop Italian and the next day had drip American, I POURED my coffee out and said, "YUCK!"

No wonder we are addicted to so much CREAM and SUGAR over here. We are hiding the bitter, burned flavor of American beans. I would love to try some of the coffees you have had. I am not sure the Italian Starbucks brand would be any different than American if they cook the beans over here the same way they do the American version. I don't think the Italians cook the beans as long (or so I gather).

If you are a TRUE coffee fanatic, I would try the little silver pot I recommended in this post and see if the Italian bean latte is not better than what you've been used to. ;) 1/3 espresso, 2/3 warmed milk. They sell an awesome milk pot on the website where the coffee pot is sold. That is my next purchase I plan to get! That way, you don't have to pour 2/3 COLD milk in and re-warm in the microwave (like we do when we are rushed). I don't like microwaves if I can avoid them.

foodiechickie said...

My mom got that coffee maker thingy from my mother in law. She is excited to use it. LOL. Thanks for linking me.

Sprittibee said...

You're welcome, foodie chickie! :) I loved your blog name because my mom is my children's "chickie" rather than grandma. We collect chick stuff for her and give it to her as presents. Let me know how your mom likes her Bialetti!

mary said...

I hope you are still enjoying your coffee! I am a coffee lover...I worked at starbucks in college, and learned so much about coffee, brewing, and roasting while there. I'm not sure if you're even interested, but here's a little info, incase you are. One reason that you are seeing oils in your coffee is the brewing method. When you brew without a filter (have you ever tried a french press?) the oils are released into the end product instead of captured by the filter. Also, as far as i know, what makes the coffee "italian" is the roast. Most "american" coffees are roasted to a cinnamon color, but espresso and other italian coffees are roasted until much darker, so it tastes that much better in spite of where they were grown (usually latin america, africa or indonesia). I am a huge fan of this kind of brewing, it does taste so much better! Just one word of caution, I have heard that some people experience higher cholesterol as a result of this added oil in their morning coffee!

Brenda said...

Hi, I found your blog through ljcfyi. I love coffee as well and I'm going to look for LavAzza and illy. Thanks for the tip!

Bayesw said...

I definately agree that Italian coffee is far superior to American coffee in many aspects. First off the way American coffee is roasted is complete;y different from Italian coffee. American coffee is roasted at a super high temperature for a brief period of time, whereas Italian coffee is roasted at a lower temperature for a longer amount of time. This lower temperature method is way better because you can use the whole coffee bean and grind it up finer because the oils have cooked completely through to the outside. on the other hand American coffee can't be ground up that thin because the oils have not been completely cooked to the outside of the bean causing our coffee to have impurities that don't make their way into our cup because the coffee is not ground up as fine. But ultimately what I find so astonishing about Italian coffee is the fact that they don't even drink coffee in Italy! All they drink is espresso and cappicino.

Bayesw said...
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Unknown said...

We liked it so best espresso machine 2011 much that we got rid of all of our American and Mexican coffee at home that we previously purchased.