italian roast coffee

What Is Italian Roast Coffee? (Everything You Need to Know)

September 26, 2022

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What is Italian roast coffee? What makes Italian roast coffee different from other roast coffee? Italian coffee is a roasting style that produces dark and oily beans. Espresso is usually the brew method of choice, but about 20 types of coffee are popular in Italy.

During the roasting process, heat is applied until the bean is cracked and releases moisture. Then, it cracks the second time removing its oils. The second crack helps the bean achieve its shiny dark oily color and has a more refined taste.

Where Do Italian Coffee Beans Come From?

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Coffee beans are not grown in Italy. Italians are renowned for their particular roasting process of coffee beans and were the first to introduce the espresso extraction and brewing technique of coffee.

Italy must import coffee beans from other nations since it is too far north for coffee plants to flourish. The coffee beans used by Italian roasters are mostly imported from South American, Asian, and African nations.

What Types of Coffee Beans Are Used in Italian Roast?

The beans more likely used in Italian roast coffees are either 100% Arabica or a mix of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans. Since Arabica coffees are of excellent quality, they are always the better option.

However, some high-quality Robusta coffee beans are superior to some low-quality Arabica beans, even though Robusta coffee beans are typically thought of as a lower-quality source of coffee.

The coffee beans you choose will also mainly rely on your preferences. For example, robusta beans are a good option if you prefer bitter coffee. Additionally, compared to Arabica coffee, the Robusta bean contains more caffeine. It also depends on how your tastebuds react to the flavor and taste.

Temperature Required for Italian Roast

Italian coffee is roasted between 226 to 230 °C (440 to 446 °F).

There is no established naming scheme for various coffee roasts, which accounts for the temperature variations. Therefore, what one roaster refers to as an Italian roast may not be the same as what another roaster refers to as an Italian roast. But there is one point on which everyone can agree—an Italian roast is a darker roast coffee.

How Long Should You Roast Beans for Italian Roast?

The short answer is the second crack, which occurs after the coffee beans are subjected to high temperatures for an extended time.

As time goes on, the color and texture of the coffee beans change. The oils from the core of the coffee bean begin to move toward the surface at this point. As a result, the coffee’s natural flavor notes diminish compared to the roast flavor at the second crack.

What Does An Italian Roast Coffee Taste Like?

As the Italian roast coffee beans roast up to the second crack, the coffee loses its original, natural flavor and fully absorbs the flavors of the roasting process. When the roasting process is complete, and you make yourself a cup of Italian brew, there won’t be much of the original flavor of the coffee beans left.

Additionally, an Italian roast is closer to a dark roast than a light roast, and you won’t experience the same caffeine rush. Italian roast lacks the high flavor notes of light roast-level coffee because dark roasted coffee has less acid. Therefore, you will experience powerful bittersweet to burnt flavors since Italian roast coffee delivers a delicious balance between a dark and medium roast.

What Difference Does the Roasting Level Make?

You can spot the roast level by observing the beans’ color. The coffee beans gradually lose their initial hue and become darker as they are heated. The level of roasting affects the depth of the beans’ flavor.

Types of Roasts

Various terms are used to describe roasted coffee; many are vague.

Image describing the labels, lables, or terms used to describe coffee roasts or roasted coffee.
Vague Terms Used To Describe Coffee Roasts. Source: procaffeination.com

This wonderful image, designed by Tim Bruno from procaffeination.com, shows some different terms used to describe roasted coffee. However, we will discuss the three main categories of roast.

1. Light Roast

Light roast Italian coffee has a more mild flavor. There is no oil on the surface of the coffee bean, and the beans are not roasted long enough for any oils to break through. It provides light-earthy colored bean coffee with minimal roast flavor.

Highlights

  • Light-earthy colored tone
  • 8-12 minute roasting time
  • No apparent oil
  • Enjoyably acidity
  • Sweet, fruity tanginess, and subtle floral flavors
  • The roasted coffee beans are harder to crush
  • Light roasts are not roasted long enough to produce caramelized sugars or oil seen in dark roasts

2. Medium Roast

Coffee beans with more roasting than a light roast create a medium roast. Medium roast coffees have a more profound earthy-colored tone and a deeper flavor than the light Italian roast options.

Highlights

  • Uniform earthy-colored tone
  • 12-20 minute roasting time
  • Some oil is noticeable
  • A rounded flavor profile and balanced body
  • Less acidic and fruity than a light roast
  • Sweet, chocolatey and smooth

3. Dark Roast

When roasted to a significant degree, coffee beans have a dark roast. The shade of the roast is dark brown. Once in a while, they can be close to as dark as dark tones. The roast flavor is at its top in that stage.

Highlights

  • Dark earthy colored tone
  • 20-30 minute roasting time
  • Little acidity
  • Bitterness
  • Full of body and texture
  • Oily
  • Long trailing sensation
  • Rich flavor with dark chocolate, spicy, and wood flavor notes
  • Coffee beans are easier to crush

How Does Roasting Unravel Such Intense Flavors?

The Maillard Reaction is a chemical reaction that takes place during roasting. Long-term heating causes amino acids and sugars to react in a way that results in browning and the irresistible flavor we associate with Italian roast coffee.

However, due to an immense amount of roasting, the roast dominates the flavor profile, so you lose some of the authentic coffee taste. In essence, the sugars and acids in the coffee are burned out, leaving behind the charred roasted flavor.

How Did the Italian Roast Coffee Originate?

Although the espresso roast, in particular, was made famous by Italians, Italian roast coffee did not originate in Italy. Coffee plants cannot naturally thrive in Italy’s environment; hence, they are imported and roasted there.

Italian Prospero Alpino was likely the first European to describe the coffee plant in about 1590 but called it ‘Bon’. However, Prospero probably wasn’t the first to introduce coffee to Italy and coffee was a result of trades that occurred in Venice.

Coffee was first cultivated in Ethiopia and later introduced to Europe through the Ottoman Empire and Venice was one of the first European cities to trade coffee.

According to wantedinrome.com when coffee first arrived in Italy, it was considered sinful due to its association with the Islamic religion through the Ottoman Empire. In 1600, Pope Clement VIII was asked to denounce coffee to discourage its consumption publicly. To form a fair verdict, he asked to taste it. In a moment of clarity that has come to be known as the baptism of coffee, the Pope said, “This Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.” With the Pope’s approval, the Italian coffee culture was not only born but blessed.

Italian roast coffee beans are sourced from South American, Asian, and African countries.

How to Avoid Your Italian Roast From Getting Unbearably Bitter?

While Italian Roast coffee is a darker roast and is naturally bitter, it’s possible that you’re excessively extracting the beans, which might result in an extremely bitter flavor. Instead of giving up on your Italian roast beans, try modifying your brewing procedure first.

The surface area of your coffee grinds will decrease as they get bigger. Low surface area implies fewer extracts and less moisture. Consider making your coffee grounds bigger if you want to lessen the amount of bean extract and the harshness and intensity of the flavor.

Some brewing techniques include soaking your coffee beans in water for a long time and bringing out the bitterness in the beans. It could be time to switch to a different brewing method if you want a less bitter coffee, For example, a brewing method where the beans have been soaked in the water for less time.

What Are Some of the Best Italian Roast Brands?

In the southern region of Italy, Italian roast coffee is undoubtedly the most popular variety.

Illy and Lavazza are the two roasters that have established their supremacy in Italy and are exceedingly well-liked. A distinctive blend created by Illy contains decaf, standard, and dark roasts.

Illy also provides Arabica beans from Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Colombia, India, and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, Lavazza sources its coffee beans from countries including the United States, Mexico, Uganda, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica.

What Makes Italian Roast Coffee Unique?

Italian roast coffee is unique because of the types of coffee beans used, the source of the coffee beans, the blends of different coffee varieties, and most of all, the roasting process.

Italian coffee is ideal for espresso; some would say that the dark Italian roast was designed for espresso.

Conclusion

Italian roast falls at the end of the roasting spectrum and is one of the darkest roasted blends available.

Italian roast coffee is perfect if you desire espresso with low acidity, a bittersweet flavor encompassing dark chocolate, spicy, and wood flavor notes.

You need to try it at least once!

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