Illy Caffé CEO Andrea Illy spoke to the New York Academy of Sciences last month in Manhattan. CoffeeGeek's Liz Clayton recaps the lecture, and sits down with the chemist-cum-exec for a wee little chat.
The_Mighty_Bean Senior Member Joined: 24 Feb 2006 Posts: 465 Location: Bowie, MD Expertise: I love coffee
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Posted Wed Jan 16, 2008, 8:06pm Subject: Re: The Science of Coffee: Andrea Illy in NYC by Liz Clayton
This is really interesting, and it was a well-written article with thoughtful questions. But given that you had an exclusive sit-down, why, why WHY would you ask him about the "sustainability" factor in the HyperEspresso, rather than the issue of coffee freshness within the pod, which is sort of a sine-qua-non for us Coffeegeeks? I mean... freshness -= flavor, crema, mouthfeel... does he really think he is improving on pods here, and if so, how?
Posted Wed Jan 16, 2008, 10:43pm Subject: Re: The Science of Coffee: Andrea Illy in NYC by Liz Clayton
Thanks for the writeup. The part about having a 9 part blend (so that one can mix and match throughout the year to maintain consistency) was really interesting.
Illy Coffee appears to be in a class of its own. They do a lot of cutting-edge stuff, like the blending, the automated optical sorting, etc, then ruin it all with their packaging designed for ultra-long shelf life. Oh well....
Did you taste any of the Hyper Espresso? The blond liquid issuing from the machine in the photo doesn't look very appealing.
I thought your question about sustainability was right on. His points about plastic are really a stretch. Once you laminate two plastics together, recycling becomes economically unfeasible. And burning the plastic isn't exactly a brilliant innovation for sustainability!
lizclayton Senior Member Joined: 19 Nov 2007 Posts: 14 Location: Brooklyn, NY Expertise: I love coffee
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Posted Wed Jan 16, 2008, 11:20pm Subject: Re: The Science of Coffee: Andrea Illy in NYC by Liz Clayton
Ari: I didn't ask the question about freshness because, to my tastes, something that's preground and space-injected into a plastic capsule isn't ever going to truly compete for my personal share of coffee time flavourwise. I was more immediately preoccupied with, and dismayed by, the idea of so much plastic waste going into each shot of said stuff. As Andy pointed out, the rationalizations (however scientifically interesting) were still only skirting at the edges of convincing me that it was a good idea.
Andy: I did try a couple of shots of Hyper Espresso, and they were better than you might think from an automated! Again, I realize you and I are not the precise audience this product is intended for, which might be the fairer way to evaluate such a thing. (Even if it goes a little against what I just said to Ari above! :) )
Weasel Senior Member Joined: 29 May 2007 Posts: 118 Location: San Jose, CA Expertise: Just starting
Posted Thu Jan 17, 2008, 2:25am Subject: Re: The Science of Coffee: Andrea Illy in NYC by Liz Clayton
I enjoyed the article. I just wish there was a close up pic of the new faceplate. Looked pretty cool to me.
I am probably more 'mainstream' than many ( most? ) of visitors to this site, I like Nespresso for one. From my perspective, I hope the hyper-espresso capsules are better than the Illy pods, of which I am not a fan. For the record, I have only had the Illy med-roast pods made on the FF X6, a dedicated pod machine.
I think it would behoove Illy to offer a variety of capsules. Different blends, different roasts, different grind combinations, etc. I suspect many ( virtually all ) consumers will be reluctant to buy a machine that can use only 1 espresso blend.
Also, I fear Liz's instincts about the plastic are dead on. Many consumers will balk because of environmental concerns, much less perceived quality and/or health issues. The 'plastic is environmentally friendly' argument won't win over many people here.
I would like to see Illy do well, and put out products that blow people away. However, I am not optimistic about the hyper-espresso's chances to succeed in the marketplace. I hope I am wrong, and I hope it tastes great.
VERY true, Liz. But it goes beyond that. Serious coffee geeks are not the audience Ily is trying to capture (though, as any businessman will admit, he certainly wouldn't object if he did!).
If *$ is "the McDonald's of Espresso" in a restaurant/café situation, Ily is the "Taster's Choice of the espresso home market." Consistency is prized over technique, convenience is prized over quality, brand loyalty is prized over freshness.
People who participate in an online coffee forum are clearly more "into" coffee than the average citizen. People who purchase a home espresso setup from -- for example -- Francis!Francis!, Saeco (the semi-automatics, regardless of rebranding), many of the Gaggias (again, semi-autos), Krups, etc., etc., are, perhaps, more of Ily's target audience than those individuals who purchase "prosumer" machines, or full-on commercial models, for home use; who spend hundreds and hundreds on a grinder, thousands on a machine, etc., etc. But these so-called "coffee geeks" -- ;^) -- are but a tiny fraction of one percent of the total market of North American coffee consumers.
There are so many questions Liz could have asked -- I am sure each of us can come up with some. It's much easier to do sitting here than to do so sitting in front of your interview subject. I for one would have loved to hear more about the freshness of Ilycaffè -- both beans and pre-ground (let alone pods & plastic cups) and how he can contend that coffee roasted months (even possibly years?) ago is as fresh as it was when first roasted . . . or ground! (Or is the consistency Ily strives for based upon consistently stale?)
But Liz isn't Mike Wallace; it's a good article; and maybe it's something he covered in his PowerPoint presentation . . . .
Posted Fri Jan 18, 2008, 7:54am Subject: Re: The Science of Coffee: Andrea Illy in NYC by Liz Clayton
Very good summary of the Illy lecture. Thanks, Liz.
I think Illy's answer to the use of plastics was reasonable. It's up to the consumer to either divert the plastic to recycling or throw it in the garbage. It think when he was referring to the plastic as a potetial fuel source he was referring to incineration which is more popular in Europe. Not as many big holes to throw garbage in over there. Incineration, unpopular in North America, is a viable alternative when done conscientiously as it is in Europe. Plastics mixed into general garbage become a fuel source in themselves saving on costs to fuel the incineration.
In his talk Illy also addressed packaging and I thought that was very interesting. I've read a few theories that pressurizing the container with an inert gas like nitrogen would be a way to prevent oxidation and preserve coffee over a long period of time. This what I believe Mr. Illy says they do in the container. He discouraged degassing saying something like the CO2 carries with it some very volatile components which degrade the quality of the coffee. With respect to the volatilty of fresh roasts he also stated that a ground coffee will lose some components minutes after grinding.
He also says that light roasts have more character than the traditional dark roasts promoted for espresso and recommended lighter roasts for sweetness and flavour. In all I'd say he states that lighter roasts of very best sourced arabica greens, the very freshest post roast quality produce the best espresso. Very interesting dilemma for a company that looks like it's commercialized and continues to advance its commercialization of expresso from canned beans to proprietary pod type machines.
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