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Starbucks Vs. Illy - Which Beans Make Better Espresso

You can spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on the most state of the art fancy espresso machine but if you use the wrong beans, your espresso is going to taste weak and terrible. That's why choosing the right bean is so important.

For many of us, that means choosing between Starbucks beans and some other more expensive specialty bean. In this case, I've decided to have a shootout between Starbucks and Illy.

In the name of full disclosure I feel it's my duty to point out that Illy is far and away my favorite type of coffee bean for both regular coffee as well as espresso. But on the other hand, I start every single day by walking down to my favorite Starbucks (I live in the city) and reading the paper while drinking a venti pike. So there you have it, I can be totally objective!

First off, let's talk Starbucks

Starbucks has a seemingly endless and often times dizzying selection of coffee beans to choose from. Technically speaking, you could use just about any of them to make espresso. From an explorers point of view, this offers a great attraction.

I like the idea of buying every single bag and trying them out one by one. But who really has the time for that? Not me, I've got espresso machine's to test out and review...oh wait!

Nonetheless, your average person on the street probably doesn't have time for this. So instead, we'll focus on Starbucks Espresso Roast which is the logical choice for making espresso. Of course, it comes pre-ground or as beans. (buy the beans - grind them yourself...I mean COME ON!).

This is a very dark roasted blend of coffee (as you'd want for making espresso). It's made out of select Latin American and Indonesian beans and has a sort of spicy flavor to it. There's also a sort of dense caramel-like flavor to it.

To tell you the absolute truth, I used to use it myself before I discovered Illy in a little Italian Deli near my home.

Now Let's Look At Illy

When it comes to Illy you don't have a lot of choices and I like that. Basically we're looking at their Medium Roast Bean or their Dark Roast Bean.

One thing I need to point out is that Illy uses Arabica beans which don't have as much caffeine as Robusta beans. This means you're going to want to shy away from the Medium roast beans for espresso because they're probably not going to be strong enough.

Which means Illy Dark Roast is what you're going to use. Yay.

So Which is Better, Starbucks or Illy?

Illy seems to use a higher quality bean than the Starbucks espresso roast. I've often thought that the Starbucks beans are a little over roasted. I've never thought that about Illy.

But really, at the end of the day, it's all nonsense. Drink whatever tastes best to you. I'm going to stick with Illy and I suggest you give them a shot - but part of the fun of espresso is finding your own favorite bean! Good luck!

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