Last March, Illy and Coca-Cola partnered to create Ilko Coffee international and bring a line of Italian canned coffees to the U.S. (no point in letting Starbucks and PepsiCo chug-a-lug the $16 billion ready-to-drink coffee market all alone). The beverages, meant to be enjoyed cold, sell for between $2.59 and $2.99 a can. There are three drinks in the line Illy Issimo: Caffé (basic black with some sugar), Cappuccino (with lowfat milk), and Latte Macchiato. But do they taste as high-end as they look? We chilled the cans, bought three corresponding coffee drinks from the nearest java joint, and had eight of our pickiest coffee drinkers weigh in:
Round 1: Caffé
Maybe this round was too easy with Illy’s drink pitted against a basic iced coffee with minimal syrup, but our testers unanimously preferred the canned deal to the standard fare. Testers called the iced coffee “watered down” and “lackluster” with an “unappealing clarity” (in all fairness, though we poured quickly, some of the ice had melted by the time we made it back to the office). They declared Illy’s “definitely more appealing of the two” and lauded the richer, pleasant, “no bitterness!” taste.
Round 2: Cappuccino
The group was split over this one: One tester said Illy’s canned take had a “nice chocolately flavor,” but another recognized that the iced cappuccino wasn’t as tasty because it “didn’t have a pound of sugar.” Another called Illy’s taste artificial: “It’s not too bad when it first hits the tongue, but then it just gets kind of nasty.” But someone declared it her favorite.
Round 3: Latte Macchiato
Since the barista denied our request for this off-menu item, we had to make do with a caramel macchiato–though surprisingly, no one commented on the caramel taste. One tester was at a loss for words for Illy’s (“It’s just…weird”) and another declared the caramel macchiato to have a much stronger and natural flavor (“It smells like a Starbucks brew”; “It has a decent nose.”). Again, there were comments that the packaged concoction tasted instant–“The cream tastes fake” (for the record, the ingredients lists milk and not cream).
Winner: Caramel macchiato
Overall, though our java experts seemed to disapprove of the prepackaged taste and amount of sugar in the cappuccino and latte macchiato, they didn’t have high expectations for canned coffe. Still, the Illy fans in the office were excited to see the new product: “It’s Illy in a can!”