Ernesto Illy (July 18, 1925 – February 3, 2008) was an Italian food chemist and businessman, known as the chairman of the Illycaffè S.p.A coffee manufacturer. He was deeply and widely respected, considered "an absolute giant" in the world of coffee and espresso, spearheading Illy's research into coffee and espresso quality, as summarized in his son Andrea's book Espresso: The Chemistry of Quality, written with Ernesto's assistance.
Born in Trieste, he was the son of the Hungarian-Italian chocolate maker, Francesco Illy, also a World War I officer, who had established the espresso making company (1933). Ernesto studied chemistry at University of Bologna (1947) and immediately joined Illy, and later took over the company from his father (1956). Ernesto created a high-tech manufacturing process, specializing in the making of espresso coffee, for which he also was an evangelist. He was chairman of Illy 1963-2004 and then honorary chairman. Ernesto Illy took part in the establishment of Association Scientifique Internationale pour le Café (chairman, 1991-).
He was married to Anna Rossi. The Illy company is run by their son Andrea Illy (born 1964), and among the board members are the daughter Anna Illy and son Riccardo Illy (born 1955), who has also been mayor of Trieste and President of Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The third son, Francesco is also involved.
- Cavaliere del Lavoro of Italy (Knight of Industry, 1994)
- honorary doctorates and masters degrees (such as University of Udine, 2005)
- Centromarca brand organization (president, 1996-)
- Specialty Coffee Association of America (S.C.A.A.). "Lifetime Achievement Award" (1997)
- Monte Carmelo (Brazil) county (honorary citizenship, 2002)
- International Coffee Organization, London (chairman of the promotion committee, 2002-)
- Anacafè member of the order, Flor del Cafè (Guatemala, 2004).
- Dennis Hevesi, Ernesto Illy, Chairman of Coffee Company, Is Dead at 82 from New York Times
- (Prince 2008)
- R. W. Apple, Discovering la Dolce Vita in a cup from New York Times (Oct 24, 2001)
- The Scotsman: Ernesto Illy
- New York Times: Ernesto Illy, Chairman of Coffee Company, Is Dead at 82
- Prince, Mark (Feb 4, 2008), Dr. Ernesto Illy, CoffeeGeek