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Easy & Delicious Affogato Recipe

See how to make affogato, a classic Italian dessert that only has two basic ingredients: espresso and ice cream.
espresso affogato

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Affogato Recipe

This affogato recipe is a classic Italian dessert that brings together rich espresso and vanilla gelato or ice cream. Like so many Italian recipes, affogato is absolutely delicious.

In my opinion, affogato is the perfect example of “less is more.”

In fact, this simple, two-ingredient recipe is the sum of its parts. In other words, the espresso enhances the ice cream and the melting ice cream enhances the espresso.

And if you’re like me, the only time you set your spoon down is when you’re ready to drink what remains.

Typically, affogato is served as a tasty after-dinner dessert. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying affogato whenever you want.

This dessert certainly makes a sweet treat any time of the day. And since espresso has caffeine, an affogato may even give you a little boost.

Espresso affogato dessert in cup with demitasse spoon.
Espresso Affogato Italian Dessert

What is Affogato?

Affogato is an Italian coffee-based dessert originally known as, affogato al caffe. Its name literally means “drowned in coffee.” Basically, affogato is a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over top. Traditionally, affogato is served in a glass that’s slightly wider at the top. This way the gelato or ice cream doesn’t fall all the way to the bottom. A lovely mixture of espresso and melted cream forms beneath.

Affogato al caffe often appears on Italian menus as a dessert. However, other countries and restaurants may list it as a drink. Really, it’s a dessert drink.

Interestingly, the word affogato didn’t even appear in American dictionaries until around 1992. So, while the combination of espresso and ice cream isn’t all that new, this dessert isn’t all that commonplace in America either.

Two cups with espresso poured over vanilla gelato.
Affogato recipe only requires two ingredients: vanilla ice cream and espresso.

How to Make Espresso Affogato

As I’m sure you can tell, it’s really easy to make espresso affogato. Here are the basic steps I follow.

Step 1: Scoop vanilla gelato or ice cream into a small glass. You can use any glass or dessert cups with a wider top.

Step 2: Pull a fresh shot of espresso made with your favorite coffee beans.

Step 3: Pour the espresso over ice cream.

Step 4: Add toppings if desired. Serve the affogato immediately with demitasse espresso spoons.

Pictures showing affogato recipe in four steps.
Steps to make affogato with espresso and gelato.

Which is better to make an affogato with—gelato or ice cream?

For an authentic affogato al caffe experience, I suggest using vanilla gelato.

But do you know the difference between gelato and ice cream? It’s simple. Gelato usually does not contain eggs and is more dense than ice cream. Ice cream, on the other hand, usually contains eggs and is whipped into a lighter consistency.

My personal preference is to make affogatos with gelato. In fact, my favorite brand and flavor is Talenti Madagascan Vanilla Bean Gelato. Target even sells it.

However, if you can’t find gelato in your local store, ice cream is perfectly fine. You can even experiment with different flavors, as well.

What’s a good substitute for espresso?

If you don’t have an espresso machine you still can make affogato or an affogato-style dessert.

A few good substitutes for hand-pulled espresso are:

  • A Nespresso single-serve espresso maker and espresso capsule
  • Espresso-like coffee brewed with moka pot
  • Double or triple-strength brewed coffee

Affogato Recipe Topping Ideas

It’s absolutely not necessary to pile toppings onto an affogato. But if you want to make this coffee ice cream dessert even more impressive, here are a few topping suggestions.

Affogato in small glass with demitasse espresso spoon in cup.
Affogato dessert served in small glass with demitasse spoon.

How to Make an Even Better Affogato

If I’m making just one or two servings of affogato, I like to pull espresso shots directly over vanilla gelato.

Personally, I think this method tastes even better than pouring a fresh shot over the ice cream.

Take a look at the pictures below. You can see how the layers of espresso are intact. And a sweet layer of crema hugs the ice cream. Yum!

If you have an espresso machine like my Breville Express, definitely try making an affogato like this.

Questions you May Have

Affogato in two cups with pint of vanilla gelato in background.

Espresso Affogato

Yield: 1 serving
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

Quick and easy espresso affogato dessert recipe. Make a single serving of this Italian coffee ice cream dessert or more for guests.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • 1 shot espresso

Instructions

  1. Scoop gelato or ice cream into a small glass.
  2. Make espresso and pour over ice cream.
  3. Add toppings as desired and serve immediately.

Notes

If serving to a group, ice cream can be scooped ahead of time and cups placed back in freezer until ready to serve.

Espresso shots can be pulled directly on top of gelato/ice cream for a layered espresso look and taste. You can use any roast coffee bean (dark, medium or blonde).

Espresso can be substituted with espresso-like coffee made with moka pot or double-strength coffee.

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