When the summer starts to heat up, hot espresso is the last thing you want to enjoy. But skipping out on espresso means you’ll miss out on one of the tastiest desserts–affogato. If you’re looking for a creative way to beat the heat while enjoying high-quality espresso, an affogato is the way to go. In this guide, we’ll share the secret of this simple coffee dessert as well as some best practices to make it extra delicious.
What is an Affogato?
An affogato, or “affogato al caffe,” is a popular dessert that consists of a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream topped with a shot of hot espresso. The word "affogato" in Italian translates to "drowned" or "submerged” which is where the name of the dessert comes from. It’s a simple yet delicious dessert that combines the contrasting elements of hot and cold and the bitter flavor of espresso with the creamy sweetness of ice cream.
Affogatos are often served as a dessert or an after-dinner treat in Italian restaurants or cafes, but you can enjoy an affogato any time at home. You can even spice it up by adding liqueurs, such as amaretto or Frangelico, to enhance the flavor further.
What You Need to Make An Affogato Dessert
Making an affogato al caffe is surprisingly easy. Gather up the following ingredients and equipment before starting on the recipe.
An affogato dessert requires two simple ingredients.
- Vanilla gelato or ice cream. The traditional affogato uses vanilla-flavored gelato or ice cream, but you can experiment with other flavors if you prefer.
- Freshly brewed hot espresso. If you don't have an espresso machine, you can use strong brewed coffee as a substitute.
Truly traditional affogato requires one major piece of equipment.
- Espresso machine or coffee maker to prepare the hot espresso.
- A small serving dish. If you want to be traditional, serve the affogato in a shallow dish or glass. Otherwise, a mug works just fine!
- Finally, a spoon. For eating and enjoying the affogato, of course.
How to Make an Affogato Dessert
Once you’ve got your ingredients and equipment assembled, follow these steps to create a classic affogato at home.
- Pull your shot of espresso. Remember to use high-quality espresso beans for a strong coffee flavor.
- Take a scoop (or two) of gelato and place it in a dessert dish while the espresso is pulling.
- Pour the hot espresso over the gelato. The hot espresso will melt the gelato slightly, creating a creamy texture.
- Serve it immediately while the gelato is still cold and the espresso is hot. Grab a spoon and savor the combination of flavors and temperatures.
Remember, the beauty of affogato lies in its simplicity. Feel free to adjust the proportions of gelato and espresso to suit your taste preferences.
How to Make Affogato Without an Espresso Machine
No espresso machine? No worries! You can still make a delicious affogato dessert with a simple adjustment to the recipe.
Instead of an espresso machine, you can brew strong coffee that’s similar in taste and intensity to espresso. To achieve a taste similar to traditional espresso, you can make concentrated coffee by using a French press coffee maker, an Aeropress, or a Moka pot. These methods allow you to approximate the water-to-coffee ratio of espresso (2 to 1). Generally, finely-ground coffee is required when using these methods to make "espresso-like" coffee.
Once you’ve brewed your concentrated coffee, you’ll take about one (1) fluid ounce and pour it over your gelato or ice cream–or more if you want a stronger coffee flavor in your affogato.
Ice Cream or Gelato for Affogato?
Vanilla gelato is the traditional choice for affogato in Italy, where the dessert originated. Using gelato maintains the authenticity and cultural connection to the Italian culinary tradition. Beyond this, however, gelato is the best choice for affogato for a number of reasons.
First, gelato has a softer, smoother, and denser texture compared to traditional ice cream. Its lower fat content and slower churning process create a creamier consistency that pairs well with the hot bitter espresso.
Gelato is typically served at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, which helps it melt more quickly when hot espresso is poured over it. It also has a more intense flavor compared to ice cream due to its lower fat content. The strong, bold flavor of gelato allows it to hold its own against the robust taste of the espresso. The two flavors complement each other without one overpowering the other.
That being said, a high-quality vanilla bean ice cream is a perfectly acceptable substitute if you can’t find gelato near you. We love Jeni’s Honey Vanilla Bean ice cream and use it in our shops.
What Kind of Coffee is Best for Affogato?
When it comes to choosing the best espresso for affogato, we recommend a strong, well-balanced espresso with a rich flavor. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the perfect roast.
It's crucial to use freshly ground espresso to ensure the best flavor and aroma. Stale or old espresso may lack the desired intensity and freshness.
Learn more: How to Grind Coffee Beans
Coffee that is roasted darker tend to have a more robust and bitter flavor, which can stand up well against the sweetness of the gelato or ice cream. The darker roast brings out bolder notes and creates a strong foundation for the affogato.
Balanced Flavor Profile
Look for an coffee blend or single-origin coffee with tasting notes of chocolate, nuts, and baking spices. This balance ensures that the espresso doesn't overpower the gelato but rather complements its flavors.
Enjoy Your Dessert
Affogato al caffe is a delightful and simple dessert that satisfies both coffee and ice cream cravings, especially in the hot summer months. Whether you just want a midday treat or a fun dessert option for a dinner party, an affogato is the way to go.
We’ve got several roasts that would make the perfect espresso for affogato. Our Belly Warmer roast, for example, is bold with nutty and chocolate undertones–perfect for pairing with creamy vanilla gelato. Browse through our wide selection of blends and single-origin coffees to find your perfect espresso bean today.
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