Affogato is an Italian dessert that drowns vanilla ice cream or gelato with a shot of espresso. It couldn’t be easier or more divine!

Affogato

Here’s a dessert that’s pure perfection in its simplicity: the classic Italian affogato! Two ingredients come together in the most exciting flavor pairing: sweet, creamy vanilla gelato and bitter, rich espresso. Poured at the table, you get to see the ingredients transform right before your eyes. Like you’d expect from Italian cuisine, it’s essentialism at its finest. This trick is one of our favorites for entertaining: especially to end a summer meal.

What is affogato?

Affogato, aka affogato al cafe, is an Italian dessert that drowns vanilla gelato or ice cream with a hot espresso shot. (Affogato means “drowned” in Italian.) Some recipes add a hint of amaretto or hazelnut liqueur, or serve the dessert with a cookie or biscotti. The dessert is traditionally served in Italian restaurants and cafes, and it’s become popular in Europe and around the world.

The affogato is our ideal dessert around here. Each spoonful of melty ice cream makes you want to burst out with an Italian chef’s kiss. It’s showy and impressive, but barely requires any time or effort. Ready to try this Italian masterpiece?

Affogato

Affogato ingredients

Affogato is such a simple concept that you’ll need the best ingredients to pull it off. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Vanilla gelato or high quality ice cream: Find the highest quality product you can. Vanilla is classic, though you can mix it up with other flavors like hazelnut.
  • Espresso: The best homemade espresso is with an espresso machine, but there are lots of other methods you can try (see below). Or, simply make double-strength coffee.
  • Amaretto: It’s totally optional, but if you have a bottle of amaretto on hand it adds a nice almond nuance.
  • Chocolate shavings: Another optional ingredient, but it’s nice to have a little garnish and texture to the top of the affogato.

The type of coffee to use

The type of coffee is everything in an affogato. Here’s what to note:

  • Use espresso roast coffee beans, or simply as dark roast coffee as possible. Light or medium roast simply will not do.
  • Use decaf if you’re worried about the caffeine. Worried about a jolt of caffeine in the evening? Use decaf coffee: it’s still absolutely delicious.
Affogato

How to make the espresso (or strong coffee)

  • Espresso machine: The top method for how to make espresso is with a machine: here’s how we do it.
  • Portable espresso maker: If you make lots of espresso drinks, this portable espresso maker is perfect: it approximates the flavor of the machine at a fraction of the price.
  • French press: French press espresso is a decent approximation of espresso for a coffee maker you might already have on hand.
  • Moka Pot: The Moka Pot (aka Bialetti) makes just the right strong coffee for an affogato.
  • Aeropress: You can make Aeropress espresso: but the flavor is more bitter and flat than the other methods.
  • Strong coffee: Or, simply use your favorite coffee making method but use half the amount of water to get double strength coffee.

The only part of affogato that requires any effort? Making the coffee. Espresso can be tricky at home. Here are all the best methods for how to make espresso at home, or you can simply make double strength coffee.

Tips for serving affogato

Once you’ve chosen your espresso making method, making affogato is a breeze! Here are a few tips for serving this easy dessert:

  • Serve in a small clear glass with a spoon. It’s best for watching the ice cream melt. Guests can scoop it up with long spoons.
  • Freeze the ice cream in the glass while you make the coffee. This prevents premature melting, though it’s not required.
  • If you’re serving for 4, make 2 doubleshots of espresso. That’s ½ cup strong coffee.
  • Place the coffee in a pitcher, or small individual pitchers. If you’re serving with amaretto, you can add it to the espresso. Then watch as the hot coffee melts the ice cream!
Affogato

Other topping ideas

You can get creative with your affogato recipe and add creative toppings that are outside of the traditional Italian method. Here are some ideas:

  • Crushed cookies or biscotti
  • Toasted nuts like almonds or pecans
  • Candied nuts
  • Chopped pistachios
  • Chocolate candies
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans

You can also vary the ice cream or gelato flavors. Go wild! Let us know how you make your affogato in the comments below.

Coffee drinks that work as dessert

We solidly think of affogato as a dessert, but some people think of it as coffee drink. But sometimes there’s a blurred line! Here are a few related coffee drinks that also work as a dessert:

This affogato recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, dairy-free and plant-based, use dairy-free ice cream.

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Affogato

Classic Affogato Recipe


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Affogato is an Italian dessert that drowns vanilla ice cream or gelato with a shot of espresso. It couldn’t be easier or more divine!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 small scoops vanilla gelato or ice cream (or vegan ice cream of choice)
  • 1 shot espresso (or 2 tablespoons strong coffee), decaf if desired
  • 1 teaspoon amaretto, optional
  • Dark chocolate shavings, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add the gelato or ice cream to a serving glass. Chill it in the freezer while preparing the coffee.
  2. Make the espresso, following the instructions in How to Make Espresso: 5 Ways. Or, make strong coffee with espresso (dark) roast beans using your normal method and half of the standard amount of water.
  3. To serve, remove the glass with the ice cream from the freezer and top with the chocolate shavings. If using the amaretto, add it to the espresso. At the table, pour the espresso over the ice cream and enjoy immediately.
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Poured
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Affogato, affogato recipe, what is affogato

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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