Affogato coffee with vanilla ice cream and espresso
Recipes,  Types of Coffee

Affogato Coffee: Your Guide To the Italian Dessert Drink

Affogato coffee with vanilla ice cream and espresso

What’s better than coffee? Coffee with ice cream of course! As with most things related to coffee, the Italians have hit it out of the park with this crafty beverage called affogato coffee. It’s a creamy scoop of vanilla gelato topped with steaming hot espresso, served in a tall narrowing glass. You can enjoy it as-is or savor different flavors by changing up the gelato and adding things like coffee liqueur, sliced nuts, and chocolate shavings.

Looking for a tasty affogato coffee recipe? We put together this easy-to-follow guide for a delicious coffee and ice cream drink you can make at home. Plus, you’ll learn more about affogato coffee and discover tips for brewing the tastiest one in town.

What is Affogato Coffee?

person pouring espresso on vanilla ice cream

An affogato is an Italian dessert coffee featuring two key ingredients: espresso and gelato. Called “affogato al caffe” in Italy, this coffee drink is made by serving one scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured on top. The drink is served with a spoon as the gelato melts in the hot espresso. It’s a fancified version of a latte and is sometimes called” gelato al fior di latte”.

The name affogato comes from the Italian word meaning “drowned”. It refers to the gelato drowning in hot coffee. As if it wasn’t already fun enough to enjoy this decadent drink!

True traditionalists will say an affogato is just vanilla gelato and espresso. Today, there are dozens of variations including ones with toppings like whipped cream. Dark chocolate shavings, and spices. Plus, you can make an affogato with coffee liqueur for an even more indulgent experience. 

Cafes like Starbucks have made their own affogatos, though they aren’t the traditional beverage. At Starbucks, an affogato is a frappe coffee with a hot shot of espresso poured on top. While it’s tasty, we recommend sticking to the classic ice cream and espresso recipe instead.

How To Make an Affogato At Home

Affogato coffee recipe with vanilla gelato and espresso

Since affogatos only have two ingredients, you can make this coffee dessert at home with little effort. All you need is some ice cream and strong brewed coffee. Here’s an easy affogato recipe you can whip up at home.


When it comes to ingredients, you’ll want to focus on quality for the best-tasting affogato. Use gelato, rather than ice cream, whenever possible. While similar, gelato has less fat and a more pronounced flavor, making it a better option for pairing with espresso.

You’ll also want to use high-quality coffee beans for your espresso. Look for 100% arabica coffee beans and a dark roast. The nutty and chocolatey tasting notes of dark roasts work perfectly with the smooth, creamy flavors of vanilla gelato. This drink is meant to be decadent, so make it count by using the best ingredients possible. 

Here’s a quick list of what you’ll need to make an affogato:

  • Vanilla gelato (or vanilla bean ice cream if you can’t find gelato)
  • Espresso
  • Coffee liqueur like amaretto, Frangelico, Bailey’s, or Kahlua (optional)
  • A glass mug

Keep in mind that the nutrition facts (i.e: cholesterol, carbohydrates, saturated fat, etc) will change depending on if you add additional toppings or flavors.


Brewing an affogato is as easy as pie. For the best taste, use an espresso machine to pull the espresso. If you don’t have an espresso machine, dark roast coffee brewed in a Moka pot or Chemex is a good alternative.

Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to making an affogato:

  1. Chill your glass coffee cup (or a desert glass) in the freezer
  2. Add one scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato to the mug
  3. Just before serving, brew the espresso
  4. Pour the shot of espresso on top and serve immediately
  5. Garnish if you’d like, adding things like hazelnuts, mocha powder, biscotti, or a shot of coffee liqueur

Tips for Making a Decadent Affogato Coffee

Affogato with toppings

Since there are only two main ingredients, an affogato is one of the easiest coffee drinks to make at home. Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to brew the most delicious dessert coffee, right in your own kitchen. 

Make Sure the Glass and Ice Cream Are Cold

Affogatos are made for melting, but you don’t want the gelato to melt too quickly. To avoid this, make sure to chill the serving glass ahead of time. The gelato should also be very cold to help it maintain consistency. If you want more solid ice cream in your drink, let the espresso cool a bit before pouring it on top. You can pour the espresso on yourself or serve it on the side and let guests do it themselves.

You Don’t Need an Espresso Machine

While the Italians may cringe if you make your affogato without espresso, you can technically make this drink without a fancy machine. Substitute strong brewed coffee for the espresso to keep the flavor as close to the authentic recipe as possible. Try to use freshly ground whole beans and pour-over brewing methods for the best flavor. Avoid instant coffee powders as they can taste bitter.

Mix It Up With Other Flavors

While high-quality vanilla gelato is the traditional way to go, you can make this drink all your own by choosing different gelato flavors. Flavors like salted caramel, coffee ice cream, pistachio, and stracciatella are all great options. We also love croccantino al rhum — a delicious blend of rum and roasted hazelnuts.

You also don’t have to limit yourself to one scoop of ice cream. Go big and add two scoops of different flavors. You can also play with seasonal tastes to make this the star dessert at your next holiday party.

Make it Over the Top With Toppings

The fun doesn’t stop with ice cream flavors, you can also pile this drink high with toppings if you feel like being a little extra. Chocolate shavings make for a nice presentation while flakes of sea salt can draw out chocolate tasting notes. Chocolate and caramel sauces as well as sliced or crushed nuts can also add depth to this drink.

Taste Your Way Through a Rich Coffee Scene

Creamy java drink in a  large tall glass mug

Coffee is so much more than a bunch of grinds in hot water. At Cup & Bean, we love highlighting the different ways you can enjoy a cup of java. From Vietnamese cold brew to surprising coffee facts, we think learning about coffee makes the tasting experience more enjoyable. 

Join us on a journey of discovery as we try out new coffee recipes and indulge in classic favorites along the way. We’ll show you how coffee from different nations and regions tastes different and can take your favorite recipe to the next level. Plus, we’ll show you various brewing techniques you can use to try out new drink styles. 

Best of all, we do it without a condescending attitude. We think coffee is for everyone, so you won’t find any snobbery here. Just a bunch of coffee lovers who enjoy sharing their joy for this tasty little bean with the world. 

After chasing down everything there was to know about tea on the Cup & Leaf blog, I'm now exploring the world of coffee. From different types to countries with the best brews and everything in between, I'll be your guide on this coffee discovery.