How to Make an Affogato for Dessert

This simple, swirly combination of cold gelato and hot espresso is impossible to resist.

There are plenty of fun coffee shop-inspired drinks out there—but none are as indulgent as an affogato. Just like an exquisite bite of tiramisu, this simple Italian dessert will transport you to Italy in about a minute!

It will win your heart with its combination of cold vanilla gelato and hot espresso or strong coffee. It’s like a dressed-up, after-dinner espresso, perfect for serving after a dinner of hearty Italian pasta.

What Is an Affogato?

Pronounced like ah-fo-gah-toe, this Italian treat is a combination of espresso and gelato. Occasionally, you’ll see this dessert drink listed as affogato al caffe, which means “drowned coffee” in Italian.

To make an affogato, gelato (or ice cream) is covered in delicious espresso. And pouring the coffee over the gelato is half the fun—when the espresso hits the gelato, it starts to melt and forms a thick, swirly foam of ice cream and coffee.

How to Make an Affogato

For this dessert, you’ll need vanilla gelato and espresso, but you can substitute vanilla ice cream and strongly brewed hot coffee in a pinch.


  • 1-2 scoops gelato
  • 1 shot espresso


Scoop 1-2 scoops of gelato into a clear glass. Pull shots of espresso, then pour it over the cold gelato. When the espresso hits the gelato, it should start to melt and form a thick, swirly foam of cream and coffee. Repeat for additional servings. Enjoy immediately!

Have you tried Eiskaffee? It’s a cold version of an affogato! Instead of hot espresso, it calls for chilled coffee—perfect for a hot summer evening.

How to Make Espresso Without a Machine

While it won’t technically be considered espresso if you don’t use an espresso machine, there is a way to brew an espresso-style coffee. Using a moka pot is the easiest way to brew very strong coffee that has a similar creamy consistency as espresso. The best part is that a small moka pot makes the perfect serving size for two affogati.

If you don’t have a moka pot, try brewing extra strong coffee with a regular coffee pot or a French press.

Affogato Recipe Variations

There are a lot of fun ways you can amp up the flavors of an affogato. The easiest way is to use a different flavor of ice cream or gelato. Skip the vanilla and opt for creamy chocolate or salted caramel. If you really love coffee, you could even use coffee ice cream instead of vanilla.

Traditionally, an affogato is made with just espresso and gelato, but add rum or a nut liqueur for a boozy affogato. You can also personalize this coffee dessert by topping it with chocolate shavings, cookie crumbles or whipped cream. If simple toppings aren’t your thing, go all out by making an affogato sundae.

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Risa Lichtman
Risa Lichtman is a chef and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the owner/chef of Lepage Food & Drinks, a small food company featuring Jewish seasonal foods, providing takeaway all around Portland. She has previously published poems in Poetica Magazine, the anthology The Art of Bicycling, Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature, and The Dos Passos Review. She lives with her wife Jamie, their dog Isaac, and their cat Sylvia. Follow her at @risaexpizza, or find her delicious food offerings on @lepagefoodanddrinks.