What is Affogato Coffee? (A Coffee Bean Shop Guide)

We all know the situation - it’s the end of a glorious meal out and you cannot decide between dessert and coffee. One provides the kick you need to get moving again, the other an indulgent treat that nobody really wants to turn down. Well you are in luck, as there is actually an option that combines the two, negating the need for you to choose just one ever again. We bring you the mighty affogato coffee, and if you stick around we can show you how to make it for yourself at home.


What is affogato coffee?

When it comes to indulgent, luxury desserts, we all know that they contain ice cream or cream, sometimes both. Affogato coffee makes use of at least one of these.

Essentially an affogato consists of one or two shots of espresso, served over ice cream and sometimes topped with cream and caramel.

It is the quintessential example of opposites working together to create something truly delicious, and its popularity is evident as it is featured on nearly all cafe menus and in many restaurants’ after dinner selections. Whether you consider it an after dinner coffee or a dessert is entirely up to you.


Where did affogato originate?

As with most of the best creations in the coffee world, affogato came into being in Italy. The word itself translates to ‘drowned’ and is served in its home country as an ‘affogato al caffe', Italian for ‘drowned in coffee’.

No one really knows when affogato made its way across Europe and on into America, but it probably came back in the minds of holiday makers wanting to recreate the taste of Italy back home. It has been in the USA dictionary since 1992, making it a key player in the second wave coffee movement. 


How to make affogato coffee

Affogatos look impressive and are a sure-thing crowd-pleaser when served at a dinner party, yet they are relatively easy to make. It pays to take care with the presentation, and to let the ingredients do the talking. It goes without saying (but we will say it anyway) - these cannot be prepared in advance, they must be consumed as soon as they are served. As well as the ice cream melting, espresso shots become bitter and go stale within minutes of being pulled.

Traditional Affogato recipe:

You will need:

  • Vanilla or milk ice cream.
  • Espresso shots (or equivalent - see below)
  • Freshly whipped cream 
  • Caramel sauce (not syrup, as this will be too watery)
  • An espresso cup, warmed
  • A long side plate
  • Cooled low ball glass
  • spoon

How to:

  1. Warm two spoons or an ice cream scoop under the hot tap
  2. Warm an espresso, or double espresso, cup by filling with hot water (if you don't do this the shock of the cold ceramic to the hot espresso could make it bitter)
  3. roll the spoon into ice cream to create a ball, using the other spoon to manoeuvre it into the glass.
  4. Spoon on the cream, or if using a spray bottle, guide the nozzle around the inside of the glass rim, moving round and in to create a neat cover of the ice cream.
  5. Drizzle over a little caramel sauce, if desired.
  6. Empty out the water from the espresso cups and discard
  7. As the final step, pull two espresso shots into the espresso cups and serve on a plate with the glass of ice cream. Consume immediately.
  8. Optional - serve with an amaretti biscuit on the side, for a truly Italian experience.

How to drink -

You serve the ice cream and espresso separate so that the length of time that they are combining is shortened. If you serve it already together the coffee would have warmed the ice cream or vice versa.

Guests can then pour the espresso over the ice cream themselves, deciding how much coffee they would like to add. 

If you don’t have an espresso machine:

The most important things to know of the coffee in an affogato: it must be hot (not scalded or cold) and it must be fresh, so unfortunately you cannot make an affogato with cold brew

Aeropress - Aeropress creates a coffee that is similar to espresso, just make sure it is on the stronger side, then you are good to go.

Drip or Filter -  to make a coffee that is suitable for an affogato (or any espresso based coffee drink, for that matter) simply make a stronger version of the brew that you would normally create. You don't necessarily need to use more coffee, just lessen the amount of water to create a thicker end result.

French Press - While this is a harder brewer to create faux espresso in, it is not impossible. As with the other methods, use less water than usual and enough coffee for two espresso shots per person. We’ve got a blog post about how to perfect your cafetiere game if you want to learn more.


Variations of affogato

The affogato is a dessert that requires minimal effort, and as with all things that do, has been open to many interpretations and variations over the years. Here are a few of our favourites.


If your coffee beverage of choice veers more towards a mocha or you’re just in the mood for chocolate, you can edit the classic affogato recipe to include it.

To do this simply replace the vanilla ice cream with a chocolate alternative, and replace the caramel syrup with chocolate shavings. Delicious.

Flavoured affogato

There’s even an affogato for those who adore flavoured latte drinks! As well as changing the ice cream flavours (steer clear of anything containing citrus or a flavour that wont work with coffee flavouring in general - bubblegum ice cream may be nice in a sundae, less so when drowned in espresso) you can achieve a wonderful flavoured affogato by using flavoured syrups much in the same way that you flavour a latte. To ensure that the syrup mixes thoroughly and doesn't just sit under the ice cream, try adding it instead to the espresso shots themselves. Depending on personal preference, generally go for 2-3 teaspoons of syrup per affogato. 

Boozy affogato

You can go one step further and complete the after dinner theme by serving the trinity of coffee, dessert and alcohol in one fell swoop. All that is required is to add a spirit or liqueur of your choice to the ice cream.

The most popular boozy additions include: Brandy, whiskey, Baileys or even coffee liqueur to double down on the coffee flavour.


As with most Italian dishes, the success of the final flavour relies heavily on the quality of the ingredients, and the affogato is no exception. In fact, because it contains so few ingredients, there’s nowhere for poor flavours to hide - the only way to create a great tasting affogato is with freshly roasted coffee beans, such as those provided by the coffee bean shop.

We would recommend a bean or blend with a stronger taste profile, to cut through the sweetness of the ice cream, such as our Colombian Bucaramanga, with its wonderfully rich flavour but lower acidity level, making for an amazing espresso to sip alone or in an affogato.

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