Affogato is a simple traditional Italian dessert or beverage that combines the richness of hot coffee with the creaminess of gelato or ice cream, which is extremely easy to make. The word affogato in Italian loosely translates to drowned, and the dessert is named as such because it involves pouring a shot of hot, freshly brewed espresso over a scoop of cold ice cream or gelato. The combination of hot coffee and cold ice cream creates a delicious contrast of flavors and temperatures.

8 Keys To Making The Perfect Affogato

1. Quality Hot Espresso Or Coffee

Start with a high-quality shot of espresso or strong coffee. Freshly brewed hot espresso shots from fresh, high-quality coffee beans are ideal. Ensure the coffee selected is robust and flavorful, as it’s a crucial component of the affogato.

2. Premium Fior di Latte Gelato, Vanilla Gelato, or Vanilla Ice Cream

Affogatos are essentially ice cream desserts with espresso, so the better the dessert, the better the affogato will be. Choose top-notch ice cream or gelato with a flavor that complements the coffee. Traditional choices are fior di latte or vanilla gelato, but you can get creative with other flavors like chocolate, caramel, or fruit-infused varieties. The quality of the ice cream dramatically impacts the overall taste.

3. Hot Expresso Meets Cold Gelato

Timing is essential. Pour the hot espresso over very cold vanilla gelato or ice cream immediately before serving. The temperature contrast between hot coffee and cold ice cream creates affogato’s signature texture and flavor.

4. Serve In Chilled Heat-Resistant Glass

Use a chilled heat-resistant glass or cup to serve the affogato. The chilled glass prevents the ice cream or gelato from melting too quickly, while the heat resistance ensures that the glass won’t crack due to the temperature difference.

5. Customize With Toppings For Variety (Optional)

Experiment with optional toppings and garnishes like chocolate shavings, crushed or chopped nuts (e.g., almonds or hazelnuts), caramel sauce, whipped cream, or fresh berries to enhance your affogato’s flavor and visual appeal. Cookies such as stroopwafel, biscotti, and Biscoff also make good toppings.

6. Keep It Simple

Affogato is a simple dessert, so avoid overcomplicating it. The balance between bitter coffee and sweet ice cream should remain the focal point.

7. Serve Immediately

Affogato is best enjoyed immediately after preparation while the espresso is hot and the ice cream is melting. This ensures that you experience the full contrast of temperatures and flavors.

8. Experiment And Personalize

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ice cream flavors, coffee beans, and toppings to create your unique affogato experience. Personalization is part of the fun.

By following these considerations, you can make a perfect affogato that harmonizes the contrasting elements of hot and cold, bitter and sweet and delivers a delightful dessert or pick-me-up experience.

Classic Italian Affogato Recipe

An espresso shot being pulled onto a cappuccino cup containing vanilla ice cream

Ingredients for Affogato:

  • 1 shot of hot espresso or strong brewed coffee (about 1 oz or 40 mL)
  • 1 to 2 scoops of fior de latte gelato or ice cream (if not available, vanilla is a great alternative)
  • Garnish or toppings (optional): Top or garnish with shaved chocolate, whipped cream, chopped hazelnuts, etc.


  • Serving dish (Option to chill serving dish if you don’t want your ice cream melting too quickly)
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Espresso Machine (or stovetop espresso maker or coffee maker)

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making An Affogato:

Step 1: Prep For A Shot Of Espresso

Start by preparing your espresso shot or strong coffee. Grind the beans, tamp, and load the portafilter into the espresso machine.

Step 2: Add Ice Cream

Place one or two scoops of your preferred ice cream or gelato into the serving glass.

Step 3: Brew The Espresso

You can brew the espresso directly over your ice cream so that it’s piping hot, or brew it into a cup and then pour espresso over the ice cream. (I prefer less mess so I brew mine directly over my ice cream.) The heat of the coffee will start to melt the ice cream, creating a delightful blend of temperatures and flavors.

Step 4: Optional Toppings And Garnishes

You can add optional toppings and garnishes to enhance your Affogato if desired. Some popular choices include chocolate shavings, crushed nuts (like almonds or hazelnuts), caramel sauce, whipped cream, or fresh berries.

Step 5: Serve Immediately

Affogato is best enjoyed while the espresso is still hot and the ice cream is melting. The contrast of hot and cold makes it a delightful treat.

Step 6: Enjoy

Use a spoon to mix the coffee and ice cream together as you eat or sip. Savor the creamy, coffee infused dessert!

Affogato is a versatile dessert, and you can customize it to suit your taste preferences by choosing different ice cream flavors and toppings. It’s a quick and elegant dessert perfect for serving guests or enjoying as a personal indulgence.

Emerald cappuccino cup with ice cream "drowned" in espresso with a wafer roll garnish

Affogato Substitutions

Affogato is a versatile dessert, and you can experiment with various substitutes to create unique flavors and accommodate dietary preferences. Here are some common substitutes:

Coffee Substitutes: If you prefer not to use espresso or strong coffee, you can try alternatives like brewed tea (such as chai or Earl Grey), Thai tea, or hot chocolate. While it won’t be a traditional affogato, it can still be a delicious dessert.

Different Ice Cream Flavors: Instead of using vanilla ice cream, try experimenting with different flavors like chocolate, coffee gelato, or even fruity options like strawberry or mango. These variations can add an extra layer of complexity to your affogato.

Non-Dairy Ice Cream: For those who are lactose intolerant or following a dairy-free diet, non-dairy ice cream made from almond milk, coconut milk, or soy milk is an excellent substitute for traditional dairy ice cream. These alternatives offer various flavors to choose from.

Toppings: Experiment with different toppings like crushed graham crackers, biscotti crumbs, or flavored syrups (e.g., hazelnut or caramel) to add unique textures and flavors to your affogato.

Alcohol: For an adult version of affogato, you can add a splash of liqueur like amaretto, coffee liqueur like Kahlúa, or Baileys Irish Cream to your coffee or espresso. Be mindful of the alcohol content when serving minors or individuals who shouldn’t consume alcohol. 

Remember that while these substitutions can create interesting variations of affogato, the traditional combination of hot coffee and cold ice cream or gelato is what makes it unique. Feel free to get creative and tailor your affogato to your taste preferences and dietary needs.

A rectangular dish with a cappuccino cup on the left containing ice cream and a shot of espresso to the right of it

Best Affogato Combinations

Affogato’s are easily customizable. Experiment to find what best suits your taste preferences. Here are some combinations below if you need a little inspiration:

Classic Vanilla Affogato: Vanilla ice cream or gelato with a shot of hot espresso is the traditional and timeless choice. It’s a fantastic combo! It beautifully balances the bitterness of coffee with the sweetness of vanilla. You can elevate it slightly by opting for vanilla bean ice cream.

Chocolate Lover’s Affogato: Chocolate ice cream or gelato with a shot of espresso creates a rich and indulgent treat. You can further enhance it with dark chocolate shavings or cocoa powder.

Caramel Bliss Affogato: Caramel or dulce de leche ice cream with espresso and a drizzle of caramel sauce offers a sweet, buttery delight. Add a pinch of sea salt for a salted caramel twist. 

Hot Chocolate Affogato (Kid Friendly): Instead of espresso or coffee, you can use hot chocolate for a kid-friendly option. Top with whipped cream and marshmallow for added fun. 

Seasonal Affogato: Depending on the season, use seasonal ice cream flavors like pumpkin spice in the fall or peppermint in the winter to create a festive affogato.

Kahlua Affogato Coffee Ice Cream: To give the traditional affogato recipe a boozy coffee-infused boost, consider incorporating Kahlúa liqueur and coffee ice cream.

Irish Coffee Affogato: For an adult twist, add a splash of Irish cream liqueur (e.g., Baileys) to your espresso coffee and pair it with vanilla or chocolate ice cream for a boozy treat.

Boozy Affogato: For an alcoholic twist, you can introduce a dash of your preferred liquor into the traditional affogato recipe. Liqueurs such as amaretto, Frangelico, and Grand Marnier are popular choices. 

A cappuccino mug containing ice cream with a shot of coffee being poured onto it

Why Make An Affogato?

It’s so simple and so delicious! The union of steaming coffee and chilled, velvety ice cream harmonizes the temperatures and flavors of affogato exquisitely. It offers the perfect balance between the bitterness of the coffee and the sweetness of the gelato.

What sets affogato apart is its simplicity. It’s one of the easiest desserts to prepare! With only a few basic ingredients – hot espresso or strong coffee and a scoop (or two!) of your favorite gelato or ice cream – and minimal preparation, you can easily craft a delightful coffee-based dessert that will leave a lasting impression on your guests or offer a delightful moment of self-indulgence.

Affogato is a versatile and customizable dessert that can be enjoyed after a meal or as an afternoon treat. It caters to various flavor preferences, whether you prefer a rich coffee or a sweet indulgence. Another great thing about affogato is its adaptability. You can experiment with different toppings, ice cream flavors, and even alcohol to create a personalized dessert that suits your taste and culinary creativity.