What is an Affogato & How to Make It

The espresso is perhaps one of the most versatile coffee drinks, the sheer variety that espresso encompasses is staggering, but there also exists a whole aspect that finds the drink included in desserts. One of the most well-known of these espresso-based desserts is the Italian affogato, a dessert so simple to make, yet so delicious it's almost criminal.

If you’re looking for a new way to incorporate your love of espresso beyond just your morning cup, the affogato is a great introduction to how to include espresso into an after-dinner dessert.

What is an Affogato?

The word "affogato" loosely translates from Italian into English as drowned. It’s an apt name given how the dessert is made. Put simply, an affogato is an espresso-based dessert that consists of espresso poured over vanilla gelato.

Its origins are however shrouded in mystery, but the most common hypothesis is that the affogato developed alongside the emergence of the espresso machine. This would put the affogato being created around the late 1800s and earlier 1900s. Interestingly, the word itself first appears in English dictionaries in 1992. Whatever its origins, what is for certain is that this dessert is delicious and can be made in no time flat.

How to Make an Affogato

Luckily, the ingredient list for making an affogato couldn’t get any easier. With just two ingredients, vanilla gelato and a shot of espresso making this dessert take seconds.

  • Measure out a ½ cup of vanilla gelato
  • Brew yourself 1 espresso shot
  • Pour the freshly brewed hot espresso over the vanilla gelato, stir, and enjoy this delicious, creamy dessert.

While traditionally made using vanilla gelato and espresso, you can substitute both ingredients for either strongly brewed coffee, decaf coffee (if you don’t want the caffeine rush), or vanilla ice cream. The flavor and taste will mainly be dependent on the roast level and origin used for the coffee.

Read our guide on the Best Coffee Beans for Making Espresso

You can even add toppings like chopped nuts, chocolate syrup, dark chocolate shavings, salted caramel drizzle, or whipped cream for an extra decadent take on this Italian dessert. If you want to get even more self-indulgent, you can add a liquor like Frangelico, amaretto, Kahlua, or Baileys for a slightly boozy kick to this dessert.

Variations & Similar Desserts

You can go a little overboard on the toppings for affogato, but there are somewhat would be considered true variations of an affogato.

One variation is called an “affogato corretto”, which is a slightly alcoholic variation that includes grappa. Grappa is an Italian pomace spirit made from the leftovers during the winemaking process. Grappa is usually served as an after-dinner drink and can be found throughout Italy.

Other variations of the affogato experiment with different espresso types such as the ristretto or latte. Some people will replace the vanilla gelato (or ice cream) with a different flavor such as chocolate to compliment the espresso’s flavor notes more fully.

While not strictly considered an affogato, a similarly style espresso-based drink exists in the northern Italian city of Turin. Called “bicerin”, this drink combines espresso, milk, and thick hot chocolate combined into a small glass.

Difference from Ice Cream & Gelato

Traditional affogato is made with gelato and even more traditionally used with a certain type of gelato called “fior di latte” (translates from Italian as “milk flower”) which is plain gelato that has no flavor at all. Gelato itself is made with a lower amount of butter and more flavorings, giving it a thicker consistency and richness when compared to ice cream.

What is a Starbucks “Affogato-style” Shot?

While there is the affogato dessert, most people may be more familiar with the option of adding an affogato shot to their frappuccino or milkshake when visiting Starbucks. This add-on was introduced to Starbucks stores in 2016. Rather than being a classic affogato, Starbucks’s “affogato-style” shot is an espresso shot that is simply added to your frozen drink.


While the affogato can be a quick and delicious after-dinner dessert that expands the espresso beyond the morning pick-me-up, the number of ways you can make it your own is almost countless making this a great coffee-based dessert to have in your wheelhouse, and with our variety of single-origin, green coffee beans the flavors of your affogato can be just as limitless as the toppings!