Coffee Gelato Recipe | Gelato al Caffè

Coffee gelato (Gelato al caffè) is one of the most popular and classic timeless flavors of Italian gelato.

Espresso has a deeply rooted tradition in Italian culture. Drinking an espresso after a meal is almost a ritual for many Italians.

There are also many traditional Italian desserts made with coffee. For example, the famous Tiramisu, Italian Coffee Cream (Crema al caffè) and the simple but delicious Affogato, just to name a few.

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Coffee gelato is the ice cream for coffee lovers. There is no better gelato, not only in summer, but at any time of the year when you crave a fresh dessert with the enveloping aroma of Italian espresso!

That is why we are going to show you how to make an authentic Italian coffee gelato recipe using egg yolks, heavy cream, fresh whole milk and ristretto coffee.

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Depending on the type of coffee you use, you will get a different flavor. You can customize the taste of the coffee gelato by using a ristretto coffee for a stronger taste or a “caffè lungo” for a milder taste.

Coffee gelato with caffe’ espresso is easy to make at home. Because of its creamy texture and taste, it goes very well with gelato alla crema, fior di latte gelato and chocolate gelato.

Now we will show you how to make the best Italian coffee gelato recipe at home, WITH or WITHOUT an ice cream maker.

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WITH Ice Cream Maker:

  • Prep Time: 5 Min + about 40 min in ice cream maker
  • Cook Time: 10 Min
  • Servings: 6/8 people that is about 750 g (~1 3/4 pound) of Gelato

WITHOUT Ice Cream Maker:

  • Prep Time: 5 Min + cooling in the freezer for about 5 Hr 
  • Cook time: 10 Min
  • Servings: 6/8 people that is about 750 g (~1 3/4 pound) of Gelato

  • 4 medium egg yolks
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) of granulated sugar
  • 250 ml (1  cup) of whole milk
  • 250 ml (1 cup) of heavy cream
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) of ristretto coffee

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Kitchen Tools and Equipment

Gelatiera (Ice Cream Maker)

The most useful tool for making authentic Italian gelato is for sure an ice cream maker or Gelatiera. There are various types of Gelato makers, but the best is the one that has a compressor that cools while churning the Gelato.

Let’s have a look at some of them:

The best performing gelato machines are Musso ice cream makers. They are made entirely in Italy but have spread successfully throughout the world. The smaller model is made for home use but has the same features as the professional machines.

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker is easy to use, perfect for professional results at home. Small, with a large, non-removable bowl. The spatula is made of stainless steel. It has a powerful and robust refrigeration system to achieve professional performance without pre-cooling.

Another high-performance ice cream maker is the Whynter ICM-200LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker (built-in compressor, no pre-freezing).

Incredibly easy to use, you can create delicious gelato in the comfort of your own home. Ideal for entertaining, this high capacity unit makes up to two quarts of your favorite frozen dessert in a single batch.

Other types of gelato makers, without a compressor, plan to keep the special container of the machine in the freezer many hours ahead of time to cool the ingredients while mixing them, but its autonomy is quite short. Among these we recommend Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker which in our opinion is inexpensive and practical.

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Espresso Coffee Machine

It goes without saying that a very good creamy and concentrated (“ristretto”) espresso coffee is essential for Italian coffee gelato.

In Italy, the classic “caffettiera” is still very much in use. It’s a unique item that also makes a great gift. The most popular in Italy is this Iconic MOKA Espresso Maker by Bialetti. Have a look even at this Bialetti – Moka Express Italia Collection with 3 colors for Italian flag! And match it with a great ground coffee: Illy Classico Espresso, Medium Roast.

Nowadays, however, many people use espresso machines at home, especially when they want to drink a concentrated coffee like the one they get in a Italian bar. There are many of them of excellent Italian manufacture. We suggest some of the best and most popular.

One of the best, which makes coffee really similar to that of the bar, is the brand Gaggia , which also makes professional home machines.

Very good and a little less expensive is also the brand De Longhi, which makes many small models for those who do not have much space in the kitchen.

Other Kitchen Tools

Making Gelato al Caffè without an ice cream maker: the result will still be good if you follow our recipe well. In this case you will need a  gelato container. This is useful in any case even if you don’t eat immediately all the gelato, even made with the ice cream maker.

Other accessories to serve your homemade gelato can be the tool to make the ice cream scoops or the handy scoops to make sundaes of gelato.

Coffee Gelato Recipe: Instructions

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Step 1) – To make Coffee Gelato, you first need to prepare a good strong coffee. Do not sugar it; the coffee should be bitter. Also, the coffee must be ristretto, that means short, concentrated, with an intense flavor.

WITH ESPRESSO MACHINE: To reach the dose given in the recipe, you need to prepare 3 ristretto coffees with the espresso machine (one ristretto coffee is about 40 ml/2.7 tablespoons).

WITH MOKA: If using the traditional Moka, use the 3-dose coffee Moka. Press the coffee well and keep the water level just below the valve.

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Step 2) – In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with the sugar. Beat with a whisk, preferably electric, until the mixture is thick and fluffy.

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Step 3) – Meanwhile, pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it almost to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes. The milk must NOT boil.

If you have a kitchen thermometer you can check that the temperature remains at about 85°C (185°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, take care to remove the saucepan from the heat if you see that the milk starts to boil.

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Step 4) – Now add the coffee to the hot milk.

Then transfer the soft cream of eggs and sugar to a saucepan. Finally, slowly pour in the hot milk with coffee while keeping stirring. In this way you are pasteurizing the eggs.

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Step 5) – Put it back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes, without boiling and always stirring

Then turn off the heat and add the cold heavy cream. Mix really well. The mixture for coffee gelato is ready!

Now you have a lukewarm mixture. If you have an ice cream maker with a compressor (that cools while churning the gelato), there is no need to cool the mixture further in the refrigerator.

Now let’s see how to make espresso coffee gelato WITH and WITHOUT ice cream maker, so keep reading!

How to Make Coffee Gelato WITH Ice Cream Maker

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Step 6A) – If you have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into the machine and start it. It will take about 40 minutes, depending on the model. After the necessary time, your coffee gelato is ready!

PLEASE NOTE: The best ice cream maker you can find on the market is the one with a compressor that cools while churning the gelato. This ice cream maker is very similar to the professional ones and is the one we used for this recipe.

How to Make Coffee Gelato WITHOUT Ice Cream Maker

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, don’t worry! We will show you how to make Coffee Gelato without the help of an ice cream maker. It takes longer (5 hours instead of about 40 minutes) and more work, but the result is still outstanding!

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Step 6B) – Pour the mixture into an gelato container and place it in the freezer for about 5 hours. Every 30 minutes you need to break up the frozen surface. Then remove from the freezer and mix for about 30 seconds using a hand whisk or an electric whisk on low speed.

This step is necessary to avoid creating ice crystals in the gelato and to have a creamy result. Of course, this is a slightly more labor-intensive process, but it’s worth it!

And now enjoy your homemade Italian coffee gelato!

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How to Store Coffee Gelato

One of the reasons homemade Italian gelato is so good is that it is made with fresh ingredients. Therefore, the storage time is not very long.

That is why it’s advisable to eat your coffee gelato immediately.

Alternatively, it can be stored in the freezer in gelato containers for a maximum of 2-3 days.

Since coffee gelato contains a watery part (the coffee), if you leave it in the freezer for too long, crunchy ice crystals will form. So in the end your coffee gelato will not be as good as when you made it.

TIP: If the coffee gelato is too hard when you take it out of the freezer, let it thaw in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Coffee Gelato: Variations and Tips

Coffee gelato, with its intense coffee flavor, is popular especially among adults who like the typical bitter aftertaste of coffee.

Finding the perfect recipe for this type of gelato, however, is not easy; much depends on personal taste. Some people like a more intense flavor and some less, some like a sweeter taste and some like a more bitter taste.

The recipe for coffee gelato that we have showed you is quite mild and suitable for even the youngest. The coffee taste is intense but not too much and sweet just right.

If you want to get a coffee gelato with a stronger taste and darker color, add instant coffee to the mixture before putting it in the ice cream maker.

If you want to give it an alcoholic touch, you can add 40 ml (~3 tablespoons) of coffee liqueur.

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How to Serve Gelato al Caffè

Italian coffee ice cream is an excellent dessert, and can also be served to friends and family as a substitute for traditional espresso. Especially on hot and humid days, a good homemade gelato is sure to be appreciated.

You can decorate the cups with a sprinkling of ground coffee or chocolate chips. Or serve it with crumbly waffles or a dollop of whipped cream.

Traditionally, coffee gelato is paired with classic flavors such as chocolate gelato, fior di latte, gelato alla crema, and stracciatella gelato. It doesn’t pair well with fruit flavors.

You can make a summer dessert that tastes like tiramisu with coffee gelato.

In a bowl, alternate layers of coffee ice cream with layers of Savoiardi cookies soaked in coffee. Decorate the top with whipped cream and sprinkle with bitter cocoa.

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