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Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè)

Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè)

This silky-smooth coffee gelato offers the rich, aromatic flavor of freshly brewed coffee, all in a creamy bowlful. This is the perfect year-round treat for coffee lovers!

Homemade Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè) //

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When you think of gelato, what flavor comes to mind first? Chocolate probably, pistachio, maybe? You might be a fan of fruity gelati, such as lemon or raspberry. I love all of these, but my gelato dreams—and those of many Italy lovers—are punctuated with scoops of coffee gelato.

Italy has an incredible coffee culture. The narrow streets of Rome and of all Italian cities, big and small, are lined with bars, coffee shops that often also sell pastries, snacks, and gelato. (Nope, bars in Italy are not the alcohol-serving kind!) Italians all have their favorite bar, and they often drink their morning coffee there, every day.

In Italy, you don’t settle into your local coffeeshop for hours on end, en tête-à-tête with your computer and a latte; you drink your morning espresso in seconds, standing at the bar, while exchanging a few words with the barrista or your neighbors. Coffeeshops are central to Italian social life, and so is coffee.

Morning coffee and pastries at Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria in Rome
Coffee and pastries at Roscioli Caffè Pasticceria in Rome //

It should come as no surprise that one of Italy’s most famous desserts is coffee-based. Tiramisu is indeed a creamy ode to coffee, and to Italy itself. But probably second to tiramisu on the list of most renowned coffee-based Italian desserts is gelato al caffè. No gelato lineup in an Italian ice cream shop would ever be complete without coffee gelato—and my gelato-loving heart wouldn’t be content if I didn’t regularly churn a batch of homemade coffee gelato.

My coffee gelato has a silky-smooth texture, and the rich, aromatic flavor of freshly brewed coffee. A bowlful of this creamy treat is bound to please all coffee lovers, but I find that perhaps even people who don’t drink coffee also love this gelato: it has a truly comforting flavor that pleases everyone, even kids!

Homemade Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè) //

If you don’t or can’t have caffeine, no worries: you can make this coffee gelato with your favorite decaffeinated beans instead.

Helpful Tips for Making Coffee Gelato

Start with whole beans

Just as freshly brewed coffee is more aromatic when it’s made with freshly ground beans, coffee gelato is exponentially better when you make it with freshly ground beans—or should I say, freshly smashed beans. This coffee bean gelato is made with lightly crushed coffee beans, which slowly infuse the gelato custard overnight. The aroma this technique produces is richer and fuller and the flavor is smoother. Not to mention the texture, which doesn’t contain any coffee grit.

Use the freshest coffee beans—and the best quality you can find

Just as with any recipe in which one ingredient is central to the flavor of the dish, using the best and freshest coffee beans is key to producing the coffee gelato with the best, smoothest flavor. Coffee beans that are sold in grocery stores or national chain coffeeshops were roasted weeks ago, if not months.

Tasting a cup of coffee made with freshly roasted coffee beans can be revelatory. The flavor is bright, rich, and aromatic. The dusty, bitter notes older coffee can sometimes reveal are non-existent, and you discover the full spectrum of aroma coffee can offer.

Freshly roasted beans means beans that were roasted days ago, not months. If you know a coffeeshop that roasts its own beans in your neighborhood, let this coffee gelato be your excuse to pay them a visit. Ask them when their coffee beans were roasted: if they’re proud of their product, they won’t be shy about giving you an answer. If the coffeeshop has shelves of their products you can pick yourself, look closely at the bags: they should show a “roasted on” date. Use the coffee beans that were roasted the most recently.

Straining crushed coffee beans from a gelato custard to make coffee gelato, or gelato al caffè //

Pick coffee beans with a rich, round flavor

These days, coffee is offered in such a wide range of flavors. I’m not talking about added flavors, but terroir flavors. Coffee beans that were grown in Costa Rica taste vastly different from those harvested in Ethiopia.

Many indie coffee producers now add keywords to their packagings to help customers pick a coffee that matches flavors they enjoy. Such keywords can range from “marmalade, nutmeg, delicate” to “molasses, chocolate, full-body.” If you’re visiting a local coffeeshop, don’t hesitate to ask for their advice: they’re the experts! Let them suggest coffee beans they think would work great in gelato form. It doesn’t have to be espresso beans—in fact, I would steer clear of dark roasts because they can have a harsher, more bitter flavor that wouldn’t translate well in a creamy gelato.

In this coffee gelato, rich, round, sweet flavors work best. Coffees with notes of toffee, pecan, milk chocolate, honey, caramel, or brown sugar would all be wonderful here.

Whichever coffee you pick, make sure it’s one you enjoy drinking. If it tastes great in your cup, it’s going to taste wonderful in your freshly churned homemade coffee gelato!

Homemade Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè) //

About the gelato base used in this recipe

To make coffee gelato, I use a Sicilian-style gelato base, which uses cornstarch instead of egg yolks as a thickening agent. This is my favorite gelato base and I think its silky mouthfeel is especially suited for a coffee-flavored gelato. Learn more about Sicilian-style gelato and what makes it different from a classic gelato base.

If you prefer, you can also make this coffee gelato using a classic gelato base instead. Get the recipe for my go-to classic gelato base—simply make the custard as indicated and mix in the coffee beans while the custard is still hot. Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight and churn as instructed in the recipe below.

How to Make Sicilian-Style Gelato VIDEO

See how to make a Sicilian-Style gelato base, which is the technique on which my coffee gelato recipe is based. It’s quick and easier than you think!

How to Make Vegan Coffee Gelato

For the best vegan gelato flavor and texture, I suggest combining oat milk with coconut cream. Oat milk has a smooth, subtle flavor that is very close to that of dairy milk, whereas coconut cream delivers an unbelievably rich texture. Coconut milk and coconut cream both have quite a strong flavor, so using only coconut cream and combining it with oat milk creates the perfect balance.

Having said that, here’s how to substitute the original ingredients to make this vegan coffee gelato:

  • Replace the full quantity of cow’s milk (2 1/4 cups / 560 ml) with oat milk
  • Replace the full quantity of heavy cream (3/4 cup / 180 ml) with coconut cream

Be aware that the terms “coconut milk” and “coconut cream” are sometimes used interchangeably. To make sure you’re buying real coconut cream, choose a product with at least 20% fat content. The label of quality coconut cream products will always clearly indicate the fat content.

Alternatively, you can use other plant-based milks and cream, keeping the same milk-to-cream ratio for the best texture. Always make sure the vegan products you choose can withstand being heated and boiled to avoid the chocolate gelato turning grainy. Products labeled with the word “Barista” are sure picks: it means they can be heated without curdling.

Freshly churned homemade coffee gelato (gelato al caffè) //

How to Serve Coffee Gelato 

Last but not least, here’s an important serving tip. Because home freezers are set to very low temperatures, make sure you always take your coffee gelato out of the freezer 10 to 15 minutes before serving it. That will not only make it easier to serve—gelato’s lower fat content means it freezes rock hard—but also soften it to a consistency closer to what you would enjoy at a gelati bar, waking up the flavors and giving it the luxurious texture that is so easy to fall in love with.

For a change, you serve your delicious homemade coffee gelato as an affogato! An affogato is an extremely easy Italian dessert that is made by pouring an espresso shot over a scoop of gelato. Making an affogato using espresso and coffee gelato is basically the dreamiest dessert for coffee lovers!

How to Make an Affogato, an extremely easy Italian dessert guaranteed to impress your guests. // FoodNouveau


Never made gelato before? Curious about what makes gelato different from ice cream? Check out my colorful masterclass! In it, you’ll find out what makes gelato different from ice cream, how to make a versatile gelato base you can turn into various flavors, and all my secrets and tips to churn and serve outstanding gelato. I even share how to make dairy-free, vegan gelato! In short, it’s a very thorough, colorful class that will quickly turn you into a gelato master.

This masterclass was previously hosted behind a paywall on an educational site where thousands of students rated it 5 STARS! It’s now available to all gelato lovers worldwide, absolutely free. Watch Now!

Homemade Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè) //

Homemade Coffee Gelato (Gelato al Caffè)

This silky-smooth coffee gelato offers the rich, aromatic flavor of freshly brewed coffee, all in a creamy bowlful. This is the perfect year-round treat for coffee lovers!
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
Servings 1 quart (4 cups / 1 L)



  • In a medium saucepan, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk and all of the cream. Warm over medium heat until it just starts to bubble around the edge (no need to bring it to a boil).
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) milk, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract together. Remove the saucepan with the hot milk from the heat and whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring regularly, until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture thickens slightly, 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat. Whisk in the crushed coffee beans. Cover the saucepan and let cool to room temperature.
  • Once the coffee gelato custard is at room temperature, pour into an airtight container. (Leave the coffee beans into the gelato custard at this point.) Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or preferably overnight. The coffee gelato base must be very cold before churning: this will produce the smoothest, silkiest texture.
  • Strain the coffee gelato custard through a fine mesh strainer to eliminate all the bits and pieces of coffee beans. If the strainer you have on hand isn’t super fine, you can line a regular strainer with cheesecloth, then pass the custard through that instead.
  • Pour the coffee custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. Stop the machine when the coffee gelato is thick and icy but still easily spoonable.
  • STORAGE: Transfer the coffee gelato to an airtight container and freeze until firm, about two hours.
    Coffee gelato is at its creamiest and best if enjoyed within 2 weeks. Past that, some ice crystals will inevitably start forming (especially if the gelato is kept in the freezer section of a regular fridge, as opposed to a chest freezer) and the texture won't be quite as smooth. The gelato will still be perfectly edible for up to 2 months, but my advice is: enjoy it as quickly as possible after churning.
  • SERVING: Always take coffee gelato out to room temperature 20 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop. This will also allow you to enjoy the treat at its ideal temperature and texture.
  • MAKE IT DAIRY FREE: Substitute lactose-free milk or oat milk for the regular milk, and lactose-free heavy cream or soy cream for the regular heavy cream.
  • MAKE IT VEGAN: Substitute oat milk for the regular milk, and soy or coconut cream for the regular heavy cream.
  • NOTE: To lightly crush the coffee beans, spread them over a cutting board and hit them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a glass bottle (such as a wine bottle.)

Did you make this?

Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.

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Author: Marie Asselin

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes


Rate + Review

4.93 from 13 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    Absolutely decadent! I didn’t have any coffee beans, so I substituted 5 teaspoons of “Cafe Bustelo” instant espresso powder. The powder melted in to the milk as I heated it – so I didn’t have to steep the beans for 6 hours (or strain them out later)… just put it in the fridge long enough to chill the mixture. If you are looking for an easy show-stopper desert, this is it. The corn starch gives an incredible mouth feel … you have to try it to believe it. Hubby said it was better than his beloved “Talent” gelato. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    • Hi there! Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I looked up the Cafe Bustelo espresso powder you used and it looks tasty! The important thing is to use a high quality product to get that delicious, authentic coffee flavor through to the gelato. Thanks for letting me know this instant product worked well for you, I’ll probably add a note to the recipe, because that’s very useful info!

  2. Many thanks for the recipe. I just added two freshly brewed double espressos to the mix instead of leaving beans to infuse overnight, and it turned out amazing.

  3. This is the third gelato recipe I have made of yours all absolutely stunning. This recipe though only yielded 1 pint not the typical quart.// Is there a reason for this? Did not over reduce strained it and squeezed it out for the coffee fragments. Amazing taste but half the yield—.

    • Hi there! So happy you’ve been enjoying my gelato recipes. I’m sorry you had an issue with the yield, this coffee gelato should indeed produce just a bit under 4 cups (1 quart). The milk, cream, and sugar alone make 3 1/2 cups so you shouldn’t get much less than that. The coffee beans do absorb some liquid so that is what may cause the discrepancy, depending on how fine the coffee is ground and how long you leave it to rest in the milk and cream mixture. Relieved to hear you loved the gelato anyway! I’ll add a note to the recipe to explain possible variations with the yield. Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this and felt so fancy afterward! I love ordering this when I go out; so it was really nice to be able to make it at home! Thanks for the recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    Love, love this gelato! It’s so rich and creamy with the perfect coffee flavor. I’ll definitely make this again and again.

  6. 5 stars
    There is a lot of great information here. I didn’t know much about gelato before this recipe. The steps are clear and the images are lovely. Can’t wait to put my sweet tooth on this dish!