If you’re looking for an unusual dessert to sweeten up the end of your meal, gelatin or jello is a great option.
The wiggly, cool dish has a long history steeped in tradition and class, but it’s suffered a failure in reputation in the face of adventurous home cooks and a sense of being old-fashioned. Fortunately, there’s a redeeming choice that will class up any meal: coffee jelly.
If you want to know more about how to make coffee jelly, read on.
What Is Coffee Jelly?
Coffee jelly is basically sweetened coffee mixed with gelatin and allowed to set up just like Jell-o.
It’s popular in many places: most notably in Japan, though the Philippines and a few other East Asian countries also have many fans who love to eat it by the cup and bowl, usually with toppings.
Coffee jelly is one of a number of prized dessert options in Japanese restaurants, and can be served on its own or as a component in a more complicated dish.
At the simplest, most coffee jelly lovers top their dessert with whipped cream or a little milk. But if you visit Japan, you’ll see the wiggly, jiggly cubes added to ice cream sundaes, smoothies, in a cup, and much more.
In the Philippines, the bittersweet dessert staple takes on added dimension: Filipino recipes for coffee jelly include a step of adding the coffee morsels to a concoction of sweetened, condensed milk and cream, creating a silky, creamy base for the dessert recipe. Other recipes flavor the coffee, but it’s fine all on its own in our opinion.
Coffee jelly is also a beloved addition to boba drinks throughout southeast Asia, bringing a different texture component to the popular drink, as well as a different flavor.
The sharp taste of the coffee jelly brings new depth to a beverage that is often very sweet indeed, and the simple ingredient list and easy coffee jelly recipe make it an obvious choice for even budget-minded shops.
Coffee Jelly Origins
While the people of Japan love their coffee jelly, it wasn’t invented there. While it’s not certain who originally came up with the idea of combining brewed coffee and gelatin, the earliest available coffee jelly recipe comes from 19th century New England.
Powdered gelatin (the forerunner of products like Jello) was invented in 1845, though it didn’t catch on right away.
The powder took the labor out of making gelled recipes like aspics and jellies, but it would take a long time before the product caught on for the general public. Interestingly, the first coffee jelly recipe comes before the advent of powdered gelatin preparations.
The notion of making coffee flavored jello arrived in Japan in the early 20th century, where agar-based jellies had already become popular. While it didn’t take off right away, coffee jelly was more popular than the standard cup of joe, and it remains to this day a popular dessert recipe and a mainstay on Japanese menus.
Gelatin-based desserts fell out of favor in most of the US in the latter part of the 20th century, after enjoying a brief recipe craze in the postwar period thanks to the marketing efforts of Jello.
In spite of the general drop in popularity, many New Englanders love the wiggly coffee morsels even through today, with whipped cream or even on a bowl of ice cream.
Coffee jelly has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the West, as Japanese cuisine and culture–along with cuisine and culture from Asia generally–have gained prominence.
The importation of Boba tea and other desserts has brought this delicacy recipe back into the spotlight for fans of exotic eats, and it’s no surprise that coffee lovers are equally intrigued.
How To Make It: The Coffee Jelly Recipe
The good news for those who want to make coffee jelly at home is that the recipe is very simple, with an ingredient list and a process that are easy for even the novice cook.
If you’re already familiar with making jello, it will be even easier! While there are several coffee jelly recipes available online, all of them are about the same. Our recipe sticks with the essentials.
What you’ll need:
- 1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups strong brewed black coffee
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- Glass or measuring cup
- Small saucepan
- Shallow pan (such as a cookie sheet or a baking tray)
Once you’ve got all of your ingredients and equipment assembled, the coffee gelatin recipe is very easy indeed.
- Combine coffee and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring to combine
- Heat the coffee and sugar gradually over medium heat, until it is almost boiling
- Remove the sweetened coffee from the heat
- In either a mixing cup or glass, combine gelatin and water, stirring thoroughly without heat
- Add the gelatin to the coffee, stirring until fully dissolved
- Allow the mixture to cool, about 10 to 15 minutes
- Pour the cooled gelatin mixture into a shallow baking dish or sheet pan
- Chill in the refrigerator until fully set, about 5 hours
- Cut into cubes about ½ inch in size and serve when you want it
While you can adjust the sweetness somewhat to your tastes, we don’t recommend leaving it out altogether; sugar affects the texture of the finished dessert, allowing it to set up to a softer consistency that most people prefer. Without the sugar, you’ll end up with a much harder, tougher coffee jelly, which isn’t as pleasant to eat.
The water ratio is also important. Make sure to use the amount of water to gelatin that your pack recommends, and the volume of liquid to gelatin as well.
Once your coffee jelly recipe is set, you can serve it however you like. One of the most common methods is to spoon the cubed coffee into a nice bowl and top with whipped cream or half and half, but there are tons of other options as well!
Drizzle chocolate sauce over your bowl of coffee jelly for a mocha flavor. You can also go the Japanese luxe route and add coffee jelly to your ice cream.
Another option is to add it to a chilled drink like a smoothie or cup of iced coffee, to give a textural counterpoint and a bite of bittersweet flavor. You can even just eat the coffee jelly by the cube, or by the bowl.
Another option you can explore is a single-serve cup setup. Instead of pouring the gelatin mixture into a shallow pan, you can use it to fill a small cup or bowl, and chill it that way before serving it with whatever toppings you desire, especially whipped cream. It’s simple, elegant, and tasty all at the same time.
If you were wondering how to make coffee jelly, look no further.
The recipe is simple, and a bite into one cube of the coffee confection is likely to make you a believer right away. While there is more than one way to make it, and many ways to serve it, Coffee jelly is a simple way to elevate your dessert cuisine and make it something special.