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Coffee is such a sophisticated drink. Whether you enjoy sipping on an espresso, indulging in a latte, or relaxing with a mug of pour-over, the essential element in all these drinks is the rich and intense coffee.
Now onto jelly or jello. This is a fun and quirky dish, best saved for kids’ birthday parties, or add a splash of vodka and serve at wild bachelorette or campus parties.
These two things don’t appear to belong in the same sentence yet here we are. Coffee Jelly is as mad as it sounds. This weird recipe actually has a fair amount of history surrounding it and can be quite tasty when made properly.
To make coffee jelly you simply combine strong sweetened coffee with gelatin and let it set to give a bold yet wobbly treat.
Of course, there’s more to it than that and if you’re really keen to give this a go then here’s all you need to know about this strange concoction.
What Is Coffee Jelly?
Think 70s cookbook where every recipe seems to include gelatin powder. The salads, soups, main courses, and desserts all stand up in their own unique display case, wobbling gently as they’re served. That’s the first thought that comes to mind when you combine the words coffee and jelly or jello if you prefer. The truth is, this weird and wonderful concoction has been around for a lot longer than this.
Coffee Jelly first dates back to the early 1800s where old English cookbooks display their own take on a coffee jelly recipe. This involved dissolving coffee in calves foot jelly to give a dessert that’s as gross as it sounds.
Moving on to the early 1900s coffee jelly resurfaced as a low acid alternative to hot coffee. The idea was that the gelatin would absorb excess stomach acid. As gelatin has a pH of 4.8, this combined with acidic coffee is unlikely to achieve this goal.
Jell-O has tried launching their own brand of a gelatin coffee mixture but this turned out to be a major flop.
The real popularity grew around coffee jelly in Japan in the Taisho period when Japanese cafe culture was gaining popularity. Japanese coffee jelly took inspiration from Western fashion and is still a recognized Japanese dessert today.
So that’s a bit of a history lesson but the actual definition of coffee jelly is a dessert recipe that combines sweetened strong coffee and gelatin to give molded coffee flavor jelly cubes. It’s often served cubed, in a small bowl with the option of heavy cream on top.
How to Make Coffee Jelly/Coffee Jello
It will take around 15 to 20 minutes to combine all your ingredients but heating and preparing the coffee can affect this a lot depending on the brew method you choose.
It can take around 5-6 hours for the jelly to fully set so this is a recipe that needs to be prepared in advance or even the day before for best results.
- 2 Cups of Strong Brewed Coffee
- 1/4 Cup Water
- 2 Tablespoons Sugar
- 2 tablespoons Gelatin or Agar Powder
- Whipped Cream (optional)
It’s best to prepare the coffee in advance so it has time to cool before you add the gelatin. Hot water can destroy it and affect its ability to set properly. Brew your coffee stronger than you would typically take it and dissolve the sugar in the liquid. Let it cool for 10-15 minutes.
Next, in a small bowl, combine the gelatin powder and 1/4 cup of room temperature water. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the coffee to combine.
Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish 8-9 square inches or 7 x 11 inches in size is ideal.
Refrigerate the mixture for 5-6 hours until set or overnight if possible.
Once set, take a knife and cut the mixture into half-inch square cubes.
Serve in a small dish with a dollop of whipped cream on top. If you fancy a cooling summertime treat then try it served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Cover any excess jelly with plastic wrap and store it in the fridge for up to 2 days.
There’s no right or wrong choice when it comes to the kind of coffee you choose for this dish. Here are a few options to choose from so you can select your favorite way.
A lot of people prefer to use instant coffee as it’s quick, easy to make and you can easily adjust the coffee strength. Make sure you heat the water up to just below boiling as too hot can burn the coffee and make it taste bitter.
Espresso is probably the best choice and is the preferred method used by coffee shops. This kind of coffee is brewed under high heat as well as high pressure which helps extract optimal flavor and aroma from the coffee beans. To brew this kind of coffee you need an espresso machine plus a bit of know-how to get the technique just right.
French press is an inexpensive and straightforward way to brew a strong cup of coffee that’s bold in flavor and body. Make sure you use coffee that’s very coarsely ground and add coffee to water at a 1:15 ratio or stronger. Use water that’s boiled and cooled a little (195-205F) and let the coffee brew for 4 minutes before you press the plunger.
An Aeropress is another good way to make espresso-like coffee but without the expensive machine. It works by using a combination of immersion brewing like the french press and pressure like the espresso. The coffee brew in a central chamber and when it’s ready you press down the plunger to force the coffee through a paper filter and into your coffee cup. It brews a bold and delicious cup of joe that’s strong enough to stand up to this recipe.
Also known as the stovetop espresso maker this little device brews strong coffee with ease. It uses steam pressure to brew a bold and dark cup of java that’s similar to espresso. It’s a classic Italian piece that uses a gas flame or hob to brew coffee. Make sure you use a medium-fine grind of coffee and place it over medium-high heat.
Cold brew coffee is a slow immersion technique that uses cold water to gently extract the coffee flavors over 12-18 hours. This brews a low acid, sweet-tasting cup of coffee that’s perfect for anyone with a sensitive stomach. Cold-brew is often brewed in a 1:4 or 1:7 ratio of coffee to water to make cold brew concentrate. This is perfect for making coffee jelly as it can easily be diluted to taste.
Unflavored gelatin is a simple and effective way to make this coffee jelly. It can be found easily in most convenience stores. Powdered gelatin, instant gelatin, or gelatin sheets are all fine to be used interchangeably.
For vegans, you can substitute gelatin with agar powder (agar agar). It’s a red algae derivative that works similarly to gelatin. It can be found in Asian supermarkets or online. It needs to be dissolved in a liquid by boiling over medium-high heat and simmered until thick for around 5 minutes. Once it’s thick, set it to chill in the fridge before use.
Coffee jelly is a weird and whacky way to enjoy a traditional cup of java. It’s literally just coffee, sweetened and made into jelly. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (or should I say coffee?) but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for something a bit different this summer. Perfect on its own or with some whipped cream or ice cream if you prefer, enjoy this strange dessert any way you like best.
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