What Kind of Espresso is Best for Tiramisu? Seeking Italian Perfection

espresso tiramisu

It’s decided. You’re going to make one of the fanciest desserts you’ve ever made – Tiramisu. You’ve read a few online recipes, collected all the necessary ingredients, and you’re almost ready to go. But you haven’t picked out your coffee beans yet. You know you’re supposed to make espresso, but what kind of beans should you use? What kind of espresso is best for Tiramisu?

Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover all of our favorite types of espresso to use for tiramisu, as well as what to look for in espresso that is perfect for tiramisu. We’ll also go into a brief history of tiramisu, as well as how to make your espresso that you can then use in your tiramisu. Get ready to learn exactly what kind of espresso is best for tiramisu!

What Kind of Espresso is Best for Tiramisu?

The short answer is that you should try and replicate the kind of espresso that Italians use when making tiramisu. Since tiramisu is an Italian dessert, you should use Italian espresso. What is an Italian espresso? Italian roasted coffee beans should be your first choice. 

Italian roasted coffee beans are usually a dark roast that gives the beans an intense caramelized flavor. Sometimes Italian roasts even have a bit of charcoal after note. This intense flavor will balance out the sweetness of the rest of the dessert very nicely.

Author Note: You might be tempted to think that Italian roast coffee beans come from Italy. They actually don’t! They are usually sourced from Latin America, then roasted in Italy. That’s how they get the name “Italian roast”.

Another factor you should consider is that you’ll want to make tiramisu with the same quality beans you would use when making a shot of espresso you might drink. This is because you’ll be able to notice if a lower grade coffee is used. Besides, then you can make yourself a quick shot of espresso to drink while you’re cooking.

Do not use old espresso you made from earlier on in the day. While espresso doesn’t really go bad, it will oxidize over time and the flavor will become less strong. We recommend always brewing a fresh batch of espresso when making tiramisu.

Can You Use Non-Italian Roasts?

Homemade tiramisu cake with fresh mint on plate over white background

Of course, you can! Especially if you’re in a pinch or don’t feel like seeking out Italian roast coffee beans. While we think Italian roast espresso is best for tiramisu, the taste is subjective. As long as you use a dark roast when making espresso, you should be good.

Some of our friends have tried making tiramisu with lighter roasts and applaud the flavor for the acidity. The extra acidity of lighter roasts accompanies the creaminess of the tiramisu very well and can produce a delicious dessert.

Top Tip: If you like a little of both worlds, you can also try using medium roasts to get a balance of acidity and robust flavors. We recommend making several batches and tiramisu to see which one you like best. 

Plus then you get to eat tiramisu multiple times, which is never a bad thing.

Another pro tip: if you have some expired espresso grounds or beans, tiramisu can be a great way to use them up!

How to Make Espresso for Tiramisu

Let’s quickly go over how to make espresso for tiramisu. You’ll need an espresso machine, espresso coffee beans, a burr grinder, and several espresso shot glasses. Once you have those assembled, follow the below steps. If you only have a pan, don’t worry! You can also make espresso using just a pan in a pinch.

  1. First, turn on your espresso maker and make sure it has adequate water in it. Different espresso machines will take longer to heat up than others – look at your machine’s manual to determine how far in advance you should turn it on.
  2. Then grind up your chosen beans in your burr grinder. Most burr grinders have a setting for espresso. You should choose this setting! If not, set the grinder to one of the finest grind settings. Espresso needs to be ground especially fine so you get the most surface area when pulling your espresso shot.
  3. Once you’ve filled your espresso filter up with finely ground coffee, insert it back into your machine and set a shot glass under the filter. You’re ready to pull an espresso shot!
  4. Depending on the recipe you use, you’ll need to pull several shots of espresso. Most recipes use two to three tablespoons of espresso in tiramisu. Note: do not reuse the espresso grinds! Once you’ve pulled a shot you need to grind more beans and use fresh grinds. Reusing grinds leads to bitter, weak tasting espresso.
  5. You might need to let your espresso cool down depending on the recipe you use. Espresso comes out of the machine piping hot which can melt the cream and other ingredients common in tiramisu.

Do You Need Espresso for Tiramisu?

If you want to make legit tiramisu, you need to use espresso! We don’t really think there is wiggle room on this, however, we have seen some recipes state that you can use drip coffee or instant coffee in a pinch. Some people even talk about using instant Vietnamese coffee due to its extra-strong flavors. 

For us, it has got to be espresso. If you end up using instant coffee or coffee syrup, you won’t get the same robust flavor you get from espresso. And with a dessert like tiramisu that already takes a decent amount of time to prepare, you shouldn’t skimp on the main ingredient!

Can You Use Drip Coffee for Tiramisu?

Italian dessert tiramisu

The short answer is yes you can – it just won’t be as good. Drip coffee doesn’t have the same flavor profile as espresso, so it won’t taste the way the recipe intended it to taste. 

The other issue of using drip coffee for tiramisu is that you might be tempted to use more in order to get a stronger coffee flavor. This is a bad idea! The extra liquid volume will make your tiramisu soupy and mess up the intended texture. 

Author Note: You’ll end up with a sloppy mess on your plate. If you have to use drip coffee, use the same amount of volume they ask for espresso – and deal with the weaker flavor.

How Do You Make Tiramisu Not Soggy?

Following up on our previous point about not using drip coffee, there are several other ways to make sure you’re tiramisu doesn’t end up soggy. Make sure to use legit ladyfinger cookies when making your tiramisu. If you end up using a different brand of cookies, they might not have the same properties as ladyfingers and end up soggy. 

You should also make sure to chill your tiramisu for the appropriate time before serving if your tiramisu is warm, it will end up being much soggier than if it has fully chilled. Another factor you need to consider is allowing your tiramisu to set for the correct amount of time. If you rush and don’t let the dessert sit, the cookies won’t have sucked up the espresso and cream. This will also lead to soggy tiramisu.

Do You Use Hard or Soft Ladyfingers in Tiramisu?

The answer is – it depends! We recommend using whatever the recipe you’re using specifies. As to which ones we like to use more, we prefer using the crunchy hard style of ladyfingers. Why? Because they do a better job of soaking up the espresso and cream we add in our recipe. 

Te crunchy ladyfingers also allow us to add more espresso to our tiramisu then most recipes call for. This is because we like our tiramisu to be especially strong, with a long-lasting coffee hit in the flavor profile 

How Long Does it take for Tiramisu to Set?

It depends on the recipe you choose to use, but usually, we let our tiramisu sit for at least 6 hours in the fridge before serving. If you can, we recommend making it the day before you plan on serving it so it can stay in the fridge overnight. 

This extra time in the fridge will give the ladyfingers extra time to soak up the excess espresso and will allow the flavors to meld together nicely. We think of tiramisu as a fancy Italian meat sauce – the more patient you are and the longer your let it sit the better it gets.

How Do You Cut Tiramisu Nicely?

Tiramisu and coffee

The presentation of your Tiramisu definitely depends on the recipe you used to make it. There are, however, some general guidelines that will help you cut your tiramisu nicely.

  • Make sure you’ve let it sit long enough. As we mentioned above, if you don’t wait long enough after making your tiramisu it will end up soggy and difficult to cut nicely. You want the ladyfingers to soak up as much of the espresso and other liquids as possible before cutting. This will allow you to cut nice square pieces of the tiramisu without making a mess.
  • Cut it into small pieces. Don’t cut massive pieces of your tiramisu that will be difficult for you to transfer to your plates. Cut small pieces that are easy for you to manage and place on plates.
  • Use a thin spatula as opposed to a knife when serving. Thin spatulas will give you the most dexterity when serving tiramisu, but they also won’t tear into the dessert and wreck the layers.

Parting Thoughts

That’s it! You now know what kind of espresso is best for tiramisu, along with many other facts and tips on making the best tiramisu you’ve ever had. We hope you found this article useful, and we wish you luck in your future tiramisu adventures. Got an awesome tip or trick for making tiramisu? Let us know about it in the comments below. 

Stay caffeinated friends!

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