For coffee aficionados who just can’t have enough of the enchanting taste of coffee, here’s one more excuse to caffeinate – you can serve coffee jelly as a dessert! But what is coffee jelly? What’s the story behind this delicacy? And most importantly, how is it prepared? Read on for answers to these questions and more!
What is Coffee Jelly?
Well, the name speaks for itself – its coffee served as a jelly. Coffee jelly is a rather unconventional method to indulge in a cup (or bowl) of Joe. Cubes or coffee-flavored gelatin are served with thick, sweetened cream for a fun way to satisfy your caffeine obsession!
If you’ve never heard of this treat, don’t fret – there are tons of people in your shoes. Despite its tantalizing flavor and mouthfeel, coffee jelly is most commonly a Japanese delicacy. In general, jellies are a popular part of Japanese culinary culture – so the popularity of coffee-infused gelatin shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
The dessert mainly caught the attention of coffee enthusiasts following Starbucks Japan’s Coffee Jelly Frappuccino craze that swept across the Asian country a few years back. The Starbucks drink was an Instagram-worthy blend of Frappuccino, vanilla custard, whipped cream, and chunks of coffee jelly in the bottom layer – all served with a boba straw.
What is the Origin of Coffee Jelly?
As novel and recent as coffee jelly sounds, it actually has British origins dating back to the early 1800s – long before Starbucks or even Japan took up the recipe. The earliest traceable record of coffee jelly is found in The New Family Receipt, which called for brewed coffee to be mixed with gelatin and left to set in individual cups or a serving dish.
Coffee jelly later found a home in America’s New England region. Restaurants such as the Boston-based Durgin-Park served coffee gelatin as a mainstay item in the dessert menu for years since its establishment in 1827. Large cubes of coffee gelatin were served in a heap of whipped cream – making a sweet and exciting post-supper dessert.
In Japan, it was adopted during the Taisho period (1912-1926) – but it was not until 1963 when it really gained mainstream traction. When Tokyo’s Mikado Coffee introduced coffee jelly in 1963, it quickly caught on with consumers thanks to Japan’s food culture and an effective marketing strategy. Under the brilliant marketing slogan, “coffee you can eat,” creator Kanasaka Keisuke appealed to the thriving coffee culture in the county. Combined with Japan’s food culture that loves jelly-like or jiggly consistencies, coffee jelly became – and still is – a staple summertime treat. Depending on the region, it’s available in café menus and even on grocery store shelves.
Varieties of Coffee Jelly
As simple as combining a gelatinous substance and coffee sounds, there are several ways to go about it – all with different outcomes. The most important factors to consider (as far as varieties of coffee jelly are concerned) can be categorized into the gelling ingredient and the accompaniments.
Plant- or Animal-Based?
Traditionally, coffee jelly used animal-based gelatin. The odorless and colorless substance is made from collagen found in split cattle hides and animal bones (PS: Contrary to widespread belief, hooves, and horns aren’t used to make gelatin!). As a popular ingredient in confectioneries and desserts, gelatin comes in the form of sheets, granules, or powder. When making coffee jelly, gelatin should be dissolved in a hot or warm liquid (35 degrees Celsius) and left to set at low temperatures. To speed up the process, you can refrigerate the mixture.
If you’re a vegan and the idea of animal-based ingredients makes you cringe, you can still enjoy a cup of delicious coffee jelly. How so? Say hello to the plant-based alternative to gelatin – Agar. The gelatinous substance is made from seaweed or algae – and is the chief ingredient in jellies in countries such as Japan. Depending on the slang, it also goes by the name Kanten, Japanese isinglass, China grass, Gulaman, or Jelly Powder. For agar to set, it must be brought to a boil (above 85 degrees Celsius), before solidifying at 32-40 degrees Celsius.
Even by itself, coffee jelly is a treat! But supplement it with accompaniments and your taste buds are in for a whirlpool of culinary pleasure. Thanks to the versatility of coffee, there are several ways to indulge in this delicious treat.
From chocolate syrup, frozen whipped cream, a scoop of ice cream, sundaes, to milkshakes – the possible ways of serving coffee jelly seem to be only limited by your imagination.
What are the Health Benefits of Coffee Jelly?
Wellness and healthy lifestyles are top priorities in this day and age. With ever-increasing rates of obesity and lifestyle health problems, more and more people are paying attention to the content of their diets – and coffee is not an exception. With this mind, below are the science-backed benefits of the main ingredients in coffee jelly – gelatin/agar and coffee.
- Boost Energy Levels: Ever noticed how you feel rejuvenated or energized after a morning cup of Joe? Well, it appears that caffeine improves your cognitive function and mood.
- Nutrient-Rich: A cup of coffee is rich in essential nutrients such as Magnesium, Potassium, B-Vitamins, and Manganese.
- Potent Antioxidants: Did you know that coffee and similar beverages are the leading sources of antioxidants in a typical Western diet? It’s rich in hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols that reduce the risk of disease and improve overall health.
- Lower the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Millions of people struggle with the negative effects of diabetes. For some reason, coffee appears to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Improve Brain Health: Coffee helps lower the risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- Help with Depression: By drinking coffee regularly, studies claim that you’re up to 20% and 53% less likely to become depressed or commit suicide respectively.
- Skin and Hair Health: Did you know that collagen (the main ingredient in gelatin) increases skin moisture and hair thickness/growth?
- Joint/Bone Health: Gelatin has been shown to reduce joint stiffness and pain associated with bone problems such as osteoarthritis.
- Improve Brain Function: If you’re looking to improve your attention and memory, give the gelatin-based coffee jelly a try.
- Weight Loss: Aside from being a carb- and fat-free substance, gelatin makes you feel fuller – hence helps with maintaining a healthy weight.
- Nutritional Content: As an effective gelatin substitute, agar-agar is a rich source of dietary fiber and micronutrients such as iron, folate, magnesium, manganese, and calcium.
- Promote Digestive Health: The fiber content in agar acts as a natural laxative that helps with several gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation, intestinal ulcers, and hemorrhoids.
- Satiety and Weight Loss: Some studies suggest that agar helps reduce appetite and promote satiety – i.e., makes you feel fuller for longer.
- Strengthens Bones: Thanks to the high concentration of calcium and manganese, agar helps strengthen bones and teeth.
5 of the Best DIY Coffee Jelly Recipes
Whether for breakfast or dessert, coffee jelly is an interesting way to “mix up” the way you enjoy coffee everyday. It gives you the characteristic punch of a cup of Joe, but in a delicious dessert that you can eat with your spoon – particularly on a hot summer day.
Making coffee jelly at home is incredibly forgiving and foolproof. If you want to experience the health benefits, the flavor, or even just impress your guests, here are some of the best coffee jelly recipes easily made at home:
Spiked Coffee Jelly Recipe
- 1/2 cup coffee liquer
- 3 cup Strong Coffee/Espresso
- 1 pinch salt
- 5 tsp Unflavored gelatin
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- Sweetened Whipped Cream (optional, to taste)
- Pour coffee liqueur in a large bowl.
- Sprinkle gelatin over the alcoholic beverage and let it stand for about 5 mins (wait for the gelatin to soften).
- Add salt, sugar, and hot coffee into the softened gelatin and stir until the mixture is clear.
- Pour the resulting liquid into coffee cups, dessert glasses, custard cups, or individual jello molds.
- Place the molds in a refrigerator until they are firm.
- Remove from the refrigerator and add the sweetened whipped cream.
- Serve and enjoy!
The Japanese/Filipino Recipe
- 3/4 tbsp Agar
- 2 tbsp Instant Coffee
- 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
- 2 1/2 cups Water
- 1/2 cup Condensed Milk
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- Dissolve agar in the water and bring the mixture to boil in a pan.
- Add sugar and instant coffee and lower the heat to a simmer.
- When the mixture is evenly combined, pour it into a container and allow it set in a refrigerator.
- Cut the coffee jelly into cubes and serve in cups.
- Whisk the heavy cream and condensed milk and pour over the jelly cubes. The condensed milk/heavy cream complements the texture and flavor of the jelly.
- Serve chilled.
Lemon-Infused Coffee Jelly Recipe
- 4 cups strongly brewed coffee
- 5.5 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/3 cups natural Dutch gel
- Mix the lemon juice and coffee in a saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to boil.
- Gently whisk the Dutch gel and granulated sugar in a separate bowl.
- Pour the Dutch gel-sugar mixture into the boiling lemon juice-coffee mixture and stir for around 2 minutes.
- Let the new mixture boil for a minute and turn off the heat source.
- Transfer into 8-ounce jars and cool.
- Serve and enjoy!
Keto Coffee Jelly Recipe
- 3 tbsp gelatin
- 2 cups brewed coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup water
- 1 to 2 tbsp Non-GMO granulated monk fruit and erythritol blend
Coconut Coffee Blend
- 1 cup chilled black coffee
- 1 tbsp MCT Oil
- 2 tbsp Coconut Cream
Coconut Whipped Cream
- 1 cup coconut cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp keto-friendly sweetener
- Stir gelatin and water in a small bowl and allow the mixture to “bloom.”
- Heat the mixture under low heat in a saucepan.
- Stir and add the brewed coffee, vanilla extract, and the sweetener (as per your liking) to the pan and stir.
- Allow to cool and refrigerate until firm.
- Cut the coffee jelly into the desired shapes.
- Blend (low speed) or whisk the ingredients of the ‘coconut whipped cream’ and the ‘coconut coffee’ separately.
- Serve by placing the coffee jelly cubes in a coffee cup or dessert glass, following by the ‘coconut coffee’ mixture and ‘coconut whipped cream’ respectively.
- Enjoy your keto delicacy.
Frozen Coffee Jelly
- 1 tbsp unflavored gelatin powder
- 2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 3 tbsp cool water
- 2 tbsp sugar
Frozen Iced Coffee
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chocolate syrup
- 1 1/2 cups cooled coffee
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- Dissolve the gelatin powder in the cool water (3 tablespoons) and allow the mixture to bloom for roughly 2 minutes.
- Pour the hot coffee into a loaf pan and add sugar.
- Add the bloomed gelatin into the hot coffee and stir gently – ensuring it’s completely combined.
- Chill the coffee jelly for around 2 hours until it’s firm.
- Prepare the frozen iced coffee by blending all the ingredients until smooth.
- Prepare the whipped cream. Whip to soft peaks before adding vanilla extract and sugar, then whip again until medium peaks form.
- Cut the chilled coffee jelly into cubes and place them in glasses.
- Create a layer of coffee jelly, 3 tablespoons of whipped cream, frozen iced coffee, and more whipped cream respectively.
- Sink boba straws into the beverage and slurp away!
Tips and Recommendations
- Although any kind of coffee will do the trick, consider using espresso to improve the flavor of the coffee jelly.
- When setting the jelly, create a thin layer (around 1 inch) and cut it into cubes. If you feel adventurous, you can cut out creative shapes from your ice cube makers or cookie cutters.
- Gelatin must be hydrated (bloomed) before it’s added to a recipe. It should have an apple-sauce consistency.
- Although coffee jelly looks youthful and fun, it’s not recommended for children. Aside from the risk of hyperactive kids running around the house uncontrollably, it can be bitter.
- Gelatin becomes stiffer the longer it’s allowed to sit.
Are you a coffee enthusiast looking for the ideal follow-up to an awesome meal? If so, it doesn’t get better than coffee jelly.
Although coffee jelly doesn’t nearly receive the global attention it deserves, its time to take hints from its popularity in Japan and the Philippines. It’s simple to prepare but sophisticated on your palate. A host of contradictions, the dessert is gel-like yet creamy, bitter yet sweet, and chewy yet bouncy. Coupled with it’s touted health benefits, what’s stopping you from indulging in a cup/bowl of coffee jelly?
Enjoyable plain or dressed up with all sorts of accompaniments, coffee jelly is also an exciting dinner-party dessert. Prepare a batch today and experience a caffeinated dessert cup this summer!