What Coffee And Roast Are The Best For Tiramisu? (Guide)

Last Updated on May 16, 2022 by John Moretti

Tiramisu is the dessert of pleasure. Its sinfully delicious layers contrast the sweat mascarpone cream with suggestive ladyfingers lavishly dipped in espresso and rum. Bittersweet chocolate gives it a decadent edge. It’s precisely the dessert one would expect to be developed in a high-class brothel, and so it was according to legend. Thus, you want your coffee to be perfect.

Classic Italian espresso is the ideal choice for Tiramisu. However, some find using a quality instant espresso powered especially made for baking produces a richer result. If you have access to neither, then using dark coffee is an excellent substitute. You want a bitter brew with low acidity. 

Tiramisu has a reputation for being an aphrodisiac. Its name harkens back to Treviso, meaning “pull it up,” or, more politely, “lift me up.” Like any skilled courtesan, the dessert relies on decadence with a contrasting twist. This is why the type of coffee is so crucial. Too weak a brew and the sweetness will overpower it. Too acidic, and it curdles the cream. 

Selecting The Best Coffee For Your Tiramisu

The best coffee to select for your Tiramisu is an Italian espresso. However, “Italian coffee” is a misnomer; while Italy does roast beans, they are sourced from other countries such as Brazil and Ethiopia. Italians favor a bitter brew typically found in Arabica or blended with Robusta. These tend to be darker browns with little oil, and thus are less acidic. 

It is crucial in Tiramisu to avoid acidic espressos and coffee, as they can react with the mascarpone cream, producing a sour or curdled taste. It may also impact the desserts’ texture, losing the smooth finish that gives Tiramisu its tempting elegance. 

When selecting a coffee for Tiramisu, look for a dark bitter roast that was processed natural or pulped natural (honey).  These have a touch of sweetness that adds complexity to the bitter flavor, which is precisely the key to Tiramisu’s allure. The sweetness contains a hint of strength and bitterness, with an alcoholic bite. In short, its flavor should capture the essence of a steamy romance novel. 

Making Espresso Without An Espresso Machine

Not everyone owns an espresso machine. Nor does every home cook want to order an espresso shot to go and rush home just to make a dessert. However, there are ways to make something close to proper espresso without the fancy machine. Your solution might be in your camping gear. 

Making Espresso With A MiniPresso

If you dig in your camping gear, you might discover a MiniPresso. This travel gadget actually injects the water through the grinds; it simply requires you to pump it around 30 times manually. Thus, done correctly, you’ll have made genuine espresso. 

Making Espresso With An AeroPress Go

Image of Aeropress body part with coffee

Another popular camping gadget is the AeroPress Go. It claims to make espresso, and it practically does. However, it isn’t technically the real deal because the water isn’t injected through the grinds. That said, many people feel it’s nearly a perfect replica. Either way, it’s cheaper than buying a massive machine. 

Making Espresso With A Moka Pot

If you want to be Italian about it, make your espresso in a Moka pot; after all, if you are making an Italian dessert, make your espresso in a Moka pot. The Italians do this when they can’t use pressurized water to produce their beloved drink. As it is, this is the most probable method used back when the dessert was invented. Thus, this is probably the best way to do your Tiramisu proud. 

Making Espresso With A French Press

The Italians and French always see eye to eye, but the French press is an excellent way to make coffee. This is probably why it is a popular way to make it when camping: it tastes good and doesn’t require electricity. Fortunately, it is also an easy way to make almost espresso when you don’t have an espresso maker. 

Making Espresso With Powdered Espresso

Lastly, there is using espresso powder for baking. But this isn’t some cheap instant espresso. This is a concentrated brew that’s been dried and isn’t intended for drinking. 

Recommended choices include:

Do note that using a powder may slightly alter how you soak the ladyfingers. Also, consult the brand for recommended amounts. Due to the high concentration, you might not need as much as you think. 

Using Coffee As A Substitute For Espresso In Tiramisu

Photo of black kona coffee in blue cup and saucer with

You should select a dark roast when using black coffee as a substitute for espresso. An Italian roast is ideal but not the only choice. However, the same rules apply: look for a low acid coffee, often Arabica, or one blended with Robusta. You want bitter, but with a hint of sweetness that is produced by natural or pulped natural processing. 

However, resist the temptation to use more coffee than the recommended serving size to achieve a stronger flavor. This can make the brew taste sour, which is different from bitter. 

Also, beware of adding extra coffee to the recipe to make up for the weaker brew. This can result in a soggy dessert. As it is, you may have to take care with the ladyfingers and brush them, rather than soak them, due to black coffee’s higher water content. This is especially crucial if using sponge ladyfingers rather than the harder, more biscotti version.  

Using Cocoa As A Substitute For Espresso In Tiramisu

cocoa beans

There are times people want to avoid coffee and prefer to use hot cocoa as a substitute. If so, darker cocoa with less sugar will give you a nicer contrast than your sweeter milk chocolates. However, if you are substituting the coffee for a children’s party, the contrasting flavors might be an unappreciated touch, and they might prefer the joy of sugar combined with sugar. 

Take caution as you would with using dark coffee, as you don’t want the Tiramisu to become soggy, regardless of which cocoa you choose. Again, if the ladyfingers are spongy, you might be better off brushing the hot cocoa onto the ladyfingers rather than soaking them. 


An Italian dessert deserves an Italian espresso. If you don’t have an espresso maker, there are many alternatives, including the Italian’s own Moka pot. Be sure when using higher liquid substitutions, such as coffee or hot chocolate, to not let your ladyfingers become soggy. In the meantime, Buon appetito!