Coffee, almonds and ice

making caffe leccese with homemade almond milk ice cubes

Three ingredients, and there you have my favourite type of iced coffee ever, and my ideal pick me up on a slow, hot afternoon. ‘Caffe in ghiaccio’ or Caffe Leccese is a favourite summertime drink in Lecce, the beautiful capital of Puglia‘s southernmost area of Salerno, something I tried — and got hooked on — during my first trip to the baroque town about five years ago.

In it’s simplest form, caffe in ghiaccio or iced coffee is just what it sounds like — coffee and ice. It’s a freshly brewed and sugared espresso, poured into a wide, heavy glass filled to the brim with ice cubes. It’s drunk immediately, really so that the ice doesn’t get the chance to melt too much and water down the flavour of the coffee. It’s quite similar to a creamier version, caffe shakerato, which is a saviour when you’re wilting in the hot, hairdryer-in-your-face heat of a Florentine summer afternoon — and it’s quite a treat to watch the barista make too, when shaken in a cocktail mixer full of ice until thick and frothy. You even get it served in a martini glass.

Caffe Leccese

Back back to Lecce (which is also known as the Florence of the south). Caffe Leccese is like caffe in ghiaccio except that instead of the sugar, it has a shot of almond milk. Some say it’s a drink that has its origins in seventeenth century Spain — there’s a version, in Valencia, where coffee is served with a slice of lemon.

All you need is a fresh espresso. A glass full of ice. A few spoonfuls of almond milk — I like to make my own, but really any will suffice. The natural sweetness of the almond milk is a nice match that mellows a strong, bitter coffee. All of it so refreshing in the heavy heat of the Italian summer. If you want to sip it slowly, and savour it, rather than gulp it all down in fear of the ice watering down the drink, make ice cubes out of almond milk. Try it also with some mint — mint leaves are nice, but in Puglia you might find a splash of mint syrup or mint liqueur goes in there.

Almond milk ice in a Caffe Leccese

Caffe Leccese (Ice coffee with almond milk)

Serves 2

If you don’t have blanched/peeled almonds, you can easily remove their skins by blanching them first in boiling water for 30 seconds-1 minute. Strain them, pat dry on a cloth and the skins will pop off easily. You can also use pre-made, store-bought almond milk and skip the first step.

For Homemade Almond Milk:

  • 150 grams of whole, blanched almonds
  • 250 ml of water

To assemble the Caffe Leccese:

  • 2 shots of espresso
  • 4-6 tablespoons of almond milk
  • Ice cubes (try freezing any extra almond milk in the ice cube tray)

For the almond milk: Place almonds in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add the water and blend until you have a thick, creamy white liquid. It will look a little grainy and should be thick. Pour it into a muslin cloth or other fine, clean cloth over a bowl and squeeze all the almond milk out of it. You can also strain the milk over a fine meshed strainer but the nice thing about a cloth is that you can twist it, which makes squeezing every last drop out so easy. Pour the almond milk into a jug and let it chill in the fridge until ready – if you have prepared the milk in advance, try pouring some in an ice-cube tray to use instead of regular ice. The almond meal can be used in cakes or other batters – it’s best to use it right away as it’ll be fresh and moist, and can be kept in the fridge until needed.

Make enough coffee for 2 servings. I like to let this chill too, but some prefer it freshly made.

Fill a heavy, short tumbler type glass full of ice cubes. Pour over the espresso. Add 2-3 tablespoons of almond milk and enjoy.


  1. I’ve started to do the following: make coffee the usual way with a French press. After 4 minutes, pour the brewed coffee into a cup (if drinking now) or a jar (for drinking later). Then, pour another cup or so of hot water over the grounds and let that sit for a while. Use the second pour for the ice cubes.

  2. babar gujjar says:

    Hy Emiko Davies!
    This almonds coffe seems to be very delicious and I wanna try this but there is a question in my mind I wanna ask you before going to try this coffee. Is there any harmful effect of this coffee on pregnant ladies?

  3. james says:

    Hey Emiko

    Woaah. Love this. Great content. Thank you for taking the time to write the content and sharing your coffee knowhow. I think this is their website – Coffee Beans.

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