What’s Cooking Wednesday: Coffee Granita

To be perfectly honest, the only thing cooking around here these days is me—as in, I think I can identify with a roasted chicken just a bit more. The temps have been in the 100s (40+ degrees Celsius) for a couple days, so there hasn’t been much going on at the stove or, heaven help us, in the oven.

We’ve subsisted on simple salads, other quick pasta dishes, and some cold meats and cheeses and fresh bread.

Oh, and the granita (grah-NEE-tah).

What’s that you ask? If any of you are familiar with what I’ve heard called shaved ice, Italian water ice, Italian ice, or (for you Philly folks especially) Rita’s water ice, that’s basically it, or at least they’re all cugini.

For anyone unfamiliar, granita is basically a slushy, flavored ice (some are even more like sorbet), and it’s a staple in Italy in the summer.

I’ve seen it credited to Sicily and even Spain, but in the honor of good summer fun, let’s just agree that it’s darn good and move on, shall we?

Shelley has written about granita and also another related treat, grattachecca, in Rome and Sara can tell you how to make it watermelon-flavored (my favorite growing up), but, in keeping with the theme of this here blog thingee, today’s What’s Cooking Wednesday is…granita al caffè, or coffee granita.

I love it so much it just may be replacing my iced coffee as my morning brew these days when you just have to, in the words of my late grandmother’s favorite TV chef, kick it up a notch. You may be thinking, “Isn’t that kind of like ice cream for breakfast?”

And I’m thinking, “Isn’t it great to be an adult sometimes?”

Granita al Caffè

2 cups water
½ cup sugar
1 cup very strong espresso, cooled

Heat water and sugar over low heat until the sugar melts. Bring to a boil, and then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Mix in coffee, put everything in shallow container and into the freezer. I use muffin pans (the 6-muffin type) because then I can make individual servings.

When the mixture is mostly frozen, take it out and you’re ready to smash it up. If it won’t budge from the pan, give the bottom a dunk in hot water and flip it.

Now, you can use a food processor, but if it’s really hot like it is here, it’ll all melt before you know it and you’ll be back to square one. If you’re set on using the food processor, make sure everything is frozen solid, then cut the mixture into chunks and do it that way.

Me? This time I just mashed it up with a spoon. As you can see from the photo, I left the chunks larger than usual to compensate for the heat, and now I think I actually like it better this way. The food processor will get it smoother, of course, and more traditional granita-fied.



Since the weather cooled off a bit today (a real breeze!), I was able to do a more slushy thing. I didn’t bother with the food processor though–just used the edge of a big metal spoon.

The view, I’m sure, looks familiar by now, so look at that coffee granita!


Some notes:

  • All measurements are in the “American” cups, so I’m not talking about just a tiny cup of espresso here.
  • You can top this with whipped cream for a special treat, but around here people look at you funny if you have dairy products when it’s warm.
  • There are many recipes for granita all over the place, including one specifically for coffee granita at fellow Italian expat Judy‘s place Over a Tuscan Stove. Feel free to play with the sugar and water mixture to your taste and be brave with flavors!
  • Speaking of flavors, you can easily do a lemon granita from this basic recipe substituting the juice of two large lemons and the zest of one lemon in place of the coffee.

Now raise your granita and let’s salute:
To the summer!

51 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Coffee Granita”
  1. Paolo

    good morning scirocco girl…

    I like this recipe – and all I can think is that it would be so much better with some amaro. I’ll try it out and let you know.

  2. sognatrice

    Paolo, I just knew you’d find a way to “correct” this 🙂 Ah, and buona notte, I suppose.

  3. Wanderlust Scarlett


    I’m not going to even try to attempt this.

    I’ll just say that I appreciate the picture, it looks delicious.


    I’m going to the store now.

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  4. jennifer

    Granita is one of my favorite things- there’s a Sicilian bar here that makes it with fresh fruit, coffee or chocolate.
    I’ve been thinking of you broiling down there… keep your feet in the sea!

  5. KC

    I realize you’re not from Philly, but you are a Pennsylvanian, so maybe you can explain why they call ice “water ice?” there? (In my New York neighborhood we called it “Italian ice!”)

  6. sognatrice

    Scarlett, I really don’t think you could do much damage here…at the very least you’ll end up with really cold espresso. That’s not bad, right?

    Jennifer, thanks for your cool thoughts. Yesterday it was too warm even to be at the sea, even in the water. Today, thankfully, is much better–started out with high winds, but it’s calmed down to a gentle, refreshing breeze.

    KC, I’m going to be of no help b/c where I’m from in PA, we call it “Italian ice” too. Perhaps Philadelphians just like to be clear on where the ice came from? Anyone? Anyone? Rita?

  7. pat

    I’m making some today with really nice organic lemons I picked up the other day. It’s much easier with the an ice cream machine which is relatively cheap. Think cool thoughts. Maybe it’s time for Italy to get into central air. For that I say God Bless America.

  8. sognatrice

    Pat, the thing about kitchen appliances here is that there’s no room to store them! Once I get into the bigger house (hopefully by the end of the summer), I can think about gadgets. For now, though, we make do.

    I actually do have central air conditioning, but wouldn’t you know it? It’s on the blink, and it requires much more work (i.e., soldi) than is worth putting into something we’ll be leaving here shortly. The weather is gorgeous today though, so no complaints! Also, our bedroom is basically underground, so sleeping is always a cool dream 🙂

  9. One Smart Cookie

    Oh! I grew up in NJ where it is practically a requirement to eat Rita’s Water Ice in the summer. I have no idea why it is called “water ice” but I sure do love it. Mmmm…

  10. nyc/caribbean ragazza

    I grew up with Italian Ice..can’t wait to try out some of these recipes. It’s going to be very hot here this weekend.

  11. Giulia

    Oh my… I can almost taste that just by looking at it. Will definitely try this out! We are experiencing a pleasantly cool day here too. What a relief after these past few days of horrible heat. UGH!

  12. -R-

    What a good idea for a What’s Cooking Wednesday! That looks so good!

  13. Paolo

    The way I have always understood the difference is that water ice is syrup poured over regular (you know, water ice), while “Italian ice” is more granita-like, with the flavor frozen in.

    (Please note that inside my mind, both these terms are still pronounced in Philly scouse, i.e. “witter oise” and “tayyen oise,” even though I would rather be waterboarded than actually talk like that now…)

  14. Sara

    Ha! You read my mind! I was just contemplating how to make a coffee sorbet, and look! Even better!

    I think I will have to throw in a little cream, though. I realize this may make it not only substantially more fattening and artery clogging but possibly not a granita anymore. However, I can’t do sweetened coffee unless it also has cream in it. Just can’t. Don’t know why. I suspect it has something to do with all those generations of plump, kaffeeklatsching Ashkenazim swirling around in my gene pool.

    Anyway, thank you for this perfectly timely [for me] recipe! I’ll start thinking on Tuesday night about what I want to learn how to make next, ‘k? 😉

  15. Kathy

    I love this: “…but around here people look at you funny if you have dairy products when it’s warm.” It’s going to be about 94 degrees F here today, and I’m drinking a glass of milk!

    I had watermelon flavored granita for the first time on my trip a few weeks ago – delicious!

  16. sognatrice

    Cookie, I love Rita’s too. Or at least I used to. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    NYC, there are plenty of recipes to choose from among all those links…some great flavor ideas!

    Giulia, this is so easy, and there’s nothing better than some flavored ice to cool you down. I just have to remind myself that there’s actually espresso in there, so, you know, I shouldn’t have three before bedtime 😉

    R, the less cooking involved in the summer, the better. I’m sorry, though, for those who seriously can’t boil water, as that’s the only cooking involved here. But you see how it’s still technically cooking, so it’s still technically what’s cooking? That’s the lawyer in me. I must beat her.

    Paolo, that makes perfect sense from my recollection of the two. You’ve just solved an age old mystery. You smart!

  17. sognatrice

    Sara, if you could start thinking Monday, actually, that’d be great. Sometimes finding ingredients is a bitch. Ah, there goes my PG rating….

    Funny that you can’t do sweetened coffee without cream–I can’t do sweetened tea with milk. I don’t know what any of that means.

    Kathy, too funny b/c I’m drinking a glass of milk right now! I don’t remember the last time I drank a glass of milk, but I just craved it. I have to make some watermelon stuff from Sara’s recipe soon; I saw some great melons today at the market 🙂

  18. Britt-Arnhild

    Oh my….I am counting my days till I am in Italy again. Only 4 days left 🙂

  19. Marmite Breath

    Oh man. Lemon granita saved my life in Napoli one summer. I was very pregnant and determined to see the city up close with everybody who came to visit me. The sweltering heat nearly did me in, but a lovely granita vendor made a fortune off me. I didn’t want to leave the piazza!

  20. JennieBoo

    I love frappes and iced coffees, so I’ll definitely be trying this recipe.

    It’s hot here too, with a 40% humidity….

    I am not glistening, I’m SWEATING profusely!


  21. sognatrice

    B-A, woohoo! I’m so excited for you!

    Marmite Breath, I really only like lemon granita in certain situations, and I can’t describe them as it’s rather “in the moment.” Glad you found solace though. I’m sure that vendor in Naples misses you. You think he’s still there right in the same place?

    Jennie, I wish I could help. I mean, I can recommend granita, but I know how you feel–I was there the past few days. Thankfully we have a nice, breezy day today, so I will wish you the same for tomorrow 🙂

  22. Delina

    That’s a great photo! You’re brave balancing the glass like that 🙂

    Personally I’m not keen on the caffè granita, despite it’s popularity. I like a cappucino freddo though, if that counts 🙂

  23. sognatrice

    Delina, thanks! I had to wait until the wind died down considerably before even attempting it, but the forces of nature worked with me 🙂

    Also, (come closer, now don’t tell) I don’t really like coffee granita either–outside my house. I *never* order it out, but I do love my own 🙂

  24. Kimberly

    I feel for you, withering away in that heat! Summer hasn’t even begun here yet. We’re still being drenched with rain.

  25. cheeky

    Looks really yummy, even though I’m not a coffee drinker.
    I’m am so with you about having these cool treats when it gets that hot. Urgh! That heat really gets me a tad grumpy. Especially when there is no air movement so I am glad there was a slight drop in the temperature for you today, whew!
    I MUST do a recipe of some sort like a granita, icy or something slushy. I have the neatest little device and I’m looking forward to using it this summer in Australia.(stay tuned)
    The view is still lovely.

  26. goodthomas

    Hot and muggy here in Chicago. I would gladly take a coffee granita, an Italian ice, anything.

    Okay, alright, I obviously need to hop on a plane before the fall.

  27. Jér

    I have three strong granita-related memories.

    The first is from Catanzaro, Calabria, where the American friend I was living with gave up all food except prepackaged lemon granita cups. I never understood why he chose those over the real thing, which was ubiquitous that summer, but he was addicted.

    The other two are from summer in Messina, when it would get up to 45 degrees Celsius, and the wind would die (of course!). In the middle of the day we would stop at a granita cart and I would always order the same thing: a lemon granita con panna (with whipping cream). And every time the vendor would protest volubly, telling me I’d end up with a perforated stomach from eating acid with milk, but I usually convinced him to sell it to me anyway. And then everyone in line would watch me to see if I would explode as I took my first bites.

    In the evening, we would stop by a local bar that specialized in granitas, and I would always order their famous peach granita, made from fresh peaches and hand scraped into delicious flakes that melted wonderfully on the tongue. MMMMMmmmmmmm.

  28. Wicked H

    It looks quite refreshing, I am going to try it.

    HOttest day of the year here in my neck of the woods. Stay cool Sognatrice!

  29. The Moon Topples

    Sognatrice: I cannot describe to you how delicious that looks here in the middle of a Chicago summer. Do you know of a good way to add a little cream to it without ruining the consistency?

  30. sognatrice

    Kimberly, don’t cry for me! Today ended up being just lovely, and actually the breeze is quite cool as I type this. Not “need a jacket cool,” but cool nonetheless 😉

    Cheeky, if you already have the device, you need to get cracking! Or crushing! Or shaving! Or something 😉

    gt, and you know that the best granita *must* be in Sicily….Cicciu would be proud 🙂

    Jér, those are awesome memories. I concur with on your friend–but I suppose we all have our weird cravings and whatnot. Next, I love trying to imagine the looks on the faces of those around you as you (gasp!) so recklessly ate lemon and panna together…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY NO LESS! And lastly, I have to find me some of that peach granita (or make some myself)–I *love* anything peach.

    Wicked, I hope it helps cool you down. I don’t mind the heat, but when it gets to the point where you’re dripping in sweat without even doing anything, that’s enough for me. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  31. sognatrice

    Moon Topples, sorry for your mugginess. I hate mugginess more than just about any other weather phenomenon. As for the granita with cream, I don’t know what would happen by adding it to the coffee itself, but I was referring to regular old whipped cream dabbed on the top (or even throughout if you wanted to get a fancy parfait thing going. I thought about trying the latter this morning, but I didn’t have the energy to make the whipped cream.

    That said, if one can make pudding pops which have a hefty dose of milk, perhaps the cream wouldn’t change much at all? I really don’t know. I’ll have to try it sometime as an experiment, but if you do it first, let me know, OK?

  32. Bongga Mom

    How refreshing! I’m not a coffee drinker but I’m a sucker for iced coffee. Your granita is a great choice for Whats “Cooking” Wed!

  33. Vanessa

    mmm mmm
    I want one now!
    I also want the Irish weather to warm the hell up so that I can indulge in a granita without shivering!

  34. Sara

    Heh — just don’t type the “L” word, Sognatrice.

    And no, other readers, it’s not that “L” word.

  35. lorraine@italianfoodies

    The weather here is so bad at the moment, we’re jealous every evening watching the weather on RAI, 47 degrees in Palermo yesterday, 13 degrees in Ireland! NOT FAIR!!! Nothing like granita in hot weather!!

  36. ~Michelle~

    Oooo, this looks delicious! I am going to make this!!! Thanks for sharing!

  37. Lisa Milton

    Sorry its been so hot – that’s too much for me.

    I’m going to put this recipe to good use!

  38. BecsLifeOnline

    I will DEFINITELY try this! I’m addicted to coffee, and any coffee product ha ha.

  39. stefanie

    I can’t possibly be bothered to make this myself, 😉 but it does look awesomely refreshing. And it sounds like a perfectly respectable breakfast to me! (Indeed, being an adult is great sometimes.)

  40. Shan

    Looks cool and refreshing.

  41. sognatrice

    Bongga mom, glad you can appreciate–remember, you can always do it with lemon or other fruits!

    Vanessa, I’m so sorry about your weather; we’ve been granted a major relief here and now it’s simply gorgeous…sunny, warm (but not too warm), with a cool breeze. Maybe if you think hard enough???

    Sara, oh, I’ll never type that again. I wouldn’t want kids to go home and tell their parents that *I* taught them the L word. That’s too much responsibility for anyone to carry.

    Lorraine, benvenuta! As I said above, we’ve had a major cooling off. It’s in the mid-20s now and simply perfect for me; I hope your weather is easing up as well.

    Michelle, Lisa, Bec–my pleasure! Think of me as you enjoy 🙂

    Stefanie, yeah, I kinda knew that, but I still hold out hope that someday one of these crazy concoctions will inspire you 🙂

    Shan, refreshing it is. Remember that for kiddies, you can do fruit flavors!

  42. my melange


    I love coffee granita (lemon too)! And it is so easy to make. Your’s looks so much better than the ones I make…maybe it’s your background in the picture 😉

  43. Figs Olives Wine

    Heavenly view I hadn’t seen yet, and heavenly granita! My Sicilian in-laws make it too, and it’s unbelievable.
    By the way, friends just got back from Sicily, and they said it was 114 F and that the winds coming from Africa were so hot that they made their metal jewelry burn their skin. How do you even move in that kind of heat, sognatrice?

  44. sognatrice

    My Melange, the view definitely helps, I think 🙂

    Figs, lots of granita 😉 Seriously it was the hottest I have ever been in my life. In fact, I thought I was doing the conversion from Celsius wrong because I couldn’t believe it was nearing 120 degrees (although it definitely felt like it!).

  45. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Hey lady,

    Ok, I was gone a few days… so I gotta say (way back up to the top…) ~ I could mess up boiling water. Cold water… maybe.

    I set my microwave on fire with micrwave popcorn in a bag and one popcorn button on the outside of the machine.

    I’m safer not to chance it. Fate becomes fatal in my kitchen.

    But thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  46. it's me, Val

    Mmmm….another way to get my coffee! Looks yum!

  47. sognatrice

    Scarlett, I didn’t know about the microwave. Yes, you’re right. It’s better not to chance it…but I think you need to plan a trip to Italy for some lessons 😉

    Val, yes, one of my goals in life is to figure out as many ways to sneak coffee into my day as possible. How my doin’ so far?

  48. 08.20.2008

    If I could find my espresso maker I would make some tonight!!!

    lucy’s last blog post..Things That Go Bump In The Night

    Start looking girl!

  49. 01.10.2011

    Looks yummy!
    I’m going to have to try this one.
    Love the picture’s scenery as well.

    Enjoy Jill!

  50. 02.01.2012

    A big thank you for your blog.

  51. michelle

    Thank you for reading 🙂

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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