This coffee crème brûlée recipe is super easy to make with 5 ingredients and 15 minutes of prep time. The combination of creamy coffee custard and crunchy caramelised sugar creates a delicious contrast of textures and flavours that make this dessert truly irresistible!
Why we love this recipe
Indulge in the rich and creamy taste of coffee crème brûlée - a classic dessert that is sure impress your guests with no fuss! This super easy French dessert is made with a base of smooth, velvety coffee custard and topped with a thin layer of caramelised sugar.
The crunchy sugar topping adds a delicious texture contrast to the creamy custard beneath. Serve the coffee crème brûlée chilled, and crack the caramelised sugar with a spoon to reveal the luscious layers below.
What is Crème Brulée
"Crème Brulée" is a classic French dessert that literally translates to "burnt cream". It consists of a light creamy custard base ("crème anglaise") made from cream, sugar and egg yolks and a crispy thin layer of sugar caramelised using a torch or oven broiler.
The baked custard is typically made with vanilla beans but can be flavoured with many ingredients such as chocolate, fruits or like here - coffee.
What is coffee creme brulee made of:
Scroll down to recipe card below for all quantities
- Cream: thickened / heavy cream, that contains at least 30% fat content. It can be substituted with a dairy-free cream containing the same amount of fat if required. I have made creme brulee with full fat coconut cream for example.
- Vanilla: for the basic dessert, it is recommended to use a fresh vanilla bean. But since vanilla is only used as a flavour enhancer here, using vanilla paste is completely fine! Vanilla extract will work too but you won't have those beautiful little vanilla flecks in the cream.
- Coffee: instant coffee granules or instant espresso powder. It is important to use an instant coffee that will completely dissolved in the cream, or you will get an unpleasant grainy texture in the custard. Avoid freshly ground coffee beans.
- Egg Yolks: large egg yolks, at room temperature. If the yolks are too cold, they might curdle when you add the warm cream. Keep the egg whites for another recipe such as my Almond Financiers Cakes.
- Sugar: Caster Sugar or white superfine sugar. You will need some for the custard as well as for the sugar topping. For the topping, you could also use raw sugar or brown sugar instead of white sugar. It will give you a slightly different texture and flavour.
You could also add a pinch of salt. For extra coffee flavours, you can absolutely increase the quantity of instant coffee used in the recipe. You could also add a few drops of coffee extract to the cream.
How to make Coffee Crème Brulée
1. Prepare the coffee custard
- Preheat your oven on 100 degrees Celsius / 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet or baking dish.
- Photo 1: Place the cream, vanilla paste and instant coffee granules in a small saucepan on low to medium heat.
- Photo 2: Stir to allow for all the instant coffee to dissolve and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
Make sure the cream does not boil or it might cook the eggs once you pour it in.
- Photo 3: While the cream is warming up, place the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof large bowl.
- Photo 4: Whisk for a few seconds or until well combined.
Try not to over-mix the egg mixture or you will create a lot of air bubbles that will make the top of the custard uneven.
2. Bake & caramelise the crème brûlée
- Photo 5: Slowly pour the warm cream mixture over the yolks while stirring.
This step is known as "tempering" the eggs: you slowly increase the temperature of the eggs to avoid any quick temperature change that would make the eggs curdle.
Optionally, strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps and air bubbles.
- Photo 6: Place the ramekins on top of your baking tray or baking dish. Slowly pour the coffee custard into your ramekins. Make sure to divide the custard equally between each ramekin to get an even baking in all of them.
I am using large shallow ramekins that are 13 cm wide (5-inch), but have tried this recipe with smaller, deeper 7 cm (2,5-inch) ramekin. You will need to adjust the baking time depending on how thick the layer of custard is.
- Carefully tap the tray / dish on a hard surface to pop any air bubbles. If you notice some foam on top of the custard, you can remove it with a small spoon. You want the top of the custard to be as smooth as possible.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes for the 13 cm ramekins, or about 60 minutes for the 7 cm ramekins. When properly baked, the coffee crèmes brûlées should be almost fully set but still have a very slight jiggle in their centre
Note: you will notice that I do not use a water bath here. This is the way I learnt how to make crème brulée at pastry school. Baking the custard at a very low temperature give you a creamier, less rubbery texture. No need for hot water in a large roasting pan here!
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool down at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then transfer in the fridge for at least 3 hours - or up to 24 hours in advance.
- Photo 7: when ready to serve, sprinkle sugar on top of each custard. Gently shake the ramekins to evenly distribute the sugar. You want to make sure you get an even layer all the way to the side of the ramekins.
- Photo 8: Using a kitchen torch, caramelise the sugar until it turn into a crispy golden shell. Make sure to constantly move the flame to avoid burning the sugar. Don't place the flame in direct contact of the sugar.
- Place the coffee creme brûlée ramekins in the freezer for 15 minutes then serve straight away. Freezing the dessert before serving will allow for the sugar coating to harden and the cream under to firm up again.
Most recipes will tell you to bake the custard in a water bath. Baking them at a very low temperature for a longer time instead is the way I learnt it at pastry school.
My French pastry chef would say that crème brûlées are baked at low temperature while "crème caramel" that are baked in a water bath.
If you prefer to use a water bath, you will need to bake the custard at a higher temperature (160 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Fahrenheit) and for a shorter period. Fill your baking dish with water that comes up to about half the height of your ramekins.
You want the custard to be mostly set but still have a very light jiggle in their centre. The cream will continue to set as it is chilled. Over-baking the custard will give it a harder, spongier texture.
You might need to adjust the baking time based on the size of your ramekin and the exact temperature of your oven. It is better to rely on the texture of the custard rather than time recommended in the instructions!
If you don't have a torch, you can caramelise the crème brulee under the broiler in the oven. Make sure to constantly check on it as it will caramelise fast and could quickly burn if left unattended.
It usually takes about 3 minutes, but the exact time will vary based on the exact temperature of your broiler.
I don't recommend using a lighter as it will take a very long time to get the sugar to caramelise.
Tips & Troubleshooting
- Why is my crème brulée not smooth on top? The key is to remove all air bubbles and coffee foam before baking the custards. Avoid over-mixing the custard and make sure to tap the ramekins on a hard surface to pop any air bubbles.
- Why is my custard grainy or lumpy? It can happen if the eggs were not properly tempered and their temperature raised too quickly. This could be because the cream was too hot (a light simmer is enough, no need to boil it) or the temperature of your oven was too high.
- The coffee custard is too liquid: either the custard were not baked for long enough, or they need to chill for longer. The creams should be mostly set when they come out of the oven, and are best chilled for at least 3 hours.
- How to get the perfect crème brulée topping: make sure the layer of sugar is very evenly distributed. If too thin, the sugar can burn quickly. If too thick, it will take a long time to caramelise and you might melt the custard under. Make sure to constantly move the flame to avoid burning the sugar.
Storing & Freezing
I recommend chilling the baked coffee custards pots in the fridge overnight or for 24 hours before serving them, but they will actually last for 3 days in the fridge. The sugar coating needs to be added and caramelised just before serving or it will turn soggy.
I don't recommend freezing crème brûlee as it will change the soft texture of the custard.
Made this recipe?
Let us know if you liked it by leaving a comment below, and tag us on Instagram @a.baking.journey with a photo of your creation!
Coffee Crème Brulée
- 240 ml (1 cup) Heavy / Thickened Cream
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Paste - or vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Instant Coffee Granules - or instant espresso powder
- 3 large Egg Yolks - equivalent to 60 grams, at room temperature
- 30 gr (2 1/2 tablespoon) Caster Sugar
- 4 teaspoons Caser Sugar - divided in 4
I highly recommend using the measurements in grams & ml (instead of cups & spoons) for more accuracy and better results.
- Preheat your oven on 100 degrees Celsius / 215 degrees Fahrenheit. Place four deep 7 cm wide ramekins, or shallow 13 cm wide ramekins (2,5 inch and 5 inch) on a baking tray or large baking dish.
- In a small saucepan, mix the Cream, Vanilla and Instant Coffee. Stir to dissolve the coffee granules and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat.
- In the meantime, place the egg yolks and sugar in a heat-proof large bowl. Whisk until smooth (see note 1).
- Slowly pour the warm cream mixture over the sugar / yolks while constantly stirring. Mix until you get a smooth, liquid mixture (see note 2). Optionally, strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps and air bubbles.
- Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins. Carefully tap the tray the ramekins are sitting on to pop any air bubbles. If you notice some foam on top of the custard, remove it with a small spoon.
- Bake for about 60 minutes for the 7 cm ramekins, or 40 to 45 minutes for the 13 cm ramekins. The sides of the custard should be set but the centre should be still very slightly jiggly (see note 3).
- Place on a wire rack to cool down at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of caster sugar over each coffee custard. Gently shake the ramekins to evenly distribute the sugar and make sure you get an even layer throughout (see note 4).
- Using a kitchen blow torch, caramelise the sugar until it turn into a crispy, golden coloured shell. Make sure to constantly move the flame and not put it in direct contact of the sugar to avoid burning it.
- Place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes, then serve straight away (see note 5).
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- Try not to over-mix or you will create a lot of air bubbles that will make the top of the custard uneven.
- This step is known as "tempering" the eggs: you slowly increase the temperature of the eggs to avoid any quick temperature change that would make the eggs curdle.
- you will notice that I do not use a water bath here. This is the way I learnt how to make crème brulée at pastry school. Baking the custard at a very low temperature give you a creamier, less rubbery texture. And no fuss!
- Depending on how thin or thick you want the caramelised shell to be, you could use more sugar that one teaspoon per creme brulee. You could also double coat it, caramelising the first coat then topping it with more sugar.
- Freezing the dessert before serving will allow for the sugar coating to harden and the cream under to firm up again.