Coffee Ice Cream: Whole or Ground Beans?

Coffee and Ice Cream have long had a history of going well together, and whether that’s because both are appropriate at any time of day, or because they both have a way of soothing the soul, we knew that it wouldn’t be long before we try to tackle Coffee Ice Cream.

For our first attempt we’re going to be testing the difference between using fresh whole or ground coffee beans and comparing two of our favorite richer ice cream bases, the Ph-rench and the Sicilian (see our ice cream base experiment here). To start, we’ll keep the amount of coffee consistent across the variations so we can establish a clear comparison on which base to use and which method we might prefer before tweaking beyond those variables.

Carlienne’s Coffee Ice Cream Experiment

Ph-rench Coffee Ingredients

  • 2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Pasteurized Eggs – Large
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 45 g Coffee beans (ground or whole)*

*See notes in conclusion below

Ph-rench Coffee Instructions

  1. Heat your milk, cream, and coffee to just about steaming but without cooking your dairy. Take the pot off the heat and allow the mixture to continue steeping for at least 1 hour.
    • Taste your coffee milk to check for desirable intensity, when it’s just a little stronger than you like, go ahead and strain the coffee out and set the mixture in the fridge. If it’s needs more, allow longer steeping time.
  2. Once coffee milk is chilled, whisk together eggs, sugar, and salt in a separate bowl until pale yellow and thick.
  3. Add your cream and milk and mix together.
  4. Chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours.
  5. Proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Sicilian Coffee Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1.5 cup Whole Milk
  • 3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 TableSpoons Cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 45 g Coffee beans (ground or whole)*

*See notes in conclusion below

Sicilian Coffee Instructions

  1. Heat your milk, cream, and coffee to just about steaming but without cooking your dairy. Take the pot off the heat and allow the mixture to continue steeping for at least 1 hour.
    • Taste your coffee milk to check for desirable intensity, when it’s just a little stronger than you like, go ahead and strain the coffee out and set the mixture in the fridge. If it’s needs more, allow longer steeping time.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients (sugar, cornstarch, salt) and mix it well together.
  3. Heat your strained coffee milk back up on medium. When the milk mixture is hot and a little steamy pour some into the dry mix to make a slurry. This helps better integrate your ingredients.
  4. Pour the slurry into the pot and cook until thickened. You want the mix to be able to coat the back of a spoon or spatula.
  5. Then take it off the heat and pour in a container that is placed into an ice bath or a container that you have chilled and cool it at least 5 hours or overnight is best.
  6. Proceed with churning by following the instructions of your machine and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Conclusion

You may come across recipes that use instant coffee and that’s entirely up to you. We don’t have have any around, so we opted not to bother including it in the experiment. Coffee purists will argue that since instant coffee tends to use the less desirable Robusta bean, which is why many prefer to be able to choose the actual bean and roast by using fresh coffee for their homemade ice cream (and that’s kind of the point of making your own ice cream isn’t it?).

Whole or ground beans and the degree of the grind will depend on your preference. It goes without saying that whole beans are much easier to separate and won’t require a particular sieve, however you’ll need more whole beans and/or a longer steep period for a strong flavor. Less beans though, can create a lovely mild toasty almost caramel flavor. Courser grinds are typically easier to strain out but can also add a nice texture if you leave a little in the ice cream and help deepen the flavor. A finer grind may be harder to strain out with a sieve but may not leave as much texturally even if some of it gets through your strainer. Ground coffee will also impart a much deeper color than whole beans.

Sicilian Whole Bean Coffee Ice Cream
Sicilian Whole Bean Coffee Ice Cream

Sicilian Whole Coffee Beans
Sweet toasty flavor that tastes a bit like a latte. Lacks the distinct coffee flavor and has a quick finish.

Sicilian Ground Coffee Ice Cream
Sicilian Ground Coffee Ice Cream

Sicilian Ground Coffee Beans
The richest color and most intense coffee flavor in terms of bitterness and smokiness. We would recommend this recipe for fans closer to the straight black coffee end of the spectrum.

Phrench Whole Bean Coffee Ice Cream
Phrench Whole Bean Coffee Ice Cream

Ph-rench Whole Coffee Beans
Similar to the Sicilian Whole Coffee Beans recipe, this tasted like a milkier latte and had a two part experience of a sweet forefront and a light coffee aftertaste. The flavor would last longer in the mouth than the Sicilian.

Phrench Ground Coffee Ice Cream
Phrench Ground Coffee Ice Cream

Ph-rench Ground Coffee Beans
This recipe is probably more of the middle ground providing both a strong coffee flavor but also a sweetness. It has a more color than the whole beans variations but is not as dark as the Sicilian. It also has a sweet front and a stronger coffee at the back.

Tools Used To Make This Dish*

Camera Gear List*

*I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to

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