Coffee may be an addiction, but we prefer to think of it as a gift. A necessary gift that keeps us going. Especially for those of us who aren’t morning people. *hand raised* And everyone knows that coffee with dessert is amazing. As is coffee in dessert. Pair it with chocolate and it’s always a win. Like in this amazing, creamy, homemade coffee ice cream with chocolate chips. Amazing!
Here, we make a custard base, adding instant espresso to the milk and cream for a deep coffee flavor without all the time it takes to steep coffee beans (though you could do that too). It’s so simple. The hardest part is waiting for the base to cool completely so that you can churn the ice cream and dig in!
A Tiny Bit of Custard Science
The key to custard is in the tempering. You heat the milk and cream together to “scald” it, which is actually just heating it until it is steamy and just barely bubbling around the edges, so not quite simmering. Your egg yolks and sugar are mixed together in a bowl and you “temper” this combo by slowly pouring in the hot liquid while constantly whisking. This simply brings the temperature of the eggs up without cooking them or causing them to curdle. If you do this too quickly or if you don’t whisk it vigorously, you end up with scrambled egg yolks. Not so great for ice cream!
After you’ve tempered the eggs, return the whole thing to the pot and stir until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pass it through a fine-mesh sieve so any tiny pieces of egg that may have cooked won’t end up in your ice cream.
A custard is so easy once you know the technique and the ratio. In general, three large egg yolks, which together weigh about 1-1/2 ounces, will thicken 8 ounces, or 1 cup, of liquid. The liquid in custards is typically dairy. For ice cream, we like a combo of heavy cream and whole milk. You can use all of one or the other, but all cream ends up a little too rich and heavier tasting while all milk yields a thinner, less creamy result. Using both gives you the perfect balance!
Finishing Your Homemade Coffee Ice Cream
Once you’ve thickened and strained your custard, cover it with plastic wrap that is pressed lightly onto the surface of the liquid. This will keep your custard from forming a skin as it cools. Then refrigerate until it is fully chilled. Now you’re ready to churn and let your ice cream machine do all the work for a bit.
If you want to simply enjoy the custard, you can do that! It’s a great, super rich coffee pudding. But we like it frozen into a luscious, perfectly creamy coffee ice cream. Add mini chocolate chips at the end for the perfect bite.
What You’ll Need
A good whisk, a flexible silicone spatula, a medium pot, and an ice cream machine are pretty much essential for making this ice cream. You won’t be sad to have quality equipment for this or any other recipe! Here are the basics that we recommend. (Some of these are affiliate links and we may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, on qualifying purchases.)
Instant Espresso – This is the dominant flavor, so use one you enjoy. Espresso is dark, but the flavor will be mellowed considerably by all the milk and cream. Our favorites are Delallo or Medaglia d’Oro Instant Espresso Powder.
Whisk – A balloon whisk works best for tempering your eggs, and will also work hard for you in all your batters, sauces, and other recipes. It’s nice to have a good one that will hold up!
Silicone Spatula – For this ice cream, this one helps you make sure your custard isn’t sticking inside your pot and burning at the edges or bottom.
Medium Pot – You can go crazy with a good pot and there are some pretty expensive ones out there. But honestly, our favorite and the one we reach for most often is an inexpensive one from Ikea. It heats well, the handles are useful and sturdy, and you can throw it in the dishwasher.
Ice Cream Machine – This one from Cuisinart is perfect. It’s easy to use and churns well every time. It’s also easy to clean. Buy an extra inner bowl so you can keep one in the freezer all the time and never have to wait when you are ready to churn your ice cream.
Serving Your Homemade Coffee Ice Cream
This is perfect on its own, but simply amazing over brownies or chocolate cake. It would also make an outstanding ice cream sandwich when placed between cookies, cake, or brownies. For a super easy treat, put a scoop on top of a chocolate mug cake!
Creamy Homemade Coffee Ice Cream with Chocolate Chips
- 8 ounces (1 cup) whole milk
- 8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons espresso powder
- 1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 4 ounces egg yolks from 7 large eggs
- 3-3/4 ounces (1/2 cup) packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder preferably dutch processed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips optional
- Heat the milk, cream, espresso powder, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium low heat, stirring often, until it is steamy and just beginning to bubble at the edges. Do not allow it to boil.
- While the milk and cream heat up, whisk together the egg yolks, brown sugar, and cocoa powder until the yolks lighten and the sugar begins to dissolve.
- When the milk and cream are steaming, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture while whisking vigorously and constantly. When it is fully incorporated, return it all to the pot and set over medium-low heat. Stir constantly and cook until thickened, then pour through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Stir in the vanilla.
- Cover immediately with plastic wrap, pressing it gently onto the surface of the custard, then refrigerate until chilled through, at least 4 hours. Once it is chilled, churn it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the chocolate chips at the end of the churning time.
- Move to a freezer safe container, cover tightly, then freeze until firm, at least an hour.
- The espresso powder is the dominant flavor here, so choose one that you like. We prefer Delallo or Medaglia d’Oro Instant Espresso Powder.
- If you prefer to use ground regular coffee, add 2-3 tablespoons to the milk/cream while it is heating and strain out the coffee grounds using cheesecloth or a super-fine strainer before tempering your eggs.
- The cocoa powder serves to enhance the coffee flavor, but doesn’t add a strong flavor itself. The darker dutch processed cocoa has a deeper flavor that is perfect in the background of this ice cream.