In the pivotal second season finale of the early aughts TV series Alias, Jennifer Garner’s super spy Sidney Bristow figures out her roommate Francie has been replaced by an evil doppelgänger when Francie chows down on a pint of coffee ice cream, because “Francie doesn’t like coffee ice cream.” But if you ask me, original Francie is the evil one, because coffee ice cream is the best of all iced creams. In fact, I like it so much, I’ve invented a simple method to give any flavour of ice cream a caffeinated coffee kick.
It was an idea crafted out of desperation (and not, as you might suspect, inebriation). It was late on a Friday night. I needed ice cream immediately (surely you can understand an Ice Cream Emergency?) and all we had in the freezer was a bland, store-brand Neapolitan, because children are foolish and dazzled by colour. Hoping to approximate the taste of coffee ice cream, I carefully scooped out the remaining vanilla and sprinkled it with some of the coffee grounds lingering in our burr grinder from that morning’s brew — just a pinch.
The effects were everything that I’d hoped for. The strong flavour of the unbrewed beans — even a small, experimental amount — infused the vanilla with the essence of coffee ice cream. It’s not quite the same as having a pint of the good stuff on hand, but it does the trick, and it worked well enough that I’ve made it my standard ice cream operating procedure. The essence of coffee goes well with a wide variety of flavours, from your bog-standard chocolate (instant mocha!) to exotic Ben & Jerry’s blends. While all palates differ, as long as you steer clear of anything fruity, you should be safe.
“But isn’t eating coffee grounds kind of… gross?” you ask. Not like this: As long as you aren’t ladling them on, the most you’ll notice is a slight additional crunch — and texture in ice cream is rarely a bad thing (that’s why we eat so many flavours filled with candy and other assorted junk like pretzel bits). If you have a grinder with variable settings, I recommend a coarse grind for this reason — though a powdery espresso does sink in nicely if you prefer a smoother texture.
I’ve found this is a great way to use up crappy beans, like the big tub of “Doughnut Shop Blend” we bought in a quarantine-induced panic; the stuff tastes terrible brewed but works just fine as an ice cream additive. The same goes for the batch of flavored coffees I recently received as a gift — varieties like “Maple Bacon” and “S’morey Time” seem almost to have been made with this use in mind, possibly by stoners.
When I ran this hack by her, Lifehacker Senior Food Editor Claire Lower suggested using instant coffee rather than fresh ground, as that stuff is water soluble and will actually blend into your ice cream as it melts. I tested it out last night with the leftover Folger’s instant we bought to make whipped coffee (incidentally, not worth the effort or mess) and it totally works, though I admit I missed the added texture. Either way, as long as I have both ice cream and coffee on hand, I need never be without coffee ice cream again, and that’s a very good place to be.