I love coffee, but I don’t always love coffee-flavored things. Spending so much time trying to convince people that coffee can taste like so many delicious things, the idea of a basic “coffee flavor” isn’t super-interesting.
The major exception: coffee ice cream! I know very few people who don’t like coffee ice cream (or non-dairy coffee ice cream substitute) every once in a while. “It’s great! It tastes like coffee ice cream,” is a phrase I’ve heard from coffee professionals while assuring people that we don’t look down on people who drink coffee with milk.
So we did the very hard work of grabbing a few cold pints (and quarts) and put them through our ultra-scientific method — re: tasted them. Here are our picks for most every kind of coffee ice cream you could be in the mood for!
Best authentic coffee flavor
McConnell’s Turkish Coffee Ice Cream ($12 for 1 pint)
Going strong for over 70 years, this Santa Barbara, California creamery's coffee ice cream is both as delicious and intense as its name suggests. It boasts roasty, dark chocolaty, nutty notes and some fine coffee grinds, too. If you’re into that particular taste and texture, this is definitely the coffee ice cream I’d recommend tracking down! And even if you think coffee grounds aren’t your thing, well, the flavor is so good you might want to give it a shot anyways!
Best grocery store pick
Trader Joe’s Coffee Bean Blast Ice Cream, Trade Joe's stores, ($3.99 for 1 quart)
Trader Joe’s coffee ice cream is also on the intense side. If you’re the type of coffee drinker who favors dark roasts, this one is tailor-made for you. Like McConnell’s, this one has some coffee particles mixed in, but they’re much finer and add flavor intensity without much in the way of texture. This one reminds me of a dark roast drip coffee with a good, but not overwhelming dose of milk in it.
Best non-dairy option
Oatly Coffee Frozen Dessert ($5.99 for 1 pint)
It’s nice to find a dairy-alternative that doesn’t try to hide its flavor. Oatly’s is not ice cream, but like its alternative milk, it does taste like oats. That oat flavor — as we’ve seen with oat milk’s "Old Town Road"-like rise up specialty coffee shops’ alt-milk charts — goes really well with coffee flavor. The texture isn’t going to fool you in a side-by-side taste test with dairy ice cream, but it’s very creamy and pleasant. Overall, it tastes like an eight to 12 oz Oatly cappuccino, which is both exactly what you’d expect and quite tasty!
Best for coffee with milk drinkers
Jeni's Coffee With Cream and Sugar ($12 for 1 pint)
Does coffee with milk taste like coffee ice cream or does coffee ice cream taste like coffee with milk? It’s a real chicken and egg situation. Regardless, this pint from the popular Ohio-based company steeps Intelligentsia coffee in cream for a flavor that tastes like real high quality coffee with plenty of sweetness and creaminess too.
Turkey Hill Colombian Coffee ($3.99 for 1.5 quarts)
The Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based dairy’s ice cream looks fairly similar to many other nationally-available options and it doesn’t have a coffee flavor anyone would describe as "intense", but it might be the platonic ideal of an old-school coffee ice cream. It’s creamy, balanced, and just really delicious. Turkey Hill's tub actually tastes like the last bits of a quickly consumed affogato — there’s that last little bit of ice cream left that hasn’t melted yet, combined with the last few drops of espresso in perfect, creamy synergy.
Best with mix-ins
Van Leeuwen Mocha Cookie Crumble ($12 for 1 pint)
The coffee ice cream I grew up on was a mocha almond fudge (the provenance of which sadly neither my parents nor I can remember). So I have a soft spot for coffee ice cream as a foundation for loads of mix-ins. Van Leeuwen’s base has enough strong coffee flavor — indeed, even a little pleasant bitterness — to balance the gooey fudge swirls and tasty small cookie crumbles.