Whether you're in the mood for breakfast for dessert or dessert for breakfast, coffee ice cream is a sweet and suitable pick me up any time of day. Recognized as one of the most popular ice cream flavors (and the flavor of choice for my hero Barbra Streisand), there are about as many different brands of coffee ice cream as there are ways to enjoy the caffeinated drink, each with an entire coffee flavor profile all their own.
Some ice cream brands make theirs with a strong coffee flavor for the die-hard fans while some prefer it creamy, light, and sweet like their daily cafe order. One pint could be dedicated to a pure kick of rich coffee flavor while another may be all about the swirls and mix-ins that take the typically bitter drink into the next level of sugary frozen desserts.
As a noted coffee connoisseur and an ex-barista, I've taken on the challenge to rank the best coffee ice cream you can buy in a grocery store without having to find some specialty creamery or ice cream shop. I, unfortunately, could not get my hands of Ms. Streisand's preferred brand-- she's sworn her allegiance to the Santa Barbara-based McConnell's Brazilian coffee flavor and has a recipe of her own with instant coffee to make in a pinch-- but I am certain these flavors would please her discerning palate just as well as they would please yours.
Best Coffee Ice Cream Flavors
Trader Joe's Coffee Ice Cream
The lure of Trader Joe's and the aisles of their own name-brand products can come with a lot of hidden gems and about as many misses. One place the store never misses is the TJ brand Coffee Bean Blast quart.
This coffee ice cream really delivered a strong coffee flavor that some of the other brands lacked. As a black coffee drinker myself, I thought this tasted the most like pure coffee compared to other brands-- even going as far as to swirl in ground espresso beans for an extra punch.
In spite of the rich coffee kick the ice cream delivered, the texture was not as creamy as some of the others and had a slightly icy mouthfeel. I would still add this to my basket on any Trader Joe's run with the added appeal of them selling the flavor in their mini ice cream cone and ice cream bar line of products.
Ben and Jerry's
The masterminds behind Ben and Jerry's have been working dark Colombian coffee into multiple flavors over the years. Coffee, Coffee Buzzbuzzbuzz is their purest iteration consisting of just coffee and flecks of dark chocolate chips to cut the rich texture. This is another top-tier ice cream flavor that delivers on what's advertised. The coffee flavor lingers just long enough until you bite through the snap of a speck of chocolate that rounds out the pint perfectly. It's the same base they use for their Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch, which is a personal favorite of mine.
I saw in my local Safeway that the company had a new limited batch flavor called Change is Brewing which features a cold brew ice cream base swirled with marshmallows and fudgy brownies. While this pint definitely delivered on the mix-ins to make a rich dessert, the coffee flavor was a little lacking and tasted more like vanilla ice cream with a hint of coffee grounds or even a Starbucks frappucino. While it may be a hit for the light and sweet crowd, I would recommend sticking to their classics.
As a kid, Haagen-Dazs always carried an air of luxury for me. Maybe it was because it was too expensive for my mom to ever buy a pint as she often opted for the cheaper and larger variety of Breyer's, but I've become a fan of their shortlist of ingredients that offer simple but flavorful iterations of ice cream classics.
Haagen-Dazs delivers on some of the best texture with their use of high-quality heavy cream that offers a lovely milky sweetness akin to drinking a foamy cappuccino. Compared to Ben and Jerry's it gave a stronger coffee profile but still tasted a little bland with repeated scoops. This ice cream would be best served alongside another dessert like a warm, gooey brownie rather than eaten on its own, but it's a strong competitor either way.
As opposed to the other ice cream brands, Talenti makes gelato which is different due to its richer, creamier consistency from using just egg yolks and cream in the ice cream base and incorporating less air than in traditional ice cream methods.
Oh, how the hallelujah chorus sang when I dug into this pint. Sold in clear plastic tubs, Talenti's rich brown color almost looked like chocolate ice cream on the freezer shelf-- a surefire sign that this ice cream would be the one to beat compared to the light and supple cream color of other varieties.
The gelato coated my entire mouth in a rich layer of sweetness the second it hit my tongue, but the coffee flavor just got stronger as I ate it. Similar to Ben and Jerry's Coffee and Coffee Buzzbuzzbuzz, Talenti cuts the richness with snaps of chocolate flecks that are a little more prevalent this time around. Even after tasting 4 other ice creams before, I mindlessly dug through half of my Talenti pint before I had to concede to the true winner of the coffee ice cream taste test.