affogato QAWhat to do with beans that may be good, but just not to your taste?

We have some very specific preferences in our beans for espresso, generally favouring a lighter medium roast with all those lovely and accessible caramel chocolatey yummy flavours (using my best coffee junkie words here). So we don’t get too many surprises, and in fact run a pretty regular rotation of beans from local roasters we love for our home espresso (Verve or Flying Goat mostly) with an occasional guest roast from our travels or received as a gift. On rare occasions we will have some decaf on hand, if we have specific plans for visitors who prefer no caffeine.

In those cases, where we have a surprise gift bag or maybe excess of decaf that needs using, rather than freeze or discard the beans, now I try one of these approaches: a cold infusion, press pot (French press) or pour-over, using up larger amounts quickly. And if the stars of opportunity are lined up just right, we make a batch of coffee ice cream! There was no small amount of lobbying for that outcome this week .

beans in cream

My favourite recipe is one using whole beans, from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz. It is a full custard ice cream, starting with a heated infusion of cream and milk with the beans, followed with a nice long steep, then adding the eggs and bringing the whole lovely mess to a thick custard, straining and chilling. That happened last night, and with a well-chilled custard, tinted and flavoured gently but clearly with coffee, I gave it a little over 20 minutes in my modest ice cream freezer, and it is now resting in the freezer.

beans in custard

beans in custard

Well, most of it is in the freezer — we did require some quality assurance. So our mid-morning coffee break included a miniature affogato. Because you have to be sure. We are happy to report that a shot of espresso over coffee ice cream is, indeed, very good stuff.

This is the second time I have made this recipe and I swear by it. There are slightly easier ways to get a coffee ice cream (for instance David’s book has a nifty Vietnamese Coffee ice cream recipe which is very yummy but on the sweet side for me). You will also find several recipes using ground coffee on the wonderfully resourceful and well-tested Leite’s Culinaria site, including one that I have yet to try using a bit of cream cheese. These recipes are written for ground, crushed or whole bean,  depending on the excess you have on hand there are choices.

I also have made several other recipes from both of the “Davids” including an unexpected sweet potato ice cream with mapled pecans. If you are looking for a flexible and foolproof vanilla (more traditional for an affogato not to mention highly useful for, well just about anything else), try the Rich Vanilla Ice Cream recipe on the LC site from Soda Fountain Classics. If you haven’t been playing with homemade ice cream since you stood on your parents White Mountain hand-crank machine with rock salt on your ankles, it might be time to revisit the experience.

Now my strongest caution here…use good coffee to start with. Otherwise, well you might as well have bought it ready-made. You are doing it yourself because you want a superior result and the enjoyment of making it yourself and controlling the ingredients.

I love having a small selection of homemade ice creams of sorbets on hand, especially during warm weather. I do NOT have a large freezer, and in fact one of the elements that must line up is having room in the freezer to have frozen the insert for my ice cream maker ahead of time. It also means that when I have more lush summer fruit than I know what to do with, I can extend the enjoyment.

And yes, it can take a bit of a time & planning.

So what about when I just want to use the coffee and not be in the kitchen too long? My cold infusion seems to work fine with a drip or finer grind, in fact if I clean out the doser on my grinder and have somehow come up with a large excess, I might stash it one or two days in a closed jar, and make a batch of concentrated cold extraction coffee. My formula is for ¼ cup ground coffee to 1 cup of water in a mason jar. You can comfortably do ¾ cup ground coffee and 3 cups in a quart. I sometimes add some crushed cardamom or a cinnamon stick, especially nice for iced coffee over ice with milk the next day. I leave the jar in the fridge before going to bed, and in the morning I filter it with a fine mesh then a paper filter and keep it in the fridge as a concentrate for a few days (it doesn’t last long). Some people make coffee ice cubes just for summer iced coffee – if you have the freezer space that is a nice do-ahead strategy.

You could also consider panna cotta or a crème brûlée.

This ice cream batch came about simply because I couldn’t pass up a great deal on some Morning Blend Equator coffee I found on sale at Williams-Sonoma. Sealed but without a roast date I figured I would make non-espresso preparations — and I did prepare a drip batch, determining it just was too dark for me (marked as a medium dark roast, it reminded me of my earlier Heart of Darkness & Peet’s freak days).

I have had outstanding espresso from Equator (and highly recommend a visit to their location at Proof Lab in Marin. I just found this bean (a roast they did for Thomas Keller/Williams-Sonoma) was meant for my ice cream 😉

Maybe some folks would go off and make an incredible marinade or BBQ sauce. What about you??

»»» and what is next for the ice cream freezer? I am thinking lemon…so I have something on hand for the caffeine free folks!