Little Amps Coffee Ice Cream

The finished coffee ice cream goes into chilled Mason jars

I use Mason jars for ice cream because I am clearly a hipster. Also because they chill nicely and are reusable.

During Harrisburg Beer Week, when I made that incredible milkshake, I promised the recipe for the coffee ice cream that was a key ingredient along with Zeroday Brewing Co.‘s chocolate hazelnut stout. Well, here you go, my Little Amps Coffee Ice Cream. I know the weather in PA right now isn’t necessarily shouting “SUMMER” but you and I both know that the arrival of the oppressive humidity that marks our springs and summers in PA is just around the corner.

The only good thing about the summer temperature is that I have an excuse to get out the ice cream maker and not put it away for months. Expect more recipes for frozen goodness here at the blog as I try to keep cool this summer.

The coffee ice cream in the ice cream churner

I can never resist sampling soft, almost-done ice cream straight from the churner.

This coffee ice cream is actually my favorite of my ice cream recipes, and one I come back to regularly. I’ve always used Little Amps coffee beans to make it. You could make this using another nice coffee or espresso bean, but I make no claims to how this will turn out with a generic supermarket coffee or even worse — Starbucks beans.

Ingredients for the coffee ice cream

It doesn’t take many ingredients to make a delicious ice cream at home.

Little Amps Coffee is a specialty coffee roaster located here in Harrisburg. Started by Aaron Carlson and his wife, the company sources beans from all over the world and roasts them locally. Initially just a roasting company, Little Amps now has two coffee shop locations in Harrisburg, with another being planned for Philadelphia.

The Little Amps coffee shops serve French press or pour over coffee, as well as a number of specialty espresso and coffee drinks. My favorite is the cold jar, espresso shaken in a Mason jar with ice and brown sugar, finished with a little milk. (Yes, a Mason jar. No, you aren’t required to be wearing flannel to order it — though it does help you blend in.) Little Amps became #hbgfamous when Alton Brown of the Food Network stopped in for a Cortado and tweeted that it was the best he’d had on his tour. You’ll find the Cortado, half espresso and half steamed milk, on the Little Amps menu.

Coffee beans steeping in warm milk

Steep the coffee beans in warm milk to get the perfect level of coffee flavor

For this coffee ice cream, I use my basic ice cream process but start with steeping the whole coffee beans in the milk used to make the ice cream. This infuses the ice cream with a lovely but not too intense coffee flavor. Then a little bit of ground coffee is added at the end to round out the flavor. This technique with the steeping and the grounds is shamelessly stolen from David Lebovitz, the king of ice cream.

My basic ice cream process pulls a few different specific steps together that are not always used together in ice cream recipes. I do this because I generally try to make my ice cream a little lighter than full fat ice creams. When you use lower fat milks in place of whole milk and heavy cream, the texture of the frozen finished product can be a little icy. This combination of techniques helps address that. My recipe uses 3 egg yolks, half and half and some 2% milk compared to Lebovitz’s 5 egg yolks, heavy cream and whole milk.

Add the coffee grounds and vanilla to the strained custard mix

A little coffee grounds and vanilla at the end finish up the custard mix.

That being said, every now and then you just have to make full-fat ice cream and this process still holds up. I won’t judge.

Lissa’s Light(er) Ice Cream Techniques Explained:

  • Beating the yolks and sugar. Instead of just adding the sugar to the milk like most recipes, beat the sugar and egg yolks together till they are pale and thick. This is a time when the muscle of a stand mixer will come in handy. I have trouble beating the yolks to the right consistency when I do it by hand, and even a hand mixer will take a while. My Kitchenaid handles this in just a few minutes.
  • Temper the egg yolks. This one is tricky. I have definitely ruined a few batches of ice cream on this step. You need to gently warm the eggs without cooking them. You do this by gradually adding warmed milk to the egg/sugar mix while whisking constantly. If you mess this part up, you’ll get scrambled eggs instead of ice cream. Just take your time and err on the side adding small amounts of warmed milk at a time. And even if you don’t think you mess it up, always strain your ice cream just in case. It isn’t unusual for a few chunks of egg to sneak in.
  • Heat to thicken. You want to gently heat your mixture of milk and eggs until it thickens enough to coat a spatula. Wooden spoon works great for this part — you know it’s ready when you can run your finger through the coating of custard and the track from your finger stays put on the spoon.
  • Ice it down. You want to chill your custard mixture fairly quickly by using an ice bath.
  • I always chill my custard overnight in the fridge before churning. Some recipes leave out this step, and you certainly can, but particularly when using lower fat ingredients it helps to produce a creamier textured ice cream. Something about fat globules or some such science.

Little Amps Coffee Ice Cream


  • 1 1/3 c. 2% milk
  • 1 1/2 c. whole espresso or coffee beans
  • Pinch salt
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 c. half and half
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground espresso or coffee


  1. Combine milk, coffee beans, salt and 1 c. of the half and half in a sauce pan and warm over medium low heat.
  2. Remove from heat when the milk mixture begins to steam, but don't let it come to a simmer.
  3. Cover and let steep for 1 hour.
  4. Pour the remaining 1 c. half and half into a large bowl, and place a strainer on top. Set aside.
  5. Rewarm milk and coffee mixture, again to a steam but not a simmer.
  6. Combine sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at high speed until thick and pale yellow (a few minutes in my KitchenAid)
  7. Temper egg yolks by gradually adding the warmed milk mixture to the eggs and sugar while stirring with a whisk. Add about half of the warm milk total, then return tempered eggs and milk to the saucepan.
  8. Continue to heat over medium heat. Stir gently until the mixture thickens to the point where it coats a spatula or wooden spoon (around 160 degrees).
  9. Pour mixture through the strainer into the half and half. Press on the coffee beans to get as much of the custard as possible out of them.
  10. Mix in the vanilla and ground coffee.
  11. Cool custard in an ice bath.
  12. Transfer custard to a close-able container and refrigerate overnight.
  13. The next day, churn the custard according to your ice cream makers instructions.

1 Comment

  1. Oh, please, Lissa, bring a gallon home!
    Do you ever add chopped up chocolate covered espresso beans at the last few seconds of churning?



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