Coffee and Ice Cream: The Perfect Pair

The inspiration behind our coffee-based ice cream drinks

Coffee and ice cream. Ice cream and coffee. I’m not sure I could love two things more. Starbucks coffee master Lillian Ontiveros knows what I’m talking about.

“They’re just two great ingredients that taste well on their own but when you just bring them’s like mind-blowing,” she said.

Lillian and her team had the extremely difficult assignment (ha!) of developing an assortment of coffee-based ice cream drinks, which debuted at the Starbucks Reserve® Roastery in June 2016.

“I love creating,” Lillian said. “So being able to have my creations on the menu for the Roastery is a dream come true.”

The four-year partner (employee) started off as a barista in Orange County, California. She moved to Seattle in 2015 with the hopes of working at the Roastery. But a few months in, she got the opportunity to join the Starbucks Food and Beverage Concept Innovation team.

One of her first projects was launching the coffee-based ice cream beverages. That means she got to drink coffee and eat ice cream every day. For her job. Lillian used her coffee expertise to make sure the finished beverages brought out the nuanced flavors of each Starbucks Reserve® coffee.

“[We wanted to make sure] we’re complementing the right flavor notes and aromas that are in the coffee,” Lillian said. “We went through a lot of different pairings of coffee with the ice cream, a lot of cross-elimination. And we came down to what is the menu today.”

Inspired by the Roastery, people can now enjoy the delicious coffee-based ice cream beverages at select Starbucks® stores with Reserve bars in Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. The line-up includes Classic and House Affogatos , a Cold Brew Float and a Cold Brew Malt. Each features ice cream from small-batch, Washington-based Mora Iced Creamery. The beverages will soon be available at all Reserve bars across the country.

“[Coffee] is just such a complex ingredient,” Lillian said. “You can’t tie down coffee to being just liquid. There’s so many different uses for it. And that’s what I think is amazing about coffee itself.”

Want to try creating coffee-ice cream concoctions at home? Here are some tips from Lillian:

  • Pay attention to flavor: Think about the flavor notes you want to highlight in your coffee and choose your ice cream based on that. For example, Starbucks® Caffè Verona® has roasty sweet and dark cocoa notes. Her suggestion: Try it with vanilla, chocolate or caramel swirl ice cream, and top it off with a chopped up chocolate brownie.
  • Find a balance: ”You don’t want to put too much coffee because it can melt the ice cream. You don’t want to do too much ice cream because it can hide the coffee. It’s really finding that nice balance,” Lillian said.
  • Choose the right brew: Lillian says cold brew concentrate or espresso pair best with ice cream because you get a lot of coffee flavor in a small amount of liquid. The concentrated coffee helps create that balance.

This story was originally published on August 4, 2016. We’ve updated it with new details.

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New, more sustainable Starbucks cold cups are made with up to 20 percent less plastic