Robot Coffee

If the last entry was a play on a BiRite classic, this one is a reinvention of one of Humphry Slocombe’s best-known flavors: my version of their Blue Bottle Vietnamese Iced Coffee.


#rivalry (photo by AM)

In SF, Humphry Slocombe is the punk rock analogue to BiRite’s mainstream power pop (how’s that for a belabored analogy?). I actually first learned of them from the New York Times Magazine, because I am not cool. Humphry Slocombe does many weird flavors (although their flavors have gone a bit more mainstream in the last few years, to my mind), many of which I love and many of which I love to make (Rosemary’s Baby and Roasted White Chocolate Lavender among them).

As for the flavor, in my opinion it’s their best. My version is in honor of the R2-D2 to my C-3PO, the best friend an ice cream obsessed neurotic lawyer could ask for. Aaron might be the only person I know whom I knew liked coffee ice cream before I ever actually saw him drink coffee.


We also have a longstanding joke that, because of his relative equanimity as contrasted with my emotional hyperactivity (hence the R2/3PO comparison), he’s actually a robot. In which case, the addition of extra sugar in the form of condensed milk might decrease that disparity (it’s the reason I’ve dropped the sugar down to half a cup, as well). When I mentioned to Aaron that I was going to attribute this flavor to him, his response was “Oh yeah, that’s a really good one.” So clearly I’m doing something right.

I’ve swapped out the chicory from HS’s Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee recipe in favor of cardamom, because I couldn’t find chicory when I tried their version, and because I am Indian and we love cardamom. You can reduce it a touch if you don’t like the strength of the flavor. As for what you do with the other half of the can of condensed milk? Four words: double ice cream batch. It’s that good.


Robot Coffee (Coffee with Cardamom and Condensed Milk)

Adapted from Humphry Slocombe

2 cups cream

2 cups whole milk

½ cup sugar

3 egg yolks

½ teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

¼ cup ground coffee (I usually use beans I have left over from a nearly empty bag)

1 14 oz can condensed milk


Set aside a large bowl with one cup milk. Pour half the can of condensed milk into the milk (reserve the other half for another use, aka your second batch) and whisk to combine. (Note that condensed milk cannot be cooked or it will scorch, so don’t even think about putting it on the stovetop.) Position a strainer above.

Whisk to combine 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, sugar, salt, coffee, and cardamom in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat, whisking frequently, but don’t let it boil.

Whisk three egg yolks in a medium bowl. It’s OK if there are some traces of egg white — no need to be a perfectionist — but try to minimize that.

When the dairy mixture is hot but not yet simmering (honestly, if it starts to simmer a little, you’ll be OK), remove from heat. Slowly ladle about a cup into the egg yolks, whisking with one hand while ladling with the other to temper the yolks.

Once complete, transfer the yolk mixture to the pot, and then return to medium heat. Stir the mixture with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom at times. Once the custard is thick enough to slightly coat the back of the spatula (another sign: you will start to notice that scraping the bottom of the pot encounters some solid residue), remove from heat and pour through the strainer.

I whisk the base as it strains to speed up the process a bit — this is particularly useful for this base, which will have a lot of coffee grounds straining out. Wash the whisk off. Once the base has strained, whisk the base with the milk/condensed milk mixture that’s at the bottom until combined. Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool for thirty minutes (if you’re too lazy, it’s ok to just do this on the counter). Then, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid and refrigerate for at least two hours before churning.

When ready to churn, whisk the mixture to reincorporate the base. Pour into the ice cream maker and follow the instructions. Transfer to a container and freeze for eight hours.

1 thought on “Robot Coffee

  1. Pingback: 3Lemon w/Rosemary Shortbread | Habeas Custard

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