The Art of Ice Cream Tasting

You may not eat it everyday but John Harrison the Official Taste Tester for Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream does. Each day, he samples over 60 different kinds of ice cream. For him eating ice cream is serious business. He’s got it down to a science.

John Harrison, Official Taste Tester for Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream outlines his tasting technique for you.


I start early in the morning because my taste buds are at their freshest. I get them going in the morning with a cup of decaffeinated tea as caffeine will even clog the buds.

I use a gold-plated spoon as silver tarnishes and wood or plastic has a slight resin aftertaste. I have some sixty packages to work through as our ice cream plants produce some twenty flavors a day and the ice cream makers will bring three samples from each flavor run marked, beginning, middle and end so that I get a fix on how each flavor run went. If we have issues, such as, too many pecans in the Butter Pecan is just as wrong as not enough and it will add to my day in finding out when the problem started and get it resolved. Last year we donated to food banks almost a half-million gallons that did not live up to our quality standard for a premium product.

My tasting method is what I call the three S’s; Swirl, Smack and Spit. We all have nine-thousand taste buds on the tongue with only four flavor profiles of, Bitter, Salt, Sour and Sweet. Bitter is on the back of the tongue to keep us from swallowing things we should not, Sweet is on the tip of the tongue and on the sides is Sour and Salty.

Using my gold plated spoon, I take a small sample from the top of the carton, turn the spoon upside down and place the sample of ice cream on my tongue. I then Swirl the sample on my tongue and then Smack my lips by bringing in the room temperature air, warming up the sample by driving up the taste/aroma to my nose and olfactory nerve and then Spit out the sample. It only takes about four to five seconds and I will know if the sample is spot-on or if their is an issue with the Appearance/Color, Flavor, or Texture. All three have to be present to have a good eating experience, Appearance, Flavor and Texture. I start my morning with our Vanilla’s and work my way up to the heavier flavors such as Mint Chocolate Chip or Black Walnut.

In tasting, temperature is most important, if the sample is too cold it will deaden the buds and it is difficult to get the full taste/aroma. Most of us eat ice cream at home around 5 degrees above zero, as a taster, I am tasting a bit warmer as I want to maximize the flavor in the container, so I taste around 10 degrees F.

It takes about four to five hours to work through these sixty packages if their are no issues.

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