How It's Made: Hans' Homemade Ice Cream

Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
A batch of Praline Pecan goodness.
Sure, it's only January, but ice cream is ice cream, and when it's Hans' ice cream, it's [insert wistful sigh] ice cream.  

An engineer of frozen goodness, Hans Biermann has been churning out the richest, creamiest and arguably most heavenly ice cream in Orange County since 1972. Nestled in a Vons strip mall on Bristol Street in Santa Ana, Hans' Homemade Ice Cream is a local fixture, serving up 60 to 70 wondrous flavors at any given time, from the familiar (Rocky Road, Rum Raisin) to the inventive (Swiss Orange Chip, Banana Nut Chocolate Chunk) to the seasonal (Pumpkin, Eggnog). 

The charming shop remains untouched from its early days--jewel-toned stained-glass lamps hang above marble tables and dark-wood parlor chairs. "It's the same old stuff," says the 70-year-old Biermann, who hails from Germany. Luckily for Hans' sweet-toothed fans, he uses the same old ice-cream-making process, too.     
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Back in the kitchen, a sort of sweets lab crammed with an array of liquid flavors in plastic jugs--chocolate, lemon, peach, peppermint--Biermann starts with a bag of 16 percent milk fat, the richest cream you can get. "Our ice cream weighs twice what other ice cream weighs," he says. "There's no air in it."
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
He pours the cream into the batch freezer, a $25,000 Emery Thompson machine.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
For this batch, Praline Pecan, he adds a pint of praline flavoring.
Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
After eight to nine minutes, he releases the now-cold-and-creamy mixture into a 2.5-gallon plastic bucket. Rather than tossing the caramel and pecans into the ice cream machine, he adds them later so the ingredients are distinctive.
My Voice Nation Help

I met Hans and Judy just a few days away from serving their first customer. They were filling freezers with the very first batch of arguably the finest ice cream in the country. I was on my bike, just a skinny young teen and Hans took the time to describe what made his ice cream so creamy and worth .25 cents as I remember.      

I went back when I was 16 and started working. Hans and Judy greeted me on my first day. Judy put me right to work scooping cones, just the right size and placing them on sugar cones without breaking them. Dipping in chocolate and rolling it in nuts without letting the ice cream fall off. She was pretty cool about letting us eat our mistakes.   

I worked there until I was 19. I enjoyed working lunches, cutting meats, making fresh egg salad and albacore tuna to be served that day. Hans would pick up fresh bread from a local bakery. Everything he serves is going to be the best. Thats just how he rolls.

Boy that place was busy. They lined up out the door on Friday and Saturday nights. Friends from High School all would come. I would be making shakes and scooping cones. Hans and Chris making banana splits, hot fudge sundays. We all made some great friendships working together. 

42 years later and things haven't changed much. The ice cream is hand crafted and generously scooped. The sandwiches are always freshly cut. The salads are made fresh every morning.      

What you may not notice is the influence Hans and Judy have on the young people they employ. They are the most positive upbeat couple you will met. They are kind. They laugh a lot and live big. They work hard and are an awesome team. They are also very active and find plenty of time for fun things like snow and water skiing. I was very fortunate to have such positive roll models in them.  They took an interest and treated all of us like we were important.

Hans and Judy sure made a positive impression on my life.

Jeff Smith



It is the best icecream! Ben and Jerrys doesn't come close.


My sister and I can be found at Han's frequently throughout the year (often munching single-scoop cones on the chairs outside or slurping down the excellent rootbeer floats inside). But the writer forgot to mention that Han's also serves good hearty "regular" food as well, sandwiches, etc. And the staff always makes you feel like "family" when you show up. The flavors, the people, the old-time atmosphere make Han's one of the best places in the O.C. to get your taste on, hot day or cold day.

Parley Baer
Parley Baer

I try hard to support local businesses and once enjoyed stopping at Hans', but in the last year or so I've found some of their ice creams "lite" in flavor and texture and others made unappetizing by cheap-tasting ingredients. E.g., the bottom of a cookies 'n cream shake a few months ago had a breakfast-cereal aftertaste. Maybe they should shop somewhere other than Von's.

Now that Handel's, with its great caramel-cone crunch Hurricane and turtle sundae (among many other items), is open in Redondo Beach -- a California-mere 30-40 miles away -- I have no reason to go to Han's.


Han's is so great! By the way there is an ATM inside the store.

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