The Ultimate Guide To Pairing Coffee With Food
When it comes to pairing food with beverages, most people think wine—maybe beer. But there’s a whole world of flavor possibilities with coffee pairings as well. And although more of an art than a science (as with wine, personal preferences always trump rules) there are a few guidelines, tips, and tricks to help you get the most out of your cup ‘o Joe.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN PAIRING
There are three factors to evaluate when pairing coffee with food.
The first is acidity, which ranges from low to high and refers to the tartness of the coffee. High-acidity blends are tangy and crisp, while low-acidity ones are more smooth.
The second? Roast profile. Generally, the longer the coffee beans are roasted, the darker it is and the less acidic. Light-roasted blends are sweet and tangy with floral aromas while medium-roasted ones are more balanced with nutty and slightly chocolate-y flavors. And then there’s the bold, rich-flavored dark-roasted blends.
And finally, body—a term used to refer to the weight of the coffee on your tongue. It ranges from light (when the coffee tastes crisp) to heavy (when the flavor of the coffee lingers on your palate).
3 GENERAL PAIRING TIPS
- To maximize the flavor potential of your coffee, opt for a single-origin roast with a long-extraction brew. French presses work like a dream.
- Choose a blend that mirrors the flavors of your food (think fruity breakfast pastries with fruit-forward coffees) or complements it (think tangy lemon bars with sweet, fruit-forward coffees).
- Choose a blend in the same food family as your food. Think nutty desserts with nut-forward coffees.
There are many ways to think about pairing, but we broke it down to two: origin in the context of acidity and body on the one hand, and roast profile in the context of body on the other hand. You’ll find both sweet and savory suggestions here, because while coffee paired with sweet foods is a classic that many turn to to offset the bitterness present to a certain degree in every cup of coffee, savory definitely shouldn’t be discounted—especially when it comes to brunch foods like smoked salmon, bacon, pancakes, and bagels.
BY ORIGIN, ACIDITY, AND BODY
1. Africa, Middle East, Arabia
Known for: Berry, citrus, and floral notes
Body: Medium to full
Recommended pairings: Berries, citrus, raisins/currants, chocolate, cardamon, cinnamon
Recipe suggestion: Pumpkin Spice Muffins
2. Latin America (Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia)
Known for: Bright and tangy notes
Body: Light to medium
Acidity: Medium to high
Recommended pairings: Citrus, blueberries, apples, nuts
Recipe suggestion: Instant Coffee Nut Butter
3. Asia, Indonesia, Pacific Islands
Known for: Earthy and robust notes
Recommended pairings: Butter, caramel, toffee, maple, herbs
Recipe suggestion: Maple Breakfast Coffee
BY ROAST PROFILE AND BODY1. Light roast - light body
Recommended pairings: vanilla, berries, citrus
2. Light roast - full body
Recommended pairings: milk chocolate, butter
3. Medium roast - light body
Recommended pairings: mixed greens, olive oil, plums, raisins, cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg
4. Medium roast - full body
Recommended pairings: poultry, light soups, bisques, caramel
5. Dark roast
Recommended pairings: beef, pork, lamb, dark chocolate, pecans, dense cakes
Recipe suggestions: Dark Chocolate Coconut Clusters and Low-Carb Mushroom Mocha Brownies
What are your favorite coffee pairings? Let us know in the comments!