A Simple Guide to Pairing Coffee with Food

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Coffee tastes good on its own, but when paired with food, it becomes more than just a pick-me-up beverage. Great coffee and food pairing can bring out the best aspects in each other, like a duet of a soprano and an alto that blends seamlessly and can transform each other from merely good to something sublime.  

Coffee with food is a partnership that has always gone on since the first cup of coffee was brewed. Today, coffee and food aren’t just about breakfast. As people’s tastes and preferences evolve and become more discriminating, the morning beverage is no longer just a hot drink to wash down your doughnuts or other confectionaries. With its aroma, different flavours, body, and ability to wake people up, coffee remains a part of many people’s daily sustenance.  (1)

Know what makes a good coffee

Knowing a few basic principles can help you discover the combo that would make your regular cup of coffee into something extraordinary. First, identifying your favourite beans’ dominant flavour is a good idea. Like pairing wine with food, finding a great partner for your coffee is all about matching the flavours that come together to make beautiful music inside your mouth. 

But, before you can find those flavours in your coffee beans, learning what it takes to brew a good cup of coffee is a crucial skill to have. Of course, your taste in coffee is yours—what works for you is best. However, understanding a few basic must-dos couldn’t hurt. 

Ensure that your equipment is always immaculate. Coffee filters, bean grinders, coffee makers, and other coffee-making tools should be cleaned properly after use. The equipment should be rinsed with hot water and dried with an absorbent cloth. Take care not to leave leftover coffee grounds—reusing them can make subsequent coffee tastes horrible. (2)

Also, picking great beans is a good start if you want great coffee. Stores like Will and Co offer different coffee beans that may help you explore various flavours. Coffee can have distinct flavours based on its origin, variety, how it’s processed, and how it’s roasted. Flavour is also affected by how the coffee was brewed. (3)

Understanding flavour profiles and roasts

Learning the basics of pairing coffee with food is like becoming a sommelier, but for coffee instead of wine. Learning to identify these aromatic and flavour notes can make it easier for you to make a great coffee-food pairing. If you want to get to know your coffee, remember to focus on two main areas: the beverage’s body and the roast. 

Coffee can be a dark roast, light roast, or medium roast. Dark roasts are inclined to be earthy and woody. On the other hand, light roasts tend to be a little acidic, but they can also have a touch of spice or a hint of something fruity. With medium roasts, you’ll notice a chocolatey flavour profile or perhaps something nutty. Medium roasts also often possess characteristics of both dark and light roasts. 

Coffee body refers to the beverage’s ‘mouthfeel’ and not the flavour itself. So, when you hear the term ‘full-bodied coffee,’ it means that the coffee gives your mouth a sense of texture. Full-bodied coffee feels thicker and more viscous in your mouth. Light-bodied coffee is clear and more watery. Medium is somewhere between the two. (4)

Coffee and food pairings

Knowing a bit about flavour profiles and understanding a coffee’s tastes should make it simpler to find more interesting coffee-food pairings beyond coffee and doughnut. Below is a basic guide for coffee and food pairings: 

  1. For Breakfast Dishes

Fruits, eggs, toast, pancakes, toast, pastries, or almost any breakfast dishes usually pair well with light or medium-roasted coffee.  Light or medium-roasted coffee is acidic and has a light mouth-feel, so it also goes well with food that has a similar characteristic. 

Pairing a light-roast coffee with the foods mentioned above can make the coffee’s flavour notes enhance the food’s qualities. Contrast pairings can also work with light or medium roasts. The roasts’ acidity nicely balances out rich, creamy, fruit and vegetable-based meals, like hummus or avocado. 

Light roast is also good with butter-based foods like pastries. Light roast with cake or shortbread complements the texture of the food, while the food enhances the inherent sweetness of the coffee. Salty dishes also balance the light roast’s acidity without affecting its flavours. For heavier breakfasts like omelettes or crepes, a dark, full-bodied roast is more suitable.  

  1. Meat and poultry dishes

Light roast coffee works equally well for both red meat and poultry-based dishes, as they harmonize well together. Medium roast goes well with poultry, which has a more subtle taste profile. On the other hand, darker, full-bodied roasts are great for red meats and other foods with bold flavours. Finally, savoury, and spicy dishes are great with dark, full-bodied espressos, as the coffee highlights the food’s flavour. 

  1. Desserts

While pastries and cakes go well with light-bodied coffee, chocolate desserts are excellent with dark, full-bodied roasts. It’s simpler if you remember fruit-based desserts go with a light roast and desserts with chocolate pair well with a darker roast. If you’re unsure, use medium roast—it's difficult to go wrong with a medium roast.   

Final Thoughts

Learning the basics of making good coffee and understanding roasts and flavour profiles is useful, as it can help you start your journey of discovering great food pairings for your favourite brew. Armed with this knowledge, finding great coffee-food combos will be easy and extremely rewarding.

 

References

1. “Top Reasons Why People Drink Coffee”, Source: https://coffee.org/pages/top-reasons-why-people-drink-coffee
2. “How Long Is Brewed Coffee Good For?”, Source: https://wokelark.com/reusing-coffee-grounds-another-cup-of-coffee-caffeine-cold-brew/
3. “Coffee Bean Types And Flavors: Choosing The Right Beans For Your Coffee Business”, Source: https://joesgaragecoffee.com/blog/coffee-bean-types-and-flavors/
4. “What is coffee "aroma"?”, Source: https://espressocoffeeguide.com/all-about-coffee-2/coffee-flavor/



A Simple Guide to Pairing Coffee with Food
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