How to Pair Coffee and Food

How To Pair Food and Coffee - Coffee Blog - Tin Cup Coffee Company Nashville, TN

Coffee on its own is delicious. But, when you pair it with chocolate or a pastry, you are taking things to the next level. Most coffee shops will sell an assortment of delicious treats because they notoriously work well together. The selection of foods isn’t always picked at random. Combining food and drink is a bit of an art form. Creating a winning pairing would include an understanding of the different notes from both the coffee and your food of choice. If you’ve ever wondered how to put them together, we’ve created you this guide.

Start with the Aroma

Much like wine tasting, identifying the flavor profile of coffee begins with the aroma. The sense of smell and taste are interrelated because they use the same types of receptors in the body. When sipping on a brew, you want to get a sense for acidity, bitterness, sweetness, and saltiness. Assess the balance between them. What is the mouthfeel or color of the drink? All of these attributes contribute to the taste of the coffee. Learning how to “taste” coffee in this way can seem a little challenging at first. Try this Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel to help you get started.

Pairings Should Emphasis Different Flavors

Start your coffee and food pairing by tasting the different components separately and make notes on the different flavors. You can manipulate the outcome by changing the coffee itself. The most common way to do this is to add cream and some sugar. Milk reduces coffee’s acidity and enhances its chocolate flavor. Pair coffee and cream with something chocolate. Consider also the traditional pairings. Fruit and chocolate have always had a harmonious balance. An African coffee with a berry note would pair well with a chocolate pie or cake.

Repeat the Taste Test

Whether you are doing this for professional or recreational purposes repeating the taste testing will help you perfect it. Not like that should be too difficult. Get the most out of your tasting by getting your friends involved. Don’t fear going opposite directions when it comes to tasting. An example would be pairing wine and fish. Traditionally speaking they are usually paired with something white. However, there are some codfish served with red wine. Get bold.

Coffee and Food Pairing Cheat Sheet

Trying to drink this all in doesn’t happen in a day. There are some common coffee pairings that you can utilize to help you get started. Do this for, and you can venture out and create your own.

Chocolate and Coffee Pairings

Classic combination chocolate and coffee create an excellent balance when paired together.

  • Chocolate Cake: Works the best with medium or dark roast coffees. You can try it with Guatemalan, Arabica, and Columbian roasts.
  • Dark Chocolate: Choose a dark roast coffee from Brazil, Ethiopia, or Guatemala.
  • Brownies: The rich, fudge brownie pairs well with something a little fuller in body. Indonesian or Guatemalan work well.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Fruit: You can’t go wrong with African roasts paired with fruit covered in chocolate.
  • Milk Chocolate: Milk chocolate is very versatile, and you will be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t pair well with your coffee of choice.
  • White Chocolate: White chocolate is mild in flavor. Pair it with roasts from Costa Rica or Colombia for a real treat.

Fruit and Coffee Pairings

Fruit is a lighter, sweet alternative to chocolate. They do work well with coffee, but you have to be careful not to choose something that is too sour.

  • Berries: Strawberries, cherries, and raspberries create beautiful harmony when paired with a Kenyan or Haitian coffee. Yemeni and Jamaican compliment blueberries the best.
  • Stone Fruit: A stone fruit is a peach, plum, or apricot. They are very sweet when baked and work well with Tanzanian or Haitian coffee.
  • Tarts: Tarts combine additional sweetness from the pastry and cream. Pair these with medium to dark roasts from Costa Rica or Brazil.

Baked Goods

Most coffee shops pair baked goods with coffee because they are both sweet and buttery.

  • Biscotti: Probably one of the most traditional baked goods to be enjoyed with any coffee, especially espresso.
  • Cake: We already mentioned how universally delicious chocolate cake and coffee are together, but the truth is the pairing works well together regardless of the different flavors.
  • Cinnamon Buns: Stick to Guatemalan or Colombian coffees that have caramel and chocolate notes.
  • Croissants: The rich buttery flavor of any croissant works well with almost all coffees. If you want to be traditional, you can pair it like the French and have it with cafe au lait.
  • Doughnuts: Costa Rican coffee is excellent with doughnuts because it’s smooth and sweet.
  • Muffins: If the muffins have fruit, pair them with an African roast. Otherwise, stick with Mexican or Costa Rican.

At the Tin Cup, we take our coffee and food pairings seriously. You can stop by one of our locations to try our unique blend of coffee, and we can recommend a perfect food pairing.

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