Matching Coffee with Foods

Posted on Sep 1 2015 - 4:04pm by burningsalad


The diverse flavors of coffee and how to pair them with your meals

Coffee is not all the same flavor as many people would assume. In fact, there are a great many differences between the various types of coffee and the various flavors produced by the way in which the bean is ground. Add to this the methods in which you can brew a coffee and you have a very wide range of options. So how do you go about choosing which coffee to pair with a particular food? Where there are many variables to consider (such as the time of day, the strength you prefer in the coffee, as well as cream and sugar that is added to alter the flavor) here are a few basics to get you started.

Light Roast Coffee

Your light roasted coffees are typical of Colombian coffees or breakfast blends. These coffees usually go well with your pastry or morning donut (hence the name breakfast blend). However, you can also use a breakfast blend as a paring to a light cake or brownie. I would not recommend a light coffee such as this to a heartier meal or an entree. The contrast in textures on the tongue as well as the variations of strong to light would not go well.

Breakfast blends and light coffees are best paired with : Cookies, brownies, pastries, pancakes, tarts, muffins, and other sweet and sugary breads. You can also pair the light coffee with lighter/sweeter fruits such as watermelon, bananas, and strawberries

Medium roast coffees

I classify Jamaican coffee and Itallian coffee as being a medium blend coffee. These are a bit thicker in flavor and have a stronger acidity. When paring them with food you do not want to pair acidic with acidic as that would be a recipe for a very pleasurable meal. However, you do want to have a pairing that accents each other well. Medium coffees are best paired with light meals such as deli sandwiches, eggs, chicken, and some fish (be careful on this as fish has a distinctive flavor and coffee pairing with it can be difficult).

Medium coffees are appropriate for berries and other darker fruit such as blueberries, raspberries, and plumbs. You can also pair the coffee with nuts that do not have too much of a meaty flavor.

Dark Coffees

Dark coffees are best paired with hearty food or red meats. Typically I view the dark coffees in the same manner that I would treat a dark red wine. If you would drink a cup of merlot with a particular dish, then the odds are those a nice dark coffee such as a French Roast, Espressos, Sumatra, or some Indonesian coffees.

Dark coffees are very acidic and have a very distinct “black Coffee” flavor even if cream and sugar is added. They pair well with lamb, steak, and fresh fish as well as with meaty nuts (such as peanuts, walnuts, and cashews). Dark coffees are not well paired with fruits as the collision of acidic flavors does not do well for the pallet.

The Exception of Expresso

Expresso can be paired with about any food as it is not a type of coffee but a method in which it is ground. However, keep in mind that, generally, darker coffees are used for the expresso blend as most people prefer to have a strong flavor. If you use expresso of a darker blend with a desert, it is advised that you have a breakfast blend or another lower acidic beverage to help neutralize the flavors.

If buying whole bean coffee to pair with foods at home

If you are buying coffee beans to brew and grind at home and want to know which solution will provide the best pairing with the most diversity then I would advise a lighter coffee to medium coffee (and this I would be cautious to pairing). Ideally, you want to pair your coffee selections from lighter to darker as the day progresses. For example:

  • Breakfast – Light Coffee of Breakfast blend with a muffin
  • Lunch – A medium coffee of Italian Roast with a Turkey Sandwich
  • Mid-day snack: A cup of Columbian coffee and an assortment of fruit
  • Dinner – A cup of French Roast with lamb chops
  • Desert – An expresso with coffee cake

Of course, every pallet is different and the way in which we drink our coffee varies. The first factor to consider is how acidic you want your coffee to be. Secondly, address the acidity of the food. You do not want to have a meal which is too acidic or too bland. Finally, determine whether the way in which you drink your coffee will add to or take away from the paring. For example: if you have a dark coffee but add so much sugar that it taste like a smoothie, then it will not pair well with a steak or other hearty dish. Determine the best brew for you and follow this guide and you are sure to find the best coffee pairing for your foods.


Written by coffee wholesalers people Doppio Coffee. Visit them online or at their two London locations: Kentish Town and Shoreditch.

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