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February 15, 2016

How to Pair Coffee With Food

Have you ever wondered why coffee is as good with salty breakfast foods like bacon and eggs as it is with sweet desserts like cheesecake and chocolate torte? If coffee is good with these diverse flavour palates, what else could you pair it with?

The new trend in haute cuisine revolves not around wine or spirits, but coffee, and how it can best be paired with different types of food. The latest school of culinary innovation focuses on the many different flavours of coffee, and we’re not talking about a caramel macchiato or a mocha Frappuccino – we’re talking about how the flavour of beans, the quality of roast, and the blending of coffee and food make for a truly unique dining experience.

If you have yet to find a coffee shop or restaurant in your area experimenting with the marriage of coffee and food and you’re wondering how to start trying this trend on your own, there are a few basic flavour combinations you might experiment with. Here are some classic combos to get you started.

Start with Samples

If you’re already a coffee connoisseur, you can probably wax poetic about the flavour differences between a light Guatemala bean and a darker Columbian or Kenyan brew. However, not everyone has sampled coffees of the world.

If you’re lucky, there’s a coffee shop in your area that has jumped on the bandwagon, offering coffee tasting flights to give patrons the opportunity to taste different brews back-to-back. If not, you’ll simply have to taste test different beans, roasts, and brews on your own.

You might also keep an eye out for restaurants that are experimenting with coffee pairings as a way to try professionally-curated food and coffee combinations you might not come up with on your own.

Common Flavors

You’ve heard the expression “like attracts like”, and it can be applied to pairing coffee with food. The question is, how do you know which types of food share flavour palates with your favourite coffees?

Like wine tasting, you can start to identify different types of flavours in your coffee. Some are sweet while others are bitter. Some are fruity, some are floral, and some are spicy, while others have earthy or nutty flavours.

By tasting a variety of different beans, roasts, and so on you can begin to pick out the various flavour profiles in different kinds of coffee. From there you simply have to think about foods that share the same types of flavours.

Don’t forget to consider light, medium, and dark roasts. Lighter roasts will naturally have more delicate flavours while darker roasts will be bold and strong. You don’t want the flavour to get lost or alternately, to overwhelm your food selection. Try to choose equal intensity where coffee and food are concerned.

The process starts by understanding how coffees differ from one another and what different beans and roasts taste like. From there you can begin to determine which foods might pair well with your coffee selections.

Sweet with Savoury

Once you’ve got the basics down and you’ve figured out how to find the foods that pair perfectly with the flavour profile of your coffee, it’s time to take your culinary research to the next level by experimenting with opposite flavours.

In truth, you’ve probably already done this in your daily life. Just think about how delicious a chocolatey mocha tastes with salty bacon or how great a creamy vanilla latte is with fluffy scrambled eggs. Pairing sweet and savoury flavours is nothing new.

Now it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. Consider how a sweet coffee or espresso drink might taste with a burger and fries, a roast dinner, or even a steak. What about pizza or tacos? Although you wouldn’t traditionally pair coffee with these savoury foods, trying new combinations could result in some unforeseen culinary delights.

Bitter with Sweet

Not everyone enjoys sweet coffee drinks. Some prefer the naturally bitter flavour of the unadorned brew. What can you pair it with? If you like the bitter taste of coffee, the obvious pairing is chocolate.

In truth, you can pair a simple cup of coffee with sweet milk chocolate or a more bitter dark chocolate, depending on what you prefer. Whether you like complimentary flavours or you’d rather mix it up with opposites, you’ll find that there are countless ways to pair your coffee with your food in order to create unique and delicious flavour combinations.

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