When it comes to enjoying something to eat with your coffee, finding the right snack should always be based on aromatics, body and sweetness. As great coffee often tends to be on the bitter side, it is usually at its best paired with something sweet to create a balance of flavours. In some countries, such as France, most cafés always serve their coffees with a tiny biscuit, candied nut or even a coffee bean in a dark chocolate coating on the side – something just small enough to create the perfect match without overpowering either flavour.
Coffee and food pairings
Foods that go well with coffee include:
Chocolate – a classic combination, goes particularly well with Latin American coffee.
Berries – best with coffees with fruity notes, African-grown coffees, for example.
Apricots – coffee grown in Tanzania and Haiti has a natural note of stone fruit worth bringing out through food matching.
Spicy food – try this with an iced coffee grown in Central America.
Meat – sounds surprising, but a dark roast coffee complements the flavour and texture of most meats well.
Cheese – soft cheeses like brie are best avoided, but mature cheeses can hold their own next to a good strong cup.
Pastries &donuts – it’s a classic for a reason! The perfect breakfast combination of sweetness and body.
coarse ground coffee is preferable when there is prolonged contact with the hot water (French press, drip method); a finer ground is perfect for an espresso, when the contact between the coffee and water is minimal.
Ultimately, everybody’s tastebuds are different and there’s nothing to stop you experimenting with different combinations. Just be careful to make sure that the coffee is always the star of the show!
Coffee recipe ideas
Certain coffee and food combinations work so well together that they have become coffee varieties in their own right. We’ve come up with a few recipe ideas for true coffee experts everywhere.
Affogato al caffè
A popular Italian dessert that combines a shot of espresso with another delicious Italian export, velvety ice cream. Its name literally means “drowned in coffee” – doesn’t sound too bad to us!
Place a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the bottom of your cup or tall heatproof glass.
Pour your freshly made espresso over the top.
Enjoy quickly before the hot coffee melts the ice cream entirely.
You could also add a small nip of a liqueur such as Amaretto or grappa before pouring the coffee over for an added kick.
The original Irish coffee, the ultimate in coffee cocktails, is said to have been created by airport chef Joe Sheridan in Limerick in the 1940s.
Lightly whisk 2 tbsp double cream and set aside.
Pour 150ml freshly brewed black coffee into a mug or heatproof glass. Add 50ml Irish whiskey and 1tsp of brown sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Gently float the cream over the top then sprinkle with nutmeg.
Inevitably, there are plenty of variations on this classic that involve the use of other liqueurs such as Cointreau, Kahlua or even Baileys.
Known in Italian as caffè shakerato, iced coffee is unsurprisingly popular during the summer months when the mercury rises. It can also make the perfect end to a delicious meal.
Start by chilling your glass.
Place 8-10 ice cubes in a cocktail shaker and combine with 50ml sugar syrup.
Add 100ml espresso coffee, taking care to always carry out the steps in this order to avoid melting the ice prematurely.
Place a cocktail shaker over the top and shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
Strain into your chilled glass and serve immediately.
Pairing coffee with whiskey
Rather than turning your coffee and whiskey into an Irish coffee cocktail, these two separate drinks complement each other perfectly. Bourbons with woody notes are better suited to richer coffees from Colombia or Kenya, while pot-stilled or blended whiskeys work well with Arabica coffee blends.
Pairing coffee with chocolate
Nutty Central American coffees are delicious with milk to slightly dark chocolate (less than 70% cocoa solids), as well as chocolate-based desserts or cakes. Fruity and floral African coffees are better with slightly lighter chocolate (less than 55% cocoa solids). Dark roast coffees tend to mute the attributes of the coffee beans and are particularly tasty with dark chocolates (70% cocoa solids and above).