Pairing Coffee With Your Main Course


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(Photo: courtesy of Farmer Brothers Coffee.)

[C]offee is great alongside your morning muffin, but it’s also great when you think beyond breakfast. Much like wine, coffee does wonders when paired with your main course.

Coffees are as nuanced as wines. With such a wide variation of flavor landscapes, you’ll continually discover new delicious coffee and food combinations. To evaluate pairings, it’s important to speak the same language, so before we get started on a list of pairings, let’s go over some coffee basics.

The “body” of the coffee refers to the weight of coffee on your tongue. It ranges from light to heavy, which is sometimes called full. To determine the body of a coffee, ask yourself the following question: Does the coffee taste light and crisp, or do the flavors tend to stick around on your palate?

Acidity is also very important when evaluating coffee; the amount of acidity found in coffee ranges from low to high and refers to the tartness of the coffee. Coffees with high acidity are often described as tangy and crisp, while low-acidity coffees feel smooth.

Roast profile is one of the most common ways to describe coffee. Generally, there are three different “roasts”—light, medium, and dark. Light-roasted coffee is sweet, tangy, and contains a floral aroma. Medium-roasted coffee is typically the most balanced and brings out chocolate, floral, and nutty flavors. Dark-roasted coffee is often described as bold and rich in flavor.

When looking to create your own food and coffee pairings, identify the dominant flavor notes in your favorite coffee and match it with a food that has ingredients with similar flavors. Here are a few examples of coffee with main dishes that will have your palate thanking you.

  • Soup and salad. This light option pairs best with a dry, light coffee like Farmer Brother’s Artisan Collection 18th Street Blend.
  • Thai noodles with spicy peanut sauce. Pair this with a full-bodied, earthy cup of Farmer Brother’s Artisan Collection Tanzania Peaberry. The crisp wine and berry flavors of the coffee will perfectly complement the sweet, salty, spicy, and ginger flavors of this dish, and will bring out the nutty components, resulting in a well-rounded meal.
  • Apricot honey grilled chicken. This dish pairs beautifully with a clean, bright African coffee like Farmer Brother’s Panache Direct-Trade Rwanda. The sweet, fruity notes complement the savory flavor of the meat and highlight the sweetness of the apricot and honey.
  • Pineapple chicken teriyaki. The crisp, berry tones of the Farmer Brother’s Artisan Collection Tanzania Peaberry coffee will bring out the pineapple notes in the dish, leaving you with a refreshing taste in your mouth.

These pairings are out of the ordinary, but trying these crazy coffee combos will expand your coffee experience, and expose you to intriguing flavor experiences, beyond the traditional pairing options.

We also recommend using the information from this article and pair meals with coffee yourself. How different and memorable would it be to surprise your dinner guests with unexpected coffee pairings instead of the typical red wine and red meat? I think you, and your dinner guests, will be pleasantly surprised at the result.

—Brooke Johnston is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas.

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