10 Coffee and Dessert Pairings (and Why)
Step aside wine aficionados, now is the time for coffee and dessert pairings. Take a look at our top 10 coffee and dessert pairings (and why).
We all know about the wine and food pairings, but it is time to also know what to eat with your cup of joe. After the success of our previous post about coffee and sandwich pairings, we have decided to find the perfect coffee and dessert combos as well.
1. Espresso with Flourless Chocolate Cake
Unlike most coffee beverages, the espresso is served in a ‘shot.’ This concentrated beverage tends to feature a more full-bodied tasting experience, which pairs best with rich chocolate desserts, such as the Flourless Chocolate Cake.
2. Latte with Fruit Tart
Simply put, Latte’s are espresso shots with added milk. Commonly known as “milk coffee” in Italy, this lighter rendition of the espresso is best paired with lighter desserts, such as small cookies and Fruit Tarts.
Think of Americano’s like a latte, except the milk is hot water. This results in a more full-bodied drink than the latte. So, in order to make the most out of this drink, and to avoid drowning out the flavors of the dessert, it is best to pair the Americano with heavier and richer desserts like Vanilla Buttercream Cupcakes.
Similar to the latte, the Macchiato features a mixture of elements with espresso. With the case of this drink, 1 or 2 shots of espresso are layered with ⅓ steamed milk and ⅓ milk foam. (Key fact: the steamed milk and milk foam must be of equal parts.) This stronger version of the latte is best paired with light chocolate desserts, such as the Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies.
5. Macchiato with Caramel Nut Tart
Being the close relative to the latte and cappuccino, the Macchiato features a heavier emphasis on espresso while lessening the amount of milk. Full-bodied drinks such as this one pair well with caramel and nut-based desserts, like the Caramel Nut Tart (see what we did there?).
6. Cafe Au Lait with Tiramisu
Directly translating to “coffee with milk” in French, this drink differs from the latte as it is not made from espresso. Being a relatively light drink, the Cafe Au Lait is best paired with light, coffee-based desserts to bring out that lovely coffee flavor we all love, like a classic Tiramisu.
Consider the Ristretto a stronger and edgier version of the espresso. While the amount of coffee beans is the same, the Ristretto uses half the amount of water that an espresso uses. Such a strong and full-bodied drink pairs well with strong and rich chocolate-based desserts.
If you haven’t already noticed, darker drinks tend to pair well with heavier and richer desserts. As such, the dark roast coffee pair well with chocolate-based desserts, such as Dark Chocolate Chunk Brownies.
As a middle-ground between light and dark roast, the medium roast coffee pairs best with lighter desserts that feature aspects of flavor, like the Chocolate Chip Crush Cookies.
10. Light Roast Coffee with Meringues
Being the lightest of all the coffee roasts, the Light Roast Coffee is paired with light desserts, such as Meringues.
Why These Pairings Exactly? Here’s Why
The general rule of thumb is that darker and more full-bodied coffee usually pairs well with heavier and richer desserts such as chocolate cake and creamy cupcakes. In contrast, light-bodied coffees pair well with lighter desserts, such as cookies and meringues.
But, as we all know, coffee can get complex. While you can generally follow the rule of thumb, you can take it a step further and pair your coffee and desserts according to two additional methods.
Pairing Based on Roast
Coffee brews can come in three distinct roasts: light, medium, and dark. Similar to the rule of thumb mentioned earlier, it is best to pair dark roasts with rich desserts and light roasts with light desserts.
Why is this? Well, each roast goes through a slightly different process, resulting in differing notes, acidity, and aroma. Light roast coffee contains beans that are roasted for the least amount of time. This results in a greater amount of caffeine, greater acidity, and contain no oil on the surface throughout the brewing process. Light brew is also the type of roast Waka Coffee uses in its Indian Instant Coffee.
Being the most popular in the United States, medium roast coffee features a more balanced experience between the three roasts. Furthermore, medium roast is the type of roast Waka Coffee uses in its signature Colombian Instant Coffee.
Lastly, dark roast, while being the most bitter of out the three roasts, contains the least amount of caffeine. Due to the brewing process, dark roast features oil on the surface of the beans.
Pairing Based on Region
Similar to wine, the region in which coffee is grown can affect both body and note. There are three main regions where coffee is grown, each featuring a different combination of elevation, soil quality, and elevation.
1. Pairing with Coffee Grown in Latin America
Coffee grown in the mountain ranges of Latin America, such as Guatemala, Colombia, and Costa Rica, feature more vibrant spicy and sweet characteristics. Being light-bodied with medium acidity, coffees grown in this region pair well with nutty or fruit-based desserts.
2. Pairing with Coffee Grown in Africa/Arabia
Being the “motherland of all coffee,” the soil, climate, and elevation in Africa and Arabia produce full-bodied coffees that feature notes of fruit, citrus, and flowers. Due to the light notes that this region produces, it is best to pair desserts that also contain similar flavors, such as fruit-based cakes and pies.
3. Pairing with Coffee Grown in Asia/Pacific
Grown in the volcanic soils of New Guinea and Sumatra, coffees harvested in this region are characterized by strong and earthy tones. They may also feature herbal and floral notes as well. Because of the full-bodied attributes of these beans, coffee that is grown in this region pair well with rich and decadent desserts, such as chocolate cakes.
Feel Free to Experiment!
If there is one thing to remember, it's this: taste is subjective! While there are “general rules of thumb,” region, and roast levels to consider when pairing coffee and desserts, the most significant factor is your preference. Part of the fun in pairing coffee and desserts is experimenting with your favorite brews and desserts to find your unique combination. What are YOUR favorite pairings?