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Pairing Coffee with Desserts

by Candi Canncel

Just like food and wine pairing, serving the right coffee with the right dessert can elevate your taste experience. Coffee has almost as many flavor nuances as wine and serving it with a complementary dessert can add the perfect finish to your meal. To create a delicious match, consider the acidity, aroma and body of a coffee and whether or not your dessert is light and airy or decadently rich. The acidity in a coffee refers to it tang or brightness while the body of a coffee describes its strength and how it feels in your mouth. The aroma is the final touch, adding subtle distinctions of flavor and smell.

Out of Africa

Coffee from east Africa has a distinctive floral aroma and a somewhat citrus flavor profile. Pairing a coffee from this region with key lime pie or a lemon tart will highlight the citrus notes for a delicious complementary pairing. Desserts with strawberries or peaches would also do well with this type of coffee. Coffees from Ethiopia and Kenya can have berry or winelike undertones. Bread pudding with raisins or currants will pair well with these rich, fruitier coffees. A cake with oranges and cranberries will also work well with these bright, tangy coffees.

From Indonesia With Love

Coffees from this volcanic region tend to be robust with a heavier body and earthy and nutty undertones. A Sumatran coffee will pair luxuriously with pumpkin or sweet potato pie, highlighting its spices. A dessert heavy with cinnamon will also fare well with this pairing, as would any dessert with caramel. Because coffees from southeast Asia are darker roasts, they can stand up to ultra rich desserts. Serving a Javanese coffee with chocolate cake, brownies or chocolate truffles would be a heavenly pairing.

South American Exploration

Lighter to medium-bodied coffees from Brazil go well with lighter desserts. A fruit cobbler or a luscious apple pie goes well with acidic, lighter roasts. Heavier Colombian coffees with spicy, woodsy notes will pair well with richer desserts such as custard or cheesecake. These woodier coffees also pair well with desserts that feature nuts, such as a rich pecan pie or carrot cake with walnuts. A coffee from Costa Rica tends to be on the sweeter side so it will also pair well with creamy desserts. It is an especially good pick with plain vanilla ice cream.

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

Creating the perfect cup of coffee at home to serve with your desserts is actually quite simple. Grinding your own beans instead of purchasing ground coffee generally yields a stronger, richer cup. The temperature of the water is also important as it should be between 195 to 205 degrees. This temperature is necessary to bring out the aromas in coffee. The recommended ratio of coffee to water is 2 tablespoons to 6 ounces of water, but you can adjust this according to whether you prefer stronger or weaker coffee. Using a French press is a low-fuss way to achieve a great cup of coffee while using an espresso machine can yield a stronger, more caffeinated beverage.

About the Author

Candi Canncel is a writer covering food and drinks, travel and lifestyle. Her work has appeared on Food and Wine Travel, Craft Gossip, Belltown Local and other publications. She also teaches cooking classes and hosts food/wine seminars.

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