Coffee Pairing

Hello coffee people!

Pairing drinks with food can seem “beyond” the average food lover. Unfortunately, food pairing can even come off as pretentious. Many restaurants and eateries don’t offer specially paired suggestions of food and wine – especially not for coffee and food.

We watch gourmet chef’s meticulously narrate meals, emanating flavor that permeates all senses. We watch them place axiomatic flavor choice and detail in every aspect of the food they serve.

There are even descriptions on wine bottles that suggest certain foods to eat with the particular wine.

Pairing can seem out of reach to the average joe. I mean, is it necessary to pair food and drink? Is it expensive?

Well…to answer those thoughts, understand that we pair food and beverages every day.

We drink wine with cheese because the tannins in the wine cut through fatty cheese proteins, creating complex flavors. We drink cola with sandwiches or pizza because carbonated sugary things cut through greasy, oily foods (and provide palate refreshment). We choose to drink hot tea with sweets as a contrasting element. The list of preferences can go on and on. Food pairing is natural.

Craft coffee is something that takes time. Tasting natural flavor notes in your morning brew can be a difficult task, but once you are able to decipher flavors and aromas, you can take your coffee experience even further. Pairing coffee with food is a way to explore the hidden depths of flavor and adventure.


Flavor can be broken up into five categories: salty, bitter, umami (think “savory”), sweet, and sour.

Flavors within the five categories can be combined, contrasted, accentuated… the possibilities are essentially endless. Within each flavor category, millions of shades of flavors exist. Those flavors are combined with other flavors, and new flavors are made.

This is why the world of food is paramount to so many us. Food is adventure. It never ends.

3 Types of Coffee Profiles

Coffee’s flavor can be attributed to growing region, processing, roasting, and the brew process. Instead of focusing on region, or roast profile, we are going to examine flavor type.

For the most part, coffee and food pairing exists within the world of desserts or barista competitions. While it isn’t unheard of to see coffee pairing in some restaurants, it is a bit foreign. Specialty coffee is expanding into the culinary niche slowly.

Fruity, acidic

If bright coffees are brewed with balance in mind, the clarity and focused flavors of the cup can be mesmerizing. The bright, clear notes of blueberry or stonefruit make fruity coffees a wonderful standalone beverage as well. Ethiopian coffees lay within this category and are notorious for their tanic acidity and smoothness.

Pairing suggestions:

When pairing with bright coffees like a Sidama Ardi Ethiopian, there is a danger of masking flavors. Brighter coffees can almost be too much for a delicate tapa or meal. The balanced acidity of this type of coffee can also be masked by heavy, oily foods; like cheese or savory sauces.

We recommend keeping contrast in mind when pairing this coffee. Bright coffees pair very well with lighter desserts. Breads are a great pairing item with brighter coffees due to their neutral flavors. A semi sweet scone with marmalade or butter will accentuate the brighter coffee notes. Affogatos usually go best with bright coffees (an affogato is ice cream and coffee – sometimes espresso), as well as ginger sweets or fruits like bananas or persimmons.

Savory, Nutty

Savory coffees in the specialty coffee world are the closest thing to the infamous “dark coffee.” Nutty and savory coffee yield notes like “stewed tomatoes” or “cinnamon clove.” Many newbies to specialty coffee prefer brighter coffees, but a lot of coffee veterans enjoy the complex simplicity of this darker profile.

Pairing suggestions:

Coffees with a darker flavor profile kind of blend in with the flavors around them. Paired right, and the coffee flavors will mutate into complex aromas and tastes with other foods.

Which is why we recommend using this type of coffee to accentuate and blend with foods. If you are to eat breakfast with your coffee, savory coffees meld into the meal. The subtle cinnamon and nutty notes of the coffee remain constant with many savory foods. Light tapas are decent grounds for experiment as well.

Floral, chocolately, light acidity

This is the middle ground when it comes to coffee. Ethiopians are bright, El Salvadors are nutty and savory, and Guatemalan coffees rest within the realm of “strawberry cream” and “dark chocolate.”

Pairing suggestions:

This type of coffee has rich floral notes and a balanced flavor. However, if you wish to retain both aroma and flavor, you must be careful during the paring process.

Keep pairing in the neutral zone with this coffee. Let the coffee shine. Greek yogurt, granola, and mild fruit (less acidity) is a good choice if you wish to keep floral and soft notes on the coffee front.

Pairing with coffee is a process. Not much of it is seen in the culinary world, so feel free to experiment!

#gothookedwith Contest!

Congrats once again to our coffee pairing contest winners! Here is the winning post by Celeste Yap.

” Immediately got hooked after visiting during CNY when fatigue kicked in after 守岁。。

#gothookedwith“- Celeste Yap 


So once again, happy brewing!

The Hook Coffee Team.

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