Aroma, Flavor, and Food Pairing

coffee with cookies and chocolate

On this page we will provide you with a high level understanding of the different flavors that are available in coffee and how their tasting notes and aromas can be enhanced by food pairings.

Coffee can obviously be enjoyed on its own merits but it’s true that certain food pairings can help to enhance its flavor profile.

In fact, coffee is sometimes treated as the “main course” and food is selected with the intent of enhancing the enjoyment of the beverage.

For instance in Italy and other parts of Europe coffee is commonly served with a small biscuit or cookie for this express purpose.

This type of pairing makes a lot of sense because it adds sweetness to the palette without overwhelming any of the flavors in the coffee itself (like adding sugar would).

The residual sweetness from the cookie can elevate the inherent flavor of the coffee without drowning them.

coffee flavor wheel

Another good example is pairing coffee with something like a cereal bar which can highlight the coffee’s natural fruit notes.

A sweeter coffee can be offset with a pairing of dark chocolate.

The intent of properly pairing food with coffee is to compliment the pre existing aroma and flavor and can be informed by a scientific approach that takes into account the nuances of different coffee beans and roasting types.

Food Pairings

Much like Wine, coffee can produce notes of citrus, berries, and chocolate. These flavors can help determine what foods would best compliment the brew.

For instance creamy and sweet desserts will often pair well with coffee that contain chocolate and nutty notes.

Coffees that yield berry notes and sweetness tend to go well with light pastry.

Coffee flavors of course will vary depending on the brewing method, so it can be helpful to consider your planned food pairing when determining how you will brew the coffee.

Many of the “rules” of pairing are consistent with those you’ll find work well when putting together a meal or dessert. For instance chocolate tends to go well with mint in any circumstance, so a dark roast coffee with hints of chocolate will also work well when eating anything with a mint taste.

The flavor wheel shown here can be a very useful tool in helping you determine what pairings and flavors would work best together.

coffee tastors flavor wheel

Click here to view a larger version.

Did You Know?

One great food pairing is coffee and ice cream. In fact, a popular Italian dessert entails literally pouring coffee over ice cream or gelato. Referred to as an affogato al caffe, it is made by taking (usually) plain vanilla ice cream and then drowning it with a shot of espresso.


What flavors pair with coffee?


The principal to follow is any food that shares similar flavors to the expected coffee tasting notes will work well. Any food that has flavors like Vanilla, Cinnamon, Caramel, Chocolate etc.. will work with the right coffee because those are all flavors that can be found in the notes of different coffees.


Does pizza and coffee go together?

No. (Sorry).