Pairing cold-brew coffee with food
Editor’s note: Our summer series on cold-brew coffee began on Saturday, June 28, and continues each Saturday through July. To read part 1, go HERE. To read part 2, go HERE. To read part 3, go HERE. To read part 4, go HERE.
By Jeremy Martin
The art of pairing coffee with food has been taking place for decades, whether it starts with a roaster finding the ideal slice of bacon to pair with a medium-bodied Sumatra, or simply a rushed office worker grabbing a fresh-baked muffin to go with a latte.
“The body that a coffee can add to a meal is really interesting,” saysJenny Bonchak, founder and CEO of Raleigh, North Carolina’s Slingshot Coffee, which specializes in seasonal, single-origin bottled cold brew. “Taking the idea of flavor profiles in coffee, you can have a very savory coffee that pairs wonderfully with a steak. I think it’s interesting to peruse that.”
Slingshot’s current seasonal offering is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe which was first released in June.
Even for those of us who prefer coffee over most other beverages, the idea of a cold brew or iced coffee with a meal can still at times feel a bit foreign. So instead of finding the perfect food to pair with the coffee, perhaps it would be easier to consider what beverages cold brew could be a substitute for when the food is already chosen?
Let’s start with a fresh summer salad—something perhaps with arugula, pears, walnuts, field greens, and topped with balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette. Traditionally this dish might be paired with an iced tea, maybe with a wedge of lemon or mixed with fresh raspberries—in essence a bright, mildly citric beverage with just a hint of sweetness. Sound familiar?
Those tasting notes can be matched almost to t (no pun intended) by serving a cold-brewed Burundi or Tanzanian Peaberry. These two varietals will showcase a light body with citric accents and just enough floral aroma and taste to match the salad dressing without overwhelming the senses.
Now, what if the menu shows a more complex dish? A fish course—maybe pan seared halibut with roasted tomatoes on a bed of basil linguini. A seasoned Sommelier may recommend a young, medium- to light-bodied chardonnay for its acidity and notes of melon or grapefruit.
A comparable iced coffee to a chilled chardonnay would be a classic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. If you tend to lean toward semi-sweet wine, you might choose a Bolivian coffee for its light honey, stone fruit, and butterscotch notes.
“It has brightness and it has acidity, which is really important in coffee but it also has that fruit tone that is going to come out,” Bonchak says, referencing Slingshot’s seasonal cold brew. “You’re having this sweet acidity with the coffee, but it’s a sharper acidity with the tomato that will pair nicely together, it will work together. And halibut is a mild fish but has beautiful flavor to it. There are a lot of things you can do to make those flavors come to life. The summer seasonal we have has beautiful floral notes and could be amazing with the fish.”
Of course let’s not forget the most important meal of the day—desert, which sometimes may seem the best vehicle for evening coffee drinking. “I’m a really big fan of tarts,” says Bonchak. “I think when you can put together a really beautiful tart—maybe a blackberry that has a little bit of lavender in it, maybe a little bit of cream cheese in there—you can bring in something sweet or semi savory; maybe a mascarpone, but then you can give it a punch with a more acidic or tart fruit. With something like that, you can really find a beautiful coffee that is going to add one or more of those elements, and really round out those flavors.”
This would be a wonderful chance to sip cold-brewed Kenyan with its hints of dark chocolate, currant, and red wine. In this scenario, we would be replacing a tawny port or a brandy with our iced coffee. (Besides, at this point in the meal we might need a little jolt of caffeine anyway.)
All that being said, it can still sometimes be overwhelming for the rushed consumer when there are so many great options for pairing cold brew and food. That’s why it’s sometimes easiest to just fall back on that old faithful food that never stops tasting great with coffee: the beloved donut.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Martin is a freelance writer and photographer who has reported on coffee, craft beer, college sports, and business for a variety of publications over the past six years. A veteran of the café industry and graduate of Western Michigan University, Jeremy lives in Seattle where can often be found making sandwiches from whatever is left in the fridge and cracking wise for the amusement of his adoring wife Amanda.