How to Pair Cheese and Coffee: You Never Knew What You Were Missing

Hi! My name is Arne. After a few years as a barista, I've dedicated myself to a mission: To bring more good coffee to the people. To this end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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You probably don't need me to tell you that wine and cheese go really well together. After all, it's no secret that an even halfway decent glass of wine can sing if enjoyed with a slice of good quality cheese.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that wine and cheese go really well together. After all, it’s no secret that an even halfway decent glass of wine can sing if enjoyed with a slice of good quality cheese.

But cheese and coffee together?

Why not! Sure, this combination might sound weird, but it really makes sense and can be very enjoyable.

That said, if you use coffee capsules when you make coffee, you aren’t going to have fun here — it’s the equivalent of drinking cheap boxed wine.

In this article, I’ll talk about how to pair cheese and coffee. I’ll also share some ideas for different combinations. 

Pairing Cheese and Coffee: Does It Really Work?

Those who run a cafe and demand perfection know that everything — from the pastries to the sandwiches — should complement the coffee they serve.

When it all works, the guest is simply left with the impression that everything tastes great here. They probably aren’t thinking, “Wow! the cheese in my sandwich went really well with the single-origin coffee — they obviously put a lot of thought into that.” 

Still, if the combination doesn’t work out, it’s always the coffee’s fault. After all, who would blame a humble cheese sandwich for ruining someone’s day?

Arne uses a knife and fork to cut into a slice of brie.

As it happens, cheese and coffee are a match made in heaven.

The tasting notes that we attribute to coffee — nuts, caramel, flowers and fruit — are often present in cheese. This means that when we pair coffee with complementary cheese, the combination can be truly wonderful.

Cheese in Coffee: Next Level Bulletproof

By now, most of you have probably heard of bulletproof coffee.

Depending on who you talk to, adding butter and coconut oil to your morning cup is either a stupid health fad or a fantastic way to lose weight while boosting your intelligence. I’m still on the fence about all that. 

It turns out that in northern Scandinavia, they’ve been doing the bulletproof thing for years, with cheese instead of butter. In Sweden, they call this drink kaffeost (coffee cheese). They use a unique cheese from Finland called leipajuusto (bread cheese) that they cut into chunks then add to coffee. The cheese is dense and firm and soaks up liquid like bread — hence the name. 

Though I haven’t yet tried kaffeost, it’s on my bucket list. I’ve even heard that the cheese takes on a delicious smoky flavor, while the coffee becomes richer and nuttier. Sounds intriguing!

How to Pair Cheese and Coffee

Since cheese and coffee both present very complex flavor profiles, it’s important that neither should overpower the other when combined. Having paired many coffees with many different kinds of cheese, I’ve come up with three general observations:

  1. A medium-bodied, mild coffee (from El Salvador, Honduras or Guatemala) pairs well with a delicate, mild cheese.
  2. Full-bodied and fruity coffees (from Ethiopia and Colombia) provide an excellent counterpart to creamy, fatty cheeses.
  3. Espresso blends and coffees with darker roast profiles tend to stand up really well to more pungent and assertive cheeses.

Of course, those are only rough guidelines for how to pair cheese and coffee. What really matters is how your palate responds to any given combination.

A good starting point is to think in terms of similarities and differences. For example, an aged gouda has a sweetness that complements the bittersweet chocolate notes in an espresso blend. On the other hand, a bright, fruity Kenya will dance hand in hand with sharp, mature cheddar.

One thing most people will agree on is that blue cheese really doesn’t pair well with coffee. There’s something about the acidity and funkiness that just doesn’t jive with even the most robust coffee.

How to Taste Cheese and Coffee

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you should always use high-quality, freshly roasted coffee beans.

While we’re on the subject, you should also own a good coffee grinder. Whenever I’m pairing cheese with coffee, I use a Hario V60 pour-over dripper with my Comandante hand coffee grinder.

That said, there’s nothing to stop you from using French press coffee or even espresso from a portafilter or super-automatic espresso machine.

Arne pouring ground coffee into a copper Hario V60.

I find that carefully prepared pour-over coffee develops in the cup and becomes even more complex as it cools. This is important because you don’t want the coffee to be overwhelmingly hot. Not only will it overpower the cheese, but you might burn your mouth. I should also mention that you shouldn’t add cream or sugar to the coffee. Either will just get in the way.

Take a bite of cheese and begin to chew. As you’re about to swallow, take a sip of coffee and allow it to mingle with the cheese on your palate. With a successful pairing, you’ll get an interaction of tastes and textures that’ll linger nicely, creating new aromatic flavor combinations.

Coffee and Cheese: Pairing Ideas

I’ve been pairing coffee and cheese for years, and it never gets old. So I’ve learned the hard way that some coffee pairings are more pleasant than others.

The following cheese pairings turned out to be real winners. I try not to approach things scientifically — it’s usually more a case of “I imagine that combo could be good.” That said, I encourage you to experiment. It’s a lot of fun and well worth it!

Colombia and Brie

At its best, single-origin coffee from Colombia is bold, juicy and fruity. You’ll find notes of black cherry, orange and dark chocolate in a fully washed Colombia.

Brie is known for its delicate white mold that tastes simply delicious. It has a slightly nutty note but is otherwise very mild and melts in your mouth.

The combination of coffee and cheese is truly delicious, although the coffee doesn’t reinforce the nuttiness of the brie. On the plus side, as the Colombian loses a little acidity, the cheese swallows it and turns it into a pleasant sweetness.

A LEGO barista standing on a plate of cheese with two mugs of coffee at the ready.

Kenya and Gruyere

Fully washed coffees from Kenya are bright and clean — real fruit bombs.

You’ll often encounter notes of redcurrant and gooseberry, supported by vibrant acidity. This flavor profile makes a Kenyan coffee the ideal counterpart to good gruyere, which is bold, sharp and fruity.

When paired, spice collides with fruity acidity, and the result is pure harmony. The strong acidity of the coffee softens, and the spiciness of the cheese becomes even more tangible. All in all, the body becomes fuller, and the overall mouthfeel is very silky and pleasant.

Arne holding up a forkful of cheese and a mug of coffee.

Honduras and Goat Cheese

Honduran coffees are usually medium-bodied and punchy acidity, often complemented by marzipan and milk chocolate sweetness.

Goat cheese has a silky texture and a distinctive, slightly earthy flavor.

When tasted together, the coffee loses some of its oomph. But you’ll experience a pleasant mouthfeel and a savory flavor profile that one can only with the Japanese word umami. Interestingly, with this cheese pairing, it’s the coffee’s body that changes more than anything, becoming fuller and more enjoyable.

Conclusion: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

If you were shocked — or even appalled — at the idea of pairing cheese and coffee when you started reading this article, I hope I’ve convinced you to give it a try.

Sure, it might seem like you have to think outside the box, but many coffees have flavors that naturally complement the cheese.

Think about it: we already pair fruit and preserves with cheese. So why not take things an adventurous step further with a natural-process Ethiopia Sidamo that tastes of blueberries or a washed Rwanda with prominent notes of stewed stone fruit?

After all, as lovers of flavor and aroma, we know that a cup of coffee can be just as complex and rewarding as a glass of wine!

Have you already tried coffee with cheese? What are your favorite pairings? I’d love to hear about your experiences, so leave a comment below! Thank you for reading!

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