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TIP OF THE DAY: Pairing Coffee And Cheese

Swiss Cheese and Coffee

Pair a medium-strength cheese with a
medium-roast coffee. Photo © Natalia
Lisovskaya | Dreamstime.


Often there is more than one food holiday on a particular day. Rarely do we see a trio of food holidays; and January 20th is the only day we know of with four food holidays: National Buttercrunch Day, National Cheese Lover’s Day, National Granola Bar Day and National Coffee Break Day.

In theory, you could celebrate them all at once: A bagel and cream cheese with the morning coffee break and a granola bar and some buttercrunch at the afternoon coffee break.

But we’ve decided to focus today’s tip on something more enlightening: pairing coffee and cheese.

The coffee-cheese pairing is more common than it might seem. The Swiss, Scandinavians and other Europeans enjoy cheese with their morning coffee. Americans regularly breakfast on coffee plus cream cheese on the aforementioned bagels, cheese omelets, cheese danish, grilled cheese sandwiches and Egg McMuffins (grilled cheese, ham and a fried egg on a toasted English muffin).

But let’s take a look at deliberate coffee and cheese pairings.



As with wine and beer pairings, mild cheeses should typically be paired with a mild roast coffee, medium-strength cheeses with a medium roast and strong cheeses with a strong roast.

  • Try mild creamy cheeses like young chévre, mozzarella di bufala, piave, port salut and ricotta with mild coffee (Cinnamon or New England roast, for example). A mild cheese like Brie should be eaten with a mild coffee; but if the Brie has aged and is mushroomy and a bit ammoniated, then a medium roast pairs better. See the different types of coffee roasts.
  • Medium-strength cheeses like Cheddar, some blues and Swiss cheeses (Appenzeller and Emmentaler, for example) pair with a medium roast (American, Breakfast or City roast, for example).
  • Aged cheeses and washed-rind cheeses that are strong in flavor, such as Epoisses, Munster, Pont l’Eveque, Roquefort, Stilton and Taleggio, require dark roast (espresso, French and Italian, for example).
  • But with espresso, go back to mild, milky cheeses. It may seem a paradox, but light, lemony goat cheese and ricotta are delicious with espresso—whether for your coffee break or for dessert. Drizzle them with a bit of honey or maple syrup, and enjoy with biscotti instead of bread.


    Some cheeses beg to be paired with coffee. Two that are known for caramel notes:

  • Aged Gouda. While a mild young Gouda cheese pairs well with light and medium roasts, aged develops sweet, caramelized flavors that demand a dark roast—French, Italian or espresso.
  • Gjetost (YAY-toast), from Norway, is a caramelized cheese made from the whey of goat cheese; the name is Norwegian for goat cheese. The whey is slowly cooked down until the natural milk sugars caramelize and the color turns light brown. It looks and tastes like a caramel or fudge. While it’s most often served as a dessert cheese or dessert fondue, it i a delicious sweet for a coffee break. Look for it at a cheese specialty store or online.

    Barely Buzzed, one of our favorite cheeses, is a Cheddar rubbed with ground Turkish coffee. It’s equally delicious with coffee or beer. Photo courtesy Beehive Cheese..



    How about a cheese made with coffee? Utah-based Beehive Cheese Company coats some of their artisan Cheddar cheese in roasted Turkish coffee and lavender buds: an inspired combination that creates an edible rind and adds nutty flavor to the mild Cheddar. We like this unique cheese so much, it was a Top Pick Of The Week. Read our review of Barely Buzzed.
    As with anything, your own palate and desire to experiment will lead to favorite pairings. Let us know what you come up with.


    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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