Selecting the right coffee during and after the meal
Most holiday dinners are made and presented with lots of care and attention to the taste of the food. But paying attention to what's in the cup can also affect what's on the plate. When entertaining this year, make holiday dinners more memorable by pairing the right coffee with your meal.
The level of roast - light, medium, medium-dark or dark - dictates the intensity of each coffee and helps determine what foods it will pair with best. The general rule is, the richer the food, the darker the coffee needed to balance the flavor.
While most people think of coffee as an after-dinner drink, it can be served throughout the meal. When serving coffee with dinner, a non-flavored roast is best. Most holiday meals are very rich, so a medium or medium-dark roast is best to balance the richness of the food. A "Colombian supreme" or medium-dark blend is a great complement to Thanksgiving or other holiday dinners.
If serving a coffee over the course of a meal, be sure to keep the coffee fresh. Master roasters recommend keeping coffee fresh and hot during and after a meal by using air pots. Coffee can get scorched by sitting on a hot burner, and can also lose freshness if exposed to air for more than 20 minutes. An air pot keeps coffee hot - without burning it - and fresh for several hours.
After dinner, consider offering a selection of coffees to match the range of desserts that are offered. When pairing desserts and coffee, consider the richness of the dessert. Light roasts, because of their delicate flavors, go marvelously with light desserts, but are overwhelmed by rich desserts. Conversely, rich sweets are best answered by dark coffees that can stand up to the flavor. Many holiday desserts, such as pecan pie, pumpkin pie or rich chocolate cakes, should be served with a darker coffee, like a deliciously smoky French roast. Flavors also make great complements to dessert.
You can also indulge in holiday flavors without the guilt by selecting a flavored coffee instead of dessert. Many premium coffees have special roasts, such as pumpkin spice or peppermint, just for this time of year. Favorites such as French vanilla or hazelnut also are great after-dinner coffee flavors.
Coffee tip: To maximize its freshness, open coffee as close to the meal as possible and keep it in an airtight container. (Don't keep coffee in the fridge or freezer, where there can be condensation or food odors.)