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Using Coffee in New Ways: Recipes and Pairings

Using Coffee in New Ways: Recipes and Pairings

Coffee is more than just a morning pick-me-up. With a little creativity, coffee can be used to enhance recipes and pairings in exciting new ways. Here are some tips for getting more mileage out of your favorite bean.

Brewing Coffee for Cooking

When using coffee in cooking and baking, the brewing method matters. The flavor compounds are affected by variables like grind size, water temperature, and brew time. Here are some methods to try:

  • Cold brew – Long, slow steeping produces a smooth, mellow concentrate perfect for desserts and sauces.
  • French press – Full immersion brewing results in a robust, oily coffee with pronounced aroma. Ideal for recipes like chili, stews, and chocolate cakes.
  • Drip coffee – Quick and convenient with balanced flavor. My go-to for general baking purposes.
  • Espresso – An intense shot of concentrated coffee. Adds punch to shortbread cookies, tiramisu, and chocolate truffles.

The grind size you use is also important. A fine grind works for most applications, while a very coarse grind is best for cold brewing.

Infusing Coffee into Recipes

Coffee can seamlessly infuse into both sweet and savory dishes. Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate it:


  • Add brewed coffee or espresso to recipes for chocolate cakes, brownies, tiramisu, ice cream, and pastry cream. The coffee notes enhance chocolate and prevent cloying sweetness.
  • Coffee extract adds pure, concentrated flavor without thinning batter consistency. Perfect for cupcakes, cream puffs, and biscotti.
  • For coffee caramel or mocha sauce, cook brewed coffee with sugar and cream to make a decadent topping.

Savory Dishes

  • Use brewed coffee instead of some of the liquid when braising meats or making chili, stew, and gravy. It adds depth and pairs beautifully with beef, pork and bacon.
  • Marinate chicken or steak in brewed coffee, garlic, spices, and oil before grilling for enhanced flavor. The coffee helps tenderize the meat too.
  • Fold a shot of espresso into risotto toward the end of cooking to add richness.
  • Coffee rubs give a wonderful crust when grilling or searing meats. I like using ground coffee, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Coffee and Food Pairings

Coffee can be taste-bud magic when paired with the right foods. Here are some delightful matches:

  • Dark roast coffee with dark chocolate – the blend of cocoa and roasted coffee is heavenly.
  • Cappuccino with cinnamon rolls or morning pastries – a cozy breakfast combination.
  • Cold brew coffee with chocolate chip cookies – helps offset the sweetness.
  • Mocha with carrot cake or spice cake – the coffee notes mesh with warm baking spices.
  • Americano with smoked salmon and bagels – coffee’s acidity balances the fatty richness.

Don’t be afraid to think beyond the mug! With mindful preparation and creative pairings, coffee can add its signature touch to both sweet and savory recipes. Experiment and find your new favorite uses for this versatile brew.

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