The art of balancing coffee with breakfast

10 February 2010

Written by: Tom Cowie

A great coffee is finger licking good.

It doesn’t matter if the food is mediocre, the service is slow or the cafe is packed like a can of sardines, amazing coffee will make you venture to just about any eatery.

Whenever breakfasters tell you they devote their Sunday mornings to a hole in the wall with awesome french toast or an unnamed den that boasts a great goat’s cheese omelette, it’s really all about the coffee.

But which coffee goes with what dish? Will a long black compliment smoked salmon sitting on a pile of hollandaise and eggs?

To find out, I traveled from Northcote to Brunswick, Thornbury to Wesgarth and Coburg to Collingwood in order to find a flattering combination of coffee and food.

I woke up early each Saturday for the past month to see which coffee brought out the best in breakfast.

As much as I trust my own palate, I also used a food pairing guide to keep me on track. I am, after all, a soy drinker.

I stuck to the more traditional dishes, ones found in most cafés, in order to provide a rough guide when food pairing. Maybe you’ll re-think your usual next time when enjoying the most important meal of the day.

Eggs Benedict (eggs, hollandaise, english muffin, ham) – A long black or short black will go nicely with this breakfast staple. The acidity in the coffee will bring out the lemon from the hollandaise. The ham also goes well with black coffee as it is a rather flavourful meat. The bitterness of the espresso competes with the strong taste of ham bringing out the sweetness it has to offer.

Eggs Florentine (eggs, spinach, hollandaise, sourdough bread/english muffin) – Same as above I’m afraid. The exception being the spinach which has such a distinct flavour it is best paired with just espresso in order to allow your palate to taste every part of this dish.

Big Breaky (This kitchen sink breakfast usually comes with sausage, bacon, tomato, mushroom, eggs, bread and sometimes a minute steak) – Milk tends to mix well with mushrooms, while putting a dampener on the acidity that tomatoes can cause. However, there is a lot of meat on this plate which calls for black coffee. I would suggest a strong latte, just enough milk and plenty of espresso to brighten this heavy meal.

Muesli (this varies from place to place) – Nothing like a big bowl of Bircher with a scoop of Greek yoghurt to meet your carb quota for the week. Milk and fruit are like peas and carrots. The fructose brings out the sweetness in milk whilst that sour fruity taste becomes more pleasant. I would choose a flat white or latte, both are the milkiest of coffees and that tad of espresso will compliment the bran and other nutty bits.

Pancakes or French Toast – If you are going to indulge at breakfast then go all out, pair these two delicacies with a cappuccino. The cappuccino has a lot of froth so it will taste stronger which goes well with fluffy pancakes or French toast soaked in syrup. Gooey sugar-laden breads need thick creamy froth, like cookies and milk, but that espresso will make the dark sugars from the syrup pop in your mouth!

Omelettes (I’m going to assume you picked one with cheese, served on toast) – Cheese seems to only suit black coffee although the bread and butter call for a base. I would suggest a long macchiato the rich espresso and touch of milk pair nicely with this classic.

Smoked Salmon (some places put this with hollandaise) – Fish actually tastes great with milk. The reason most breaky places put hollandaise on top is the same reason baristas mix milk with espresso, it works. I prefer a strong cappuccino (no chocolate) with this meal as the milk takes away some of the saltiness smoked salmon provides and the espresso revives my taste buds.

So switch up your routine saturday morning coffee, try something new.

You never know, it could make that mediocre breakfast into the best thing you’ve ever eaten!

Meghan Lodwick is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This piece was originally published at her blog For the love of beans!