The Wine Lover’s Guide to Coffee

The Wine Lover's Guide to Coffee

We are living in the golden age of coffee. And as the caffeinated elixir continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, it’s looking a lot like the wine world—from the sheer number of styles and the importance of terroir to how aromas and flavors are described. Thankfully, you know a lot about wine. Here’s how to apply that knowledge to your daily grind. 


Wine can be divided into Old World and New World. Here are coffee’s three basic regions and a flavor profile for each.

The Americas

• Sweet and mild
• Bright and balanced
• Often fruity, with spicy highlights

Africa/Saudi Arabia

• Pungent, wild and spicy
• The most acidic, but least bitter
• Often with fruit notes and moderate sweetness

Pacific Islands

• Big chocolate and cinnamon aromas
• Dark, nutty and smoky
• Thick, often with an almost syrupy texture

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Coffee

Beans 101: There are about 100 different strains of coffee, but we only drink two. Robusta is the easier-to-grow, more bitter and caffeine-packed bean and is often used in cheap commercial brands. The milder and more complex Arabica is the go-to choice for gourmet coffees.

It’s a Super Food: The long list of anti-oxidants in coffee may help guard against some cancers, cardiovascular disease, gout, type 2 dia-betes and Alzheimer’s, according to recent studies.

Terroir Matters: Like wine, a coffee’s flavor is greatly affected by soil, altitude and climate.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Yes, the flavors are bolder, with higher tannin levels, but these coffees can show some bright red and black fruit flavors on the midpalate.

Acid Trip: Coffees with high acidity, like those from Ethiopia, will often show nuanced citrus flavors.

Roasters to Toast

You can’t make great wine from so-so grapes,  or a mediocre winemaker.  Coffee is no different. A great cup is the product of a long chain of successes, starting with the raw fruit, continuing through the processing and roasting. Here are America’s seven best roasters.

1. Storyville. Bainbridge Island, Washington. The Roasts: Prologue, Epilogue
2. verve. Santa Cruz, California. The Roasts: Verve, Gedebe
3. Blue Bottle. Oakland, California. The Roasts: Bella Donavan, Giant Steps
4. Stumptown. Portland, Oregon. The Roasts: Hair Bender, Holler Mountain
5. Mud. New York City. The Roast: Mud Truck Blend
6. Pollard Coffee. Vashon Island, Washington. The Roast: Patch Blend
7. Four Barrel. San Francisco. The Roast: La Montañita

Wine and Coffee: Sharing Culture and Complexities

The Wine Coffee Connection

Your wine palate is a terrific guide when choosing the right coffee style. Just remember, the two rarely mix well.

You Love: Off-dry Riesling
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Ethiopian
Scents of white flowers and citrusy, tangerine flavors are important to both the wines and the coffees.

You Love: Chardonnay
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Arabian Mocha-Java
Chardonnay’s apple and pear flavors, along with accents of lightly roasted, buttered nuts, are paralleled by the spicy, buttery flavors of these aromatic blends.

You Love: Pinot Noir
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Central American
Red fruits and bright acidity are in play in many fine Pinots, and the floral highlights and light chocolate notes in Costa Rican and Panamanian coffees offer similar elegance and definition.

You Love: Merlot
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Central American
The straightforward nature of these plush, fruity wines is matched by these crisp, citrusy coffees.

You Love: Syrah
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Dark Italian Roast
A classic espresso roast has the dark, smoky richness, along with a compelling earthiness, that matches similar strengths in your favorite Syrah.

You Love: Cabernet Sauvignon
Coffee You Ought To Drink: Indonesian
Cabernet, the quintessential steakhouse wine, has thick, chewy tannins. Dark-roasted coffees from Indonesia have the same syrupy depth, with flavors of bittersweet chocolate.

Published on January 6, 2014
Topics: Coffee