What Desserts Go Well With Coffee? (A Quick Guide)

Last Updated on November 18, 2021 by John Moretti

Coffee is among the greatest joys in life. Another of life’s greatest joys is dessert, so why not pair coffee and dessert together? The challenge with pairing coffee and dessert is that coffee has very strong, intense, bold flavors that do not often pair well with sweet foods. However, coffee does go well with certain desserts if you know where to start.

The best dessert for coffee is dependant on the type of coffee and brew method. Espresso works well with simple desserts such as ice cream. Filter coffee is best paired with chocolate and citrus desserts. Coffee and milk drinks work well with chocolate and nut desserts. 

The flavors within coffee vary wildly. The type of coffee used, the origin of the coffee beans, the coffee bean preparation process, the roasting processes, and the brewing process all significantly affect the flavor of the coffee. With that said, let’s take a journey into the world of coffee and desserts to find out what tastes best.

What Desserts Go Well With Coffee?

Coffee is a complex drink. The beans that we use to grind and brew coffee are the seeds of the cherries from coffee trees that are grown in various locations around the world.

The place where the coffee is grown, how the coffee is prepared before roasting, how the coffee is roasted, blended, and how the coffee is brewed all play a significant role in the way the coffee tastes when drinking.

This means that pairing coffee and desserts can be a challenge. However, while coffee is very complex and difficult to pair with various foods, coffee also tastes delicious. Every delicious tasting drink has some type of delicious tasting food out there to pair with it to enhance the flavors of both, and coffee is no exception.

There are plenty of different desserts and types of desserts that go well with coffee, but to try simplify the options, the best way to pair coffee and desserts is to consider the type of coffee you will be drinking with the dessert.

The main types of coffee we will be pairing with desserts here are espresso coffee, filter coffee, and coffee drinks prepared with milk, as these are the three most common types of coffee internationally.

Let’s explore some of the best desserts to eat with these three types of coffee.

Desserts With Espresso

vanilla ice cream

Espresso is the most intense tasting form of brewed coffee. There is no coffee stronger than espresso, and there is no coffee brewed smaller than espresso. Espresso is brewed with a very small amount of water, which is why the coffee is so strong and full of bold, intense flavors.

The intensity of espresso means that it cannot be paired with a dessert that is too sweet or too rich. Espresso needs something a little more mellow to calm the intensity of the coffee. For this reason, the best dessert to have with espresso is vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla ice cream seems like a simple choice, but the overwhelming flavor of espresso becomes too much for the palate when paired with very rich, very intense, and complex tasting desserts.

In fact, one of the most famous pairings of espresso and ice cream is that of the Espresso Affogato. This classic espresso dessert is made with 50 grams of ice cream in a chilled cup, and a single shot of medium roast espresso poured hot on top.

This is one of the greatest pairings of coffee and dessert and is the perfect way to pair dessert and espresso together.

Desserts With Filter Coffee

chocolate dessert

Filter coffee is far less intense than espresso but still holds all of the rich, bold, delicious coffee flavors. Brewing coffee with filter methods, whether a pour-over or a French press, allows for the maximum clarity of flavor to be extracted from the coffee.

This clear coffee flavor makes filter coffee a challenge for pairing with desserts. However, it does leave more room for more intense tasting desserts than the vanilla ice cream in the Espresso Affogato. 

The best desserts to pair with filter coffee are chocolate desserts flavored with citrus fruit. An excellent example of this is chocolate chunk and orange cookies, chocolate orange brownies, or even chocolate and lemon tart.

The fresh, tart flavors of the citrus fruit combined with the rich, sweet bitterness of the chocolate pairs excellently with filter coffee, especially medium-dark and dark roast coffee.

Lighter roasted filter coffee is better with desserts with less acidity, as the coffee has its own bright and fruity flavors, but they pair very well with chocolate desserts. An excellent option for lighter roasted coffee is chocolate mousse or chocolate-dunked cookies.

Desserts With Coffee And Milk Drinks


One of the most popular coffee drink is those that are prepared with milk. These drinks can include cappuccinos, lattes, or even just filter coffee with milk. 

The milk in these drinks makes the coffee much more decadent and rich, making this type of coffee drink the easiest to pair with dessert. 

Almost every type of dessert will pair well with a coffee and milk drink, so long as the dessert is not too overpowering.

An excellent dessert for pairing with coffee and milk drinks is tiramisu, if you enjoy doubling up on the coffee flavor, otherwise simple pastry desserts such as donuts are very well combined with this type of coffee. 

A favorite among many is chocolate cake with nuts and berries. These flavors work exceedingly well with coffee and milk drinks.

Which Coffees Are Best Paired With Desserts?

Not all coffee is well paired with dessert, regardless of the type of dessert. Some coffee is simply too bright and acidic to work well with sweet desserts and is better paired with savory foods.

For example, lightly roasted coffee prepared in a French press will be very bright, acidic, sweet, floral, and contain many distinctive flavors from its origin, including fruit flavors. This type of coffee is not the best to air with very sweet, vibrant desserts and is best enjoyed on its own.

Darker roasted coffee is excellent for use with desserts, as the flavor of the coffee is less broad, more focused, and the coffee itself has more texture, ore body, and much less acidity. This type of coffee is perfect for pairing with sweet desserts, as the bitterness of the coffee will be mitigated by the rich, sweet dessert.


Coffee is a wonderful thing with a very broad variety of possible flavors. Airing coffee with dessert is dependent on the type of coffee that is used for brewing. 

Be sure to pair your coffee with a dessert based on the roast level of the coffee, as well as the brewing method. Stronger methods such as espresso pair better with less intense desserts, and less intense coffee pairs better with more vibrant desserts.

Take your time, explore various flavors, and find the best coffee and dessert pairing for you and your favorite coffee!