The Leafly Cannabis and Coffee Pairing GuideBrett KonenSeptember 29, 2017
Look for proof that cannabis and coffee are a perfect couple and you’ll find plenty. Dutch cannabis lounges are “coffeeshops” in part because the pairing works so well together. Enthusiasts know that the perfect wake and bake should always include a cup of coffee. Cannabis and coffee can both bring people together, too: Taking an hour or two to catch up with an old friend, for instance, frequently happens over a latte, a hand-rolled joint, or both.
How to pair cannabis and coffee for the ideal mix of flavors and a perfectly tailored set of effects? It’s easy if you follow a few simple guidelines. Start with our chart below for sample pairing ideas, then read on to learn how to your own favorite strains with the right coffee.
Pairing Cannabis and Coffee by Flavor
Cannabis flavors will vary widely based on the strain, phenotype, growing climate, whether it was grown indoors or outdoors, when it was harvested, how it was flushed and cured, and how it is packaged and stored. Cannabis strains’ specific aromas, flavors, and to some extent effects are characterized to a great extent by terpenes, a diverse class of fragrant oils that occur naturally in the plant. For instance, the fact that the Lavender strain truly smells like its namesake can be attributed to the presence of linalool, also commonly found in lavender flowers. Similarly, Mango Kush gets some of its flavor from myrcene, also present in its eponymous fruit. In an effective pairing, the flavors in the cannabis will either accentuate existing flavors in your coffee and vice versa, or else complement them in a unique way; thus, a bright, fruity coffee would pair well with that Mango Kush.
Coffee, for its part, contains more flavor compounds than red wine, and numerous factors influence the flavor profiles that coffee beans develop. There are multiple subspecies of coffee, including Bourbon, Kona, Ethiopian Sidamo, Sulawesi, and many more (these can be thought of as coffee “strains”). Where and how the coffee is grown also causes variation—Bourbon coffee grown in Latin America will be different than Bourbon coffee grown in Rwanda. The climate and altitude of the growing location can also make a difference (just as they can with cannabis).
Once coffee cherries are harvested, the processing method (washed, natural, etc.) influences the flavor profile. A roastmaster’s choice of how long to roast can elicit radically different flavor profiles as well. Finally, everything a barista (or home coffee brewer) does—from the grinding of the coffee to the brew method selection—will make a difference, too.
To pair coffee and cannabis by flavor, consider what you’d naturally be inclined to pair with a given coffee. If you’re working with a rich Sumatran coffee with a dark, earthy flavor profile, you might instinctively reach for a dark chocolate bar to go with it. Switch that bar out for a sweet, chocolatey strain like Chocolope and you’ve got a great pairing. Pro tip: If you’re not sure where to start, ask your barista about recommended pairings for the beans you’re buying.
Once you’ve chosen both your coffee and strain, choose your brew and consumption methods. With cannabis, vaping flower or dabbing full-spectrum concentrates will generally result in the most flavorful hits. With coffee beans, an espresso machine, French press, or Aeropress will beget stronger, bolder brews, while flavors in filtered drip or pour-over coffee will be more muted.
Pairing Cannabis and Coffee by Effects
There’s another dimension to pairing cannabis with coffee: matching the two in terms of their effects. Cannabis strains, of course, can vary widely in the ways they make us feel. Coffee’s effects can vary to a degree as well, depending primarily on the amount of caffeine in the brew. Dark-roast coffee will have less caffeine than a light roast; an espresso-based drink such as an Americano will have less caffeine than a brewed cup of coffee of the same size.
The strain you pair with your caffeine kick should match the energy level you’re going for. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, a few puffs of Green Crack and a cup of light-roast coffee are likely to do the trick. If it’s 3 p.m. and you’re worried about sleeping later tonight, look toward the hybrid or indica side of the strain spectrum, and pair with a single shot of espresso (or, if you’re particularly sensitive to caffeine, go with decaf). You can also use coffee to offset unwanted cannabis effects, or vice versa—for instance, a boost of caffeine can circumvent couchlock associated with, say, Afgoo, while relaxation from a strain like LA Confidential can soothe caffeine-induced jitters.
Ready to try it out for yourself? Getting started is as easy as beginning to experiment with your favorite strains and coffees, and learning as you go. As you do, remember one basic rule: There are no right answers in pairing. If you like it, it’s a good pairing—simple as that.