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Diner Coffee

We have been talking about specialty coffee the whole time here, with good reason since we want to brew specialty coffee. This Chick-Fil-A coffee has got me thinking though: Does specialty coffee go with everything?

The first thing I have to do is clarify my understanding of the terms. When I read the term “specialty coffee,” I automatically think of coffee with complex flavors. The complex part is what I really want to pick at. I love fruit forward coffee, but would that go well with bacon, eggs and pancakes? To be honest, I don’t know if it would. I haven’t had it yet. I do know that I had a pretty decent cup of coffee at Black Bear Diner though. I think I drank right around a gallon of it (I exaggerate, but I did tell the waitress that she didn’t need to ask me before refilling my cup).

What made the coffee so special that I drank that much of it? The pancakes. Seriously. Best pancakes I’ve had in a long time. They were sweet cream pancakes with butter and syrup. I was just pounding pancake when I reached for my coffee and realized how much I was enjoying it. The coffee was very simple, 90% roast flavor with a slight chocolate finish. I began to ponder why they went so well together.

My first thought was that I already had so much sugar with pancakes. The best compliment to that would be a dark roast with just a hint of that good kind of bitter to cut through the syrup and butter on my palate.

This is a total flip of how I have been approaching coffee for the last 6 months. When I have a specialty coffee that costs me in the ball park of $3/16oz, it kind of takes center stage. We then add pastries and such that bring out the flavor in the coffee. But, when you have awesome food, it takes center stage and I want a coffee to complement it, not compete with it. If I had a beautiful light roast coffee with my pancakes, I think there would be too much sugar. The coffee would have its natural sugars plus the sugar of the pancake and syrup. In my mind, the flavors would compete, not compliment.

Let me do a wine comparison. When I get a really nice steak, I prefer a Malbec (Argentina or Chile, por favor). That is my favorite wine with steak because it does the job perfectly. It has tannins that punch you in the tongue and cleanse your palate from the sugars and fats. Then it comes in with the black pepper that makes you want to eat another bite of meat, because black pepper and meat were meant to be together.

This is how I view diner coffee. There is no reason for it to be dirty swill water like many diners serve. That is inexcusable. So I will give Chick-Fil-A some credit for wanting to service decent coffee. But a diner should not focus on its coffee; it should focus on their pancakes. That’s why people go to diners. Then they should come in with a nice coffee that is roasted dark that can hold its own against the sugars. That is what diner coffee is, the perfect complement to awesome pancakes.

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