For the majority of the year, Elyse Lambert is a regular sommelier—regular, of course, only in the sense that this award-winning Montreal native brings her pairing talents to what sommeliers normally work with, wine. 

But when she crosses the threshold of the shiny, chic new Nespresso Academy in Montreal, Lambert becomes a sommelier of a different sort, one who brings all her expertise in notes and flavour and what food goes with which wine to the world of beans, roasts and caffeination. 

We got a chance to watch her in action at the academy, where she lead a pairing session. One of the top tips we took from that? Your coffee and your pairing should be of a similar size – for instance, a mignon espresso goes nicely with an elegant macaron (or two).

Here are three more things we learned:

#1 Consider the dessert

“I base most of my pairings on the dessert itself and we’ll look at what the dessert has to offer and from that we’ll match the coffee with it. That’s where you start the conversation and that’s where you’re like “oh, yeah. I kind of like this lighter coffee with low torrefaction with maybe a fruit dessert and if I have something that has lots of torrefaction*, a dark chocolate one…” 

#2 Milk changes everything

“Milk will change the texture and the acidity and will bring some some fat, so think about how you can play off that creaminess in your dessert pairing. On the topic of milk in coffee in general, there are some coffees that are really like interesting with milk and there are some coffees that with milk are just terrible. Like personally, the rosabaya capsule, never would I put any milk in this coffee. There is too much acidity and it has very floral notes. t just like doesn’t work, for the same reason as when you put milk in green tea – it’s awful!”

#3 Trust your tastebuds

“I don’t think there’s any don’ts because there’s so many types of coffee available—for instance, Nespresso with the original line with like 25 different coffees, you can find your way. Basically for me, first and foremost, it’s pleasure. So if you likes to drink the “rosabaya” capsule flavour with milk, seriously, why would I…it’s your palette and your personal taste. I won’t tell you like oh, you’re so wrong. You’re going to be like “I’m drinking my coffee the way I want, just shut up.” And I think it should be like this.”

#4 Do your homework

“We have the Nespresso coffee codex that is kind of our Bible in terms of guidelines for pairings, and if you go on the Nespresso website, it will also tell you all about the different capsules and what might suit your taste.”

*torrefaction = a fancy way of saying “roast”, as in dark, light or medium