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Tiramisu is a famous Italian desert made of, among others, mascarpone and coffee.

As an Italian desert, I believe that an Italian roast of some blend is best to match the rich mascarpone and alcohol tastes.

Is there a "standard" roast or blend combination?

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From a cooks perspective, I think it should be "espresso", or "caffè" not "coffee" in any good tiramisu recipe, which in turn would already suggest a type of beans and roast.

Note that the Italian term caffè denotes the strong black liquid you get from an esspesso machine or a moka.

The coffee in a tiramisu has to be concentrated to supply enough flavour without soaking the ladyfingers or other bisquits used. (The same principle applies when you use a liquor.)

When choosing the beans /the roast, the same rule as for wine applies: Use what you drink. And seriously, unless you are making an insane amount of tiramisu, you will be using only very little of one pack of coffee.
I use whatever I choose for my Espresso (if I feel rich, I'll splurge on something from my local roaster, in a pinch the usual suspects like Illy or Lavazza, sometimes even a Starbucks Espresso roast cough) and call it a day.

So in sort, get a classic Italian espresso roast, prepare it authentically and you should be fine. In a pinch, use another coffee, but make sure it is very strong. You'll need a few tablespoons tops for a standard tiramisu recipe.

  • Thank you! Any recommendation on the beans or blend? – Eric Platon Dec 15 '15 at 10:25
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    The same rule as for wine applies: Use what you drink. And seriously, unless you are making an insane amount of tiramisu, you will be using only very little of one pack of coffee. I use whatever I choose for my Espresso (if I feel rich, I'll splurge on something from my local roaster, in a pinch the usual suspects like Illy or Lavazza, sometimes even a Starbucks Espresso roast cough) and call it a day. – Stephie Dec 15 '15 at 10:39
  • +1 for use-what-you-drink, though I like the practicality of instant coffee in this application as detailed in my answer. Highly recommend editing the bean selection into your answer (from comments) since it was part of the original question. – hoc_age Dec 16 '15 at 21:20
  • +1 - would definitely say blend/roast/method are all secondary to "good quality/flavor" and "very strong." – PoloHoleSet Aug 12 '16 at 16:54
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Consider also using a strong preparation of instant coffee or Turkish coffee as an alternative.

This will allow cooks in an "under-equipped" kitchen (said in jest only!) to prepare a coffee of as strong a preparation as you'd like, in the absence of or espresso machine. It will also help with the temperature issue; usually you'll want the prepared coffee to be cooled. You can also use some of the coffee powder as a dusting/garnish in addition to cocoa powder.

As for the roast level, I think this is more personal preference. Your options are limited in commercially available instant coffee powder, but the sky is the limit with other preparations. For tiramisu I tend to prefer a very dark roast (French roast, or Italian roast like @Stephie recommended), which I find to be a good complement to rum, but any roast will do. On the other hand, a bit of bright acidity from a lighter-roasted American coffee would probably be a great complement for the creaminess.

I've also seen a coffee liqueur (e.g., Kahlua or Tia Maria) used in part.

  • I once had a Tiramisu with a light acidic coffee - not a pleasant memory. It accentuated the "sour" notes in the mascarpone and tasted almost a bit "off" or "sour milk"-ish. – Stephie Dec 16 '15 at 21:30
  • Interesting discussion on the roast, thank you! – Eric Platon Dec 18 '15 at 0:34
  • I generally prepare a very strong Arabica blend in a French press to keep up with the enormous number of ladyfingers. Preparing so much espresso or Turkish coffee is just tedious. – MTSan Jan 1 '16 at 23:30

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