Coffee Article

Fun & Easy Coffee Games to Play with Friends

Andrew Pautler

A few weeks ago, I published an article about cupping coffee at home. It mainly focused on the process of tasting coffee individually, which, while gratifying, isn’t nearly as fun as exploring coffee with friends. While sharing coffee can be as simple as enjoying a cup together or going to a coffee shop, it can also be a bit more fun and adventurous. In this post I explore some fun coffee games you can play with friends—regardless of their knowledge of specialty coffee. These games are easy to set up and fun to play, and they will help you and your friends get to know coffee better.

Game #1: Coffee Traveler

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego—er, I mean, this coffee from? The origin of a coffee has a huge impact on the taste and flavor. Central and South American coffees tend to be well-balanced and chocolatey; African coffees tend to be bright, fruity, and exciting; Asian coffees tend to be full-bodied and rich. These are broad generalizations with many, many exceptions, but they’re a good starting point. In this game, everyone tries to guess the origin of a coffee by how it tastes and smells. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick three to five coffees from various regions. Try to select coffees that are clearly unique from one another and diverse in their origins.
  2. Brew each coffee with the same brew method and label them anonymously.
  3. Have everyone sample each coffee and try to guess where it is from. If you have a group unfamiliar with coffee, ask them simply to guess the continent. If you have a group that is more comfortable with coffee, make it harder by having them guess the specific country of origin. If you have some true coffee Jedis, try to have them pick the specific region within the country! The person who guesses the most origins correctly wins.
Some tips for this game:
  • If your group isn’t as comfortable with coffee, provide some context before they start drinking. Use this post, which gives some broad context to various coffee regions, to help guide them as they are tasting each coffee.
  • Mix it up and throw in a coffee that doesn’t align with the typical profile for a region—just to keep everyone on their toes.

Game #2: Flavor Bender

Almost every bag of specialty coffee includes flavor notes on it—from pear, plum, and brown sugar to raspberry, vanilla, and chocolate. While many times these flavor notes are lost on the average coffee drinker, there is a fun way to bring them a bit more to the forefront. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a coffee with some flavor notes you love and have access to. Recently, I did this with the Ethiopia – Sidama Region, Telamo Co-Op from Conscious Coffee, which has flavor notes of strawberry, milk chocolate, lime, and graham cracker.
  2. Gather the foods that align with all the flavor notes. Be sure to get enough that everyone can try some of each food.
  3. Have everyone in the group go around and try each of the flavor note foods. Make sure everyone really focuses on each flavor as they try it. Doing this is not only delicious but it helps prep your palate for finding those same flavors within the coffee. While everyone is trying the different foods, start to brew your selected coffee.
  4. Once the coffee is brewed and everyone has sampled each of the foods, have everyone taste the coffee together and try to identify the same flavor notes. This game doesn’t have a single winner, but since coffee is involved, I’d say everyone wins.
Some tips for this game:
  • Try to pick a coffee with really pronounced flavor notes. I find that bright, fruity, naturally processed coffees work well for this game since they can have some really pronounced flavors that are fairly easy to identify.
  • When trying the coffee, be sure to give it time to cool down. Many of the flavor profiles will become more evident once the coffee cools a bit.

Game #3: Guess the Flavor

Another game that plays off the coffee’s flavor is one I call Guess the Flavor. I originally saw this game in action a few months back at an open house Switch Coffee put on at their roastery. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick three different types of coffee to brew. Ideally, they would each have distinct flavor profiles (for example, one could be a bright, fruity African coffee and one could be a rich, earthy South American coffee).
  2. Create a sheet where people can write down their guesses for the flavor profile of each coffee. Here’s an example of what that sheet could look like.
  3. Have people try each coffee and write down what flavors they taste in the coffee.
  4. Once everyone has written guesses for each coffee, reveal the coffee and its actual flavor profile. Whoever got the most flavor notes right wins.
Some tips for this game:
  • Include the coffee taster’s flavor wheel next to this area, so people have a reference of flavors to pull from. To make it a bit easier, you could also pick 15 to 20 flavor options for people to choose from (eight to nine of them being the correct flavors), so people have a better chance of guessing the right flavors.
  • If you can laminate the page where people write their guesses, you can actually use paint to mask the answer and allow people to scratch off once they guess.

Game #4: Name that Brew Method

Every specialty coffee fan has their favorite brew method. From v60 to Chemex to the French press, each one has its own unique characteristics. With this game, you test your palate to see if you can blindly identify the various brew methods. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a coffee that does well in a variety of brew methods. Really, any coffee will do, but there are some that hold up better regardless of how they are brewed.
  2. Pick three to four brew methods you want to use. I tend to try to pick at least one pour over/drip method (v60, Kalita Wave, Chemex), one steeping method (French press, siphon) and one pressure method (AeroPress, espresso). If you really think ahead, you can also include a cold brew method, like the Toddy, which would take 12 to 24 hours of steeping.
  3. Brew your selected coffee in each of the selected brew methods and label them anonymously.
  4. Have people guess which brew method they think produced each coffee. The winner is the person who gets the most correct guesses.
Some tips for this game:
  • To make it a bit easier, you can let people know the brew method options, so they have a smaller selection to choose from.
  • To help direct people, you can provide some context for the different characteristics each brew method provides. Here’s a nice post from Counter Culture that describes some popular brew methods.

These games are all fun and easy to set up and they can be adjusted based on the coffee comfort level of the people playing. They offer a great way to explore coffee in a new way with friends and get people who maybe aren’t as knowledgeable about coffee to up their game.

I’m always up for hearing about new coffee party games, so if you have any ideas, please share them on Instagram or by email.


Photo Credit: Feature photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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