Coffee – One Good Rub of Flavor

Coffee rubbed and coffee-encrusted steaks and chops feature on some of the finest menus in the country. Coffee adds a wonderful, smoky flavor to meat that is subtle and understated. Coffee pairs well with darker meats, and many restaurants use it to highlight their most exclusive cuts. It’s especially popular with buffalo and elk steaks, antelope, salmon and the most expensive cuts of beef. Coffee, however, can lend a delightfully exotic note to the flavors of less expensive cuts of meat. Try it on chicken thighs to see just what coffee can really do for meat.

Now that summer is here, the grills are coming out and coffee takes on a whole new life. It’s found some great friends in flavors like chipotle pepper and garlic, and it can really liven up your next barbecue with friends. You could go out and buy coffee based meat rubs from a number of internet sources or at your local supermarket, but half the fun in using coffee on your grill is in designing your own flavorful coffee rubs. Here are some hints and tips for using coffee with your favorite spices to wake up the flavor of your grilled meats.

– Most recipes for coffee rubs just call for ground coffee. Keep in mind that the same things that influence the flavors of brewed coffee will influence the flavors of your coffee rubs. Experiment with different coffee varieties and different meats, and play with the grind till you find the one that works the best with the meats that you like to cook.

– Dark roast coffees pair especially well with stronger flavors like chipotle peppers and garlic. Try lighter roasts with simpler flavors – a nice city roast with sea salt and fresh ground pepper can be the perfect accent for duck or chicken.

– Ground coffee can be used in either wet or dry rubs, or added to marinades for lighter meats.

– Use your grill to smoke meats as they cook. Wrap lightly roasted coffee beans in a double layer of aluminum foil and poke holes in the top. When the coals have reached the red glow stage, lay the foil packet on directly on the coals, then lay out your meat on the grill and close the cover.

– The finer you grind the coffee for your rub, the more intense will be the coffee flavor. Coarser grinds of coffee are better for crusted meats. They’ll impart less coffee flavor to the meat, but deliver more pow in your mouth.

– Let the meat rest for at least half an hour after rubbing it to let it absorb the flavors.

– Start meat over direct heat to sear in juices, but finish over indirect heat to to avoid overcooking or burning.

– Use lighter rubs on more tender cuts of meat. For gamier meats, use a dark roast, flavorful coffee like Kona, Ethiopian or Sumatran. For chicken or pork, try South American or Caribbean coffees.

– Remember that meat will continue to cook for five to seven minutes after it’s removed from the heat. Give it time to settle before serving.


  1. Coffee in this foil works and if you want a pellet made especially for grilling check out mojopellets – smoking jo. You can add it directly to charcoal, or use it mixed with wood, or add it to your pellet grill. Only a few pellets are needed to creat the smoke you speak of in this article – coffee smoked meat is great!

  2. Thank you for this! I tasted a chicken baked in coffee grounds about 13 years ago and it was so delicious!!!!!!!!!
    I will try to find the perfect coffee rub as suggested and then I will let you know..

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