BBQ Coffee Rub: Wake Up Those Taste Buds

August 21, 2023
Written by John Smits

A coffee rub might sound like an unusual thing to put on meat, but trust me when I say the earthy flavor of coffee paired with the sweet brown sugar is an absolute game-changer.

I love using my coffee rub whenever I feel like shaking things up. It puts a fun and interesting spin on an array of meats, but I think it really shines when paired with pulled pork, steaks, ribs, and even turkey. I'm dropping my favorite recipe so you can give it a try. If you like coffee, you'll love this dry rub.

Ready to punch up the taste on the next piece of meat that's hitting your grill or smoker? Let's dive in and talk more about the finest coffee rub in all the land.

bbq coffee rub

Coffee Rub Recipe

Good news! All the ingredients in my coffee dry rub recipe are household staples, so you can whip up a batch of my rub in no time. If you've tried commercial coffee rubs, this homemade coffee rub will blow them away. The key ingredient is freshly ground coffee. When those coffee grinds are fresh, oh baby, does it kick things up a notch.

Did I mention that mixing this simple recipe together only takes 2 minutes? And each of the ingredients is a pantry staple. Grab your favorite roast coffee and those pantry spices, and let's cook!

Note: No coffee grinder? Go to a local coffee shop, buy their beans, and have them grind the beans fresh for you. You're looking for finely ground coffee. Instant coffee doesn't cut it for my coffee dry rub.

Coffee Rub Ingredients

Makes: 2 1/2 tablespoons, enough for 4 pounds of meat

Prep time: 2 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon fresh, finely ground coffee (I have a burr coffee grinder and prefer Lavazza brand coffee beans. If you're a coffee nut, you know what I'm talking about.)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet paprika can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (ditch it if you don't want a slightly spicy flavor)

Making Coffee Rub

  1. Grind the whole beans. You're looking for finely ground coffee. It should resemble granulated sugar.
  2. Make the dry rub. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground coffee, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, cocoa powder, salt, and cayenne pepper until fully combined. Break up any clumps.

While the ingredients can be stored in an airtight container for months, the coffee will go stale quickly. It won't be bad, but the flavors will fade. For best results, use it immediately.

BBQ Dry Rub with Cinnamon and Thyme

Mix it Up

Give my recipe a try at least once before you start swapping other spices in and out. If you decide to change ingredients, keep the quantity the same.

Want to throw some ground cumin in there? Replace the onion powder and the garlic powder with 1 teaspoon of cumin, and see how it tastes. Prefer more heat? Up the Cayenne for an added punch.

Remember - you can try the coffee rub before you put it on your protein. I'm always tasting things before I put them on food! It's what smart cooks and chefs do. If it doesn't taste like a winner, add more of the appropriate seasoning until it does.

Pair this seasoning with your favorite sauce for an extra layer of flavor.

What to Use Coffee Rub On?

You can toss my delicious rub on just about any protein you're grilling or smoking - the blend of seasonings brings a mix of sweet flavors and some heat (thanks to the cayenne pepper). But the star of the show is the rich and bold coffee flavors.

Beef

I think this rub is absolutely perfect on beef. The rich flavors merge perfectly with the boldness of beef. Smoked brisket seasoned with a coffee rub is absolutely dynamite. Your friends, family, and neighbors will hope you serve up that brisket at your place every weekend, I promise.

How about coffee-rubbed steak for a savory meal? Now we're cooking! I'll take my steak medium-rare, please. This coffee rub and prime rib could be besties - the pairing is delicious.

Beef Ribs and Dry Rub

Pork

Besides beef, I think this coffee rub is great rubbed into pork. I love to toss it on ribs when I'm smoking them. It works wonders on any type of ribs - baby back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis cut, and rib tips.

But don't stop at ribs. Give this rub a try for some next-level chops, tenderloin, or loin. It's dynamite on pork shoulder, as well.

Chef Rubbing Spices Over Boneless Pork Roast

Poultry

I also recommend adding this rub to a bird - your taste buds will take flight, I promise. Give it a try on chicken or turkey.

Chicken wings, in particular, are a cut that I enjoy pairing with this dry rub. Toss them in a large bowl filled with the seasoning, fire up your smoker, and put them on the table when they're done cooking for an easy weeknight meal.

Spatchcock Chicken with Dry Rub and Cilantro

How to Use Homemade Coffee Rub?

Apply a generous amount of the rub before you cook the meat. Use around 1 1/4 tablespoons per 2 pounds of meat.

Sprinkle the rub all over the surface of the meat. Smoke, grill, or prepare the meat as usual.

What Roast of Coffee to Use?

Dark roast, medium roast, blonde roast, espresso - the types of different coffee roasts are abundant. It's always smart to think about the flavors of what you're cooking. Meat that has a richer flavor will stand up to a bolder roast.

For the best flavor on beef, I go with the Lavazza espresso roast. It's a fantastic coffee, and the richness of beef can withstand the bold espresso bean.

For pork, go with a medium roast.

Pair a lighter roast with more delicate meats like chicken and turkey.

Final Thoughts

If coffee rubs are new to you, I'm here to tell you to give my homemade coffee rub recipe a shot. It will elevate any meat you're cooking up, from steak to pork to poultry.

Again, freshly ground coffee is the key to this one. Stale grounds won't get the job done. Apply some to whatever you're cooking the next time you fire up the grill, and you won't have any leftovers.

By John Smits
John bought his first home in 2012 and bought his first grill shortly afterward: the ubiquitous Weber kettle grill. He’s been hooked since the first time he fired up some coals. Now, after over a decade spent making countless delicious meals, John is a passionate advocate for live-fire cooking.
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