Earthy and deep with a bit of sweet, this coffee dry rub is easy to make and the perfect match for the robust flavor of beef. But, it’s also a combination that works suprisingly well on pork too. Ideal for smoking and grilling, I usually keep a jar made up so I can just sprinkle this onto any meat before it hits the barbecue.
I’m a big fan of this coffee dry rub for smoking because not only is it really versatile, it’s a bit different from the norm.
The coffee base gives it an earthy flavor (it doesn’t actually taste like coffee) and the sweetness you get from the brown sugar and bit of cinnamon gives your mouth the whole experience.
Suitable for cooking a brisket, pork shoulder, or rack of ribs low and slow, this coffee dry rub is equally as good on a steak cooked over high-heat.
The recipe we down below doesn’t have any chili in it. But, if you like it spicy, throw in some cayenne to taste. The spice really gives this dry rub some attitude and adds yet another layer of complexity to the flavor.
Table of Contents
Coffee Dry Rub Ingredients
- 1/2 cup instant coffee
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp paprika
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper, ground
- 1 tsp cinnamon
How to Make Coffee Dry Rub for Barbecue
- Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl or jar, stir or shake until well combined.
- Rub the coffee dry rub liberally into your chosen meat before cooking.
Variations to This Coffee Dry Rub Recipe
This coffee dry rub recipe is great made as is.
But, barbecue is all about using what you’ve got, and doing what you like with the flavors. So, feel free to experiment with the quantities, add to it, or subtract to make this recipe exactly what you want.
Some of the variations we’ve used on this coffee dry rub recipe include:
A bit of spice complements the sweet and earthy flavor of this dry rub perfectly. So, if you appreciate a bit of a bite, add some cayenne pepper.
We usually put in 1 – 2 tsp of cayenne for this amount of other ingredients. But, increase or decrease this quanitity based on how hot you (and your guests) can handle it.
Cayenne is great but the flavor you get from using chipotle in this dry rub is my absolute favorite! Especially if you’re putting this on a steak or other piece of meat for grilling, the chipotle gives you a little bit of smoke and it’s not as spicy as straight cayenne.
Add about one tablespoon based on this recipe volume.
Cinnamon on meat isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
We like to keep the cinnamon quantity down in this recipe to add a little bit of sweetness without being overpowering. But, you can always omit this ingredient if you’re not a fan or don’t have any in the cupboard.
When I’m smoking the meat I’ve rubbed with this mix I always use regular paprika because you’re getting the smokiness from the wood during cooking.
But, if you’re grilling this coffee dry rub on a piece of steak or chicken, it’s great with smoked paprika instead of regular.
You can keep the quantity the same and just do a straight swap.
What Type of Coffee is Best for Coffee Dry Rub?
This recipe calls for ground instant coffee because it gives a mildly bitter flavor with no burnt taste.
If you want a stronger and earthier taste, you can use finely ground coffee grinds instead.
On really long smokes, you might find that the coffee grounds burn a little. I’d just be mindful of not letting your smoker get too hot. If you’re wrapping mid-cook, it shouldn’t really be a problem.
When you’re using coffee in a dry rub, it’s main purpose is to enhance the meaty flavor. So, in terms of what type of coffee bean is best, I’ve tried a lot and haven’t found that the taste transfers enough to make a noticeable difference.
What Do You Use Coffee Dry Rub On?
This coffee dry rub is great on:
The meaty flavor is really enhanced by this rub’s deep flavor.
Just be aware that this rub does have brown sugar in it.
If you’re grilling meat quickly over high heat, it should be alright without burning. But, if you’re trying to do a well-done steak, reverse sear it so that your steak can cook through over a more gentle heat that won’t just burn the sugar.
None of the ingredients in this coffee dry rub need to be cooked so it’s a perfect spice mix to finish dry rub ribs with.
Simply spritz a little water or water/vinegar mix onto ribs after cooking and dip them in any remaining dry spice.
If you want to use a slow cooker to do pulled pork instead of a smoker, use smoked paprika instead of regular in this recipe. Throw about 1/4 a cup of it into your slow cooker with a large pork shoulder and you’ll have yourself a great tasting, slightly smoky pork a few hours later.
FAQs About Coffee Dry Rubs
Coffee dry rub doesn’t really taste like coffee. In fact, the coffee is really there to enhance the natural meatiness of beef, pork, lamb, or chicken, and creates a deep, earthy flavor.
If you like a richer, deeper flavor on your smoked meats, you’ll most probably like coffee dry rub. But, there’s only one way to know for sure…
Because of the high acidity of coffee, it does in fact help to tenderize meat that it’s applied to.
For the maximum benefit, use fresh coffee that’s been opened recently. But, as for the type of bean, it doesn’t really matter, any coffee will do.
Coffee tenderizes meat due to it’s high acidity. But, it also enhances the flavor of both the meat and any other spices that are applied to it.
Together, a coffee dry rub creates a rich and hearty flavor. Most people won’t even notice a regular coffee flavor.
Suprisingly, and potentially unfortunately, coffee in a dry rub doesn’t make your meat taste like coffee.
Instead, it’ll have a deep and earthy flavor that particularly complements richer meats like beef, lamb, and venison.
You don’t need to apply oil to meat before using this, or any, dry rub mixture.
In fact, it sticks best to dry meat so patting it down with a paper towel before sprinkling your dry rub on is the best way to get the most flavor to stay on there.
Buying a Coffee Dry Rub
If you like the idea of using a coffee dry rub on smoked or grilled meats but don’t want to make your own, we rate these three.
Jared Brown, an avid lover of all things meat has a fearless enthusiasm for experimenting with anything that's grilling, smoking or outdoor cooking. With a wealth of experience across a range different barbecue types, Jared's got a real knack for helping others make a decision they're happy with, ensuring they find the perfect fit regardless of conventional notions of the 'right' choice. This unique approach has made Jared a trusted guide in the world of barbecue.