Homemade BBQ Coffee Rub

Use this rub to tenderize and enhance the flavor of most meats like beef, pork and chicken.
homemade coffee rub in a small bowl

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So you have used the same old rubs time and time again and feel like you need a change. Something to liven up the senses and get you excited about the flavors you are creating.

I first started using coffee in my beef rubs a few years ago. I had read somewhere it had been used for many years. Then why had I not heard of it, was it a trade secret or was it so bad that everyone stopped using it? Neither was true, it is still widely used and it compliments beef so well that I feel it is almost necessary. 

Now I know, that is a very bold statement to make. Why does it compliment beef so well? Well, it’s simple, it enhances the savory beefy taste that good beef has. Coffee being highly acid, helps tenderize the beef as well.

Homemade coffee dry rub

“Are we making an espresso or a rub for meat? “

Those were the first words that popped into my head when I first heard about using coffee in a rub.

Hand sprinkling coffee rub on raw ribeye steak
Coffee rub goes great on steak

So let’s get this out of the way now, your meat will not taste like coffee.

Not at all.

Unless you have crazy sensitive taste buds, you won’t really be able to taste a specific coffee flavor. It is more used to tenderize the meat, enhance the savory flavors, and when smoking your meat with low temps for a long time, it is going to help you create that much sort after the bark or crust on the outer of your meat.

Don’t worry, using a coffee rub on your protein will not make it taste like a morning espresso

Does the type of coffee bean affect the rubs? I have tried many and I could not tell any difference in flavors or strength but I did find that using freshly ground coffee had more acidity and therefore helped tenderize the beef a lot more than coffee that wasn’t freshly ground.

So don’t be afraid of using coffee in your rubs, in fact, start experimenting today. Remembering that it is only going to enhance any sweet or savory flavors you already have, it is effectively a flavor booster. 

Use this rub to great effect with our pulled bbq beef, smoked prime rib and coffee rubbed ribeye recipes.

Can you use coffee rub on steak?

This rub works on steak, but I find it works best when reverse searing larger steaks so you don’t hit the coffee with high heat until the rub has had time to penetrate into the meat.

Our reverse-seared coffee rubbed ribeye is a great steak recipe that uses our coffee rub.

ribeye on grill at end of cooking
Our coffee crusted ribeye makes great use of this rub

At the very least try and apply the rub a couple of hours before hand and then place the steak back in the fridge. The longer it is able to sit on the surface, the more it will allow the acidity to penetrate into the meat.

Is coffee only for beef though? 

Many coffee rubs out there say to use them exclusively on beef.

While I love using this on beef, I have also used this on pork and chicken with great success. It just has a great balance of sweet tangy flavor that has become a hit lately.

We have already touched on what coffee brings to the table in the way of a rub. It purely enhances what is already there.

beef cut seasoned with coffee rub
Coffee rub is great on most meats like beef, pork and chicken

So no, you will not taste any coffee, it will just enhance any savory and sweet flavors your rub already has and you will end up with such a rich complex flavor at the end of your cook from the smoke, seasoning, and the natural taste of your protein.

This coffee rub has been fine-tuned using the palate of my family. Some like their sweet flavors, and some prefer the more savory ones. Then a couple do not like heat but a few love some extra kick. So this blend is an overall happy medium.

Coffee rub works on brisket, or you could try our brisket rub recipe.

Making the rub

Like any rub, seasoning, or sauce, I always recommend measuring out all of your ingredients beforehand. Not that mixing a rub is hard, it is just a good practice to get into when cooking.

coffee rub ingredients
Measuring ingredients beforehand is a good habit to get into

What you’ll need is:

  • ¼ cup of coarse freshly ground coffee (I’ve found the fresher the coffee, the more it activates to help tenderize the meat)
  • 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar (normal brown is fine)
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder
  • 2 tsp of cayenne pepper (Feel free to increase or decrease but this amount seemed to be a happy medium across the board)
  • 2 tablespoons of paprika (I used normal, you can change it up and use sweet or smoked paprika if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (salt flakes are fine)
coffee rub in a glass rub shaker
The fresh rub is always best, but you can store the leftovers in a fridge for up to 6 months

Mix it up thoroughly and transfer to a rub shaker to make applying it easier. Always apply any seasoning or rub from a height of around 12 inches, as this just helps the different sized particles to separate and you will end up with a more even coverage and therefore every bite from start to finish will taste the same. 

You should also put any left over into an airtight container or zip lock bag and place it in the fridge to keep it longer. It should keep fine in the fridge for up to six months. Although due to the coffee, I recommend fresh is best.

homemade coffee rub in a small bowl

Homemade Coffee Rub

Use this rub to tenderize and enhance the flavor of meat.
5 from 26 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment / Sauce
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 206kcal
Author: Jordan Hanger


  • ¼ cup ground coffee Ideally use a medium coarse ground as this will help with the texture and crust. Don't use a powder.
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 1tsp cayenne pepper Adjust up or down depending on your spice tolerence.


  • Measure out ingredients and mix thoroughly before use.
  • Apply from roughly 12 inches above your meat for even coverage.
  • Apply at least an hour prior to smoking or cooking for the best results.
  • Store leftover rub in an airtight container for longer shelf life.


Calories: 206kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 7013mg | Potassium: 694mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 4820IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 153mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximation only. If you’re worried you could always add a side of kale.

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Want more rub ideas?

Want to try a coffee rub but don’t fancy making your own? Here are a few of our favorite store bought coffee dry rubs.

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