Coffee Dry Rub

4.64 from 11 votes
4.64 from 11 votes

This BBQ coffee dry rub is easy to make and will elevate any of your favorite steaks. Fire up the perfect coffee-crusted beef with this flavor-packed seasoning rub!

bbq beef steak coffee dry rub seasoning recipe

Coffee might seem like an unusual seasoning ingredient, but this coffee dry rub brings a surprising amount of flavor to the table. It offers a twist on typical BBQ rubs with a distinct earthy flavor that pairs nicely with the deeper flavors of beef, particularly grilled steaks, beef ribs, and chuck roast.

As unusual an ingredient as it might seem, coffee has been used to season meat for generations. It’s said that cowboys on the trail would rub their steaks with ground coffee for a bit of punch. I think they were on to something, because this dry rub delivers a kick of earthy flavor to grilled and smoked meat like no other.

This coffee BBQ rub is simple, and only takes a couple of minutes to throw together. Perfect if you’re firing up some steaks last minute on the grill. Here’s how to make it.

grilled beef steak with coffee dry rub cooked on

Why Use Coffee in Dry Rub

Featuring a complex flavor profile that goes far beyond its inherent bitterness, coffee boasts a mild sweetness and chocolate-like depth that complements the sugars and salts in our recipe. It adds a touch of extra smoky flavor, and its natural acids can help tenderize meat.

Coffee grounds caramelize and brown during cooking thanks to their sugar content, causing the Maillard Reaction (a chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that browns and crisps the meat’s exterior). And if you’re smoking beef, the essential oils in coffee contribute to the forming of beautiful bark on the meat.

And there’s no reason to be concerned about bitterness here. While it is true that coffee naturally contains bitter compounds, these are balanced out by the sugars, salts and spices used in our rub. We also use a lighter roast to help temper this even further (darker roasts are often more bitter).

coffee dry rub seasoning applied liberally to raw beef steak before grilling

Best Type of Coffee to Use

Any coffee snob will tell you that not all coffees suit every type of use, and the same is true for making this seasoning.

For our coffee dry rub, we want to use a lighter roast. Darker roasts are more intense and bitter, so avoid them. Also, avoid any flavored coffee.

Aim to use finely ground coffee. It will combine more evenly and have more surface area, imparting more flavor than coarser grinds.

Freshly ground coffee has the best flavor, so if you have coffee beans and a grinder, you’re good to go. Pre-ground coffee can work, but won’t carry as much flavor. Some people prefer using instant coffee as they claim it can withstand higher temperatures, but I find it just too bitter to use in a dry rub.


While I often make a lot of my homemade dry rubs as and when I need them (fresh is best), it can’t hurt to make some in batch.

If you have any leftover rub, store it in an airtight container or jar to stop any moisture from getting in and spoiling the batch. I like these glass spice jars on Amazon as a starting point.

Light, heat, and humidity are all guaranteed to ruin your homemade rub, especially in the case of coffee, so make sure you store it away from direct sunlight, ideally in a cupboard or pantry (just don’t store it in the refrigerator).

Once stored, use your dry rub within three months. It can keep longer, but I find the flavor starts to fade.

close-up of grilled beef steak seared with coffee dry rub seasoning applied before cooking
bbq beef steak coffee dry rub seasoning recipe

Coffee Dry Rub

4.64 from 11 votes
This BBQ coffee dry rub is easy to make and will elevate any of your favorite steaks. Fire up the perfect coffee-crusted beef with this flavor-packed seasoning rub!
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time2 minutes
Total Time2 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • ¼ cup finely ground coffee (light to medium roast)
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional, for heat)


Making the Rub

  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Use a fork to break down any clumps that may form.
  • Store the rub in an airtight container (or jar) at room temperature until ready to use. Keep for up to 3 months.

Using the Rub

  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture
  • Generously sprinkle the coffee rub over the meat, covering all sides. Press it on lightly to help it adhere to the meat surface.
  • For best results, let the rubbed meat sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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