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How to Make Coffee Rub for Steaks

Coffee-Rubbed Steak

Like beer, wine, and tea, coffee is not only a popular, widely-consumed beverage — it is also great for cooking. And that includes steaks. There are many ways to season steak, whether it’s Mexican seasoning used oncarne asada or the savory flavors of a Brazilian steakhouse. And steak is also quite compatible with the taste of coffee. In fact, savvy baristas know just how delicious the flavor of coffee can be when used for a rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak.

What Does Coffee Do to Steak?

The acidity in coffee does not overwhelm or overpower the taste of steak. Quite the contrary — coffee really brings out the flavor of the steak. And in addition to being used as a seasoning for steak, coffee can serve as a steak tenderizer and make the meat extra-moist.

Coffee, unless it has been decaffeinated, naturally contains caffeine — which begs the question: how much caffeine will one consume when eating rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak? In fact, the amount of caffeine that will make its way to steak via a coffee rub is negligible. 

After a coffee rub has been placed on a steak, one should wait about 20 or 30 minutes before cooking it. If salt is used on the steak, it should be cooked sooner rather than later — as the salt will cause the steak’s juices to seep out, thus causing the steak to lose flavor.

What Does Coffee-Rubbed Steak Taste Like?

Coffee-rubbed steak adds an undertone of charring to the flavor of your steak. It helps to highlight the flavor of the outside of the steak to give it different flavor layers without the risk of overcooking. The coffee notes also add an additional profile to this culinary experience without dominating the steak and are lightly spiced for all pallets.

Here are some delicious recipes to have on hand when getting ready to prepare rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak.

How To Grind The Coffee For Your Coffee Rub

Roasted coffee beans can be ground in different ways, from a fine grind to a medium grind to a coarse grind. For a coffee rub, a medium grind is arguably preferable. A fine grind can stick to the meat too much, while a coarse grind may not stick to it enough — and a medium grind offers a happy medium.

Homemade Coffee Rub Recipe

Preparation time: 5 minutes  

Total time: 5 minutes

Ingredients for Homemade Coffee Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons, instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons, coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons, garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons, smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon, pepper
  • 1 tablespoon, crushed coriander
  • 1 tablespoon, onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon, chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon, cayenne

How to Make Homemade Coffee Rub:

  1. Place all of these ingredients in a bowl and mix them until they are thoroughly integrated.
  2. If there are any clumps of seasonings, crush them using a fork.
  3. Transfer the homemade coffee rub from a bowl to an airtight container.
  4. Store the container for as long as a month.

Coffee-Rubbed Steak Recipe

Preparation time: 30 minutes 

Cooking time: 10 minutes 

Resting time: 15 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes  

Ingredients for Coffee-Rubbed Steak:

  •  2 tablespoons, coffee grounds (do not use instant coffee) 
  •  4 ribeye steaks
  •  1 tablespoon, dark brown sugar
  •  1 tablespoon, smoked paprika
  •  1 teaspoon, sea salt
  •  1 teaspoon, black pepper
  •  ½ teaspoon, garlic powder
  •  ½ teaspoon, onion powder

How to Make Coffee-Rubbed Steak:

  1. Place the coffee grounds, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder in a bowl and stir until the ingredients are thoroughly integrated.  
  2. After making the coffee rub, place it in an airtight container and store it for as long as a month.
  3. When ready to cook the steak, start by rubbing the coffee rub all over the steak. Roughly 1 and ½ teaspoons of coffee rub per side is about right.
  4. Leave the rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak alone until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Make sure the grill is preheated to 450F/232C.
  6. Grill the rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak for the amount of time needed. A rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak that is rare or medium-rare will, of course, require less grilling than a rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak that is well-done. 
  7. After the rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak has received the amount of grilling desired — be it rare, medium-rare, or well-done — move it from the grill to a plate.
  8. Cover the steak with foil and leave it alone for 15 minutes before serving it. 

Best Coffee to Use For A Coffee-Rubbed Steak

Ideally, one should think like a barista when making the rub for a rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak, and that means using high-quality gourmet coffee. Whole-bean coffee is preferable, and one shouldn’t grind the beans until ready to prepare the rub. But if one must use pre-ground coffee, be sure to avoid using instant coffee granules; that is, use the type of pre-ground coffee that is typically brewed with a coffee maker.

Using sea salt specifically is an important part of making the rub for rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak. Sea salt has a coarse grain, and that coarseness really brings out the flavors of the coffee rub.

The use of dark brown sugar will add some sweetness to the coffee rub and balance out the coffee flavor. But one needn’t worry about the use of brown sugar making the rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak taste sweet like a dessert. That won’t happen.

It’s OK to experiment with the ingredients used to make a coffee rub. For example, one can try adding cumin to a coffee rub recipe; cumin is used with tasty results in everything from Middle Eastern and Indian food to Cuban recipes such as arroz con pollo and fricasé de pollo. And other possibilities for a coffee rub can range from chili powder (a time-honored Texas favorite) to dried mustard.

Coffee Rub Tips For Any Purpose

Light, medium, and dark roasts are all valid coffee options for a coffee rub; a darker roast will encourage a bolder flavor. However, flavored coffees are best avoided, as flavors like vanilla nut, caramel, chocolate mint, and pumpkin spice — although great in sweets — do not work well with the other ingredients.

As a rule, a coffee rub is enjoyed by people who like their food well-seasoned rather than bland. Coffee rub is known for seasoning beef or steak, but it is equally tasty when used with pork, chicken, lamb, goat, or alligator. And it works with seafood as well, including salmon, tuna, shrimp, whiting, halibut, snapper, calamari, and trout. 

Moreover, coffee rub doesn’t automatically exclude vegetarians or vegans, and it can also be used when grilling different types of vegetables.

Meat and fish seasoned with coffee rub are often grilled, but grilling is by no means mandatory where coffee rub is concerned. A coffee rub can also be used when baking meat or fish, and sautéing in a pan on the stove is another option. 


Coffee offers a wide range of options when it comes to beverages. And chefs who have savored the pleasures of rubbed steak/coffee-rubbed steak realize that coffee can also be quite delicious when applied to food.