Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to Use Coffee to make Plump and Juicy Barbecued Ribs by Cleo Coyle

My husband and I call these "coffee ribs" for two reasons...

The first is that we use brewed coffee to add earthy flavor and moistness to the ribs before cooking. Whether you make your ribs on the grill or in the oven, that extra moistness from the java will help prevent your ribs from drying out and give you plump and juicy results.

The second reason we call these "coffee" ribs is because we like to use barbecue sauces that include coffee in their ingredients. 

In this case, the BBQ sauce came from the famous Kansas City Roasterie, a fantastic place to buy delicious premium coffee...and coffee barbecue sauce. 

Actually, you can use (practically) any BBQ sauce with this method, whether it has coffee in it or not. The recipe below includes a note on how to choose one...

Now let's get our ribs on!

~ Cleo

P.S. Sending a warm thank you to Coffeehouse Mystery reader Stephanie Jones for introducing us to this delicious coffee BBQ sauce.

Cleo Coyle's Coffee Ribs

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime writing—her husband. 
Learn about their books
by clicking here and here.
So...what’s the secret to preparing moist, tender barbecued ribs? It’s all about the moisture, the salt, and the sugar.

SALT is a flavor enhancer that breaks down the connective tissues, making meat tender.

SUGAR tenderizes meat, too, but tends to stick to the surface, which helps to evenly brown without drying. Most barbecue sauces contain sugar, so if you add a little to the marinade it works in tandem with the salt to make your ribs the best they can be.

Okay, Cleo...why coffee? Is it a gimmick? 

It is not. Coffee is an excellent way to add moisture and a tenderizing agent at the same time. Most marinades contain some sort of acid—vinegar, lemon or other fruit juice, even alcohol. But too much acid makes meat mushy. Coffee contains just enough acidity to help the tenderizing process, but not enough to ruin the meat’s texture.

With all that in mind, here’s a quick, one bowl marinade that lets you use your favorite barbecue sauce plus salt and cold coffee to make plump and juicy pork ribs every time. ~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a
free PDF that you can 
print, save, or share, click here.

Click for free recipe PDF.

Cleo Coyle's Coffee Ribs


2-4 pounds baby back ribs

2-3 teaspoons sea salt or Kosher salt
      (or 1-2 tsps. table salt) -- Divided

1 teaspoon white pepper - Divided

2-3 cup brewed coffee, cooled

1-1/4 cups barbeque sauce with one or more
          of these key ingredients
(*see below)

*Key Ingredients: Your barbeque sauce should contain at least one of the following sweeteners: white sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, or corn syrup.


(1) Right out of the refrigerator, the cold ribs should be placed into a large bowl and sprinkled with half your salt and pepper on all sides. Separate ¼ cup of your BBQ sauce and rub all over the ribs. 

(2) Add the cold coffee to the bowl, cover with cling wrap and marinate at room temperature for one hour. At the thirty minute mark, flip the ribs to coat evenly.

NOTE: Do not marinate for longer than 1 hour.

(3) Low and slow cooking is the way to make juicy, delicious ribs. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Coat your grilling rack with nonstick cooking spray. Remove ribs from marinade, and discard the liquid. Do not rinse the ribs. Using the other half of your salt and pepper, once again apply to both sides. Now place ribs on the grilling rack, fat side up. Cook for 20 minutes and flip. Cook for 20 more minutes. 

At the 40 minute mark, you are ready to brush the ribs with barbecue sauce. Flip the ribs over (fat side up again) and coat with the sauce. 

Cook for a third 20 minute period. Flip the ribs, paint the other side and continue cooking, for a fourth twenty minute interval. Flip one more time and apply the rest of your barbecue sauce. 

Kick up the oven to 375 degrees F. and cook 10 to 20 minutes more, to caramelize the surface.

Remove from rack, and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of  
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

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Dead to the Last Drop 
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  1. those look amazing Cleo--thanks for the tips!

    1. Thanks, Lucy! We love baby back ribs during the summer months especialy. A salad, some corn on the cob, and we are eating with joy. Have a great week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  2. 9 o'clock in the morning and I'm drooling over ribs!
    These really sound good.

    1. Libby - When we have these for dinner and a few ribs are leftover (rarely, but it happens) I'm usually eating them the next morning for breakfast. (Yes, coffee ribs with my morning coffee!) Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you're enjoying the start of summer…and summer eating!

      ~ Cleo
      Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  3. These look and sounds so good thanks

    1. Thank you, Penney, they are truly delicious. The coffee does a nice job, not only in adding moisture, but also in kick-starting the tenderizing of the ribs before the cooking process. We make these often during the summer, cooking them either in the oven or on the grill. They're fantastic either way. Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  4. Pat (patdupuy@yahoo.com)June 14, 2016 at 9:00 PM

    This looks yummy. I have an old Heloise recipe that uses coffee as a marinade for roast.

    1. Heloise knew her hints, that's for sure! The earthiness of coffee is a great complement to beef flavor, and coffee's properties would help with the tenderizing, too. Thanks for sharing -- and dropping by the Kitchen, Pat. Have a great week!

      ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
      “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”
      Cleo Coyle on Twitter