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Coffee-Crusted Ribeye

by Brad Prose

Kick up steak night with this rich, dark crust. Coffee-Crusted Ribeye is the show-stopping recipe that will have your friends and family relishing every succulent bite.

It doesn’t take much to make a ribeye sparkle. With just a few simple ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, this bold and complex coffee-crusted ribeye will come together effortlessly. So get out your tongs and fire up the grill!

If you’re curious about this Espresso Steak Rub used in this recipe, you’ve got to try it out on Juicy Smoked Burgers or dusted on Smoked Chuck Roast for an epic, dark crust.

Why You’ll Love Coffee-Crusted Steak

All good things start with a juicy ribeye. This is as simple as meat, seasoning, and fire, but with amplified flavors.

  • Common Ingredients – There is nothing exotic about the ingredients in the rub. If you don’t already have them in your spice cabinet you can easily pick them up at your local grocery store.
  • Prepping Ahead – Not only can you make the rub well in advance and keep it on hand, this steak only gets better as it dry-brines overnight in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to cook your steak simply remove it from the fridge while you fire up your grill.
  • Simple Process – This recipe is all about grilling the coffee-crusted steak. Direct heat plus consistent flipping will result in an evenly cooked steak with a gorgeous crust.
  • Versatility – This espresso steak rub can be used on multiple different cuts of beef, including smoked burgers.
  • Direct Grilling – You are grilling your ribeye steaks directly over charcoal or the heat source on your gas grill. This is a fast process making it perfect for any weeknight meal using any type of grill.
Coffee-crusted steak with grilled veggies.
Coffee-crusted steak with grilled veggies.

Why Coffee and Steak?

There are some pairings that just belong together such as bourbon and barbecue and pimentos and cheese. Coffee and beef are a dynamic duo that brings out the best in each. Just like coffee intensifies the flavor of chocolate, it also does the same for beef.

  • Acids – The acidity of coffee is similar to the tannins in wine. It amplifies the flavors not only in the beef but also in the rub. In addition, it helps break down and tenderize meat.
  • Balance of flavors – Where coffee is deep and a little bitter, it balances out the richness of the beef. Pairing this with a bright finish of pickled or marinated vegetables brings everything together. Try the Smoked Pickled Jalapenos!
  • Color – If you’re looking for a way to give your steak an Instagram-worthy crust, adding ground coffee to your steak rub is a flavor-packed way to bring instant drama.
Dry-brining steak with espresso steak rub.

Armed with the king of steaks and ingredients you probably have in your spice cabinet, this recipe for Espresso Steak Rub is all about the balance of bitter, savory, earthy, and sweet with a hint of pure mystery.

Espresso Steak Rub Ingredients

  • Espresso Coffee Grounds – Not only does this help build a dramatic dark crust, but it also adds a note of bitterness that compliments the richness of the steak.
  • Kosher Salt – In addition to seasoning, salt enhances all of the contrasting flavors in the rub.
  • Mexican Oregano – Floral, citrusy, and herbaceous, this adds a brightness to the rub that offsets the deep flavors.
  • Dark Brown Sugar – The sweet kiss of molasses balances the bitterness while also aiding in developing the dark crust. 
  • Black Pepper – Adds spice and depth. Fresh ground is best for this rub if possible.
  • Garlic Powder – Savory, pungent, and sharp.
  • Cumin – Earthy, warm, and aromatic. Pairs well with the natural coffee flavors.
  • Cinnamon – Adds a hint of mystery with its balanced sweet and spicy fragrance and flavor. Trust me, this isn’t only for desserts.
Dry-brined ribeye with the espresso steak rub

How to Grill Coffee-Crusted Ribeye

The steps to creating coffee rub steak are easy with big results. The inactive parts of this recipe, the dry-brining, allowing the steaks to come to room temperature while preheating your grill, and allowing them to rest prior to slicing are just as important as the active stages. 

  • STEP 1: Mix the spices. Add your rub ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine them. Give it a taste. If you want a little more of anything, add accordingly. This step can be done ahead of time and you can store your espresso steak rub until you’re ready to use it. 
  • STEP 2: Season and Dry Brine. This is the pregame! Generously season all sides of the steaks so they’re evenly coated in the espresso steak rub. Refrigerate them for at least two hours up to overnight on a wire rack fitted into a baking sheet.
Coffee rub on steak, searing

What is Dry-Brining?

This is a fancy name for the simple process of salting and resting meat before cooking it. Doing so provides the same goals of wet-brining without diluting the natural flavors of the meat. The food becomes deeply seasoned and remains very juicy.

Season the meat, and allow it to rest uncovered in the fridge for a period of time. It’s as simple as that. Osmosis and diffusion do the magic, drawing out excess moisture and sucking back in salt, creating a natural brine that penetrates deep into the muscles.

Benefits of Dry-Brining

  • Crispier bark, crust, or skin on the outside.
  • Deeply seasoned food throughout every bite.
  • Higher juice and moisture retention.
  • Simple process, very little work involved.

You’ll be using this same method for ALL meats, including whole chicken, turkey, pork, chicken wings, and more. Dry-brining works well for anything that will be smoked slowly, or grilled directly over the coals.

How Long Should the Meat Dry-Brine?

The time required for dry-brining depends on what you’re doing and the size of the meat. Smaller cuts that you’ll cook for a shorter period of time and searing on the grill won’t take much longer than an hour or so, and larger cuts like the Prime Rib above need to dry-brine overnight. Most meats will be seasoned properly if rested overnight.

Equipment for Dry-Brining

Aside from your seasoning of choice, the only equipment that I recommend is a wire rack on a baking sheet. Allowing the meat to be elevated provides even airflow around the meat, drying out the outside on the bottom as well, which lifts it out of its own juices. Having a soggy bottom goes against what you’re trying to accomplish.

Flipping the steak for the best coffee crust.
  • STEP 3: Prep the Grill. It’s almost time to get out those tongs! Allow your steaks to sit out on the counter, coming to room temperature while you preheat your gas grill on high heat or prepare your charcoal grill for direct grilling. Make sure your grates are cleaned and lightly oiled so your steak doesn’t stick. 
  • STEP 4: Grill your steak. Double click those tongs because your grill is fully heated. Place your steak on the hot grates and allow the first side to sear for 2 minutes. Flip your steak and allow the second side to sear for 2 minutes. Continue this process, allowing the steak to develop a deeply bronzed crust.
  • STEP 5: Temp check. You want to remove the steaks from the grill when they are between 8-10 degrees away from your desired doneness. They will continue to cook once they are removed from the grill so for the perfect medium-rare you should remove them when they are between 118-125°F.
  • STEP 6: Rest is best. Loosely tent your steaks with foil and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes so the juices redistribute into the meat instead of running all over your cutting board. When you’re ready to serve up your steak, slice it against the grain and enjoy the delectable coffee-crusted ribeye you’ve created!
Perfect medium rare ribeye

Top Tips for Best Results

All good things start with a juicy ribeye. This is as simple as meat, seasoning, and fire, but with amplified flavors.

  • Patience for flavor – While this recipe requires minimal work, it does require respect for the process. Give your steaks time to dry-brine in the refrigerator. Allow them to sit out before grilling, and always let your steaks rest before cutting them. 
  • Keep flipping – Unlike reverse searing steaks, this method for grilling steaks requires you to consistently flip the coffee-crusted ribeye over direct heat, developing the crust while preventing one side from being overcooked.
  • Freshness matters – Freshly ground espresso coffee grounds will give you the best flavor for this rub. In addition, always check the dates on your spices. The fresher they are, the more flavor they will impart.
Do I have to use a ribeye steak for this recipe?

No, similar cuts such as a porterhouse steak or t-bone will also benefit from the flavor profiles in the rub

Can I reverse-sear the steaks?

You can, but this rub is more suited to grilling steaks. Coffee and espresso tend to burn more easily on flat surfaces, bringing out an acrid flavor. By continually flipping the steaks over direct heat you can control the momentum of cooking allowing both sides to cook evenly.

Can I use instant espresso powder instead of espresso coffee grounds?

No. Instant espresso powder is not the same as espresso coffee grounds. Not only is the texture finer which could lead to it burning, but it is also a much more concentrated flavor.

Can I use oregano instead of Mexican oregano?

The two are not actually from the same family. Mexican oregano is from the verbena family and has a brighter, more floral flavor while oregano is from the mint family and is a little sweeter yet more bitter. While Mexican oregano is readily available, marjoram will work in a pinch.

MORE STEAK RECIPES TO FIRE UP…

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Coffee-crusted ribeye steaks with veggies.

Coffee-Crusted Ribeye

Kick up steak night with dramatic flair! Coffee-Crusted Ribeye is the show-stopping recipe that will have your friends and family relishing every succulent bite.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 2-3 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ribeye steaks

Espresso Steak Rub

  • 2 tablespoons espresso coffee grounds
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Mix the spice ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust.
  2. Season the steaks generously, just enough to cover all sides. Place the steaks on a wire rack with a baking sheet, uncovered in the fridge. Allow the steaks to dry-brine for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
  3. Remove the steaks from the fridge as you preheat the grill.
  4. Preheat a grill for high heat, and clean the grates well with a little oil. This will prevent the steak from sticking.
  5. Place the steaks on the greats directly above the coals, or heat source if using a gas grill. Allow them to sear for 2 minutes before flipping. Continue to flip and rotate every 2 minutes, building a nice crust on the outside. Flipping helps to control the cooking momentum, preventing one side from being overcooked.
  6. Remove the steaks when about 8-10 degrees away from their target temperature. To cook a perfect medium-rare steak, take the steaks off around 118-125°F and allow them to rest with a loosely tented foil. They will rest to a medium-rare temperature of about 130-135°F.
  7. Slice against the grain and serve.

Notes

This steak works best fired over the grill. Cast-iron can make the coffee bitter, whereas regular flipping over the open grates builds a better crust.

  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Beef & Lamb
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Dinner

Keywords: steak, ribeye, coffee-crusted, espresso steak rub, grilling, grilled steak, medium rare

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