This is one of those barbecue recipes that came to me organically by simply seeing an ingredient and wanting to come up with a way to use it. In this case, my lovely wife has been making coffee the night before to make iced coffee in the morning. She’d left about eight ounces in the fridge and I had bought some ribs but wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them. In a matter of moments, I texted her to let her know that I would make her more coffee as I used the last to brine ribs for one of my latest BBQ rib recipes. She of course replied with the rolleyes as I’m always trying weird ingredients when I BBQ. The resulting rib recipe was something I threw together and liked it so much that it goes on the site after just one stab at it.
Coffee Brine Ingredients:
1 slab baby back ribs, skinned and cut in half
8 oz coffee
20 turns of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp granulated garlic
1/2 tbsp granulated onion
1/2 tbsp smoked, Spanish paprika
If you are familiar with brining, the general ratio is 1 cup of salt per gallon of fluid. But here it looks like I’ve doubled up the salt. I have because I only had about three hours to brine. If I could’ve brined overnight, I would’ve used 1/8 cup salt with 1 cup of coffee. But I wanted to accelerate the coffee brining process.
After skinning the ribs and cutting them in half, combine the the top four ingredients in a plastic bag, making sure that the salt is dissolved by sloshing the sealed bag around. Refrigerate the coffee brined ribs for 2-12 hours (if longer than 4 hours, cut the salt in half)
Here are the coffee brined ribs after three hours in the fridge:
Now combine the rest of the ingredients to make a rub.
Remove the ribs from the coffee brine, but do not rinse them. I normally do when I brine, but I want that coffee film to provide a flavor glue for the rub. Always rub the bone side first:
Then rub the meat side (bone side down):
The reason to always rub the bone side first, is the natural concave of the bones keeps the rub elevated off the cutting board and thus it won’t stick to the board:
Now, this was the second cook in which I used my newest toy, the PitmasterIQ:
It’s an ingenious little device. Essentially, it’s an air blower attached to a hose and a thermometer:
When the temp drops below the temp you set the PitmasterIQ to, the fan blows onto the fire keeping the temps constant. They can be attached to just about any grill and make that grill a set-it-and-forget it smoker. The unit runs $140 and makes smoking incredibly easy and low maintenance. Click here to purchase one.
Now back to the barbecue recipe.
The basic process is to get the grill to between 275-325 and cook the baby backs and smoke them for 2 hours. They will not be fall off the bone. If you prefer that, smoke them for 90 minutes, then put them in foil with a little liquid and cook for another 45 minutes and then back over the heat for 15 minutes.
I used plum wood for this smoke.
Here are the coffee brined ribs about an hour and 15 minutes into the process:
I jerked the ribs that are on the bottom grate in the picture above.
I’ve got some nice pull back on the bones starting to happen on the ribs:
At a little over 2 hours (I was playing with the settings on the PitmasterIQ so it was a little longer than normal) the ribs looked like this.
As you can tell, the sun had set by the time I took these pics.
Here’s some better pull back after two hours of grilling:
The two things to look for when determining if ribs are done are the bones pulling back and the flex of the slab, or in this case half slab. A raw slab can be bent in half, but as the meat cooks and the fat renders out, the slab firms up. You don’t want them to have no flex (that’s overdone), but pay attention to how much they bend and how much the meat pulls back from the bones. Those two factors will tell you when the ribs are done.
Pull the ribs from the grill and take them inside.
And here they are sliced:
Coffee is the perfect complement with its natural savory/sweet profile to pork. The coffee brine intertwined musically with the savory/sweet rub making this barbecue recipe an instant conversation starter. I can’t wait to do them again and brine overnight. A coffee brine might be something I add to all sorts of rib recipes, no matter the rub. I bet it would’ve been great with the jerk ribs. Think of it. A total Jamaican theme – coffee and jerk. Guess what my next slab of ribs will be?
If you have any questions about the above dish please feel free to comment below or shoot me an email.
If you liked the coffee brined ribs, then click here for similar BBQ recipes.
- 1 slab baby back ribs, skinned and cut in half
- 8 oz coffee
- 20 turns of fresh black pepper
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp granulated garlic
- ½ tbsp granulated onion
- ½ tbsp smoked, Spanish paprika
- Skin the ribs and slice in half
- Combine the coffee, salt and pepper in a resealable plastic bag and shake until the salt is dissolved
- Add the ribs to the brine and refrigerate for 2-12 hours
- Remove the ribs from the brine, rinse clean and pat dry with paper towels
- Combine the pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar, garlic, onion and paprika to make the rub
- Apply the rub to the bone side first
- Flip over and repeat on the meat side
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with coals and smoke wood on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temperature inside the grill is 275-325
- Place the ribs on the side with no heat and close the lid
- When the meat pulls back from the bone a half inch (about 2 hours) the ribs are ready to serve