Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

I know that this sounds a little weird.  Coffee? Chocolate?  Ribs? But bear with me. I was leery when I made a coffee steak recently, but it was so good it made me start to think about coffee and ribs, but then I felt like I needed to balance the coffee out with something sweet which is where the chocolate came from and then I had to hit it with some heat and thus the ancho chili powder. In the end, it came out really well balanced and something I will definitely repeat.

***Editor’s Note ~ While I initially labeled these Coffee, Cocoa Ribs, they are actually Coffee, Chocolate Ribs.  I didn’t use cocoa rather ground chocolate with cocoa.***

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs Ingredients:

3 slabs of ribs
1/4 cup coffee, finely ground** (I used a decaf hazelnut blend, although decaf nor hazelnut are required)
1/4 cup ground chocolate with cocoa
2 tbsp ancho chili powder (you can use regular chili powder, but I would cut it by 25-50%)
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground mustard
Salt and black pepper

**I recommend grind the coffee trice to make sure that it is ground into an extremely fine powder, otherwise it can be a little gritty

Combine all ingredients except for the ribs, salt and pepper in a bowl and then mix together well:

Now to the ribs.  These were brined overnight in apple juice, garlic, black pepper and salt.  The ratio is one gallon of fluid per cup of salt.  Add in plenty of black pepper and a quarter to half cup of garlic. The next day rinse the ribs and pat them dry with paper towels:

I realize the recipe calls for three slabs of ribs and I only have two slabs (four half slabs) here. The amounts in the recipe are to make enough rub to cover three slabs, but you don’t have to do three slabs. Keep the rub sealed and dry and it will be good for weeks.

Lay out the slabs, bone side up.  This is very important and I will explain why in a minute:

Here is where the salt and black pepper come into play.  Hit the bottom side heavy with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper:

You could put the salt and pepper into the rub, but I like to know that the salt and pepper is evenly distributed to the meat in the amounts I want as most of the time one rub has a different salt content than another.

Then cover the ribs with the rub:

After the rub is applied, kneed it into the meat and let it set for a few minutes so it will adhere better to the meat.

Then flip.  Here’s why you always do the bone side first. If you had done the meat side first, and then flipped, wherever the rubbed meat touched the cutting board, the rub will stick to the board rather than the meat when you pick the slabs up to put them on the grill.  This way, the natural concave of the bones keeps the meat and the rub elevated off the cutting board, and saves you from having to reapply rub to the meat side when you put them on the grill. See how the bones elevate the ribs off the board in the picture below:

Now hit the other side with salt, pepper and the rub:

Time to get the grill ready. We set up the cooker for two zone grilling with coals and smoke wood on one side, meat on the other:

I chose hickory over a milder fruit wood like peach or apple, because I wanted to make sure the smoke could stand up to what I was expecting to be a pretty powerful rub.

We’re big proponents of the high heat method for ribs which is a bit of a misnomer. It’s only  300 degrees so it’s more of a medium heat method but it doesn’t sound as good. The goal is 300 (give or take 25 degrees either way) for two hours. So far so good:

After 30 minutes, the ribs look like this:

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

Remember what’s in the rub. These things have only been on the grill 30 minutes and yet they look like they’re burnt and yet they’re pretty much raw at this point.

Here they are after an hour:

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

And here they are a little over 90 minutes:

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

They are just starting to glisten with fat rendering out and they are supposed to be done in 30 minutes.  Well, the timeline is great in the summer, but not on a day with a high of 39 and a heavy crosswind. Each time I opened the grill to take a status photo for this post, I added smoke wood and charcoal if needed, but the time it takes to get the grill back to full temp on a day like that is a lot longer than a 90 degree day in July.  And the other problem is this:

With as cold and windy as it was, I couldn’t keep the temp above 240, but I didn’t add enough extra charcoal to compensate.  At the 90 minute mark I rotated the ribs and at the two and a half hour mark, here’s what they looked like:

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

After testing the tension of the meat by picking up the slabs with the tongs, we decided that the two thinner half slabs (bottom) were done and decided to put them in foil and put them in the microwave to stay warm while the thicker ones stayed on the grill:

And then I moved the thicker coffee, chocolate ribs closer to the heat:

After another 30 minutes, I pulled the thicker ones.

Here are the thinner ones at the three hour mark (two and a half hours on the grill, 30 minutes in the foil in a powered off microwave):

Yeah, those look terrible.  But they weren’t burnt.  That may be the only downfall of these ribs. There’s no way to tell if they’re burnt until you taste them because the coffee is black and the chocolate has a lot of sugar in it that will blacken quickly. The outward appearance may not be all that great, but they are a mighty fine rib:

Coffee, Chocolate Ribs

And here are the fatter ones:

This rub combines the savory, earthy flavor of the coffee, with the sweet of the chocolate and the heat of the chili. The coriander, paprika, ginger, mustard, and oregano help to balance out this well layered rub.  The only draw back is how black they get, but don’t let that stop you from trying this recipe next time you make ribs.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.

If you liked the coffee, chocolate rib recipe, you should check out our other grilled rib recipes found here.

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Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

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Looks delish. A must try on my future menus. Thanks for the great photography as well.


I wonder if you baked them in the oven at 325 degrees for 2 hours and then 10-15 min on the grill just to get that crunch if they wouldn’t blacken as much? Or add a liquid glaze to it before the grill so that it loosens up? They look great!


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