Cocoa and Coffee Spare Ribs Rub

Scott Thomas
"Grillin' Fools"
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I realize that neither coca nor coffee is normally associated with ribs. But, would it help if I mentioned that chili powder was involved in this cocoa and coffee spare ribs rub recipe, too? No? Well, then it probably won’t help that I actually used fresh ground coffee and not liquid coffee. Listen, I know it sounds odd, but it turned out to be a really well rounded rub with many layers of flavor, so don’t knock it ‘til you try it. And then when you love it…you can thank me.

Ingredients for cocoa and coffee ribs rub

The ribs were brined overnight in apple juice, garlic, black pepper, and salt. The ratio is one gallon of fluid per cup of salt. Add in a dozen turns of black pepper, ¼ cup of garlic, and refrigerate overnight. The Grillin’ Fools are big proponents of brining, but this step is optional, if you don’t have the time. After brining, remove the ribs, rinse under cold water, and pat dry.

brine ingredients for ribs

Lay the ribs out bone side up (very important) and hit them with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Apply the rub as liberally as you like (we chose “very liberally”). But, why do you always do bone side first, you ask? If you do the meat side first and then flip, 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 and put them on a grill (oh, the travesty!). 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.

putting rub on ribs

rubbed ribs
Flip the ribs over and repeat the process. See how the bones elevate the ribs off the board?

rubbed ribs

Once the ribs are completely coated with the rub, prep your grill for two-zone or indirect grilling (meaning: coals and smoke wood on one side, meat on the other). We used the CB940X® Charcoal Grill for this recipe and it worked like a charm. Target temperature for the cooking chamber is 300°F and cooking time is about two hours.

CB940X® Charcoal Grill with ribs on

If you see the ribs darkening fast, don’t worry…it’s not because the grill is too hot, it’s because the rub has three very dark ingredients: coffee, chocolate, and chili powder (at least that’s what we told ourselves when we checked on them after 30 minutes). At the two-hour mark, we were certain that there was no way these were going to be any good, but we pulled them out anyway to let them rest.

rubbed ribs on grill
30-minute mark.
rubbed ribs on grill
60-minute mark.
90-minute mark. Getting so dark!
rubbed ribs on grill after 2 hours
2 hours. A little nervous about how dark they are…

After resting (which allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat), we sliced the ribs and despite the black exterior, the interior looked just about perfect – nice smoke ring and still juicy. I was really impressed with the flavor when sampling. This rub combines the savory, earthy flavor of the coffee; the sinful sweetness of chocolate; and the satisfying heat of the chili. The coriander, paprika, ginger, mustard, and oregano help to balance out this well layered rub. So, next time you want to impress your guests with an unlikely pairing, bust out this cocoa and coffee rub on your ribs and enjoy.

cocoa and coffee ribs rub

Cocoa and Coffee Spare Ribs Rub Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 3 slabs of ribs
  • ¼ cup coffee, finely ground (we used a decaf hazelnut blend)
  • ¼ cup ground chocolate with cocoa
  • 1 tablespoons ancho chili powder (if using regular chili powder, cut it down to about 1 tablespoon or it might be too spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mustard


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Coat ribs in rub before grilling.


The recipe makes 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.

4 thoughts on “Cocoa and Coffee Spare Ribs Rub

  1. The list of ingredients needs updates.
    Cocoa & Coffee Spare Rib RUB


    •1/4 ground chocolate with cocoa

    1/4 what?

    Thanks, I’m planning to do this Saturday.

  2. Hi, I have one of the grills with two open gas burners and two of the infrared plates. Is there a way I could perform the cooking operations described above with this set up.


    1. Stu,

      Here’s how to do this on that type of grill. Get yourself some wood chips, and put a couple dry handfuls of them onto a sheet of foil and make it into a foil ball. Poke holes in the foil with a sharp knife. Do not use soaked chips or this will not work. On the grill, crank up the heat on just one side and take the grill grates off that side. Put the foil right onto the flames (I said as you probably want to do 2-3 at a time) and keep playing with the flames on that side until you get the internal temp of the grill to around 300 on the side with no heat. Put your ribs on that side. You will probably have to replace the foil every hour. With Baby Backs’ this process should take about 2-2.5 hours and 2.5-3 hours for spares. Good luck…

      …….Scott Thomas
      The Original Grillin’ Fool

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