How to turn spent coffee grounds into a rub – recipe

Spent coffee is one of the most potent and aromatic spices a cook could wish for, adding an energetic, flavourful kick to sweet and savoury dishes alike, from cakes and cookies (check out my spent espresso brownies) to rubs and marinades.

Save spent coffee grounds in the fridge and use them up within a week; failing that, freeze them, or dry them out in the oven (ideally when it’s in use for something else) and store in a sealed jar.

Coffee marinades make wonderful meat rubs, imparting intense flavours into the flesh. If you’re slow-roasting a hunk of meat (or chicken thighs, vegetables or tofu, for that matter), give it a thrifty edge and intensify its umaminess with today’s spent coffee rub.

I also use spent coffee in American-style shakes, especially when I need a kickstart in the morning: just blitz a scoop of vanilla ice-cream with a heaped teaspoon of spent coffee grounds and a splash of milk (plant-based or dairy), ideally using an immersion blender.

Spent coffee rub
Spent-coffee is a secret ingredient that adds serious depth of flavour, which is why these days it takes pride of place on my spice rack. It works particularly well with chilli, smoky foods, barbecued meat and chocolate.

Oven cooking is energy-intensive, so don’t cook this dish to save carbon emissions; instead, cook it when you’re hungry for meat and are already planning a slow roast. Spent coffee grounds will step up your game and deliver an intensive flavour that works oh so well with short rib, brisket, pork ribs, chicken thighs and even vegetables and tofu steaks (if you go for any of those last three, bear in mind they’ll need only an hour or so of cooking).

4 tbsp spent coffee grounds
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chipotle chilli flakes, or other chilli (optional)
5 tbsp barbecue sauce or tomato ketchup
1kg pork rib, beef short rib, brisket, chicken etc
300g stock vegetables (ie, shallots, carrots, celery, garlic)

Make a rub by mixing the spent coffee with the pepper, salt, paprika and chilli flakes, if using. Rub the meat all over with the barbecue sauce or ketchup, then pat on a thick, even crust of the rub.

Put the stock vegetables in a large casserole pot, lay the meat on top and add 125ml cold water. Put the casserole uncovered on the middle shelf of an oven heated to 240C (220C)/475F/gas 9. After 15 minutes, pop on the lid, turn down the heat to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1, and cook for three and a half to four hours, until the meat is tender. Turn off the oven, resist the temptation to open the door and leave the meat to rest, still covered, for another hour, by which time it will be falling off the bone.