Grillin' with Gail: Chili-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce

We've all been working our 'cues to the bone this summer in Seattle -- with temperatures rarely dipping below 75F recently, we've got to get our summer on while we can! Because you know when we're moping around here in December we won't be able to respect ourselves otherwise.

Gail sussed out a great little recipe for some delicious baby back ribs to throw on the grill this past weekend, but it involved espresso powder and Gail was like, 'kitten, please,' so she swapped it out for 4 shots of espresso. Mmmmmhmmm. She says, 'End result, very tasty & tender. The barbecue sauce with the espresso definitely added a little something extra. I would recommend this recipe.'


  • 2 tablespoons hot Mexican-style chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 pounds baby back pork ribs
  • 1 12oz. bottle of dark beer
  • 1 18oz. bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 4 shots of freshly pulled espresso


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper in small bowl to blend. Rub spice mixture all over ribs. Place ribs in heavy large roasting pan.
  2. Boil beer in medium saucepan until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Pour beer around ribs. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake ribs until fork-tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes.
  3. Combine barbecue sauce, 1/2 cup water, brown sugar and espresso in heavy medium saucepan. Simmer until flavors blend and sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Ribs and barbecue sauce can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then cover separately and refrigerate.)
  4. Prepare barbecue (medium heat). Brush ribs with some barbecue sauce. Grill ribs just until heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer ribs to platter. Bring remaining sauce to simmer. Brush ribs with more barbecue sauce. Serve ribs, passing remaining barbecue sauce separately.


10 thoughts on “Grillin' with Gail: Chili-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce”

  • dave

    I'm a little surprised. If you're going to braise ribs in the oven, then you should just use instant 'espresso' powder.

    But if you're going to use (and appreciate) real espresso, then try to smoke the ribs low 'n' slow. Soak some hickory chips in water for 30 minutes, and then drain and put them into a little pouch made of Al foil with some small holes poked into the top with a sharp knife. Turn on one burner of the bbq on low, and place the foil pack on top of it. Place the rubbed ribs (RAW!) on the other side of the grill. Cook for 3+ hours (yes hours!) until you can twist a bone in place. Finish as listed above.

    Smoked ribs is to oven braised ribs as...
    a double ristretto is to sanka.

    • Kat

      That's a great alternative cooking suggestion. There is a big difference in the flavor between instant espresso powder and fresh espresso, primarily the former's bitterness. Putting fresh espresso into the sauce instead of powder made it less bitter, so it's definitely an upgrade, regardless of how you prepare the meat :)

  • dave

    And likewise, there is a big difference between real bbq ribs (cooked low'n'slow with smoke) and boiling ribs with beer.

    I was pointing out that if you were going to cut the corner on the prep method, might as well cut all corners and use instant espresso ;)

  • Rami

    Howdy Kitten !
    how you been??

    I made a coffee rub for the salmon i roasted today, i thought it was gonna suck so i only fixed up 2 pieces of it, the rest I left without, but it turned out surpirsingly good, the darker the bean the better the taste i think

    very simple, didnt over do it, just added the rub, then some olive oil and S&P ... u should try it out :)


    • Kat

      Hey Rami! I'm good :) About to head out on vacation for a couple of weeks to Costa Rica -- really looking forward to that!

      Your recipe sounds awesome!! Was the rub just straight ground espresso, or did you add other spices?

  • Rami

    i did add the salt and the peppers and olive oil so that it doesnt get too dry , but the more dominant "spice" was the dark espresso bean.

    have fun in costa rica, you gonna bring some new crops from over there ?

    • Kat

      Cool! I will experiment with that recipe the next time I'm gonna grill some salmon.

      I *may* go to a plantation while in CR, but more likely I will be chilling on the beaches and hiking through the jungles trying to find monkeys and sloths :) Really looking forward to it!

  • pat

    do you have t0 use espresso or can you use fine coffee

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