How Do I Choose the Best Coffee Marinade?

Kristeen Moore

Coffee marinade consists of a variety of ingredients, the primary being black coffee. These types of marinades are bottled and sold in some stores, while other cooks prefer to make it from scratch. The type of coffee marinade that you choose depends on what meat you are cooking, as well as the way you prepare it. This marinade is renowned for its bold flavor, and is often added to spice up otherwise bland dishes.

Roasted coffee beans.
Roasted coffee beans.

Many home cooks opt for bottled marinades sold in stores because they save time and effort. Coffee marinades are not particularly common in supermarkets, but specialty food stores can carry them. The best versions of these bottled marinades will have whole ingredients with little sodium and corny syrups. It might be best to avoid versions that list syrup and sugar as the primary ingredients.

After marinating meat with coffee marinade, some marinade should be set aside to baste the meat during grilling.
After marinating meat with coffee marinade, some marinade should be set aside to baste the meat during grilling.

The least expensive and perhaps most flavorful coffee marinade is one made from scratch. Black coffee is the primary ingredient, along with sugar and broth. Some dishes also utilize balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The amount of coffee that you use depends on the outcome that you desire; a more subtle flavor warrants less coffee, while you should use more in the marinade for a robust flavor. Some cooks even add cocoa powder to add richness.

Coffee marinade pairs well with beef because of its rich flavor. The marinade can also make a bold addition to chicken and lamb. When cooking with chicken, you might consider using a sweeter marinade, or adding more sugar if you are cooking it from scratch. More coffee may be added to beef dishes.

The way you cook the meat also affects the overall outcome of the marinade. If you are grilling, marinate the meat in advance and set aside some of the liquid for basting during cooking. Coffee marinades can also be used in slow cookers, and it is an easy solution if you have little time. Add the vegetables and meat to the slow cooker first, and then cover with pre-prepared or home-cooked marinade. Salt and pepper may be added during the last hour to help to magnify the flavors of the dish.

Although coffee lovers will inevitably enjoy this type of marinade, the goal of cooking with it is not to make all of your main courses taste like coffee. Just like other ingredients, such as stock and vinegar, coffee is designed to complement the flavors of your dishes. Choosing a bottled marinade solves the mystery of how much coffee to use in a recipe, but you might have more fun experiencing with ingredients and flavors by making your own from scratch.

Coffee marinades can be used with slow cookers.
Coffee marinades can be used with slow cookers.

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Discussion Comments


I've also seen cooks use a coffee rub on steak, where they use actual coffee grounds mixed with spices! I've never tried that, although I have used strong coffee in a pot of chili to enhance the flavor.

I don't think I've ever actually tried a coffee marinade, but I'm not opposed to the idea. I'll have to look up some recipes to find one I think I'll like.

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