The Unexpected Beverage You Should Be Adding To Barbecue Sauce

barbecue sauce
barbecue sauce - Nwphotoguy/Getty Images

Great barbecue is defined by the strength of its sauce. Tangy, smoky, and with a hint of sweetness, the popular condiment usually based around vinegar, mustard, or tomato has evolved into a force since first noted in the culinary scene in the French West Indies featuring lime juice and hot peppers. In fact, barbecue sauce currently touts a wide array of regional styles, each with distinctly different flavor profiles and applications, not to mention some seriously ardent fans.

And while most standard barbecue sauces still typically include some combination of vinegar, molasses, or brown sugar — and perhaps ketchup and/or Worcestershire sauce — it turns out there's a secret ingredient that can kick your barbecue sauce up a notch. It's not a spice or condiment, but a beverage you definitely weren't expecting: Coffee. That's right, with its robust taste, that morning (and sometimes afternoon) pick-me-up can also work its bold, roasted magic on your barbecue sauce, bringing out its hickory smoked taste. Adding brewed coffee to your sauce also offers a thinner, glaze-like texture that deliciously coats your meats without overpowering them, and delivers a serious punch to your overall barbecue flavor profile that only a cup of joe could add.

Read more: 11 Tips For Keeping Your Grill Shiny And Clean

Adding Coffee To Your Barbecue Sauce

espresso brewing
espresso brewing - Golfcphoto/Getty Images

Elevating barbecue sauce with coffee is relatively easy — but make sure you're using the right kind of coffee to enhance your sauce's flavor. In this case, bolder is better. Due to its higher ratio of grounds to water than regular coffee's typical one gram of coffee for 18 grams of water, brewed espresso is recommended to add that bold, flavorful kick to your sauce. It's significantly thicker and offers a much more pronounced, intense flavor. Don't have espresso on hand? Simply use the strongest brewed coffee you can find. Then you'll want to add ½ cup to one cup of your brewed coffee to your other ingredients and bring to a simmer until it thickens — ten to thirty minutes or so, depending on how thick you want your sauce.

Alternatively, you can bloom your espresso by adding a small amount of hot water to your grounds, then letting them "bloom" — or sit undisturbed for about 30 seconds — before you add the rest of your hot water. This process offers a richer overall taste, extracting maximum flavor from your espresso grounds. Bloomed espresso added to your sauce will enhance its smokiness while also balancing the sweetness from the sugar and ketchup, and add an earthiness to your sauce. If you're using espresso powder instead of grounds, use two tablespoons of your powder to one tablespoon of hot water. Prefer a lighter coffee taste in your sauce? Brew a lighter roast — it will still be delicious.

Take It All The Way With A Barbecue Coffee Rub

dry rub and rack of ribs
dry rub and rack of ribs - rachelrichardsphotography/Shutterstock

While you're using coffee grounds to enhance the flavor of your barbecue, why not take things all the way and make a delicious coffee dry rub for your meats? Due to its high concentration of acidity, freshly ground coffee is a natural meat tenderizer and works well on tough meats such as steaks and brisket. Additionally, it adds its deep, full-bodied flavor to your meat cuts. However, you will need to include other spices, as well as some sugar and salt — and maybe even some cocoa powder — for full flavor enhancement. Simply add two tablespoons of your ground coffee to your other dry rub ingredients and marinate your meat for at least two hours before grilling for the best results. Want to recapture that rich, smoky flavor at your next barbecue? Good news — your dry rub can be stored in an airtight container for up to six months. With a little bit of creativity, you can make use of coffee to enhance your barbecue in game-changing ways.

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