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How To Tenderise Meat With Coffee

There is absolutely nothing worse than teasing yourself to the point of salivating over an amazing steak dinner, and the moment you sink your teeth into a supposedly delicious steak, it turns out to be chewy, tough, and even dry. Especially with beef prices in the UK, nobody wants to spend a boatload of money on a steak for it to be tough.

How To Tenderise Meat With Coffee

There are several ways of tenderising meat, one of which I refuse to do, and this is to make use of commercial ‘meat tenderiser' – if you have a sachet of meat tenderiser in your house I would highly recommend you throw it in the bin right now. You don't need that rubbish with the information I have to share with you today.

Once I learnt how to tenderise meat with coffee, there was no turning back for me.

Why Are Certain Meats Tough?

Before we dive into how to do this, we need to look at why certain meats tend to be tough. The main culprit here is connective tissue. Connective tissue can be described as the ligaments, collagen and tendons that are present in the meat, not to be confused with marbling (small bits of fat layered between the muscle fibres). Just always remember, connective tissue = bad & fat = good. Another factor to consider would be the age of the animal, older animals have worked their muscles more than younger ones, therefore the older ones have had more time to strengthen their muscle fibres by developing more connective tissue, ligaments and collagen.

how to tenderise meat with coffee

One could argue that the easiest way to ensure you enjoy the most tender meats every time would be to buy the most tender cuts. While this does ring true and I do love treating myself to an expensive cut of meat occasionally, no normal person can afford to regularly dine on wagyu steaks from a young calf who spent his entire month on earth eating caviar and receiving a massage every 30 minutes – although that does sound amazing. Most of us do still want to eat meat without the hefty price tag, therefore tougher cuts are usually a great option and when it comes to tougher cuts there are tons of ways to tenderise the meat.

How Is Meat Tenderised?

The science behind tenderising meat is simple, as it is the connective tissue making your meat tough, why not take it out into the alley and beat it? Okay maybe that is not the most sanitary way of going about this, but you can beat the steak with a mallet or a rolling pin in the comfort of your kitchen. This is quite fun and works great although you cannot completely get rid of the connective tissue this way, beating it would help make the second step to this much easier. After taking out your built-up anger on the steak it is time to put on your lab coat (or apron) and go down to the molecular level to destroy the enemy.

how to tenderise meat with coffee

Connective tissue can be softened and broken up on a molecular level, this is much easier than it sounds. By using salt, acids, or enzymatic fruits (such as papaya or pineapples) you can help break down the connective tissues. The digestive process uses enzymes and acids to break down the food you consume. We can mimic this process, although in a much gentler fashion by adding natural enzymes found in certain fruits, acids found in fermented foods or certain fruits (lemons, oranges).

How To Tenderise Meat With Coffee

Now to combine our love for steak with our love for coffee!

Chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, linoleic, and palmitic – These are the nine major acidic compounds found in coffee.

I have absolutely no clue what this means but I know that some of these acids can help tenderise meat. I have tenderised steak with coffee using these three techniques, marinating, brining and dry rub. None of these techniques is an exact science, they can be adapted to your liking. I would encourage you to try different flavours, experiment with different herbs, spices, liquids, and juices.

Coffee Brine:

A brine is essentially a highly concentrated mixture of salt in water, this mixture can be infused with various flavours and aromas. I made a brine by heating up a pot of water to about 60°C then added some salt, brown sugar, red wine vinegar and a lot of coffee grounds. After thoroughly combining this mixture, I let it steep for about 30 minutes before removing it from the low heat. Once the mixture has cooled down, I add my steaks into the coffee brine and let it sit covered in the fridge overnight. After the steaks have enjoyed their night swim in the salty, acidic, coffee bath I drain the liquid and clean the steak to ensure that the coffee grounds don't end up burning on the fire. Then, pat the steaks dry and let them come up to room temperature before cooking.

Dry Rub:

I love combining herbs and spices to create new flavours, I refuse to buy pre-mixed spices. Next time you reach to buy a pre-mixed spice, rather look at what spices are used to make that mix and do it yourself, I guarantee you will never turn back again. I always have a variety of dry rubs that I make in bulk and store in vacuum-sealed bags. You will never be able to go through my spice cupboard and not find a Coffee Dry Rub, this has become an essential part of my repertoire. As I have mentioned, I never follow an exact recipe when making any of these. My dry rub usually consists of good quality coffee grounds, salt, paprika, mixed herbs, pepper, chilli flakes and sometimes I might even add a bit of MSG *gasp*

After mixing your favourite combination of herbs and spices, add the coffee, give it a cool name and generously season your steaks with this amazing creation. Always season your steaks well in advance. The salt will help draw out some moisture, the moisture will mix with the flavours and aromas before seeping back into the meat. Only once it seeps into the meat the coffee will start tenderising the steak.


Marinating a steak in coffee can be as simple as letting your steak sit in a pot of coffee or you could add a little finesse. I love brewing a lot of strong coffee (enough to cover the meat in a Tupperware container) adding some mustard seeds, pepper and herbs while the coffee is still hot. Once the spicy coffee has cooled down to about room temperature add the steaks and let sit covered in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. After at least 24 hours, remove them from the fridge and let them come up to room temperature before cooking.

the perfect medium rare steak?

How To Tenderise Meat With Coffee: Summing Up

Coffee truly is amazing, do not fear experimenting with different uses for it. I am currently experimenting with a coffee beef stew which did not turn out too bad the first time around but really has the potential to become something amazing. The point I am trying to make is, playing around in the kitchen, and experimenting with different things despite the doubts you may have truly is what separates average cooks from amazing chefs.

Braam Botha