Brisket Braised in Coffee

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    6 to 8

Appears in

Cooking One on One

Cooking One on One

By John Ash

Published 2004

  • About

My grandmother never threw anything away—including old coffee too bitter to drink, which she’d incorporate into various dishes, including her famous pears poached in coffee. As a child, I thought this was a little weird. But in fact, as coffee sits, its bitterness increases as its acids and tannins are developed. In other words, old coffee has some of the same qualities as dry wine, and so can enhance a dish in the same way. You don’t, by the way, need to use old coffee for this recipe, but it should be good and strong. Brisket is certainly one of the most versatile and universally appreciated cuts of meat, whether it’s part of a Kansas City or Texas barbecue, sliced for a Vietnamese pho, simmered for an Italian bollito misto, corned for St. Patrick’s Day, or pot roasted for Rosh Hashanah. This is one of my favorite ways to prepare this humble cut. Like most stews or braises, it’s even better reheated the next day.


  • 4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions (about 1½ to 2 pounds total), sliced
  • ¼ cup sliced fresh garlic
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) pure chile powder, such as ancho or Chimayo
  • 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups strong brewed coffee
  • 1 cup homemade chicken, meat, or vegetable stock or your favorite canned broth
  • 1 14½-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice


Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. In a deep Dutch oven or casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and brown the brisket on both sides over high heat. Remove the meat from the pot, discard the fat, and wipe the pot out.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot and sauté the onions and garlic over high heat until they just begin to color. Add the chile powder and sauté, stirring for a minute more, until fragrant. Add the fennel, cumin, sugar, vinegar, coffee, stock, and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer. Return the brisket to the pot (fat side up, if you want to be very correct), cover, and place in the oven for 3 to 3 ½ hours or until the meat is very tender.

Leaving the oven on, transfer just the meat from the pot to a cutting board. Puree the braising liquids and vegetables until smooth any way you can (an immersion blender is the easiest way, or you can transfer everything carefully to a food processor or blender, in batches if necessary). Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Return the pureed sauce to the pot, place the meat fat side up in the pot, and bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes more, or until the brisket is nicely glazed. Transfer the meat to a cutting board (last time, I promise) and slice thinly across the grain. Serve the meat with the warm sauce spooned over it, or refrigerate the sliced brisket in the sauce for up to 3 days, and reheat on the stove top.