What to Do With Used Coffee Grounds: Keep ’em Out of the Trash!

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

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Here at Coffeeness I spend most of my time talking about how to make coffee. However, I think the only time I've talked about used coffee grounds is when I'm telling you how best to remove them from a coffee filter.

Here at Coffeeness I spend most of my time talking about how to make coffee. However, I think the only time I’ve talked about used coffee grounds is when I’m telling you how best to remove them from a coffee filter.

So, in today’s post I’ll be discussing what to do with used coffee grounds. And no, I won’t be telling you how to throw them in the trash! As it happens, there are loads of ways to reuse coffee grounds, some of which might surprise you. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the wonderful world of used coffee grounds.

OK, that sounded a little weird!

Why Repurpose Used Coffee Grounds?

For many people, used coffee grounds are simply a nuisance to be thrown in the trash. In fact, unless you live in a city with a composting service, there’s only one place your used coffee grounds and paper filters are heading – the nearest landfill.

I’ve heard that in the old days plenty of folks would repurpose coffee grounds by using them to make coffee a couple more times.

Listen, I know that times are tough and coffee isn’t getting cheaper. Still, the only time you’ll find me making coffee more than once with used grounds is after the zombie apocalypse.

With all that said, I think I’ll be able to convince you that used coffee grounds are simply too useful to throw in the trash. As it happens, there are numerous ways you can take advantage of the nutrients contained in spent coffee grounds. Plus, used coffee grounds are packing some pretty serious antioxidant properties.

Trust me, once you’ve checked out all the ways you can repurpose old coffee grounds, you’ll never think about throwing them out again!

In the Garden

Regular Coffeeness readers might already know that I’m a keen gardener. In fact, pretty much all the used coffee grounds from my kitchen find their way into my flower beds and around my tomato plants.

Incidentally, if you don’t have a garden, you can still find ways to use ground coffee to help your indoor plants stay healthy and happy.

Add to Compost

Every good garden needs composting every once in a while, and used coffee grounds make a fantastic addition to whatever else you’re using.

As it happens, coffee grounds are packed full of nitrogen, which is something our worm friends just love. And every gardener knows that happy worms equals healthy soil!

Feed Plants

While adding coffee grounds to compost means they’ll break down nicely, some plants actually benefit from sprinkling coffee directly onto their soil.

Still, you’ll have to be careful here – coffee grinds can negatively affect soil drainage. Plus, you can increase the soil’s acidity by sprinkling too liberally, and not all plants are going to be happy about that.

On the flip side, acid loving plants such as tomatoes and roses thrive in more acidic soil, and benefit from all the vitamins and minerals present in coffee grounds.

Reasons Coffee Grounds are Good for Plants

Repel Pests

As it happens, plenty of garden pests just can’t stand coffee. I’ve found a liberal sprinkling of coffee grounds to be especially effective in deterring slugs and snails from partying down in my vegetable patch.

What’s more, you can use coffee grounds to create a border around your house to keep interested ants from venturing inside. Turns out ants just don’t love coffee grounds.

Finally, if the neighborhood cats have decided that your yard is the local litter box, try sprinkling used coffee grounds in the areas they seem to be most fond of. Trust me, Garfield is the only cat in history that’s enjoyed the smell of coffee!

De-Ice the Sidewalk

Remember how I talked about coffee grinds being rich in nitrogen? Well, it turns out that nitrogen also prevents ice from forming. What’s more, coffee grounds will create friction when you’re walking on an icy sidewalk, making it less likely that you’ll slip and fall.

Best of all, used coffee grounds are completely eco-friendly, unlike the sidewalk salt that’s most commonly used in winter.

So, once the cold weather hits this year, try out ground coffee instead of salt. You’ll create less of a negative environmental impact and your walkways will smell like coffee!

Self Care

I don’t know about you, but I spend way too much money on fancy hair and body care products. While I’m not about to start making my own soap and shampoo, I’ve found that I can save a little cash by using coffee grounds in a couple of ways.

That said, if you feel up to making a bar or two of coffee soap, be my guest!

Make Exfoliant

OK, I should start by saying that you’ll have to really like the smell of coffee if you’re going to use coffee grounds on your skin. Still, is there anyone alive who doesn’t like the smell of coffee?

Anyway, as you will have guessed, the coarse texture and inherent acidity of used coffee grounds makes them ideal for exfoliating your skin. Simply mix a few tablespoons of used coffee grounds with coconut oil and a little brown sugar, and store the mixture in a jar.

To use, rub the mixture on your skin, let it sit for a minute, then rinse. Oh, and make sure to use caffeinated coffee grounds. As it happens, the caffeine’s antioxidant properties help protect your skin from the sun and can even stimulate blood flow. I always knew caffeine was a wonder drug!

Coffee Grounds Exfoliator

Stimulate Hair Growth

Remember those expensive hair care products I mentioned earlier? Well, an unfortunate side-effect of many shampoos and conditioners is that they leave residue behind.

Well, don’t worry because another wonderful use for coffee grounds is as a residue remover. Simply rub ’em into your scalp after washing your hair and they’ll take care of anything that’s been left behind.

Oh, and there’s a bonus effect: apparently, rubbing a little coffee into your scalp will stimulate hair growth! I don’t think it’ll have the same effect as Willy Wonka’s Hair Toffee, but it’s worth a shot, right?

In the Kitchen

I don’t need to tell you that fresh grounds are absolutely essential in every coffee drinker’s kitchen. I mean, you aren’t going to get much out of your drip coffee maker or home espresso machine without them! Still, once you’ve made that all-important cup of joe, there are other kitchen uses for what’s left in the coffee filter.

Scrub Your Pans

Coffee grounds aren’t just great for scrubbing dead skin cells from your body. You can also use ’em to help remove stubborn buildup from pots and pans.

I tend to think this will come in most handy when you’re on a camping trip and you’re regretting having just cooked bacon over the fire. Simply scoop out the coffee grounds you used to whip up that pot of cowboy coffee and get to work! Believe me, that cast iron pan will be as good as new in no time!

Deodorize Your Fridge

Listen, I know I’ve told you to never store coffee beans in the fridge. You’ll remember that one of the reasons for this is that coffee is like a sponge in terms of absorbing odors. Well, that’s exactly why putting coffee grounds in the fridge is such a good idea.

Once the used grounds are dry, they’ll soak up unpleasant odors and keep things smelling fresh. Oh, and in case you’re wondering where you should actually keep coffee beans, check out my guide to coffee storage containers.

Culinary Uses

It’s not exactly breaking news that there are a multitude of culinary uses for coffee and coffee grounds. However, most recipes call for fresh coffee grounds or brewed coffee. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to extend the life of your coffee grounds once they’ve served their duty in your French press.

Tenderize Meat

If you’re a dedicated carnivore, you might want to experiment with using coffee grounds as a meat rub. After all, that smoky, rich flavor is going to add a special magical flavor to ribs, brisket and other choice cuts. Even better, the coffee’s acidity is going to work wonders in the tenderizing department.

I’d recommend experimenting with different coffee roast profiles, and use the grounds as part of a spice mix. Once you’ve found the ideal recipe, feel free to frustrate your friends by jealously guarding it!

Brew Coffee Beer

How to Brew Coffee Beer

Again, it’s no secret that coffee and beer go together like … well, like all the other things that go together really well. This is especially true for dark beers like porter and stout. Oh wow – I’m actually drooling a little just thinking about my favorite coffee stout!

Anyway, if you brew beer at home, consider repurposing used coffee grounds by soaking them in cold water overnight then adding the liquid to your beer. I’m no expert, but I think you could come up with some darn tasty results!

Creative Uses

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Instagram it’s that people love crafting. Personally, I express my creative side by steaming the silkiest milk foam you’ve ever seen and pouring pretty latte art.

However, for those of you that like spending the afternoon at your crafting table, coffee grounds work in about a million and one ways. Here’s a quick selection:

Dye Clothing

I’ve been told that coffee creates quite stubborn stains on clothing. Who am I kidding? I’ve spilled coffee on just about every item of clothing I own! While that can be annoying if you’re trying to keep a white shirt white, it’s a real bonus if you want to dye clothing.

Simply rub used coffee grounds on those vintage jeans for a cool kid vibe. Alternatively, steep the grounds in water and sprinkle it on any item of clothing you want to give a unique worn-in look.

Natural Tie Dye with Coffee

Stain Furniture

Coffee is really versatile when it comes to staining furniture. Say you’ve got a light-colored pine table that needs a little more character – you can simply rub coffee grounds right onto the wood and let them sit for a few hours before wiping the table down. Alternatively, consider mixing coffee grounds with water or paint for an even darker stain.

By the way, ground coffee is also an excellent fix for furniture scratches. You’ll need a q-tip for this, but you won’t have to purchase expensive and potentially toxic chemicals.

Just add a drop of water to the coffee grounds, carefully apply a little of the mixture to a scratch and let it sit. Once you’ve rubbed it with a rag, you might want to repeat the process a couple of times until you’re satisfied.

Make Coffee Candles

I never get tired of the smell of coffee, so homemade coffee candles sound like a pretty good idea. If you’re going to make coffee candles, you can do so in an old chipped mug for extra cuteness.

It’s as easy as melting down old candle ends, gluing a wick to the bottom of the mug, then sprinkling in coffee grounds as you pour in the wax.

I’ve never actually tried this, so I can’t tell you how good it’s going to smell. However, I imagine adding a little vanilla or chocolate scent would take homemade coffee candles to the next level.

Used Coffee Grounds: Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen, there are seemingly endless ways to reuse coffee grounds once you’ve gotten your fix. And you’re going to feel pretty good about repurposing stuff that ordinarily goes straight into the trash.

Of course, I can’t sign off without reminding you to always use freshly roasted, sustainably sourced coffee from an independent roaster. And grind those beans yourself each time you brew! There are loads of affordable burr coffee grinders out there, so you’ve got no excuse!

That’s it from me. I’m sure you’ve got loads of other ideas for repurposing coffee grounds after brewing. Feel free to share them with the Coffeeness community in the comments section!

Your coffee expert
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Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

Hi! My name is Arne. Having spent years working as a barista I'm now on a mission to bring more good coffee to the people. To that end, my team and I provide you with a broad knowledge base on the subject of coffee.

More about Arne Preuss

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