Once you’ve fueled yourself with your daily required dosage of coffee or espresso, it’s likely you’ll find yourself left with a pile of damp grounds. While you might be inclined to toss the whole mess into the trash, you should think twice before throwing out your grounds like they are yesterday’s news. Like the newspaper, coffee grounds are incredibly recyclable and can be used more than just once. There are many ways you can repurpose your grounds, including using them to beautify yourself, clean your home or help your garden grow. In addition there are some fun do-it-yourself projects you can do with coffee filters, coffee sacks (the jute ones that the beans get imported in) and coffee cups – but that is another story.
Use coffee to beatify yourself inside and out. Create a body or facial scrub by combining grounds with a small amount (just enough to adhere the grounds together) of olive oil and then rub the mixture over your face or rough patches of skin. Wash off the scrub after a few minutes to reveal smooth, exfoliated skin.
Brewed coffee and the grounds can also do wonders for your hair. Start with just-shampooed hair that has been allowed to dry. Then rinse your hair with about a pot’s worth of coffee or work wet grounds into your hair. Allow the coffee or grounds to sit on your hair for about 10-20 minutes before washing them out. This process will reduce shedding and leave your hair glowing. However, this treatment works best for brunettes or redheads as the coffee will slightly darken your hair.
Coffee can be used to dye a number of products, not just your hair. Soak your used grounds in warm water for a few minutes to make a dye that can be applied to cloth, paper and even eggs. Coffee grounds can also be used as a scratch filler for dark wood furniture. Simply rub in wet grounds that are the same color as the wood (dark coffee or espresso roasts work the best), let them sit for a few minutes and then buff them away with a wet rag.
Although it might sound weird, coffee grounds are a useful cleaning tool. To make less of a mess when cleaning your fireplace, place dampened grounds on the ashes to keep dust from flying into the air. You can use dry grounds to clean too – their abrasive nature is great for scrubbing pots and pans!
Keep animals and insects away from your garden by sprinkling coffee grounds around your plants and flowers. Cats, for one, don’t like the smell of coffee so the grounds will keep them from digging up your garden. In addition, Shane Genziuk from Ground to Ground points out that “coffee grounds are both acidic and abrasive,” which will ensure snails, slugs and ants won’t even think about going near or nibbling on your plants.
Not only can you reuse your coffee grounds, but you can recycle leftover coffee you’ve brewed as well. Share a drink or two with your plants (give them the same amount of coffee as you would water). Due to the acid and nitrogen content in coffee, it is actually beneficial to plants like roses and begonias. Just make sure the coffee is cooled first, since if it’s still hot it may hurt the plant’s roots. It is also important to make sure the coffee hasn’t been flavored or had sugar and milk added, which aren’t as good for plants.
Composting Coffee Grounds
Besides being great for reviving your houseplants, coffee grounds can also help your garden grow. While it is possible to add coffee grounds directly to your soil (after giving them a few months to break down) the best way to add coffee to your garden is by composting it. According to Science Daily, a team of compost specialists at the Oregon State University Extension say the best way to add coffee to your pile is by putting the grounds in an existing unturned pile, and covering them with leaves and then waiting three to six months for the grounds to break down and blend in with the rest of the compost.
The OSU Extension compost specialists have also been conducting a series for informal experiments on the effects of coffee grounds in compost. Thus far they have noticed that grounds allow compost piles to sustain higher temperatures, “reduc[ing] potentially dangerous pathogens and kill[ing] seeds from weeds and vegetables that were added to the pile.” In addition, the specialists “have noticed that the coffee grounds seem to improve soil structure, plus attract earth worms.”
If you are not an avid coffee drinker, visit a local café and ask them for their left over grounds. Many coffee shops will give their grounds away for free to reduce waste. The next time you have a cup of coffee, do your part to help the environment and recycle your grounds in a new way.
Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee (and tea).