15 Surprising Green Uses for Coffee Grinds (Used and New)

10 Uses for Coffee Grinds Coffee has a secret life beyond your kitchen filter. Give new life to the mountains of used grinds we toss out every week.

I built a fertilizer-maker in my garden with the help of  foodie friends, then we tucked into some coffee for their lecture on Composting 101.  I’m a clueless composter, but I make such a mean Cup of Joe that the “professors” changed the syllabus and tore into a coffee tutorial. Check out their coffee apps that deviate from the same old grind. 

1. Keep your garden cat-free
The jury’s still out on this: supposedly grounds spread around my herb seedlings will keep Amman’s gazillion stray cats from making the planter a litter box. Fingers crossed it does the trick.

2. Repel ants
Friend One says used grounds repel ants: she lays down a line at all exterior thresholds.  Friend Two prefers pouring a pot of brewed coffee on the anthill. (Not sure where the Geneva Convention stands on this.)

3. Kill fridge odor
Pop a bowl of fresh grounds in your refrigerator to zap foul odors.  This odor-absorbent trick works, but be warned, it also imparts a mild coffee-house scent.

4. Reduce cellulite
Caffeine’s a major ingredient in cellulite creams, as it supposedly revs up fat metabolism. To make a home treatment, mix used coffee grounds with warmed coconut or olive oil.  Massage into your skin using a circular motion, then rinse. Inspired? Go the next step, and tightly wrap your paste-coated self in cling film.  Let it seep in for 20 minutes before rinsing.  Let us know if this works?

5. Exfoliate
Commercial scrubs contain a buffing agent, usually made from salts or ground nut shells. Make a coffee version by blending a spoonful of grounds into a splash of olive oil.  Achieve aromatherapy by adding essential oil.  Use to buff away dead winter-dry skin, works great on hands and feet.

6. De-stink the Chef
Après-cooking, get rid of smelly food residue by rubbing hands in used grounds.  Grab a handful, scrub a dub dub, and rinse. Keep an open container of dried used grounds sink-side; it’ll absorb kitchen odors.

7. Shine-up hair
Turn up the shine by rinsing dry, clean hair with strong, cooled coffee.  Leave it on for 30 minutes, then rinse. Not recommended for blonde or silver hair.

8. Natural dye
I’ve dyed Easter eggs, toned down too-bright curtains, and stained paper for an archival look using coffee.  The dye isn’t permanent (it comes out in the wash), but it’s perfect for one-off projects.

9. Scrub surfaces
Naturally abrasive coffee grounds are great for scrubbing greasy surfaces like kitchen counters, stovetops and appliances. Use them alone or mix in a little dish detergent.

10. Auto air freshener
Wrap an egg-sized amount of grounds in a piece of old pantyhose (steer clear of fishnets!), secure it with ribbon or string, and hang from the rear-view mirror.

11. Deepen Flavors
Add a tablespoon of fresh grounds to meat marinades, it works as a tenderizer and adds mild smokiness. Coffee’s deep flavor naturally partners with chocolate cakes and chili: substitute strong coffee for some of the recipe’s water requirement and rev up the richness.

12. Heal scratched furniture
Make a paste from instant coffee and rub into scuffed wood; reapply until the scratches disappear.

13. Grow mushrooms
Weekend gardeners in bone-dry Jordan are unlikely to master mushrooms, but used grounds are an ideal ‘shroom-growing medium. State-side friends bought a mushroom-growing kit that included soil made from recycled coffee grounds. Kit-maker Back to the Roots also sells coffee-based soil additives:  mushrooms are one of nature’s best recyclers, thriving on old newspaper, sawdust and, yeah, used grounds.

14. Fertilize plants
Coffee’s nutrients hold the right chemistry for azaleas, rhododendrons and other plants that thrive in acidic conditions.  Spread grounds near their roots or, in lieu of regular watering, simply pour a mix of 1/8 coffee dregs to 7/8 cool water into potted plants.

…and back to the start…

15. Make compost
Coffee grounds are loaded with phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and copper.  They’re a tad acidic and as they degrade they release nitrogen which makes for especially rich soils. If you’re tackling vermicomposting, add used grounds to the critters’ habitat.  Seems worms thrive on coffee – your kitchen waste will be chewed up by an extra-invigorated workforce.

I love the potential for community gardens: linking local coffee shops with large scale compost operations. Here in Jordan, where waste management is woefully disorganized, it’s an opportunity unlikely to be exploited, but Green Prophet would love to hear if roof gardeners and apartment farmers in other (coffee-living) Middle East countries pick up this ball and run with it.

Image of coffee beans from Shutterstock

2 thoughts on “15 Surprising Green Uses for Coffee Grinds (Used and New)

  1. Chris Green

    Decades ago, when I was in the hospitality industry, we used moist coffee grounds as a dust pick-up agent when sweeping the floors in our cafe. Everybody did this back then (1960s and ’70s.)

    If one does this now, the collected grounds/ dust will have a little extra material to then add to the compost or worm bins.


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