There’s nothing like a delicious cup of coffee to give us an energy boost. But when you’ve drained your cup, you’re left with one tricky question…
What do you do with the coffee grounds?
Tipping them down the sink is a recipe for blocked pipes and a plumber on speed dial. But luckily for coffee lovers everywhere, there’s a better solution. Did you know that you can actually recycle used coffee grounds?
We’re going to take you through a host of ways to get even more from your daily cup of coffee. So read on, and never again worry about what to do with those used grounds!
#1 Use coffee grounds as a deodorizer
You know that you shouldn’t store coffee in the fridge, right? That’s because whether in ground or whole bean form, it’s permeable to the air. That means it will absorb any smells in the fridge – and who wants their coffee to smell of French cheese?!
But after you’ve made your coffee, you can use this characteristic to your advantage.
First, let the grounds dry out. Then use them to fill a couple of bowls. Alternatively, you can put them into a plastic container and poke holes in the lid.
Then place the bowls or container into your fridge, and any unpleasant aromas will disappear like magic. It works just as well in the freezer too. And if you have a smelly trash can, just tip the used grounds inside and let them soak up the odors. (1)
You can also make tabs to clean your garbage disposal. Add your used coffee grounds to baking soda, Epsom salts, and white wine vinegar. Then scoop the mixture out using a melon baller and freeze.
Cooks struggling to get rid of the smell of garlic or onions from their hands can apply the same principle. Scrub your hands with used coffee grounds and they’ll smell as fresh as a daisy once more. (2)
#2 Use them in cooking
Another tip for carnivores who love cooking is to use coffee grounds to tenderize meat.
There’s no need to let the grounds dry out this time. Simply pop them in a plastic bag with the meat and leave in the fridge for at least three hours. If you can leave them overnight, so much the better. When you’re ready to cook, you can either rinse off the grounds or leave them on for a subtle, smoky flavor. (3)
You can also use coffee grounds as a flavor enhancer in chilis or chocolate cake.
Use the grounds as soon after brewing as possible to avoid any possibility of staling interfering with the flavor.
Finally, add coffee grounds to herbs and spices for a tasty seasoning on the grilled meat. Add a quarter of a cup of coffee grounds to a tablespoon each of paprika and garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of coconut palm sugar and a teaspoon each of oregano and sea salt. Finally, add a pinch of cayenne pepper and black pepper and mix it all together. Rub into your meat, grill and enjoy!
#3 Use them in your beauty routine
Coffee grounds can work wonders on your skin and there’s a multitude of ways to use them.
Their abrasive properties make them an excellent exfoliating body scrub. Just add equal amounts of coffee grounds and either sugar or sea salt. Then add a few drops of olive oil and mix well until it thickens, and it’s ready to apply. (4)
It’s not just the texture of coffee grounds that makes them great for your skin. The caffeine itself also has a range of benefits.
First up, caffeine contains antioxidants which fight free radicals. Free radicals are the pesky particles that are responsible for the signs of premature aging: wrinkles, fine lines and loss of elasticity. That’s why you’ll find caffeine in all sorts of day and night creams.
Secondly, caffeine has anti-inflammatory properties. That means that when used in a facial it can reduce redness and promote an even skin tone. For the same reason, it can reduce dark circles under the eyes.
For a rejuvenating face mask, mix two tablespoons each of used coffee grounds and cocoa powder. Then add two tablespoons of either full-fat milk or heavy cream. Finally, add a heaped tablespoon of honey or olive oil. Spread it on your skin and leave for 15 minutes. Rinse off and look gorgeous!
Finally, coffee grounds can even be used to tackle cellulite. Just add warm water to your used coffee grounds and apply to problem areas. Scrub for ten minutes twice a week and see the results within a month.
#4 Help your garden grow
For gardeners, coffee grounds are probably the single most useful ingredient in the kitchen.
The acid content of used grounds, together with their nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, make them a fantastic fertilizer. If you’ve got acid-loving plants like azaleas or rhododendrons, never throw away your grounds again!
Instead mix them with dead leaves or grass and wood ash, and sprinkle around the bases of your plants. You’ll be rewarded with healthy growth and wonderful blooms.
Used grounds are also great for keeping away all manner of garden pests. Sprinkle them around flower beds to deter slugs and snails. They can even be scattered directly on anthills. (5)
And if your problems stem more from the furry variety of garden intruders, coffee can help too. Mix the grounds with citrus peel and scatter on your garden for a pungent smell that will keep cats away. Make sure, though, to store your peel in a sealed container to retain the odor until you’re ready to use it.
As an added bonus, one critter that’s said to love coffee grounds is the earthworm. Scattering grounds into the soil will attract worms helping to aerate the soil.
Take a look at this video from Rob the Backyard Gardenerr to find out more about the benefits of coffee grounds for your garden.
#5 Use them to repair scratched furniture
Yes, used coffee grounds can help inside your home as well as outside! Their dark color can be used to cover over unsightly scratches on brown furniture.
Test in an inconspicuous area of your furniture first to make sure there are no adverse reactions. Dab on a small amount using a ball of cotton wool or a cotton bud. Leave for five to ten minutes, then wipe dry with a cotton rag.
Assuming all is well, apply the mixture carefully along the scratch, and repeat the process. This works particularly well for furniture made from darker woods. (6)
#6 Use them for cleaning
The same abrasive qualities that make coffee grounds great for exfoliating your skin also make them a wonderful household cleaner.
Use them to scrub your pots and pans, sink or even your grill. You can get great results without using harsh chemicals that pollute the environment. Just add a few teaspoons of grounds to your cleaning cloth before you wash your dishes, and rinse thoroughly afterwards. (7)
Just one word of warning when using coffee grounds as a cleaning agent… Make sure that you’re not trying to clean any scratched or porous materials. If the coffee gets into the surface it can leave a brown stain.
Coffee grounds can used for cleaning the kitchen too. If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, they can be a lifesaver. As anyone who’s ever tried clearing out a hearth will know, dust and ashes can get everywhere! Solve the problem by damping down the cinders with used grounds before shoveling them out.
#7 Entertain the kids
Bring out the creative side in your children by recycling your coffee grounds into fossil dough. Your kids can press in leaves, seashells, tree bark or flowers - the only limit is their imagination! When the dough is dry they’ll have their very own “fossil” imprint.
To make the dough, use a cup of wet coffee grounds, anther half a cup of cold coffee, half a cup of salt and a cup of flour. Mix together into a dough, adding more flour if it’s too sticky. Then divide into equal pieces – this recipe will make enough for three large or nine small fossils. (8)
Place the dough on baking parchment so it doesn’t stick to the surface whilst your kids are using it. They can then flatten out each piece into a disc using their fingers or the back of a spoon. Next, get them to press their chosen treasures into the dough and carefully remove them again.
The dough needs to dry so that it sets hard. You can either leave it overnight or, if your children are impatient to see the results, bake it the oven. Pop it in at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes, then flip over and bake for a further 20 minutes.
Take a look at this YouTube video to see how it’s done.
#8 Use it as a dye
If you’ve ever accidentally spilled coffee over your tablecloth, you’ll know that it is pretty tough to get out! That means it makes a great, golden-brown dye.
There’s a never-ending list of projects for which coffee dye works like a treat. Why not use it to decorate hard-boiled eggs at Easter? And if you want a shiny finish, just rub in a little cooking oil at the end. You can follow the process step by step here.
You can also use it to dye textiles – natural fabrics like wool, cotton and linen work best. Create different effects using a coffee rub, coffee bath or by tie-dying. Take a look at the results here. (9)
#9 Create “antique” paper for your craft projects
The golden shade of coffee dye works particularly well for creating the effect of aging on paper. Just cover the bottom of a shallow dish big enough to hold the paper you want to dye with used grounds. Then pour on boiling water and leave the grounds to soak for a few minutes.
You don’t need to be precise about the quantities of coffee and water. Just leave the paper in for longer if your mixture is a bit weak.
Submerge the paper in the dish and watch it carefully. When it’s a shade or two lighter than you want, take it out and hang on a clothesline. It will continue to darken as it dries. (10)
If you find it’s too light, you can return it to the coffee bath for another go. If it’s just right, flatten it under a book and it’s ready for use in your history project!
If you don’t have a suitable dish, you can make your coffee mixture in a cup, and paint it on using a paintbrush. Apply a coat to one side, then dry with a hairdryer and apply a second coat. Do the same on the other side and your paper is ready to use.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the many different ways you can recycle your used coffee grounds. With so many practical options available, we’re sure you’ll find something here you can put to good use. And what better reason do you need to say “yes” to that extra cup of coffee?!
Please tell us what you think in the comments – and if we’ve missed any good ideas, let us know.
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My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Daily Cupo, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.