4 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds

Don’t throw those old coffee grounds away just yet! Here are four ways to reuse your coffee grounds to maximize the benefits of your daily cup.

BY EMILY JOY MENESES
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Featured photo by Tyler Nix via Unsplash

By now, it’s no secret to most that landfills are damaging to the environment. In the United States alone, more than 100 million tons of waste go into landfills every year, releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

Why Reuse Coffee Grounds?

While food normally takes only a few weeks to a few months to decompose, it’s a different story when it comes to landfills. In landfills, food gets trapped under layers of waste with no access to oxygen or light, making it near impossible for it to break down—which is why diverting as much waste from landfills as we can is the best way to look out for the environment. 

A masked barista scoops coffee grounds into a big drum for composting.
Durham, N.C.-based café Cocoa Cinnamon composts coffee grounds, coffee chaff, and tea leaves, which customers can pick up and use in their farms or gardens. Photo courtesy of Areli Barrera Grodski.

1. Compost Your Coffee Grounds

This first one goes without saying—composting your coffee grounds is the easiest way to divert your coffee grounds from landfills. Simply collect your coffee grounds in a container or bin throughout the week. Make sure to avoid placing any coffee filters or other non-biodegradable materials in it. You can learn how to compost your coffee grounds yourself, or search for a local composting facility near you. L.A. Compost, for example, hosts regular compost drop-offs at local farmers’ markets—and there are most likely tons of organizations in your area doing similar work.

A baristas stacks five-pound paper bags in a black cart, all taped at the top and labeled "Free Compost."
Compost for pickup at Cocoa Cinnamon. Photo courtesy of Areli Barrera Grodski.

With three locations in Durham, N.C., Cocoa Cinnamon is a café dedicated to staying environmentally conscious—primarily through waste reduction. Co-owner Leon Grodski Barrera shares that the coffeehouse composts their coffee grounds, coffee chaff, and tea leaves, then they set them aside for customer pickup to go to local gardens and farms.  

2. Use Grounds in Your Garden

Filled with key minerals like nitrogen, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium, coffee grounds work well as a natural plant fertilizer. They can also improve the pH of low-acid garden soil because of their natural acidity. Sprinkle your used coffee grounds in the soil around your plants to support growth and naturally repel insects.

Spinach plants growing in a long wooden box, viewed from above, with rich potting soil visible under the glossy green leaves.
Coffee grounds work as a natural plant fertilizer and pest repellent, making them great for gardens. Photo by Makus Spiske via Unsplash.

3. Make Skincare Products

Coffee grounds contain phenolic compounds (like chlorogenic acids) and caffeine, which are believed to help reverse the aging process. Coffee byproducts are huge in the skin care market for this reason.

At home, you can make a great natural exfoliant and body scrub with coffee grounds. We love this recipe by The Coconut Mama, which uses coconut oil for added moisture and lasts up to six months. 

4. Neutralize Odors In Your Fridge

Because of their nitrogen content, coffee grounds are also useful for absorbing and neutralizing odors. You can place an open container of dried coffee grounds in your refrigerator or freezer to serve as a natural air freshener.  

Whether you’re brewing at home or working on bar, there are so many creative ways to reuse your coffee grounds. It’s a small act, but it’s a great way to start making environmental consciousness a part of your daily life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Joy Meneses (she/they) is a writer and musician based in Los Angeles. Her hobbies include foraging, cortados, vintage synths, and connecting with her Filipino roots through music, art, food, and beverage.

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