Spill the Beans: 7 Handy Uses for Used Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds can be used in gardening, soap and candle making, as a wood stain or to dye fabric.

Got a coffee habit? I sure do. The day doesn’t truly start until after the first cup and I generally revisit the coffee pot several times over the course of the work day. I’m at peace with it, and as the spent grounds pile up, they make a nice addition to the compost pile. Coffee grounds are acidic, nitrogen-rich and have plenty of minerals like copper and magnesium and the compost heap is a fine option for putting coffee grounds to good use, but these days I’m finding other great uses for the byproduct of my favorite vice that may have it beat.

Once you’ve had your morning cup, before emptying that filter, check out these great ways to use coffee grounds that go beyond the compost bin.

Plant Food

The same qualities that make coffee such a good candidate for composting can also be put to use by adding directly to planting soil. The minerals help keep plants healthy and the acidity of coffee will give a boost to crops craving lower pH levels.

Wood Stain

Last summer I spent some time experimenting with natural wood stains and one of my favorites was the warm, mellow hues coffee grounds bring to natural wood. You can use the leftover coffee from the pot or soak spent grounds for a couple of days to get rich tones ready to use on woodwork.

Fabric Dye

Boil coffee grounds in a large pot, remove from heat and submerge natural fabrics in the pot to get a beautiful beige or brown. The longer it soaks, the darker it will become.

Discourage Ants

The nitrogen in coffee grounds is a surprisingly effective ant repellent. Sprinkle grounds around doorways, windows or foundations to keep ants out of the house or use around the garden to create a natural barrier against invading ants.

Deodorize Hands

Like tea leaves, rubbing coffee grounds on your hands will remove objectionable odors like garlic, onions or fish.

Scent Candles

Coffee grounds can be added to the wax when making candles to impart a subtle scent that will make your candles something truly special. Start with a couple of tablespoons per cup of wax and experiment until you find a potency that suits you.

Exfoliate Skin

If you’re making your own soap, stirring coffee grounds into the mix during the “trace” stage gives your soap added deodorizing power and also acts as a mild abrasive, making it a top-notch exfoliant. The amount used will impact the abrasiveness of the soap.

If any or all of these great uses for leftover coffee grounds spark your interest, but you don’t indulge in America’s favorite hot beverage, you’re not out of luck. Check with your local barista. Many coffee shops save their grounds for gardeners looking for a soil boost and are happy to share the wealth.

Check out these other posts about reusing common items from your kitchen or bar.

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About Mick Telkamp 

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A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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