15 surprising ways you can reuse old coffee grounds

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The precious morning cup of coffee that starts millions of people’s daily routines.

The smell of fresh coffee grounds in the house and that kick of caffeine that gets you going in the morning and the other 75% of Americans that make coffee their first choice of drink. But what about all that leftover used coffee grounds?

Can you reuse coffee grounds twice? What about other uses of spent coffee grounds?

I have even come across coffee cups made from coffee husk a byproduct from the production of coffee, which I thought was an interesting way to reuse coffee.

But to all the coffee lovers out there, what is the best way to reuse coffee grounds, and how can we be sustainable coffee drinkers?

How to be a sustainable coffee drinker?

  1. I think we should start with the way we are brewing coffee. Are you using a coffee machine?

Are you using a coffee pod machine, drip coffee, cold brew, french press coffee? Or are you using a stove top like the Bialetti? I know there are a ton of different machines but we don’t need to go into all of them.

If you would like to learn the impact of the pod machines and what alternatives you have read on in this article. Other than that I think the best way is to make it so you love it. Makes sense right? But it is also a question of budget. Not everyone can afford a $2000 dollar machine that is up to barista standards. But you can however make the perfect cup with cheaper options. I myself am a big fan of the Bialetti machine that doesn’t require any extra paper filters or create additional waste, like the pod machines. But apparently, there are companies working on positive change like in this video by James Hoffmann, introducing zero waste coffee pods.

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2. What coffee beans are you getting and where from?

A good rule is to check if there are small local roasters in your area and most of the time you can have a nice chat with them and find out where they source their beans from. The less the beans have to travel the better for the environment.

3. How is your coffee packaged?

This is a bit tricky since coffee needs to release CO2. That’s right I am sure you have seen those little plastic vents on coffee bags and they are designed to let CO2 escape from the bag and let no air into the bag.

This is because coffee gases off CO2 after it is roasted and packaged. In order to prevent the bags from exploding, they now have a vent. As a result, recycling is nearly impossible. Who wants to remove the vents from the bags?

My local roaster is aware of the plastic pollution and the amount of bags that we throw away daily, so he opted for something that is oxo-biodegradable, which in my opinion is just greenwashing. Since there are no facilities that can handle oxo-biodegradable plastics. Learn what oxo-biodegradable plastic is here. It’s not his fault, in most cases, these products have been advertised or marketed falsely and sold under false pretenses.

Sure the bag looks good with the paper finish, but they are plastic lined and with oxo-biodegradable plastic actually contaminates the recycling bin. Oh, that’s right there isn’t even a recycling service here.

Lastly, what can we do with the leftover coffee grounds?

If we just toss them in the bin, we are throwing away a perfectly good soil or compost additive that adds further nutrients and nitrogen to the soil. Some gardeners even go as far as collecting used grounds from local stores to spread them over their gardens.

Can you reuse coffee grounds twice?

Yes and No. If you have no other means to get your daily caffeine intake and the next coffee shop is out of reach. I have read that people make a second brew and drink it. Not for pleasure, but there is still caffeine in your second brew, so you might just get rid of that coffee headache. However, it will taste extremely weak and gross, I have tried it.

But you can use coffee grounds to make several other things like:

Photo by Katya Ross on Unsplash

Make a body scrub

Mix 1/2 cup of your old coffee grounds with 1/2 cup of coconut oil in a bowl and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Apply circular motion to your face and body to remove dead skin cells and let it sit for several minutes. It’s pretty messy but applying coffee to your skin increases blood flow, and apparently, it also increases hair growth, which I should have learned earlier about (I still can’t grow a full beard).

Fertilize some plants

Coffee grounds work great as a fertilizer for some plants. Yes, be careful not all plants will enjoy coffee. You can take 1/2 cup of coffee grounds and mix it with a gallon of water. Let it sit for about 24h, and then use it on the plants as fertilizer. But don’t overdo it because it can also have the opposite effect.

Usually, I use the wet grounds from my just brewed coffee and sprinkle them lightly around some plants that I might think need to wake up a little. But I would say I use a handful once a year on the same plant.

Collect bad odor in your fridge

If you haven’t already heard about this trick where you place an open container of baking soda in your fridge to absorb bad odor, then where have you been all these years?

Coffee grounds can help reduce odor in the fridge too. Use a mason jar, fill it with some coffee grounds, and leave it in your fridge. Similar to baking soda, it will absorb bad odors from your fridge.

Freshen up your Microwave

Here you use half a cup of water and two tablespoons of coffee grounds mixed together and then place it in the microwave for less than a minute and enjoy a fresh-smelling microwave again.

Take a bath

This might be a bit weird, but yes, you can sprinkle a couple of coffee grounds into your bath, add some coconut oil and enjoy. The caffeine content in the coffee is great for revitalizing your skin and increasing blood flow. But you will definitely have to rinse yourself clean perhaps even finish your bath with a shower which isn’t the most eco-friendly way of taking a bath but I am sure it is going to be a lot of fun.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Absorb bad odors in your shoe

You can also fill a sock with coffee grounds and stuff them in your stinky shoes. Overnight that should solve the problem of leaving your shoes smelling fresh again. Additionally, you can scrub your feet with spent grounds, as mentioned above in how to make a scrub.

Eliminate odors in the bin

Like your fridge, you can add a jar of coffee grounds and leave it open in the bin.

Use it as a cleaner for pots, pans, grill, sink….(scouring milk)

If your pots and pans look a bit scrubby, now is the time to use some coffee grounds and give them a good clean. The acid in the coffee helps remove tough stains and leaves your kitchenware sparkly clean again. I have tried this and honestly, I didn’t see a big difference. I would almost suggest going and trying my proven white vine vinegar method which you can learn all about here.

Marinate Meat

I just learned that you could reuse coffee grounds twice by making a brew and letting it cool down. Then you add your meat cuts into the coffee and let it sit in the fridge for 24h. That brings out the flavor in the meat and keeps it moist. Apparently, because of the acids contained in coffee, helps tenderize the meat.

I would love to hear from you if you tried this or if this is just an internet myth. Let me know in the comments.

I would try it, but I don’t eat meat at home.

Keep slugs away

Worried about slugs eating your letters? Well, coffee grounds can help with that. Make a trail of your old coffee grounds around the plants you want to protect, which will keep slugs and other insects at bay. They don’t like the acidity in the coffee.

Paint your furniture

Have you ever scratched a piece of furniture and wondered how you could easily repair the discoloration? Well, dab a piece of fabric or a sponge in some soggy coffee grounds and use it to paint the scratch. I have also come to fix scratches in timber with walnuts since they will fill in the crack and color it at the same time. Coffee works too but mainly just stains the wood furniture. If you have a deeper scratch try the nuts.

Make a candle

You can collect the stumps of old candles and melt them in a pot. Mix some coffee grounds with the candle wax to make for some good-smelling pretty new candles.

De-ice the road

I spent a few years living in Canada, where I learned how slippery the roads are in the winter and that salt is the first thing people use to de-ice the roads. Too much salt is bad for the environment and can pollute groundwater and kill aquatic life.

Alternatively, you can sprinkle coffee grounds on icy roads. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which reacts with ice and melts it, much like salt, but without harming the environment. It is a coarse material and acts as an anti-slip surface.

Strip build-up from your hair

You can make your hair shine by mixing coffee grounds and conditioner; just make sure the coffee grounds don’t stick to your head, and there you go. Again this process is pretty messy but I did notice my hair feeling soft and shiny. Try it out and let me know.

Sprinkle used coffee grounds around your house

If you have ever had an ant problem in your house you know, ow there are mainly toxic options to get rid of the little guys. The little guys pick up the poison and bring it to the queen. Eventually, the whole tribe dies off.

It’s awful and not even nice for you because you end up with dead-end carcasses everywhere around your house. A better more sustainable option is to use your used coffee grounds and sprinkle them all around the house making a kind of wall for the ants to enter your space.

Compost

You can add used coffee grounds to your make the best quality compost in your neighborhood. Coffee is a great source of nitrogen, this will really help your compost to get going. According to the Oregon State University coffee grounds are about 2% nitrogen by volume, meaning

The used coffee grounds’ ph is almost neutral at around 6.5 – 6.8 (7 being neutral). All the acidity from coffee ends up in your cup and not in the used coffee grounds that you spread on the soil.

Attract and feed worms

Yep, apparently, these little wigglers love some good old coffee grounds. You can add them to your compost, where they help to break down your compost much faster, or you can add them straight to your garden, where they also help to aerate the soil and bring nutrients to the plants. What the worms really love is the bacteria that helps break down the coffee grounds.

Is it ok to use coffee grounds twice?

If you are a coffee lover like me you probably ran out of coffee at some stage and just decided to give your used coffee grounds a second chance. I learned the hard way that reusing coffee grounds and making a second cup of coffee is not going to work for me. Sure there is still some amount of caffeine in your second brew but the taste of used coffee grounds is awful.

You are better off just sitting there with a withdrawal headache for the rest of the day than drinking this weak brew.

But to answer your question, yes you are able to use coffee grounds twice. As I said you would not want to do it for the taste but rather to get rid of your headache.

Sources:

https://treescoffee.com/blog/2017/10/repurpose-used-coffee-grounds-with-these-household-hacks/

https://www.growveg.com/guides/a-common-sense-guide-to-using-coffee-grounds-in-the-garden/

https://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/soil-compost/coffee-grounds-composting

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4997286/

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Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

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