Coffee is a popular beverage consumed all over the world.
People usually discard the grounds left behind after it’s brewed, but after reading this article, you may reconsider throwing them out.
Coffee grounds have many practical uses around the home and garden and can even help spruce up your beauty routine.
If you don’t make a lot of coffee at home, most coffee shops have an abundance of coffee grounds that they are willing to give away.
Below are 16 creative uses for used coffee grounds.
Most soil does not contain the essential nutrients needed for optimal plant growth.
Also, as plants grow, they absorb nutrients from the soil, ultimately leaving it depleted.
Thus, most gardens need to be fertilized to ensure that plants have the nourishment they need to survive.
Coffee grounds contain several key minerals for plant growth — nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chromium (1).
What’s more, coffee grounds help attract worms, which are great for your garden.
To use coffee grounds as fertilizer, simply sprinkle them onto the soil surrounding your plants.
Summary Coffee grounds make great fertilizer because they contain several key nutrients required for plant growth. They can also help attract worms and decrease the concentrations of heavy metals in the soil.
If you do not have an immediate need for fertilizer, you can compost your coffee grounds for later use.
Composting is a natural process that turns organic items such as food scraps and yard debris into a dark, rich material called compost or humus.
Adding compost to your yard or garden can help the soil hold onto more nutrients and water, thereby improving the health of your plants.
One study found that compost made with coffee grounds and kitchen waste was richer in nutrients than compost made with waste alone (4).
Another study compared four batches of compost containing 0, 10, 20 and 40% coffee grounds.
The batch containing 40% coffee grounds produced the fewest greenhouse gas emissions and best quality compost (5).
Other items to compost include grass clippings, leaves, bark, shredded newspaper, brush, herbs, egg shells, stale bread and fruit and vegetable trimmings.
You should avoid composting meat and fish scraps, dairy products, diseased plants, grease and oils.
Summary Adding compost to your garden can significantly improve the health of your plants. Coffee grounds can help increase nutrient levels and decrease the greenhouse gas emissions of your compost.
Because of this, you can use coffee grounds to repel bugs.
To use coffee grounds as an insect and pest repellent, simply set out bowls of grounds or sprinkle them around outdoor seating areas.
You can also keep pests out of your garden by scattering coffee grounds around your plants. They help create a barrier that slugs and snails do not like to crawl over.
Summary Coffee grounds contain compounds that are toxic to many insects. You can use your coffee grounds to repel mosquitos, fruit flies, beetles and other pests.
Fleas are a common problem in household pets, and treating them can be costly and time-consuming (10).
There are several flea-removal products on the market, but many contain harsh chemicals and can produce unwanted side effects.
Luckily, fleas don’t seem to like coffee, and you may want to consider coffee grounds as a natural treatment.
Simply rub the grounds throughout your pet’s fur after shampooing. Then rinse them off and allow your pet to dry as usual.
Some say doing this may also add smoothness and shine to your pet’s coat, but there is little to no research to support either of these claims.
However, coffee grounds may be less effective than a prescription product, so if your pet has fleas and this treatment does not work, you may want to contact a vet to discuss alternative options.
Also, coffee grounds should only be used externally. They can be toxic to dogs if consumed.
Summary Like other insects, fleas do not like coffee. Bathing your pet in used coffee grounds may help keep fleas at bay.
Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which helps eliminate a foul-smelling sulfur gas from the air when it’s combined with carbon (11).
In other words, coffee grounds can help absorb and eliminate odors.
You can place a bowl of coffee grounds in your fridge or freezer to neutralize odors from spoiled or fragrant foods.
You can also fill old socks or pantyhose with coffee grounds and tie them off to make portable air fresheners.
Place these in your shoes, gym bag, bedroom drawers, under your car seat or anywhere else that may need some deodorizing.
You can even keep coffee grounds by the sink and use them to scrub your hands after chopping garlic or onions. The grounds will help remove the smell from your hands.
Summary Coffee grounds can help absorb and eliminate odors from your refrigerator, gym bag or smelly shoes. Using them as a hand scrub can also help remove lingering smells from onion or garlic.
Coffee grounds are abrasive and can help remove buildup on hard-to-clean surfaces. They may even help sanitize due to their antibacterial and antiviral properties (8).
If you like to avoid cleaning with chemicals, used coffee grounds might be worth a try.
Use them to scour your sink, polish your cookware or clean your grill.
Just be careful not to use them on any kind of porous material, as they can cause brown stains.
Summary Coffee grounds can be used as an abrasive cleaner. They can help sanitize and remove buildup from sinks, cookware, grills and other surfaces around the house.
The coarse texture of coffee grounds makes them ideal for scrubbing hard-to-clean kitchen utensils.
You can use them to scrape your dishes clean and remove caked-on food from pots and pans. Simply sprinkle the grounds directly onto your pots and pans and scrub as usual. Make sure to rinse thoroughly afterward.
Summary You can use coffee grounds to scour your pots and pans. Their abrasive texture helps scrape away caked-on food.
The coarse particles in coffee grounds work as an exfoliating agent to help remove dirt and dead cells from the skin.
Simply mix coffee grounds with a little bit of water or coconut oil and scrub them with your hands directly onto your face and body.
Coffee grounds can also be mixed with a small amount of honey and used as an exfoliating lip scrub.
What’s more, the caffeine in coffee grounds has potent antioxidant properties that can help protect the skin from sun damage.
It can also increase blood flow, which aids in overall skin health (12).
Summary Coffee grounds can be repurposed into an exfoliating scrub for your face and body. They help remove dirt and dead skin cells and promote overall skin health.
It occurs when fat deposits push through the connective tissue under your skin and is commonly seen in the buttocks and thighs.
When caffeine such as that in coffee grounds is applied topically, it may help break down this fat and increase blood flow to the area, thus decreasing the appearance of cellulite (12).
Simply mix grounds with water or coconut oil and scrub for 10 minutes twice weekly on any areas affected by cellulite.
Summary Coffee grounds may help reduce the appearance of cellulite by breaking down fat deposits and increasing blood flow to the affected area.
If you’ve ever spilled coffee on a white shirt, you know that it can leave a stain.
By rewetting used coffee grounds, you can create an inexpensive and all-natural dye that can be used to color cotton, rayon, cellophane, linen and paper (14).
This is an easy way to give fabrics and paper a vintage look or disguise existing stains on your clothing and towels.
Coffee grounds can even be used to dye Easter eggs or deepen the color of dark hair.
Used coffee grounds make a great non-toxic alternative to traditional dyes.
If you've dyed a piece of fabric or yarn that will be worn or used for sewing or knitting, make sure to wash it in cold water with a very mild laundry detergent before using it.
Summary Used coffee grounds are a great natural alternative to harsh chemical dyes. Simply rewet them and use them to dye paper or fabric or darken brunette hair.
Cleaning ashes from a wood-burning fireplace can be an incredibly messy task.
By scattering used coffee grounds over the ashes, you can weigh them down and prevent smoke clouds from forming.
This not only makes the ashes easier to remove, but it also keeps dust from escaping and traveling to other parts of the room.
Summary Use coffee grounds to weigh down the ashes in your fireplace before cleaning. This makes for easier ash removal and less mess.
Meat contains muscle fibers and proteins that can give it a tough consistency.
Tenderizing meat helps break them down, resulting in a softer texture.
Salt, enzymes and acids are three natural types of meat tenderizers. Coffee contains natural acids and enzymes, making it especially effective at tenderizing meat.
The acidic nature of coffee can also help enhance the flavor of meat.
Simply add used coffee grounds to your favorite dry-rub recipe and apply the rub to the meat two hours before cooking.
The grounds will get cooked onto the meat and form a dark, crispy crust.
Alternatively, you can rebrew used grounds to make coffee, allow it to cool and use it to marinade meat in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before cooking.
Summary Coffee grounds contain natural acids and enzymes that help tenderize meat and enhance its flavor.
Shampoos and styling products often leave residue behind that can dull and weigh down your hair.
Exfoliating your scalp with coffee grounds can help remove buildup and dead skin cells.
Before you shampoo, simply grab a handful of coffee grounds and massage them into your scalp and hair for a few minutes. Then wash and rinse as you normally would.
Do this one to two times per week, or as needed.
Summary Exfoliating your scalp with used coffee grounds can help remove dead skin cells and product buildup and may even speed up hair growth.
If you own wooden furniture, you’ve probably noticed it can be easily scuffed and scratched.
Various products can help minimize the appearance of scratches, but before you run to the store, you might want to give coffee grounds a try.
First, make a thick paste with used coffee grounds and water.
Then rub the paste into the scratch using a cotton swab, allow it to sit for 5–10 minutes and then wipe with a cotton rag.
This should help buff out the scratch and conceal it by dying the exposed wood a dark-brown color.
Continue to dab coffee into the scratch using a cotton swab until the desired color is achieved, waiting a few hours between applications.
Summary You can use coffee grounds to buff out scratches on wooden furniture and darken them to match your existing finish.
Mushrooms only thrive in specific conditions and are notoriously difficult to grow.
For starters, they do not grow in ordinary garden soil, as they require a substrate, or underlying substance or layer.
Used coffee grounds make a great substrate because they are packed full of nutrients that mushrooms like to grow on (21).
What’s more, they have already been sterilized during the brewing process, which would otherwise be an extra step in the growing process.
How to Grow Mushrooms in Used Coffee Grounds
- Collect about 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) of grounds and moisten them using a spray bottle.
- Add a little over 1 pound (500 grams) of mushroom spore and sawdust mixture and mix well. You can look for this product at your local gardening store.
- Place resulting mixture into a filter patch grow bag, large freezer bag or bucket and fill until approximately one-half to two-thirds full.
- Cut four air holes, about 5 mm in size, into the sides of your container above the grounds. If you are using an open container, cover it with cellophane and poke with a few more small air holes.
- Lightly spray the grounds with water once daily or as needed to keep them moist.
- In about two to four weeks when you start to see dense white areas with little budding mushrooms, move the container to an area with lighter and fresher air.
- When the mushrooms become plump and their caps turn upward, you can harvest them.
You can use this method to grow just about any kind of mushroom, but shiitake and oyster varieties seem to be the easiest.
Summary When combined with adequate moisture, coffee grounds seem to be an ideal growing environment for mushrooms.
The skin surrounding the eyes is extremely delicate and contains very little fat tissue. Because of this, it’s one of the first places you might see signs of aging (22).
Many things can contribute to the development of dark circles and puffiness under the eyes, including fragile blood vessels, poor circulation and inadequate skin quality (23).
Coffee grounds seem to be a promising solution due to their high antioxidant and caffeine contents.
The antioxidants in coffee can also help fight free radicals, which contribute to skin aging (26).
Simply add water or coconut oil to your coffee grounds to form a paste. Apply the mixture under your eyes and let it sit for about 10 minutes before rinsing. Repeat this process daily or as needed.
Summary Coffee grounds contain caffeine and antioxidants. When applied to the skin, they can help prevent aging and reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles and puffiness.
While it may seem safe to assume that consuming coffee grounds may yield similar benefits, many doctors caution against it.
Coffee beans contain compounds called cafestol and kahweol, which can increase blood cholesterol. These compounds are typically removed by paper filters when coffee is brewed but remain in the grounds.
One study looked at the effects of consuming about 0.25 ounces (7 grams) of coffee grounds per day. After three weeks, the blood cholesterol of participants increased by an average of 26 points (31).
Some recipes for baked goods, meat rubs and sauces call for coffee grounds. Using coffee grounds this way is probably fine as long as you don’t consume them often.
Summary Coffee grounds contain compounds that can raise blood cholesterol. Consuming small amounts on occasion is fine for most people, but they may be problematic if consumed in excess.
Most people discard the grounds left behind after brewing coffee. However, there are many great ways to reuse them.
The caffeine and antioxidants in coffee grounds may help combat cellulite, under-eye circles and other signs of aging skin.
Coffee grounds are also packed with nutrients that can nourish plants and deter pests in your garden.
Furthermore, their abrasiveness makes them a great cleaning scrub around the house.
Next time you brew yourself a cup of coffee, consider repurposing the grounds using one of the ideas in this article.