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Creative Ways to Use Old Coffee Grounds

31 August 2022

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Let’s play Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – the coffee grounds edition. While we can’t help you reduce your coffee/caffeine intake, we can definitely help you learn how to reuse and recycle your coffee grounds. They are surprisingly versatile.

Wet or Dry? How to store used coffee grounds

To store spent coffee grounds for long periods of time, or for certain uses, it’s better to dry them out. This is easy. Find a sheet pan and line it with newspaper, about six layers thick. Double check that your grounds are fresh – moldy grounds help no one! If you notice your grounds are lightly fuzzy or have a blue, white or greenish cast to them, toss them and find some fresh ones.

Pour your freshly used grounds over the newspaper in the sheet pan, in a layer no thicker than the rim of the pan. Now, tear some strips of newspaper and work those into the grounds. Place the pan in a sunny spot and replace the strips (and stir the coffee grounds) once a day until they are dry to the touch. Store in an airtight container.

To store wet coffee grounds, scoop them into an airtight container and put them in the refrigerator. The cold temp will keep them from sprouting mold until you’re ready to use them. 

Uses for dry coffee grounds

Funky fridge odor absorber. Place a little bowl of dry, spent coffee grounds (instead of a box of baking soda) in the refrigerator and they’ll magically absorb all the odor. Coffee beans are rich in nitrogen and other compounds with the ability to absorb sulfur, which is a major stinky culprit.

Meat rub. Lots of dry-rub and creative barbeque recipes call for rubbing the ribs, brisket or steak with a blend of salt, spices and (you guessed it) coffee grounds. Coffee used in a rub yields a crust and they will sear beautifully. Rich coffee flavors the meat without overpowering its natural deliciousness. Bonus: coffee is acidic, so it also acts as a meat tenderizer. 

DIY body scrub. Mix ¼ cup of dried coffee grounds with ¼ cup of brown sugar. Mix them into ¼ cup of coconut oil and a splash of vanilla extract if you’d like. Stir it all thoroughly. Now, scoop some out and gently rub the mixture on your elbows, knees or any other spots that could use a little smoothing, except sensitive areas like your eyelids or bathing-suit parts, that is. Now rinse!

Carpet deodorizing sachets. To remove pet odors from the carpet, bundle a few spoons full of dried coffee grounds in a coffee filter and secure the top with a rubber band or twist-tie. You may need to make a few of these, depending on how many pet stains you’re dealing with. Set the little coffee ground bundles on top of the stains and leave them overnight. The odor should be absorbed by sunup! 

Repel slugs, snails and ants. Sprinkle used coffee grounds generously around plants that are infested with ants, slugs or snails. Also, toss coffee grounds on the soil around outdoor seating areas (or place them in containers) to help repel mosquitoes.

Traction. Using coffee grounds instead of salt or sand is a smart way to de-ice a sidewalk or add traction to your driveway. Here’s why: salt melts ice but can kill plants and pollute groundwater. Sand increases traction but doesn’t melt ice. It’s also often so fine that it’s hard to vacuum up when tracked into the house. Coffee, on the other hand, won’t harm the environment, it contains nitrogen, which can help melt ice and its grit aids traction.   

Uses for wet coffee grounds

Hide scratches on furnishings. Got a scratched piece of dark wood furniture? Take a little scoop of damp coffee grounds and rub them gently into the scratches. The coffee grounds won’t mend the scratch, but the brown pigment from the coffee will absorb into the wood and hide the scratch.  

Cockroach trap. Find a jar or can that you won’t mind recycling when you’re done. Pour an inch or two of damp coffee grounds into it, taking care to dry off the inside neck of the container. Next, line the inner neck with extra sticky double-sided tape. Now, wait. The coffee grounds’ aroma will lure your unwelcome house guests into the trap and the sticky tape will ensure that they can’t come back out.

Onion fingers. Chopping onions (or garlic) can leave you weeping and give you lingering stinky fingers. A teaspoon or so of dampened coffee grounds rubbed on the hands is a deodorizing, exfoliating kitchen hack. Add a slather of good hand cream when you’re done scrubbing for an extra treat.

Scrub for pots and pans. Cooked-on or baked-on mess? Pop a few teaspoons of damp coffee grounds into the pot, pan or baking dish, add a squeeze of liquid dish soap and grab a rag. Now scrub! Watch the burnt-on dinner remnants loosen under the power of the abrasive grounds. 

Healthier soil. Mixing used coffee grounds into soil is a great way to fertilize. Coffee adds nitrogen, potassium and a little magnesium. For hydrangeas in particular, adding coffee to the soil helps them bloom blue. Coffee adds acid, and on a chemical level, the acidity helps the plant to absorb naturally occurring aluminum in soil, which means you’ll get pretty blue hydrangeas. 

Wormier, moister soil. Mixing coffee grounds into soil helps it hold water. Coffee grounds, which are larger than soil particles, also help aerate soil, keeping it from packing or hardening, which can happen when soil contains clay. Nice, loose, aerated soil makes a great home for earthworms, which are terrific for plants. Aim for six parts soil to one part coffee for a healthy mix.   

Faster composting. Coffee grounds are composting champions. Lots of compost recipes call for manure, but some folks prefer to use coffee grounds, especially with leaves or straw which are high in carbon. Go with layers: 1/3 leaves, 1/3 fresh yard clippings and 1/3 coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are approximately two percent nitrogen by volume and they are nearly pH neutral. Coffee itself is acidic, but the acid in coffee is water-soluble, so the acid is mostly in liquid coffee, not the grounds.


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