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  • Writer's pictureSturbridge Coffee Roaster

Java Beat: More than just a morning beverage

This article originally published in The Sturbridge Times, March 2019 By Elvis Dyer, Owner/Roaster, Sturbridge Coffee Roasters

We all know coffee is a popular beverage consumed all over the world. However, have you ever thought of what you can do with the grounds that are left behind after it’s brewed? Most of us simply throw them away, however coffee grounds have many practical uses around the home and garden and can even help spruce up your beauty routine. Have you tried any of these practical uses?

Garden Uses

Pest Repellent: Sprinkle coffee grounds around your plants or outdoor seating areas (you can also set out bowls of coffee grounds) to deter garden pests such as mosquitos, fruit flies, beetles, ants, snails and slugs. For larger garden pests, you can mix coffee grounds with dried orange peels and if the orange peel doesn’t work, you can try rosemary oil.

Garden Fertilizer: 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. Coffee grounds contain several key minerals for plant growth — nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chromium. They may also help absorb heavy metals that can contaminate soil. Azaleas, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, camellias, roses, or other acid-loving plants love coffee grounds. To use coffee grounds as fertilizer, simply sprinkle them onto the soil surrounding your plants. You can miss your old grounds with dead grass clippings, brown leaves, or dry straw to neutralize some of the acidity, the spread them around your plants.

Composting for later: Coffee grounds make excellent “green” matter as they are rich in nitrogen. Also, beneficial worms may be attracted to your compost with the addition of old coffee. 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. Just be sure to limit the amount of grounds that you add to your pile so that you don’t throw off the ratio of “green” to “brown” matter.

Carrots love caffeine: Before you sow carrot seeds, mix them with some old dried coffee grounds to give them an energy boost right from the get-go. You may get bigger and better produce with the added bonus of deterring pests that want to eat your carrots before you do.

Household Uses

Absorb Food Odors: Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which helps eliminate a foul-smelling sulfur gas from the air when it’s combined with carbon. Used coffee grounds can be used as you would baking soda for absorbing food odors in the refrigerator and freezer. You can add a small open container with your old grounds in the back of the fridge and replace ever couple of weeks. When you go to replace it, you can remove the old grounds and toss them on the compost pile or use as fertilizer. You can also keep coffee grounds by the sink and use them to scrub your hands after chopping garlic or onions as the grounds will help remove the smell from your hands.

Meat Tenderizer: 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.

Natural Abrasive: Sprinkle old coffee grounds onto an old cleaning cloth and use them to scrub away stuck-on food from counters or dishes. Used grounds are abrasive, yet not so harsh that they will damage surfaces. The coarse texture of coffee grounds makes them ideal for scrubbing hard-to-clean kitchen utensils, or sprinkle coffee grounds directly onto your pots and pans and scrub as usual. Make sure to rinse thoroughly afterward. Use caution however and don’t scrub grounds into cracks where they might leave behind stains


Repair Scratched Furniture: Various products can help minimize the appearance of scratches, however, you can give coffee grounds a try by making a thick paste with used coffee grounds and water. 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 helps buff out the scratch and conceal it by dying the exposed wood a dark-brown color. You can continue to dab coffee into the scratch using a cotton swab until the desired color is achieved, waiting a few hours between applications.

Golden Dye: We all have spilled coffee on our clothing and noticed the coffee stain it leaves behind. You can dampen old coffee grounds and use it to dye materials. Or, try making antique-colored parchment paper to use for arts and crafts.

Fireplace Cleaner Assistant: To make your fireplace cleaning easier and less messy, gently scatter old used coffee grounds over the ashes to weight them down and prevent the huge clouds of smoke that often arise when you clean out the ashes.

Health & Beauty:

Exfoliate Skin: Coffee grounds make a great exfoliating body scrub by adding used grounds to a bit of warm water or your favorite all-natural oil (such as coconut oil). Then you can scrub your skin and remove dead skin cells. Coffee grounds can also be mixed with a small amount of honey and used as an exfoliating lip scrub. And caffeine in coffee grounds has antioxidant properties that may help protect the skin from sun damage.

Rejuvenating Facial: In addition to an exfoliant, coffee can be a great home facial. Mix about two tablespoons of used coffee grounds with an equal amount of organic cocoa powder, add three tablespoons of whole milk or heavy cream and a heaping tablespoon of honey for the perfect all-natural alpha-hydroxy and antioxidant facial.

Caffeinated Soap: Yes, you can absorb caffeine through your skin and can purchase caffeinated soaps. However, for an all-natural alternative, why not turn your old coffee grounds into your own homemade soap?

Cellulite Treatment: There are hundreds of recipes for cellulite-reducing coffee scrubs. A simple mix of used coffee grounds and warm water may help reduce the appearance of cellulite by breaking down fat deposits and increasing blood flow to the affected area. Use this scrub for ten minutes twice per week on any areas affected by cellulite. Results should start to become apparent within about a month of steady treatment.

Hair products: If your hair is weighted down by residue from old products, you can remove that build-up using old coffee grounds to give your hair a lift and restore its natural healthy shine. Before you shampoo, grab a handful of used grounds and massage them into your hair. This coarse texture is enough to break apart the product residue, but it’s also gentle enough that it won’t damage your hair.

Next time you brew yourself a cup of coffee, consider repurposing the grounds using one of the ideas and let us know the results!

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