I brew nearly 2 to 3 french press‘ worth of coffee every day. I don’t know if it’s turning into an addiction, but when I get a craving for coffee, it’s pretty strong. Needless to say, the craving is satisfied once I have some warm, comforting, rich coffee going down my throat.
All that coffee however results in quite a lot of waste – mainly coffee grounds, of course.
When I drink green tea, on the other hand, I steep the teabag in hot water for a minute, and I’m at the flavor I like – even though there is a lot of flavor still left in the teabag. I either make a second cup for someone else or toss the teabag in a bottle of water and I’ll have iced peppermint or jasmine tea.
So the burning question is: can you reuse coffee grounds, much like you can reuse a teabag?
12 awesome ways to reuse coffee grounds
Coffee is an incredibly versatile plant, and coffee grounds are full of nutrients and good stuff even after a good how brew. We may not like the taste of what’s left, though!
1) Removing odors
Coffee grounds smell really good, and they are also superb at absorbing other odors. So whether you want to stifle the smell coming from a trash can, or keep food odors from mixing in the fridge, or keep a closet from smelling moldy, you can use coffee grounds.
Simply tie up the coffee grounds in a porous cloth like an old pantyhose, a cheesecloth, or even a loosely woven handkerchief, and toss it wherever you want – hang it inside a dumpster, or place it in the fridge or cupboard. Just make sure that the grounds are dry first!
Additionally, you can use coffee grounds to remove strong odors from your hands, such as from cutting onions or garlic. Dampen your hands with some water, and scrub them together with some coffee grounds – the grounds will absorb the odors and leave your hands smelling nice and fresh.
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Smelly shoes are no match for coffee grounds, too! Sprinkle some dry coffee grounds into your shoes(sprinkle, not dump!) and leave them overnight, and shake them out in the morning. Goodbye smelly shoes!
Related: Speaking of smells, have you tried cheese coffee?
Need to clean up a drain? You can pour some used coffee grounds boiled in water(again) down a drain to help unclog it. The coffee and water mixture will take some of the gunk with it, and the coffee will neutralize the smell. You can do this any number of times, too, without fearing for damaging the pipes or drain.
Coffee grounds are quite jagged and abrasive, so you can use them for heavy and rough cleaning, too. If you have some pots and pans that are heavily caked, or a surprisingly stubborn spot on your kitchen counter, just sprinkle coffee grounds on the surface and scrub with a sponge. The coffee’s abrasive properties and deodorizing properties will work in tandem and help get a lot of the gunk off.
Before sprinkling them on your counter, do a small spot to make sure there are no adverse reactions with the color or anything.
3) Fertilizing and composting
An awesome way to reuse coffee grounds is by putting them back into the ground(hehe). Coffee grounds are full of nutrients that plants absolutely love, so using them in your garden or on your household plants is a super idea.
You can put some grounds into the soil, or even mix them in some water and use as a spray.
If you are into composting, then coffee grounds added to compost help the food particles break down into compost quicker. Just toss the grounds into your compost bin and let them work their magic. For even more effect, toss some grounds every time you put anything in the bin, so you’ll have even distribution of coffee grounds and the food will break down even quicker.
If you’re into worm farming(vermiculture), then not only do worms not mind used coffee grounds – they love them!
4) On your body
What’s better for a coffee enthusiast(addict) than smelling like coffee all day long?
Use your old coffee grounds as an exfoliating body/face/hand wash. Just mix them into some soap, and use the concoction whenever you wash hands or shower.
Remember to wash them off with cool water, not hot water.
I would not use them every time, but rather whenever you need some serious exfoliating. The abrasiveness of the coffee grounds will help remove the dead skin cells.
5) Craft projects
Another neat way to repurpose coffee grounds is for craft and school projects. Coffee grounds are a great way to simulate dirt so if you’re making a diorama or a miniature of some sort, sprinkling some coffee grounds is a nice and (relatively) clean way to create a dirt effect.
6) Pest control
It’s also said that sprinkling a few coffee grounds(a few being the key here, you don’t want to dump it all out) forms an effective barrier against some types of insects such as ants.
You can try sprinkling some dried coffee grounds in an ant-prone cabinet and it will help keep them away.
7) Retouching wooden surfaces
If you have coffee grounds that are similar in tone to some of your wooden furniture, you can use some coffee grounds to mask any scratches in the surface. It won’t go so far as to fill the surface up, but you can stain the exposed inside of the wood again to make it look better.
The key here is to use a very little amount of damp coffee grounds. Add some on to the spot you wish to stain, and use a Q-tip or paper towel to gently rub the excess off.
It may take a couple of passes for the stain to fully transfer over.
9) Use as a cooking rub
Interestingly enough, many recipes call for using coffee grounds as a bit of added spice or a rub. The function performed in cooking is quite different from the function performed in brewing, so you can actually get away with used coffee grounds in your recipes rather than fresh grounds.
Here is an example of a New York Strip steak that uses coffee grounds as a rub.
10) Removing onion and garlic smells
We already mentioned coffee’s deodorizing properties above, but a more specific use is to get the raw onion/garlic smell out of your hands.
Chopping onions and garlic can result in a pretty pungent odor sticking to your hands, so just incorporate some coffee grounds into your soap(squirt out some soap and drop a few grounds into it before you start rubbing your hands) and it will go a long way towards getting the smell out of your hands.
11) As a dye
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
If you drink coffee as often as I do, chances are you have a white t-shirt with a little spot of coffee on it. Coffee stains are notoriously difficult to get out, so if you want to go all the way, just dunk your shirt into a mixture of coffee grounds and water and dye the whole thing to a gorgeous coffee color!
12) Cleaning ashes
If you have an indoor fireplace, you know how difficult it is to clean ashes without potentially getting them everywhere!
Sprinkling some coffee grounds onto the ashes helps weigh them down so you can clean it up with more ease.
Hypothetically, you can use any kind of heavy ground substance, but chances are you will have a lot of used coffee lying around.
How to dry coffee grounds
Most of the uses called for above depend on the coffee grounds being dry, otherwise they become havens for bacteria and other nasties like mold and fungi.
To dry coffee grounds quickly, let’s go back to middle school science – water evaporates faster if more of the water is exposed to the air. Apply the same principle here – the water in your coffee grounds will evaporate faster if more surface area is exposed to the air. Just spread out the coffee grounds in a dish and leave them out, they’ll dry very quickly.
Can you drink coffee made with reused coffee grounds(in a french press or otherwise)?
But do you really want to?
To illustrate that, let’s have a look at what happens when you actually brew coffee. Coffee beans contain flavor compounds, solids, and oils(and of course caffeine) – this is the good stuff that makes coffee the beverage we know and love.
When coffee is ground, more surface area of the coffee is exposed, so when you brew it in water, the compounds are extracted from the ground coffee and go into the water.
As you can imagine, there is a limited number of compounds, and once you’ve brewed the grounds, a lot of those compounds would have been extracted.
If you were to reuse the grounds, you’d end up with lighter, perhaps even more bitter tasting coffee without most of the flavors.
Note: If you’re interested in the flip side of this question, we also have a post on when coffee grounds go bad.
Another issue that comes up with reusing coffee grounds is that they are incredibly wet once used, and if left outside, become a haven for bacteria to start growing, and very quickly at that.
Realistically, the only way you could get away with reusing coffee grounds is by brewing them again, and immediately. You don’t want to leave them lying around for much time, otherwise you may be drinking a bacteria brew rather than coffee!
Can you reuse coffee grounds for cold brew?
What about making a cold brew, where you’d let the coffee steep for much longer, and the flavor will be much stronger?
Considering that you’ll probably end up mixing the cold brew with milk or ice to dilute it, you might be able to get away with it and not really notice the flavor changes.
However, you’re sacrificing lots of potential quality for a few cents, so if the reason behind reusing coffee is to save some money, perhaps you’d be better off getting a less expensive brand of coffee and brewing fresh every time!
Even though you may have opened this post hoping to get a resounding yes for reusing coffee grounds to prepare your favorite beverage, I hope you still walk away with some creative and environmentally friendly ways you can reuse coffee grounds.
- 1 12 awesome ways to reuse coffee grounds
- 2 How to dry coffee grounds
- 3 Can you drink coffee made with reused coffee grounds(in a french press or otherwise)?
- 4 Conclusion
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions
How much caffeine remains in used coffee grounds?
A large portion of the caffeine is absorbed in water when you brew coffee, but quite a bit remains. There have not been any conclusive studies but rough estimates indicate that water brewed with used coffee grounds contains about 1/4 the caffeine of coffee brewed the first time.
How many times can I reuse coffee grounds to make coffee?
Zero times. The first time you brew with fresh grounds, you’ll make a heavenly drink that warms your soul. The second time you try to brew with the same grounds, you’ll end up with a foul swill.