Coffee drinkers might not realize it, but with every pot they brew in the morning they’re creating an opportunity to stretch what they spend on grounds into something extra. The grounds they steep in hot water have a lot to offer after their use to make the morning java. Because those grounds are useful in a lot of ways, from their texture to their nutrient load, those uses are wide-ranging.
Here is a list of things you can do with coffee grounds. It’s not an exhaustive list. Based on what we suggest, there are probably uses that we overlooked but that a creative mind could unlock. If nothing else, this is a good starting point.
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Warm, wet and filled with nitrogen, used coffee grounds have a very natural use in fertilizing plants. Some people like to mix the grounds directly into the soil, but that application tends to break down really slowly. The best use of coffee grounds to grow plants is as part of a well-rounded compost, where the heat of decay helps break them down much more quickly.
Coffee grounds absorb odors, which makes them as good as baking soda as a means to absorb the nasty odors of a refrigerator. The same nitrogen that makes them a great soil amendment also reacts with sulfur in the air to pull it out and trap it in the grounds. This isn’t just a deodorizer that works in refrigerators. It works just about anywhere you have nasty smells.
Coffee grounds can be tossed on a newly shoveled sidewalk in the depths of winter. The chemical makeup of the coffee will prevent it from freezing until temperatures are a little lower and will help melt some of the ice. The gritty texture of coffee grounds also allows them to add some traction value on ice.
If you’ve got some flowering plants in your garden that thrive in a lower pH soil, sprinkle some acidic coffee grounds into the soil they rely on. As the grounds slowly break down, they will bring down the pH value of the soil. That will allow flowers like the blue-blooming hydrangea to flourish.
Slugs don’t like the acidic value of coffee grounds, so they will avoid crossing coffee grounds when possible. If you’ve got a garden where slugs are a problem, an inexpensive and effective repellent is to create barriers out of them. The slugs will stay out. One thing you’ll want to keep an eye on is that the degrading coffee grounds will drop the pH value a little if you have plants that favor alkaline soils.
Coffee grounds have a texture a lot like sand, so you can use them as a natural scrubbing agent. You can either use the grounds directly on your skin to help scrub away dead skin cells and clean out clogged pores, or as part of a solidified exfoliating bar. Either way, coffee grounds are good for your skin.
The same scour power that helps remove dead cells from your skin also helps clean caked-on cooked food particles off your cooking pans. Just like pioneers used sand to scrub off food particles because they didn’t have steel wool, you can use coffee grounds to clean out your cooking pans.
Used on your face, coffee grounds can remove dead skin cells and soften your skin. But, on your hands, they can do something a little different. Pumice soaps are used to scour away tough dirt and grime from working on cars or machines. Coffee grounds offer an affordable, readily available alternative that will leave your hands smelling a little like morning, especially if you chop up smelly garlic.
Coffee is an underappreciated element of cooking. It is the central ingredient in red-eye gravy for ham, for instance. But coffee grounds have a natural smoky flavor when used as a meat rub for meats like brisket, ribs, or even a tender cut of steak. This is a really great way to extend the value of very expensive coffee grounds because you can tailor the meat you use them with to the actual flavor of the coffee. One great added benefit is that the acid will break down the meat and tenderize it.
Fans of craft brewing probably already recognize the java brew from their favorite brewpub. Using coffee to make beer is a great one-two punch in making a good stout beer to drink with lunch on a cold afternoon. If you have some reading to do in the evening, it’s a nicely caffeinated way to not fall asleep.
British soldiers during the era of Queen Victoria stained their helmets with tea to give them a brownish look. Take that to heart when thinking about what to do with your used grounds. Some people pay a lot of money for a ripped or used look, and using grounds to stain clothing is a great way to use them when you’re done with your coffee.
If you want to make craft paper take on a more antique look, staining it with coffee grounds is a great way to do that. In fact, coffee grounds will help you stain a lot of arts and crafts projects in a way that makes them look naturally aged. This also applies to Easter eggs you might want to dye to look like you’re living during the Roaring 20s.
You wouldn’t want to use coffee grounds on lighter hair like blonde or red, but if you’ve got dark hair like chestnut or black, coffee grounds will not only help strip dirt from your hair, but the acids will also help to soften it. Use this sparingly so you don’t extend the cleaning properties into stripping out vital nutrients.
Coffee grounds can add a little lustrous darkening to anything you want stained. That includes wood, for which coffee grounds can add some affordable but deep dark stain. You can either mix it in with water for a thin paint, or you can rub it in and let it sit for an hour or so before cleaning it off for a more natural look.
Slugs aren’t the only garden pest repelled by coffee grounds. Slugs don’t like the acidic nature of the grounds, but other things don’t like the smell. You can either mix it into the soil to repel certain underground pests, or spread it over the dirt to keep out insects or even cats. Just be aware that coffee grounds will turn everything a little more acidic as they break down.
If you’re getting ready to clean up the soot in a fireplace, coffee grounds spread across the cleaning surface will help keep the dust down by adding some moisture to the very dry soot. That’ll keep it from drifting up into the air. Just scoop it up and shovel it away.
While slugs and other garden pests hate coffee grounds, worms love to munch on their nutrient-rich grit. Mix them in well, and you not only add a lot of nitrogen to the soil, but the large pieces of grit that are coffee grounds mean that whatever soil you’ve got your worms in will remain well aerated.
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