As if you needed another reason to love your daily brew! Before you discard your used coffee grounds, consider these surprising ways to reuse coffee grounds.

Who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee to start the day? The smell, the taste, the hit of caffeine; all contrive to make it the perfect wake-me-up drink, which explains why the world consumes some 2.25 billion cups of the stuff each day. In the UK, that figure is 95 million cups.

One less appealing aspect of our mass consumption, however, is the waste it generates, with an estimated quarter of a million tons of wet, wasted coffee grounds going to landfill every year. And, while we are collectively taking more care over the amount of single-use plastic we use, fewer of us are similarly limiting or recycling our used coffee grounds. And yet, when sent to landfill, they emit methane, a greenhouse gas that is one of the chief causes of global warming; worse and more potent – by some 25 times – than carbon dioxide, over a one-hundred year period.

Since the world’s population is unlikely to dispense with its coffee habit, the answer must then lie in what we do with our waste, as opposed to vowing not to use coffee grounds in the first place. The question is: can you reuse coffee grounds? The answer? A big, resounding yes. Happily, there are all sorts of creative ways in which to reuse coffee grounds to our daily benefit, in everything from our bathrooms to our gardens. Coffee grounds have many practical uses around the home and garden and can even help spruce up your beauty routine. Below are 6 surprising ways to use coffee grounds.

Rinse Hair With Coffee Grounds



The uses for used coffee grounds are, as this list will demonstrate, rich and varied. Did you know, for example, that you can rinse your hair with coffee? For anyone trying to achieve a glossy mane – we’re talking to brunettes in particular here – without having to use products that contain chemicals, why not consider making a hair rinse from your good old cup of joe? It's naturally dark colour means that it can imbue a subtle tint, and leave your dark locks looking particularly lustrous. How? As the Whole Sale Coffee Company instructs, ‘Brew two large mugs of espresso coffee from beans (this is a great way of using up old or stale beans. Don’t forget to save the grounds to make a face scrub.) Leave the coffee to cool completely, then pour the coffee over your hair after you’ve washed and conditioned it, and leave it to dry.

Alternatively, pour the coffee over dry hair, wrap your head in a hot towel and leave it for half an hour. Shampoo out as normal. Using some beer in the last rinse water will help seal in the coffee colour. Make sure you use an old or dark coloured towel, as the coffee may stain, and clear up any spills or splashes in the bathroom before they dry. If you have very long or thick hair, you may need to use more coffee.’ It is important to note that this should not be used on light hair; and nor should you attempt the process using instant coffee, which may contain additives. For more info, click here.

Stain Wood With Coffee Grounds



The busier our lives become, the more that convenience features as the chief driver of our shopping habits. However, as the world wakes up to the climate crisis, many more of us are going back to basics and, where possible, upcycling and reusing household products to eliminate waste. One such idea, as spotted on the Hometalk Blog, is to stain wood with coffee, a clever little hack that has the dual benefit of repurposing and reducing waste, while also saving money on expensive wood stain that you would otherwise have to buy from the hardware shop.

As noted on the US-based blog, a recent purchase from a hardware shop cost $10, whilst the homemade equivalent cost just $2. All you will need is the raw wood object you wish to stain; used coffee grounds, white vinegar, a steel wool sponge and a container with a seal. Simply cut the steel wool sponge in half and place it in the container. Next, add the recycled coffee grounds, before filling it with vinegar, replacing the lid, shaking it and allowing it to set overnight. The next day, you’ll be set to go by simply lifting the steel wool out and applying it to the wood. Et voila; a vintage-style new addition to the house which doesn’t cost a packet – or the earth. For more info, click here.

Make A Coffee Grounds Face Scrub



Most of us reach for the coffee in the morning to make us feel rejuvenated for the day ahead. But what if, once you’re done drinking it, you could also reinvigorate your skin by making a coffee grounds face scrub? We especially love this idea since, as well as ensuring that your morning brew is completely zero-waste, it might also discourage the buying of expensive face scrubs and exfoliants, too, thereby ditching all their attendant plastic packaging in the process. You will need three tablespoons of coffee grounds, plus a natural moisturiser in the form of olive oil or coconut oil (do use what you have, since buying new is not in the spirit of reducing waste).

Simply add sugar and the optional addition of cinnamon. Canvas & Glass, a blog dedicated to how to live plastic-free, explains, ‘The rush you get from caffeine when you have a cup of coffee can be just as much of a wake-up call for your skin. Stimulants in coffee stimulate blood flow in the skin when a coffee scrub is applied in a circular motion. Increased blood flow has actually been shown to diminish the appearance of acne, cellulite and stretch marks, so not only will you be reducing your plastic use, but you’ll get silky smooth skin too.’ Genius. For more info, click here.

Use Coffee Grounds For Plants – They Love Them!



For any non-crafty folk who wish to repurpose their old coffee grounds but are unlikely to start mixing up upcycling solutions, there is one place in which you need do very little to harness the recycling power of reuse coffee grounds: the garden. It turns out, you can use coffee grounds for plants too. Not a big coffee drinker? Lots of coffee shops are willing to give away their old grounds that would otherwise simply go to waste. So, how to use coffee grounds in the garden?

There are a couple of ways in which it can be useful. As every gardener knows, mulching is very beneficial, and yet the volume of organic matter necessary for the job can make it expensive. Free coffee grounds should, then, be a no-brainer. And yet, some gardeners have reported detrimental effects on plants. So, what is the lowdown on making a used coffee grounds garden? Grow Veg says, ‘The reason for this could be that coffee beans contain caffeine, which is said to suppress the growth of other plants to reduce competition for space, nutrients, water and sunlight.

How much caffeine actually remains in used coffee grounds is debatable, and some plants will be more sensitive to caffeine than others. It would be sensible to avoid spreading coffee grounds around seeds or seedlings as they may inhibit germination and growth.’ The solution? ‘To mix coffee grounds with other organic matter such as compost or leafmould before using it as a mulch. Alternatively, rake your coffee grounds into the top layer of soil so that they can’t clump together. Variable particle sizes is key to good soil structure.’

Additionally, do use coffee grounds for plants as fertilizer. Simply sprinkle them thinly onto your soil. As Grow Veg says, they are a ‘green’, or nitrogen-rich organic material. Just do be sure to ‘balance them with enough ‘browns’ – carbon-rich materials such as dried leaves, woody prunings or newspaper. Your compost heap’s tiny munchers and gnawers will process and mix them effectively, so using coffee grounds in this way is widely accepted to be safe and beneficial.’ What’s more, there are some schools of thought that as a natural slug repellent coffee grounds can effective; however, there is not enough evidence to support the claim. We say it’s worth a go. For more info, click here.

You Can Make Coffee Candles



For many people, the smell of coffee is the best bit about it; the olfactory hit the thing that keeps them coming back to the coffee shop/ cafetière again and again. What if, then, you could harness that deep aroma and recreate it in your home? You can, simply by using the grounds to make coffee candles. All you will need is wax, coffee beans and a heat source, as well as a – ideally repurposed – glass jar or mould. So, how to make coffee candles? Simply hop onto Funky Candles blog and follow the easy step-by-step guide; as they say, ‘candle-making is probably one of the oldest forms of DIY projects that allow people to save money and still enjoy the process.’ They make great gifts, too. Who knew that your coffee habit could even save you money in the run-up to Christmas? For more info, click here.

Coffee Grounds Can Absorb Odours From Spoiled Or Fragrant Foods



Every household, at some point, has to deal with a bad smell, whether that odour is coming from the drains or the fridge. Did you know that you can help mask those smells with the use of old coffee beans? For not only do grounds smell good themselves, they also overpower a whole host of other odours. As noted by a researcher at the University of Oxford, ‘Coffee beans work on each item in its own way. The oils from the coffee beans absorb odours.’ Simply place the grounds in a jar, leave the lid off, allow them to dry and let them do their work. For drain smells, meanwhile, simply take a teaspoon of used grounds and place it in them drain, before pouring boiling over (do note, this will not unblock your drain; simply help with the bad odour). Fed up with bad-smelling hands after cooking? Save a stash of coffee grounds and scrub hands with them to get rid of unwanted cooking odours. For more info, click here.

By Nancy Alsop
October 2021

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Nancy Alsop

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