If you’re a conscientious about recycling and repurposing, you’ll probably have wondered what to do with used coffee grounds after you’ve made your favourite brew. If that’s the case, then you’ll love these ten ways to reuse coffee grounds.

Whether you’re buying premium single-origin beans or full-bodied blends, you might as well get the best bang for your buck and help the environment while you’re at it. From their nutrient load to their texture, coffee grounds have a lot to offer.

And, if you don’t drink a lot of home brewed coffee when at home, most coffee shops have an abundance of coffee grounds that they are happy to give away because they are simply a waste product as far as they are concerned.

Your used coffee grounds don’t just need to end up in the bin, here are some great, practical suggestions for what to do with them

  • Body scrub – for beautiful skin
  • Scalp exfoliator – for gorgeous hair
  • Meat tenderiser – to improve the texture of less expensive cuts of meat
  • Pan scrub – for spotless pots and pans
  • Fridge deodoriser – to eliminate nasty smells
  • Furniture repair – to hide scratches on wood furniture
  • Pest repellent – a natural way to keep slugs away
  • Garden fertiliser – to help plant growth
  • Plant compost – to improve your soil
  • Flea remover – to de-flea your pet

Re-purposing used coffee grounds for body care

1. Body scrub

Body scrub made from used coffee grounds
Because of their gritty, sandy texture, coffee grounds can be an excellent natural exfoliator helping to scrub away dead skin cells, clean out clogged pores and soften the skin.

With a few key ingredients, you can easily make your own body or hand scrub at home.

An easy recipe is to combine the used coffee grounds with a natural oil (e.g. almond, grapeseed or coconut) and a little bit of sugar, and then store your mixture in a mason jar. You can find out more about this and other suggestions on StyleCaster – see this article.

You can also combine them with a small amount of honey to use as an exfoliating lip scrub.

As an added bonus, if you use your coffee scrub regularly on the thighs and buttocks, it may also help to break down fat cells and increase blood flow to the area thus helping to decrease the appearance of cellulite – see this article.

2. Scalp exfoliator

Scalp exfoliator made from old coffee grounds for hair and scalp

Regular use of shampoos and styling products can leave a residue that can dull and weigh down your hair.

Exfoliating your scalp with used coffee grounds can help to remove this build-up of product as well as dead skin cells and the acid in the coffee grounds can help to soften your hair.

There is also some evidence to suggest that the caffeine in the coffee grounds may accelerate hair growth.

One human and animal study have found that applying caffeine to the skin increases blood flow and accelerates hair growth – see this article, and here and here.

Before you shampoo, simply massage a handful of coffee grounds and into your scalp and hair for a few minutes. Then wash and rinse as normal.

Remember to use sparingly (just a few minutes once or twice a week) so you don’t end up stripping out vital nutrients.

Recycling used coffee grounds in the house

3. Meat tenderiser

Meat tenderising with coffee grounds

Coffee grounds contain natural acids and enzymes which make it an excellent and very effective way to tenderise your meat.

Meat contains proteins and muscle fibres that can give it a tough consistency. Tenderising your meat helps break these down, resulting in a softer texture which is easier to eat.

All your need to do is add the coffee grounds to your favourite dry-rub recipe and then apply the rub to your meat (brisket, ribs or a tender cut of steak all work fantastically well) a few hours before you need to cook it. Simple!

Another easy alternative is to rebrew the used coffee grounds to make coffee and then once it’s cooled, use it to marinade the meat. You can do this up to 24 hours before you need to cook it by storing it in the fridge.

Both these options help to tenderise the meat, as well as adding a hint of the lovely natural, smoky flavour of the coffee.

4. Pan scrub

Clean pans in a kitchen

The rough, abrasive texture of the coffee grounds makes them an ideal way to scrub hard-to-clean kitchen utensils, pots and pans.

Simply sprinkle the grounds directly onto your dirty pots and pans as a helpful scourer to remove baked-on food residue or to scrape your dishes clean. Just ensure that you clean everything thoroughly afterwards.

Another cleaning tip is to keep some used coffee grounds near the sink to use as a hand scrub after working with onions or garlic, as the grounds are a great way to remove the smell from your hands.

5. Fridge deodoriser

Keeping fridge smells away with used ground coffee

Coffee grounds are excellent at absorbing odour.

The nitrogen in the used coffee grounds reacts with sulphur in the air, pulling and trapping it in the grounds. This makes them ideal to place in the fridge or the freezer to neutralise any bad smells from spoiled or fragrant food.

Just add the dried, used grounds to a shallow jar and place it in the fridge or freezer. It won’t be able to mask the smell of anything that’s truly rancid but will help to keep most things smelling fresh.

On the flip side, when storing fresh ground coffee in your fridge, make sure you keep your coffee bags sealed and shut properly because you don’t want them to absorb any odours and end up tasting like the contents of your fridge!

6. Furniture repair

Wooden furniture scratch repair with coffee ground paste

Real wood furniture (not furniture with a veneer!) is easily scratched or scuffed as part of everyday life, especially as solid wood furniture tends to last a very long time!

If you’re looking for a solution to hide visible surface scratches on darker wood, there are a number of products on the shelves at your local DIY store. But before you pay out for one of them, you could give used coffee grounds a try.

The first thing to do is mix up a thick paste with the used coffee grounds and a little water.

Next, using a cotton bud, lightly rub a little of the paste onto the scratch and leave it to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, before carefully wiping over the area with a clean cotton cloth.

This should help to buff out the scratch and hide it, because the paste will dye the exposed wood, turning it a dark-brown colour.

Simply continue to dab the used coffee ground paste into the scratch a little at a time until you achieve the desired colour, waiting a few hours in between each application.

NB: If you’re in any doubt, it’s advisable to test this method on a hidden area of the furniture first!

Ways to re-use used coffee grounds in the garden

7. Garden pest repellent

Slugs don't like used coffee grounds in the garden

Used coffee grounds can provide all-natural pest control that is easy to implement, effective and inexpensive.

Slugs don’t like the acidic quality of the coffee grounds, so they will avoid crossing them where possible. If slugs are an issue in your garden, you can spread the coffee grounds around or just sprinkle them in a thin line around your plants as a very inexpensive and effective way to keep the slugs away.

Just bear in mind that the degrading coffee grounds will drop the pH level a little which can be an issue if you a plants that require more alkaline soil.

It’s not just slugs, certain compounds found in coffee, such as diterpenes and caffeine, can be highly toxic to certain insects – see this article and this article too. This can make them a very effective deterrent for mosquitos, fruit flies and beetles – see this article.

8. Garden fertiliser

Using fertiliser created from recycled coffee grounds

To use coffee grounds as fertiliser, simply sprinkle them onto the soil around your plants. Why?

Because used coffee grounds contain several essential minerals for plant growth — calcium, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and chromium – see this article.

Soil can become depleted of valuable nutrients as plants absorb them for growth and, most soil doesn’t contain all the essential nutrients required for optimal plant growth to start off.

Coffee grounds can also help absorb heavy metals that can contaminate soil (see this article) creating a more favourable environment for your garden to flourish.

Warm, wet and filled with nitrogen makes fertilising plants with coffee grounds a no-brainer – see this article.

9. Compost

Compost made from recycled coffee grounds

Even better than using coffee grounds as fertiliser is to use it as part of a well-rounded compost (see this article). As fertiliser it tends to break down really slowly but, used in compost, it breaks down more rapidly as a result of the heat of decay.

Adding compost to your soil is a great way to improve the overall health of your plants as it helps the soil to hold more water and nutrients.

One piece of research reported that compost which has been made with used coffee grounds and kitchen waste was richer in important nutrients than a compost that had been made solely with waste – see this article.

Another study compared four batches of compost containing 0, 10, 20 and 40% coffee grounds.

The batch containing 40% coffee grounds produced the best quality compost and the fewest greenhouse gas emissions – see this article.

Other excellent items to add to your compost include leaves, grass clippings, bark, shredded newspaper, herbs, eggshells, stale bread and fruit and vegetable leftovers.

10. Pet flea remover

Happy dog

Fleas are a very common problem when you have pets, and treating them can be both time-consuming and expensive.

There are many commercial flea-removal products available to buy, but some of them contain unpleasant chemicals and can sometimes have unwanted side effects.

But it’s been found that fleas don’t seem to like coffee very much, and so you may want to try using coffee grounds as a natural anti-flea treatment for your pet.

After shampooing, simply rub the grounds through your pet’s fur, and then rinse off and let your pet’s fur dry as usual.

Some people have reported that this can also make your pet’s coat shinier and smoother, but this is only anecdotal, and there has so far been little to no proper research which would support these claims.

However, it has be said that coffee grounds may not be as effective as a prescription product recommended by vets, so if the coffee ground treatment is not effective, do speak to your vet to about other options.

Also, it’s important to remember that coffee grounds must only be used externally on pets, they can be toxic to dogs if they are consumed. If in any doubt, check with your vet first!

Conclusion – re-purposing your used coffee grounds

There are so many ways to put used coffee grounds to work in the garden, in the kitchen and around the house, and for your body too, but these ten are among the best and most practical. Each of these options is all-natural, non-toxic, and of course, inexpensive.

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