Kind of like a good dog we’ve willingly tethered ourselves to, coffee is a treasured companion that leaves behind a little trash. What you do with that trash is up to you, but if reducing the amount of methane gas produced by a landfill sounds like a good idea, you’ll be glad to know there are plenty of useful ways to help by recycling your used coffee grounds. Whether you steep or drip, your daily addiction can be used for good when spent grounds are put in any of these places.
Free fertilizer is at your fingertips and is the byproduct of brewing your morning Joe. Used coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen, which is something all plants need. So instead of throwing them in the trash, feed the tree by lightly working a tablespoon of grounds into the soil around your plants once a week. Add a little more each week until they resist improvement. You can also sprinkle used coffee grounds around plants to keep the ants away.
Starting a compost pile with kitchen scraps is as easy as throwing everything in the garbage, but is so much more useful. Used coffee grounds and even their paper filters can be composted. Just combine equal parts grounds, grass clippings and dry leaves, turn everything over once a week and, depending on the temperature, the compost should be ready to use in a few weeks.
If you’re easily enchanted by the aroma of coffee in the air, it’s not a stretch to imagine used coffee grounds could also work as a deodorizer. Like baking soda, coffee grounds attract, trap and neutralize foul odors in your refrigerator, shoes or any closed spaces that have the potential to smell like garbage. First, let the grounds dry out and then put them in a perforated container, or tie them up inside a sock that’s missing its match. Place in desired spot and breathe easy for a while.
Because coffee grounds act as a deodorizer and exfoliant, they are a free and easy way to remove food odors from your hands, leaving them smooth and clean. You can also get your face in on the action by mixing a teaspoon of used coffee grounds with enough milk to create a paste that works as a facial mask. Caffeine is known to smooth and tighten skin. For the full body treatment, mix ½ cup of used coffee grounds with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Massage onto skin and let it sit for 10 minutes (enough time to brew another cup of coffee) before showering. Not only will it exfoliate your skin, it may also reduce the appearance of cellulite.
Used coffee grounds are great for barbecuing because they act like a spice. When mixed with other spices for a rub, a sweet and savory flavor is created as well as a crust that seals in the moisture. Not only does coffee enhance the flavor of the meat, the acidity level acts as a tenderizer. The stronger the brew, the better the tenderizer. Let the last pour cool down and then marinate your meat of choice in it for at least 24 hours. Or rub with used coffee grounds, coarse salt and pepper, brown sugar, paprika, coriander, onion and garlic powder before smoking low and slow for magical results.
Used coffee grounds can clean and clear clogged drains. They also sharpen garbage disposal blades. To sharpen the blades, run the water and garbage disposal and drop a teaspoon of used grounds into the drain. To clean and clear clogs, pour a teaspoon of grounds, three drops of dish soap and boiling water down the drain, and then make another cup to toast your handiwork.
Coffee and dessert were made for each other. So next time you’re making a treat that calls for coffee grounds, use what you brewed that morning instead of dipping into the reserve. The flavor goes just as far and you’ll feel like a frugal gourmet. First, you’ll want to make sure the grounds have dried out before adding them to the mix. Just spread them out in a thin layer on an absorbent surface and set them in the sun. Keep a stash for future use and you’ll thank yourself later.
Red-eye gravy is a southern American tradition born out of the need to be resourceful when luxuries like coffee were scarce. The essential ingredients are ham drippings and the last drops from the coffee pot. It’s a thin, rich sauce poured over ham, grits and anything else on your breakfast plate. The rosy “red eye” of fat around the dark coffee separates, giving the gravy its name. Some folks add butter or cloves to smooth out the consistency and flavor. If you’re a cowperson of true grit, it’s not unheard of to mix used coffee grounds into the gravy for extra texture.
Fleas are naturally repelled by coffee. Diluting used coffee grounds makes a natural flea rinse. So when the dog starts scratching, try adding a tablespoon of grounds to the shampoo at bath time. Don’t let the dog eat the rinse, though. Depending on the amount of coffee per dog weight, some unpleasant side effects, including death, can result. Rinse and groom the grounds from the dog’s coat and dry. Then go take a walk for a cup with your pup.
Companies around the world, including Starbucks and Nespresso, are wise to the waste generated by daily coffee consumption. Fortunately they’ve come up with some easy and economical ways to help us recycle their products. London’s Bio-bean is the first company in the world to industrialize the process of recycling used coffee grounds into carbon neutral biofuels, ultimately replacing dependence on fossil fuels. By becoming a collection partner in the UK, one man’s trash is another man’s energy efficient life source.