Your Coffee Grounds Have a Much Better Fate Than the Compost

January 15, 2016

It's true: My coffee grounds—and your coffee grounds—are very happy in the compost, which is where I dump them every day, brown paper filter and all. (And then, thanks to the New York City greenmarket compost system, they go on to fertilize green spaces all over the city. It's a pretty good life for a humble cuppa joe.)

But I produce so many coffee grounds that I wondered if there might be another fate for them besides the compost bin. The short answer? You bet. The long answer? Keep readin':

Your coffee grounds want to be a hand scrub! Or a deodorizer! Photo by James Ransom
  • Coffee grounds, like baking soda, will absorb odors, so place some grounds in whatever corner could use a little deodorizing. Niknud puts a small cheesecloth-covered jar of them in her refrigerator; our manager of digital marketing, Megan Lang, puts well-dried coffee grounds in an old pair of pantyhose (cheesecloth would also work) and keeps them at the bottom of her trash bin.
  • They'll also work their deodorizing magic on fish-, garlic-, or onion-smelling hands. Just roll a spoonful of grounds through your hands and rinse.
  • Rub them onto meat as part of a marinade! We're big fans of this coffee-rubbed ribeye and this lamb.
  • Use its grittiness to your advantage in a scrub: Jona @AssortedBites makes a body- and hand-worthy scrub from coffee grounds, brown sugar, coconut oil, and honey. Keep it by the sink to ward off dishpan hands.
  • Make a batch of soap (while we're getting crafty here) and stir grounds in—exfoliation and good smells galore.
  • Or use a coffee-ground scrub for a thorough counter wipe-down. Maedl simply sprinkles on some grounds and uses a sponge to scrub away anything sticky. (This would also be a good way to gently scrub any cooked-on spills from your stovetop or pots and pans.)
  • Use them as a breeding ground for mushrooms! (In a good way.)
  • Some folks put a scoop of coffee grounds into the disposal in their sink drains, claiming it sharpens the blades. (Others warn that this may cause drain clogs, especially if you have a septic tank—so do this at your discretion.)

Are you saving and reusing your coffee grounds? Tell us how in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Lenisa September 29, 2017
This article is just another of many that has educated me from Food52. Love this!!!! Just to confirm on the coffee grounds, they are used brewed coffee grounds in all of these suggestions and not fresh unbrewed? On the used coffee grounds, do you need to make sure they are dried out completely before using in any of these suggestions? Also what is the brand of pour over in the photo with this article? You are amazing!!!! Have a beautiful coffee day!!!!!
Natalie April 8, 2016
The bromeliads in my garden were being decimated by slugs. I found out that the slugs hate sliding over a coffee grounds, so a thick ring of them around each plant has allowed the bromeliads to thrive and blossom. Same colour as the soil, breaks down to improve the humus, and no blue snail bait tempting the native animals.
[email protected] March 17, 2016
When I was a kid in the Adirondacks, we used them for food for night crawlers for fishing.
DMStenlake March 16, 2016
For my tomato plants, just like dad!
Smaug January 15, 2016
Garbage disposals don't have blades. Coffee grounds would not sharpen them if they did.