9 Reasons Not to Pour Your Leftover Coffee Down the Drain

March 14, 2016

I do everything I can to get every last drop of coffee into my body before I leave the house in the morning—but depending how many times I press the snooze button or linger over the crossword puzzle, my level of success varies, and I'm often left with a little getting-cold-fast black coffee in the bottom of my Chemex. And it breaks my heart to pour it down the drain on my way out the door.

You too? Next time, instead of dumping it, grab a clean jar, pour the last mouthfuls of coffee into it, and stash it in the fridge—and then, when you get home from work, make these:

Photo by James Ransom
  • Make a red-eye gravy to serve with sweet potato hash and eggs.
  • Creamy, rich zabaglione drinks up a few ounces of coffee. Dip ladyfinger cookies in it.
  • Make a coffee-based brine for a chicken! (Just reheat the coffee before adding the spices in the first step.)
  • Pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, and use them instead of regular ice in your first iced coffees of spring (!!!). Or spice the coffee first with cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract; then freeze, and drop them into a tall glass of milk.
  • Make a brandied coffee syrup for whatever fruit you have on hand—fresh or dried. (Dried apricots? Fresh pears? Yes. Yes.)
  • Blend leftover coffee with yogurt, frozen bananas, and a little cocoa powder for a creamy, caffeinated smoothie. (Alternatively, go for a milkshake: Whirl vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream with leftover coffee and a splash of milk.)
  • Sub coffee for the water in this genius chocolate mousse.
  • Use it up in a pot of chili.
  • Drizzle coffee cake with a coffee-and-sweetened-condensed-milk glaze.

How do you use leftover coffee? Share your tips and ideas in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Windischgirl
  • Kat
  • Elizabeth Richter
    Elizabeth Richter
  • Larry Singer
    Larry Singer
  • tamater sammich
    tamater sammich
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Windischgirl April 5, 2017
I use it in this vegan cake, https://food52.com/recipes/52443-erin-s-vegan-joy-cake
I'm with Tamater...coffee and chocolate are meant for each other!
Kat September 17, 2016
Add it with a cinnamon stick to a crock pot roast. The stronger the better.
Elizabeth R. August 16, 2016
I never have leftover coffee as I use a keurig machine but I save the grounds to use around my plants.
Larry S. May 25, 2016
The words "leftover coffee" don't exist in my vocabulary. I make sure I take the time to drink it all!
tamater S. May 6, 2016
Good ideas all. I've been using it instead of water or other liquids in almost any recipe, for years. It's nice to see some ideas I hadn't thought of yet!
tamater S. September 17, 2016
I cringed when I read my post just now. I shouldn't have said "almost anything." What I should have said was, I use it in place of water in many recipes; namely, graves, whole grain rye bread, and lots of sweet baking, as my husband loves anything chocolate, especially brownies. Chocolate and coffee is fab, in my book.
Whitney May 6, 2016
Leftover coffee and coffee ice cubes in a blender made the most creamy summer coffee drink... With artificial sweetener, no calories!
Carrie April 10, 2016
I pour left over coffee on the soil around my pepper plants and put the grounds around the squash.
Nina A. April 6, 2016
Love this, Caro!
Suzanne R. March 28, 2016
Coffee Jello
Mary H. March 20, 2016
I use leftover coffee as the liquid in making fudge. Coffee grounds are always dumped out on the garden.
Karin B. March 20, 2016
German Eiskaffee - put a couple of scoops of vanilla or mocha ice cream in a tall glass, pour over your very best coffee (nothing domestic or percolated) top with plenty of whipped cream, serve with a fat straw and a sterling silver ice tea spoon.
Scribbles March 21, 2016
This is one of my favorite treats! Enjoyed it when we lived in Germany and replicate it several times during the summer...thanks for the memory!
HalfPint March 15, 2016
Leftover coffee, in my house, goes into the fridge and becomes iced coffee on the weekend. Just need milk, simple syrup or sugar and ice.
Scribbles March 21, 2016
Also really good with condensed milk - yum!
jakestavis March 14, 2016
shameless comment requesting a post about what to do with used coffee grounds? I keep some in the fridge as a deodorizer and periodically add them to plants, but I'm curious if anyone else has some interesting ideas
Caroline L. March 14, 2016
hi jake! we actually do have that post! hope this helps. https://food52.com/blog/15569-your-coffee-grounds-have-a-much-better-fate-than-the-compost
jakestavis March 14, 2016
*emoji prayer hands*
Zozo March 15, 2016
Awesome post, are there any ways to use them for edibles aside from the meat tip? I saw Amass restaurant made some awesome biscuits from them but it wasn't really a recipe for home cooks.
Caroline L. March 15, 2016
interesting! i'm not totally sure—there are a few things to contend with: the texture of the grounds and the fact that the grounds are already used, so while there will still be some coffee flavor, most of it has already gone into your coffee. you could definitely try steeping them in another liquid—like milk or cream for a pudding/mousse/flan etc. let me know if you try it (or the biscuits!).
Tom March 20, 2016
Dump them in the garden.
Two T. March 14, 2016
Dorie Greenspan's cardamom coffee cake using some coffee in the liquid is soooo good! I adapted it from F52 and made a smaller cake. http://salvegging.blogspot.com/2016/01/all-we-need.html