bowl of spent coffee grounds next to cup of coffee

The aroma of coffee and the gurgling from the espresso pot when the coffee was ready were a big part of my mornings growing up. Mom and Dad drank coffee every morning, and there was always someone visiting Grandma’s house for coffee and cake. I can’t imagine how many pounds of coffee grounds we discarded over the years!

Back then, we didn’t think of composting the grounds or using them in any way after making coffee. Mom’s friend Marie used to dump them in the sink “because it’s good for the drains.” But I don’t recommend doing that as it could cause a clog. And also because coffee grounds are an incredible resource; there are so many ways to reuse them.

I have plenty of coffee grounds to reuse because I drink coffee every morning as my mom and dad did. I take some of the grounds to our preschool for composting in the worm bin. In my kitchen, I use them as a nontoxic pot scrubber or to deodorize my hands after chopping onions or cleaning fish. To remove food odors from jar lids, I sprinkle used grounds inside the lid and let it sit for a few days.

Speaking of deodorizing, a tray of used coffee grounds in the fridge keeps it smelling fresh. A handful of grounds in the garbage pail helps with odor there as well. And as a bonus, some pests hate the smell! This includes possum, raccoons, mice, and even ants. In the garden, coffee grounds spread on the ground between plants help repel slugs and deer as well. They’re a great nontoxic pest repellent!

Coffee grounds are used in homemade personal care products like sugar coffee scrubs (I prefer to use instant coffee as it is easier to clean up), homemade candles, and for dyeing fabric a delicate beige hue. I have even seen meat rubs and marinades that use grounds to tenderize meat.

So many uses for coffee grounds! By being thoughtful and creative, we can find so many ways to reduce our waste.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.