Other than used paper filters and the occasional plastic-lined packaging, used coffee grounds are about the only leftover residue we produce when brewing coffee at home. Giving that residue a second life, or letting it turn into waste, is entirely up to you. In fact, there are plenty of reasons to keep that black scrubby powder around and not just toss it in the bin or down the drain.

Let’s review the health-boosting applications of coffee grounds, while also exploring some of the most creative – and sometimes even bizarre – uses around the world.

Coffee beauty products

Photo credit: tasteofhome.com

Making homemade beauty products

Apart from being abrasive and exfoliating, used coffee grounds still retain a part of their original chemical composition, which means they still have some caffeine and other compounds left in them. These two qualities have been used by women and men around the world to take advantage of caffeine’s topical health effects (by topical, we mean when applied externally over the skin). Some of these effects include reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow and even preventing cellulite, all of which are backed by science.

In the most common applications, people mix coffee grounds with a thick agglutinating agent, such as honey or pure coconut oil, in different proportions and then apply it to the skin on different parts of the body. Sometimes they gently apply it to bags under the eyes, where caffeine’s anti-inflammatory effect helps to soothe and reduce bagginess. Other times, they’ll apply the paste and massage it on the thighs and buttocks to reduce or prevent cellulite. Finally, the most common application is to use this paste as an exfoliating agent, rubbing it on the body until a fresh and soft new layer of skin emerges from underneath the removed dead skin cells.

These applications all cater to healthier skin, not just because of the coffee grounds themselves but also because of the additional benefits that coconut oil or honey bring with them.

Combating fleas and ticks in pets

Whether or not this really works is yet to be determined, because there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that fleas flee from caffeine or coffee grounds. However, some mixed coffee/dog and coffee/cat enthusiasts like to rub their beloved pets in moist, used coffee grounds just before they use their regular shampoo to bathe them. They believe that the coffee grounds repel those annoying little critters. Not only that – they also believe that the caffeine helps them to have a healthier, shinier coat of hair.

In any case, we think we’d all prefer our dogs and cats to smell like coffee rather than to smell like… dirty dogs and cats. We’re not too sure we’d try this method on a Yorkshire terrier or French poodle though – rinsing off the grounds could be just as tedious as removing the fleas by hand. Maybe on a short-haired breed like a boxer or bulldog? We’ll leave that for you to decide!

Cleaning pets with coffee

Absorbing odours

Let us tell you a little story. Once during a long power outage, we had a freezer breakdown at home, and we didn’t realise until the smell caught our nose. It was Mission Impossible to wash away the stench from the freezer, but after remembering that we had just brewed a pot of coffee, we ran into the kitchen, put the used grounds in an open jar, put the jar inside the freezer and sealed it shut. A couple of hours later, the difference was already noticeable, and only a couple of days later, we were able to start putting food inside the freezer again.

Using coffee grounds as an odour absorbent can be really effective. And there’s a good reason too. Coffee grounds are made up of many very small particles, and the smaller the particles, the higher their collective surface area. But what does this have to do with odours? Well, these small particles act like a sort of sponge that absorbs the organic compounds that give many things their peculiar smell. Fish, meat, rotten eggs, dirty socks, mould – you name it – they all produce some substance that causes the bad smell, and most of these substances are organic compounds. Since there’s so much surface area in coffee grounds, there are a lot of places where these compounds can “stick” and thus be eliminated from the surrounding air.

You can also dry the grounds and put them inside a stocking or small fabric bag that lets air flow through it and then put this bag wherever you want to eliminate or prevent bad smells like inside your car, in the wardrobe or wherever you keep your shoes or dirty laundry.

Coffee grounds in the garden

Photo credit: inhabitat.com


There are actually different ways of using coffee grounds in the garden. One way is to compost them along with other leftover food and vegetables in order to make new, rich and nutritive soil. The other way people use the grounds is as a barrier against ants and other pests that attack flowerbeds. This is based on the same assumption that some insects don’t like the bitterness or smell of caffeine or coffee in general, so by sprinkling coffee grounds in a circle around each plant, you’re protecting it from those kinds of pests. But, of course, this won’t be effective against flying insects, so you still have to keep an eye out for those.

Scouring pots and pans

Here is yet another example of coffee grounds’ abrasiveness in action. By applying the grounds as a paste and then scrubbing with them, they can help to remove some hard-to-tackle stains as well as stuck or burnt leftover food in your pans. The good news is that since the grounds are softer than the metal, ceramic or Teflon linings that most modern pans have, they won’t leave behind any scratches.

Washing off car grease or oil from your hands (or any other diehard stain from your skin)

If you’ve ever had to put your hands inside your car’s engine compartment, you’re definitely familiar with how hard it is to remove those black stains left on your hands after you’ve been in contact with dirty grease or oil. A great solution is to mix a mild powdered detergent or a good, strong liquid hand soap with some coffee grounds and then rub your hands with the mixture after adding just a bit of water. You’ll be surprised at the results when you rinse it all off: a sparklingly clean pair of hands. You won’t have to look like a mechanic ever again!

These are just a few of the many ways in which people have put used coffee grounds to other uses. One thing is clear: you should think twice before you throw them away.

To share your own creative uses for used coffee grounds, message us on Instagram @noccoffeeco

Curated reading for coffee, design and brunch #noccoffeeco #noccuration

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