Ask Linnea: Creative Uses for Coffee Grounds

Q: How can I make good use of coffee grounds?

There are many things that can be done with used coffee grounds. Of course the first thing I think of is composting them. You can even toss unbleached coffee filters into the compost pile and they break down over time.

Many people say they use coffee grounds to fertilize plants, but after further research I am cautious about that idea. I learned that the fallen leaves on coffee trees in the wild act as a weed inhibitor. Decomposing coffee tree leaves release a chemical that stops other plants from growing. For this reason, I would think twice before using coffee grounds as an additive for small seedlings or seed.

Houseplant lovers, be careful not to overuse coffee grounds as a fertilizer. A dilute solution of one filter of coffee grounds to one gallon of water will keep some African violets happy, but rinse the soil well the next time you water. Coffee grounds increase the salts in the soil and can burn roots and tender stems. Acid-loving plants also enjoy a small helping of coffee grounds.

Coffee grounds deter ants. Try placing them around an anthill in your yard or sidewalk, and consider trying them in your home. If you have problems with cutworms in the garden, a small sprinkle of coffee grounds can help eliminate those, also.

If you are a worm farmer, give those lovely soil builders a good supply of coffee grounds and watch them prosper. You can also use them instead of salt on icy walkways. Damp coffee grounds are best and will not damage wood or concrete.

Coffee grounds can also help keep your house drainpipes and disposal clean (remove the filter). In the kitchen, you can use them as an abrasive scrubber to clean grills and pots. They can be used to deodorize your hands after handling fish, garlic, onions and other strong odors. Dried coffee grounds placed in the foot of old pantihose can be hung in basements and closets to absorb odors.

I am sure you have some favorite uses for old coffee grounds. The whole idea is to reuse as many of our resources as possible, to keep the earth and ourselves healthy.