Coffee · Eco-Friendly Living

9 Green Ideas To Upcycle Coffee Grounds: Skincare, Gardening & More

I’ve already blogged about how to consume tea and coffee in a more sustainable way, but one thing that needs it’s separate blog post is how do you upcycle coffee grounds without a compost bin?

It’s all well and good to just throw food scraps into the compost but if you don’t have one – or can’t DIY it – then what can you do to reduce the amount of perfectly biodegradable waste going straight to landfill? I’ve come up with nine ideas for upcycling coffee grounds!

How To Upcycle Coffee Grounds

1. Plant Fertilizer

soil and shovel

Brewed coffee grounds are actually a great plant fertilizer! They help with soil drainage and have a high nitrogen content, and potassium, and phosphorus – this means they can help improve soil fertility, making this an easy way to repurpose old coffee grounds without a compost bin.

However, this doesn’t mean every plant will love coffee. I have mostly cacti and succulents in my little window sill garden which are as sturdy and indelicate as plants get. The coffee seems to help keep away flies that might find their way into my bedroom, and it smells good! From what I’ve gathered, it’s best to sprinkle a thin layer. It also seems to be promising for outdoor gardens too, as earth worms respond well to coffee – and are a much-needed presence in the soil.

Additional tip: if you’re having a mould problem, srape off the top layer of soil and put down a layer of cinnamon. The mould never came back!

2. Grow Mushrooms

a basket of mushrooms

Personally, I hate mushrooms, but I’m all for growing your own food where possible so there’s no reason for me to leave this suggestion on how to repurpose used coffee grounds out!

Mushrooms are often known as nature’s recyclers. In nature, they help to break down dead roots, leaves and other parts of plants and trees and then the nutrients are available to new plants. There also seems to be a type of mushroom that can break down plastic, so while it might not be the solution to our plastic pollution problem, it’s welcome news!

Here are instructions from Modern Farmer with everything you need to know to reuse old coffee grounds for this purpose.

3. Bug Repellent

ethnic girl enjoying rest with mother in orchard
Photo by Zen Chung on

One of the most annoying things about summer is the number of bugs everywhere.

I’d rather not kill them – I’d recommend not killing insets where possible. As pesky as they might be, everything has a role in the ecosystem. Lots of insects are pollinators or have other important roles. We’re already at the start of the sixth mass extinction, so I’d rather not add to the problem. I also just feel iffy about bug sprays, because I would imagine that we end up inhaling some worrying compounds too.

Before grabbing bug spray, there’s a more natural and humane way to deal with pesky mosquitos ruining your alfresco dinner; used coffee grounds. This idea on how to repurpose coffee grounds saves the bugs and gives them another use! Burning dry coffee grounds seems to do the trick – here’s how to set it up!

4. Get Crafty

a treasure map

If you have kids – or are an artistic person yourself – you can definitely find fun ways to upcycle coffee grounds. If you’re making old-style prints (or a treasure map) coffee grounds can help to stain paper to give it an old faded feel.

You can also use a teabag!

5. DIY Candles

white candle in glass holder
Photo by Castorly Stock on

I’ve bought lots of coffee-scented candles over the years! But, it turns out you can make a candle with real coffee and repurpose used coffee grounds. The Queen Bean has instructions on how to make a coffee candle with soy way, in a coffee cup!

If you don’t want to go through the hassle of making a candle but want your home to smell like coffee, it seems that you can just put the grounds into an old sock to neutralize odours coming from your gym bag or shoe closet!

6. Eye Mask

crop person putting portafilter on wooden table
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

I love skincare, but sometimes the products seem unnecessary and too expensive. This is why I like to DIY where possible and upcycle used coffee grounds in the process.

You can mix one part coffee grounds with one part coconut oil. I can attest to feeling much more awake and refreshed when I put on a coffee mask in the morning.

Be warned that your under eyes are very delicate dab it on gently and let the mixture sit. Don’t rub it around like you would exfoliating the rest of your face or skin.

7. Exfoliator

a close up shot of coffee beans on a white textile
Photo by Cup of Couple on

Coffee grounds can also be used on the rest of your skin. I don’t see the point in actually paying for a product, especially a store-bought coffee scrub when my own coffee grounds are right there!

For this, I add one part coffee to three parts coconut oil. Recently, I’ve been adding rosemary oil – but that’s optional! As I said, go gently around the eyes, but I exfoliate my skin and face around three times a week with this.

8. Hair Mask

back view photo of woman in white sleeveless shirt running her fingers through her hair
Photo by Helena Ije on

Another way to repurpose old coffee grounds is to put them in your hair! Caffeine is said to stimulate the hair follicles, which can help your hair grow longer and thicker. Common hair mask combinations seem to be; coffee & coconut oil, coffee & honey, coffee & yogurt, and coffee & olive oil.

Personally, I’ve been putting coffee, coconut oil and rosemary oil into my hair as rosemary oil is said to help with hair growth (plus, it’s definitely been making it softer and shinier!)

If you’re using essential oils, always dilute them in a carrier oil, in this case coconut oil. Essential oils should not be applied directly to your skin or hair.

9. Natural Hair Dye

close up photo white ceramic cup
Photo by Foodie Factor on

Before dying my hair black, I naturally darkened it with coffee. I scrubbed the grounds into (simply pouring a cup of coffee over your hair doesn’t stick) all of my hair and left it sit for half an hour. After a few uses, it began to stain my hair. I started off a medium brown and ended up very dark brown.

Full disclaimer: I’m not a hairdresser. Be very careful with this. I naturally have brown hair, and knew I was going to dye it black eventually. If you’re a lighter colour, do not have virgin hair or think you have any intentions of lightening it later then this might not be the best move for you.

So, there are have nine ideas for to upcycle coffee grounds. Have you ever tried any of these?

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