13 Uses for Unbrewed Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds have so many uses it’s practically criminal to just throw them away, but what about unbrewed grounds? Whether you just didn’t use them quickly enough and they’ve gone stale, or there’s just not enough grounds left to make a pot, it’s common to have unbrewed coffee grounds left over, and throwing them out seems like a waste. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do with them. Some are unique to unbrewed grounds, but many of them are shared with brewed coffee grounds. Here are some of our favorite uses for unbrewed coffee grounds.

13 uses for unbrewed coffee grounds

1. Air freshener

One of the best uses for unbrewed coffee grounds is an air freshener. Just pour the grounds into a mason jar or another container and place in a location of your choice. Before long the whole room will smell like coffee. The best part is that, once the grounds are too stale to keep freshening the air, you can still use them for something else.

2. Cook with them

While old coffee grounds may not make the best coffee, they can still make a tasty dessert. Add the coffee grounds to your favorite baked goods like cookies, pumpkin bread, and brownies. Don’t be afraid to try them in savory foods too- coffee is an excellent addition to chili, stews, and braised beef. It’s also great ingredient for a BBQ rub, especially for brisket or pulled pork.

3. Exfoliating scrub

Commercial exfoliators are expensive, and some of them use plastic microbeads. Instead of paying for a product like that, take your unbrewed coffee grounds and mix them with a bit of warm water or coconut oil for a homemade scrub that works just as well as any commercial product. The grounds are abrasive enough to scrape off dead skin, but gentle enough that they won’t cause any irritation.

Coffee Powder
Coffee Powder

4. Hair rinse

Most of the hair products we use (shampoo, conditioner, styling products and more) leave behind residue that builds up over time and affects the health of your hair. You can remove this residue by rubbing unbrewed coffee grounds into your hair and rinsing them out. Plus, your hair will smell great.

5. Drain cleaner

If your drains are starting to smell a bit, you can pour some unbrewed coffee grounds into them and rinse them out with a kettle full of boiling water to clean and deodorize the drain. You’ll want to rinse the drain thoroughly to avoid a stale coffee smell.

6. Grow carrots

Coffee grounds have a ton of uses in the garden, but carrots might just benefit more than other vegetables. Mix your unused coffee grounds with the carrot seeds before planting and you’ll give them a big nutrient boost, increasing your harvest dramatically. This will work for many other root vegetables too.

7. Wood stain

Coffee can make a beautiful wood stain. Add a cup and a half of water to a cup of coffee grounds, let it steep for thirty minutes, and then pour through a coffee filter. Those grounds may have been too stale to make a good pot of coffee, but they’ll work just fine for staining wood. This concentrated coffee can be applied to the wood with a paint brush, and creates a great, natural finish that highlights the natural character of the wood.

8. Ant repellent

Ants don’t like the smell of coffee grounds. Sprinkle the grounds around potential entry points and you’ll keep them out of your home without having to resort to harsh chemical pesticides. Just don’t go overboard or it’ll look like you’ve got piles of dirt all over your house. A little bit goes a long way.

9. Worm attractant

Worms are great for your soil. They recycle nutrients by eating old organic matter. Their digestive process leaves behind lots of nutrients that would’ve otherwise been locked up in old leaves and other material. What’s more, as they burrow through the soil they aerate it- creating space for air, and oxygen, to reach the plant roots, allowing them to breathe. Weirdly, they like coffee, too. Mixing unbrewed coffee grounds into your garden soil will attract more worms, which will improve the quality of your soil.

10. Compost

Just like used grounds, unused grounds can be added to your compost. Coffee grounds contain a lot of nitrogen, which is a vital nutrient for plants. Most plants actually deplete the soil of nitrogen, which can cause some serious problems for them. This is why fertilizer is almost always high in nitrogen. Rather than spending money on fertilizers, just toss your coffee grounds, both used and stale, into the compost pile. You’ll give your plants a huge boost of nitrogen.

11. Change the color of your flowers

Hydrangeas and other flowers will change color based on the pH of the soil. Coffee grounds will lower the pH and turn the flowers bright blue. Of course, this also means that, if you don’t want bright blue flowers, you want to avoid using coffee grounds in your garden.

12. Get the garlic smell off your hands

After chopping a bunch of garlic, your hands are going to be pretty pungent. Even washing with soap won’t always get rid of the smell. Coffee grounds will work like a charm, though. Rub a handful of the dry grounds over your hands after chopping the garlic and the grounds will absorb the smell completely.

13. Get scratches out of wood

A scratch in your expensive wood furniture can ruin your day. It mars the appearance of the wood and there’s no real way to fix it cheaply. However, if you mix some coffee ground with a bit of oil and apply it to the scratch, it will cover it up nicely and you won’t notice the damage anymore.

Unused coffee grounds in filter
Unused coffee grounds in filter


There are so many uses for unbrewed coffee grounds that there’s really no reason to ever throw them away. Keeping them can replace so many other household products, from cleaners to pesticides and fertilizers, that throwing them out really is like throwing money in the trash. The next time you find yourself with a bunch of leftover, stale coffee grounds, try one of the suggestions above.