What to do with leftover coffee grounds - thrifty ways to reuse them at home

Who knew that leftover coffee grounds could be so useful? Here are 9 creative ways to repurpose them

Red espresso machine on a white worktop in a white kitchen with yellow accents
(Image credit: Sage)

If you're a coffee lover, you've probably asked yourself what to do with leftover coffee grounds before. Throwing them away seems so wasteful, and it isn't nice to know that enjoying our favourite drink every day is contributing so much to landfill. 

But there are lots of ways you can reuse the leftover coffee ground from your best coffee machine so that they aren't simply being discarded with the rest of your household rubbish. From feeding your houseplants to flavouring your steak, you'd be surprised at the variety of creative ways in which coffee grounds can be reused. Plus, most of them are easily done too.

'Around 70 million cups of coffee are consumed in the UK every day, and now, the majority of these coffees are being consumed at home,' says Jennifer Grace, Coffee Expert, CRU Kafe. 'This means there's a lot of used coffee grounds going to waste.'

If you're feeling a little eco-conscious and don't want to keep throwing your leftover coffee grounds away, we've created a list of the top nine ways to reuse them – including some ways how to utilise coffee grounds in the garden

We're pretty confident that some of the ideas in our list are ones you would never have thought of before, but coffee can serve many purposes beyond creating our favourite morning drink.

Kitchen island with coffee machine and mugs set up like a bistro cafe

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Brittain)

What to do with leftover coffee grounds

We've asked coffee experts what to do with leftover coffee grounds so that you can stop feeling guilty about enjoying your morning cup. There's cleaning tips, botanical care, culinary suggestions, and even beauty advice, so keep reading to find out why you should never throw away your leftover coffee grounds again. 

1. Feed your houseplants

House plants in wooden and white kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If your house is adorned with houseplant ideas, don't let your leftover coffee grounds go to waste. Mix the coffee grounds with water and use the solution to nourish the plants instead. 

'The coffee grounds will slowly release nitrogen and add a touch of acidity to the soil,' explains Chef Director Tristan Welch. 'This makes plants absolutely thrive.'

2. Clean wooden furniture

Kitchen with wooden table and chairs on blue floor

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Wooden furniture looks great, but it can often fall prey to scratches and marks which are difficult to hide. Fortunately, when coupled with the power of cleaning with vinegar, your leftover coffee grounds can save the day.

'Simply mix the coffee grounds with 4 parts vinegar and leave to stew overnight,' says Jennifer, CRU Kafe. 'The next day, use a cotton bud to apply the coffee ground mixture to furniture scratches, then leave for around 5-10 minutes before wiping away.' This simple chore will prevent your coffee grounds from going to waste and get your wooden furniture looking as good as new.

3. Scrub the dishes

Butler sink in a beige shaker style kitchen with brass accents and a black brick wall

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

The abrasive qualities of coffee grounds makes them perfect for scrubbing away the stubborn stains on pots and pans. Using your regular washing up sponge and some warm soapy water, add the coffee grounds to the dirty dish and start scrubbing. With a bit of elbow grease, the stain will start to lift and your dishes will be left spotless and sparkling.

4. Create a natural exfoliator

Jar of homemade coffee scrub with wooden spoon

(Image credit: CRU Kafe)

Many popular beauty brands stock coffee scrubs because of the bean's wonderful skincare benefits, but there's no need to spend money when you can easily make one yourself with your leftover coffee grounds.

'Thanks to the caffeine which constricts blood vessels, coffee can help reduce puffiness,' explains Amish Patel, Skincare Expert, Intrigue Cosmetic Clinic. 'The abrasive qualities of the granules naturally exfoliate the skin to help remove dead skin cells and will reveal a wonderfully smooth, glowing complexion.'

Simply mix a cup of coffee grounds with three teaspoons of sugar and two tablespoons of coconut oil, and use to exfoliate your body weekly. You'll never dispose of your coffee grounds again.

5. Compost and fertilise

Hosta in raised garden border

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

If you have a compost bin or know how to make compost, you can simply add your leftover coffee beans and let them work their magic as a soil fertiliser. The high levels of nitrogen in the coffee will work wonders for your garden, so once the grounds have composted, add them to the soil and enjoy the fruitful results. Make sure to turn the compost regularly when adding it, to let air in.

6. Repel mosquitoes

Who knew that coffee was a natural mosquito repellent? Coffee grounds are an easy and natural way to stay bite-free, and they'll also keep wasps and bees at bay too.

If you're dining al fresco or entertaining outdoors, then save yourself and your guests from mosquitoes by placing some dry coffee grounds on a foil plate with a few drops of lighter fluid, then light with a match and leave to burn gently.

'When the coffee grounds are smoking, you can then scrunch up the foil plate or cover with a damp towel, allowing the coffee grounds to continue smouldering and smoking,' says Jennifer. The gentle smoke will keep pests at bay and you can enjoy your evening bite-free. 

7. Flavour your dinner

White kitchen countertop next to stove with food prep

(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you're planning a steak night, don't throw away your leftover coffee grounds just yet. According to Sophie Nahmad, Chef at Gousto, the grounds make an excellent addition to a steak dinner, and will amp up the flavour of the meat.

'A good steak hits the spot almost as much as a good brew, so why not bring the two together for a tasty match made in heaven? Try a spicy coffee dry-rub with chilli powder and smoky paprika to enhance the meaty flavour we all know and love.'

8. Make an espresso martini

Espresso martini and coffee beans

(Image credit: Dima's Vodka)

If you like an espresso martini and are wondering what to do with leftover coffee grounds, then you've got the perfect solution. Use them to create your favourite drink and thank yourself for not throwing away the leftover grounds later.

'Take your coffee grounds and add some sugar, then mix them together and leave overnight so it forms a sort of sludge,' says chef Tristan. 'Then add some boiling water to release any last bit of flavour. This also makes it really easy to strain through a coffee filter. Add a touch of your favourite spirit and serve in a cocktail glass.' 

9. Donate them

Close up shot of coffee beans

(Image credit: Gousto)

There are plenty of coffee recycling schemes that will gladly accept your leftover grounds if you don't want to reuse them. Research online for local ecocentres that take leftover coffee grounds so that yours don't have to end up in landfill. Trees for Cities for example will turn leftover coffee into fertiliser for planting trees.

Is leftover ground coffee good for plants?

A Lillevilla garden cabin next to dining table set with cream-coloured parasol. Tall plants, such as Stipa gigantea and Verbena bonariensis planted throughout

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Leftover coffee grounds are a great soil fertiliser and will help plants and your garden ideas thrive. 'Since coffee is an organic material, it helps improve drainage, water retention and aeration in the soil,' explains Lynsey Harley, Founder, Modern Standard Coffee. 'The used coffee grounds will also attract earthworms and help micro-organisations beneficial to the plant growth to thrive.'

If you have a compost bin, go ahead and add your leftover coffee grounds. Once they've turned into an earthy brown substance (usually between three and six months), you can add the compost to your soil. 'The leftover caffeine in the coffee grounds is also a good repellent for keeping slugs and snails away, and the smell will stop cats using the garden as a litter tray,' adds Lynsey.

Houseplants also love leftover coffee grounds. The coffee lowers the pH of soil, so it's particularly good for plants that like acidic environments, such as azaleas and rhododendrons. 

Can I reuse leftover coffee grounds?

In short, yes. While you might not be able to reuse them to make a cup of coffee there are loads of ways you can reuse your leftover coffee grounds to help with other household tasks. You can use them to create an exfoliating hand wash for example.

'Coffee is a natural deodorant, so nowadays I set aside my hand wash and reach for a homemade blend of coconut oil, sugar and coffee grounds,' says Sophie, Gousto. 'It gets my mitts sparkling and odour-free.'

'You can make a super simple, 3-ingredient coffee scrub that will leave your skin feeling refreshed and pampered,' suggests coffee expert Jennifer. 'Heat some coconut oil over a low temperature until completely melted, then combine with coffee grounds and sugar. Pop it into a jar and let it cool before using on your body or face.'

Unfortunately, the grounds can't be reused to make actual coffee again. 'All the flavour, natural oils and antioxidants are extracted from coffee grounds quite quickly, leaving you with that mild coffee flavour,' says Tristan, Parker's Tavern. 'However, using a slow maceration process you can still make a nice coffee liquor out of the used grounds.'

Katie Sims

Katie Sims has been writing for Ideal Homes since spring 2022. She qualified from her Master’s in Media and Journalism in 2021 and has been writing freelance since. She has worked on Ideal Home’s ecommerce team where she researched the best home products on the market, and on the news team, researching the latest trends for feature pieces.