Can You Reuse Coffee Grounds? 3 Reasons Why You Might Not Want To, and 3 Better Alternatives


can you reuse coffee grounds

Most coffee lovers consume more than one cup of coffee per day. I’m a 3-per-day coffee person, and it’s pretty doggone important that each cup is fresh, rich, dark roasted, and satisfying. Drinking coffee is not the most expensive habit there is, but depending upon the brand, roast, brewing method, and consumption, there can be more than a few pennies spent in a day. 

For me, it’s worth it to invest in the brand that tastes the most satisfying, and the brewing methods that enhance the satisfaction of the resulting cup of coffee. I live within a budget and have to consider how my love of java fits into the overall expenditures. But honestly, it’s pretty high up there on the list! 

I brew my coffee at home 99% of the time, so don’t spend the extra money on fancy flavored concoctions at the coffee shop. Nope. Home brewed, prepared by my own little hands, is what I always prefer. 

Some of us might want to consider how we can be a tad more thrifty with our coffee spending, so we look for alternatives to stretch our java investment and ease up on the budget a bit. Hmmmm…what can we do to make our coffee go further? Can we reuse the coffee grounds for the next cup of pot?

Can You Reuse Coffee Grounds?

Or, maybe the dreaded realization that you’ve just run out of coffee has hit you, and all you have available are the used grounds from the last pot of coffee you brewed. That’s a problem.

Still others might want to reuse their coffee grounds because it’s a form of repurposing, right? And we need to think about what we’re throwing away. Sincere thought, but there are other ways to give new purpose to used coffee grounds.

So, here’s the question: Can you reuse coffee grounds? We’ll look into why you might want to consider doing hat in a minute. But first, here’s the response to the question: Yes, it’s possible. But it’s not recommended for several reasons, and we’ll go into more detail about that as well.

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Can You Reuse Coffee Grounds? A Closer Look

What Happens to Coffee Grounds During Brewing?

Let’s consider what happens to ground coffee as it flows through the brewing process.

With any brewing method you’ll add hot water to the coffee grounds. As the coffee grounds mix with the water, the ‘bloom’ occurs, which means that the grounds begin displacing gases like carbon dioxide from inside the coffee cells into the surrounding liquid and atmosphere. This is where the flavor is extracted.

A number of chemicals are released, such as caffeine, antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, and more. The oils in the beans are also released. That is how you, as the recipient of that fresh brew, come to enjoy the flavor and aroma of the coffee.

So, all of the components that make coffee, well, coffee, are released into the water and atmosphere, and the result is a tasty, fresh cup of java with that heavenly aroma. 

Can You Reuse Those Same Coffee Grounds Again?

Yes, you can reuse coffee grounds. But think about it this way.

If you take those same coffee grounds that have already dispensed all of the good stuff, and once again mix them with water to make another cup of coffee, guess what? 

You’ll be using grounds that have already released their ‘good stuff’ into the initial brew, with mostly bitter flavors left behind.  Your ‘coffee’ that is brewed from those used grounds will be weak, bitter, and lighter in color, without the caffeine kick that you are probably expecting.

Why would you want to do that? Answer: You probably don’t

 Does Brewing Twice Reduce the Caffeine?

Reusing coffee grounds will result in a cup of coffee that is almost like drinking a cup of decaffeinated coffee. The caffeine as well as the other chemicals and components went into that first, fresh cup of coffee. There is very little of anything left for any subsequent brews made using those same grounds. 

Just another reason to discard any thoughts of reusing coffee grounds!

 Alternatives to Reusing Coffee Grounds

alternatives to reusing coffee grounds

1 | Brew Fresh Coffee on a Budget – 3 Ways

In responding to the question, can you reuse coffee grounds to save money, let’s look at it like this: How can you make a good cup of fresh coffee on a limited budget?

Several thoughts come to mind:

Let’s take a closer look at all three of these suggestions below.

First, keeping your brewing method simple will help the budget. There are 3 ways to brew a fresh cup of coffee that won’t break the bank:

  1.  a drip coffee maker
  2.  a French press
  3.  a pour over coffee dripper

The first suggestion, an well-priced drip coffee maker, is a simple and affordable way to brew fresh coffee. Here are a few examples for you:

Other than the ground coffee itself, all you’ll need is a paper filter, or use a permanent filter to eliminate that cost.

The second suggestion is to use a French press to brew your coffee. If you enjoy a dark roast coffee with full body and thickness, French press might be the way to go. As far as the press itself, it can be purchased for a very affordable price if you keep it simple. And aside from the coffee, the French press is all you need. Here are a few suggestions for a well-priced French press:

The third suggestion for making a great cup of coffee on a budget is to use a ceramic pour over coffee dripper. This is my preferred method of making coffee; there is nothing quite like the clean, pure taste of pour over brew. The coffee dripper itself can be purchased quite economically, and the only other tool needed is a cone shaped coffee filter. Take a look at these pour over coffee drippers:

You can certainly spend more on any of this coffee gear, but why? You don’t have to, my friend. And sure, you can buy an electric kettle to heat your water, but it works just as well to heat it on the stove to the boiling point and let it sit for about 30 seconds before beginning to pour. 

If a French press or pour over brewing method are new to you, learn more about the differences between the two, and how to brew using these methods: French press our pour over brewing method

Second, save money by purchasing coffee that is easy on the budget. You know, the cheaper coffee. Will you lose some flavor or quality of the brew by spending less? It depends on your palette and how particular you are about the brew. If it comes down to thinking, a) can you reuse coffee grounds, or b) make a fresh cup each time, I’d opt for the fresh cup my friend!

These coffee brands are well rated, and the price per ounce is easy on the budget. Just remember to store your coffee in a cool, dark place, unrefrigerated and tightly sealed, so it will stay fresher longer.

Third, learn how to make a great cup of coffee at home! If you can brew a really satisfying cup of coffee at home, in a way that doesn’t take a big bite out of the budget, you’ll be less likely to want to ‘repurpose’ those used coffee grounds in your next brew.

Many times, a cup of coffee that isn’t quite satisfying enough is a cup of coffee that is too weak. It may need some tweaking with the water to coffee ratio. 

Here is a simple infographic that shows how to make good, strong coffee:

how to make strong coffee - the coffee files

2 | How to Avoid Running Out of Coffee

If the panic felt at realizing your supply of coffee is gone – totally – and you’re searching for ways to satisfy the caffeine craving, you can avoid the temptation of reusing old coffee grounds in two ways:

  • join a coffee subscription service
  • keep a supply of higher quality ‘instant’ coffee on hand

SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE: There are a many subscription services available to coffee lovers. In fact, if you check the website of your favorite coffee brand, you may well find an option for a subscription service. That way you’ll always have a supply of coffee coming on a regular basis, and the dreaded empty coffee can (or bag) will be a thing of the past!

Most subscription services are very flexible, too, and offer lots of options for the timing as well as quantity of coffee delivered.

One of my favorite brands is Peets Coffee, and yes…a subscription service is available. So be sure to check out your favorite brand, and chances are you can have your java delivered right to your door periodically.

TODAY’S INSTANT COFFEE: In a pinch, if you’re in a hurry, or maybe just because you like it, try Starbucks Via Instant coffee. It’s made with high quality arabica coffee beans, and comes in a variety of roast options. 

I keep some in the pantry for a coffee emergency, and it’s really quite good. It has a nice depth of flavor for an instant type coffee.

3 | Ways to Repurpose Used Coffee Grounds

If you’re hesitant to just discard your used coffee grounds and are tempted to use them one more time to reduce the amount that are thrown away, consider these 5 alternative uses for them instead. (There are many ways to reuse coffee grounds, so these are a representative sample.)

  1.  Neutralize Odors: the nitrogen in coffee grounds will help eliminate and absorb odors. Place a bowl of coffee grounds in the frig or freezer, fill old socks or pantyhose with the grounds and use them anywhere that may need deodorizing.
  2.  Fertilize the Garden: coffee grounds contain several key nutrients required for plant growth, and, they can help attract worms, which are good for the garden. Just sprinkle them onto the soil around your plants.
  3.  Natural Cleaning Scrub: the abrasiveness of coffee grounds can help with hard-to-clean surfaces, and are an alternative to using chemicals for cleaning. They can help sanitize sinks, grills, cookware, and other surfaces. Be careful not to use them on any porous material as they can leave brown stains.
  4. Tenderize Meat: coffee contains natural acids and enzymes making it quite effective at tenderizing meat. Just add the used coffee grounds to your favorite dry rub recipe and apply to the meat 2 hours before cooking. The grounds will form a dark, crispy crust. Or, go ahead and rebrew the used grounds, but instead of drinking the coffee (yuck), use it as a meat marinade for up to 24 hours before you cook the meat. 
  5.  Treat Circles Under the Eyes: the high antioxidant and caffeine content of coffee grounds, as well as the anti-inflammatory properties, can help stimulate blood circulation around the eyes and reduce the appearance of dark circles and swelling. Add water or coconut oil to the coffee grounds to form a past, apply under the eyes and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rinse. Can be repeated daily or as needed.

Conclusion

Can you reuse coffee grounds? Yes, it’s possible, but not advisable. Based on your motivation for wanting to reuse them, we’ve offered some viable and helpful alternatives that will hopefully give you another, more satisfying solution!

the coffee files

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