Confessions of a coffee drinker

We are a coffee loving family, although some of us are more fussy about the taste than others. Our coffee machines have gone through any number of incarnations and are in fairly continuous use. I particularly liked the version that used the equivalent of teabags, especially since they were completely compostable. No mess, no waste. I hung on to that machine as long as possible. However, when it broke down for the nth time and the choice of flavours was reduced to only one kind, it became clear that the next purchase would most likely use coffee pods. Reluctantly I welcomed the new machine into our home. It makes good coffee, but I resent buying the sealed plastic pods that feed it. So I recycle as much as possible, collecting the used pods and then laboriously cutting them open to tip out the coffee grounds. The grounds are then emptied into the compost heap.


Extraction of coffee grounds from the capsules

A few years ago, when I commuted daily into Cambridge, I use to regularly pick up a bag of used coffee grounds from Starbucks. They ran a scheme called Grounds for Your Garden (started in 1995) which I made good use of. Their website still mentions the project, but makes it clear that availability is store dependent. More recently (2015) Costa Coffee seem to be running a similar ‘Grounds for Grounds’ deal. I wonder how many people know about or use these schemes? They seem like such a good idea.

Using Coffee Grounds:

There are a number of claims about how fantastic the grounds are as a soil improver. Used grounds are pH neutral. They release nitrogen, calcium, magnesium slowly and add organic matter, improving soil structure.

In terms of composting, coffee grounds have a C:N (Carbon/Nitrogen) ratio of 20:1. This is the same ratio as general food waste and close to the ideal ratio of ~25:1 for the quick production of a good, sweet-smelling compost.

There are (unsubstantiated) claims that coffee grounds are a slug repellent, but I would say that a barrier of coffee grounds was completely ineffective after last year’s sunflower protection experiments! 😦

There is also some evidence that coffee grounds applied directly to soil may actually lead to reduced growth in plants.

However, I will continue to add our grounds to the compost heap and some areas of heavy clay in the garden.

As evidence for the effectiveness of using coffee grounds in a garden, my mother-in-law has a lush-looking backyard at her home in Deal, which she attributes almost exclusively to her use of tea and coffee grounds. She had been struggling to grow anything in the garden until she started emptying her cafetiere and teapots outside.


Growing a jungle on coffee

On a related, but different use for coffee grounds, my son was given a mushroom growing kit for Christmas, which is based on a block of composted expresso grounds.

We opened the box and started the growing process on 3rd January.


After a few days of staring at these funny little pink blobs on the surface of the block, some exotic pink mushrooms (oyster I think) actually started to grow:


Growth by Day 3 – recognisable oyster mushrooms


Day 6  – Ready for harvesting


Ready for cooking

The exotic ‘Hot Pink’ mushrooms were delicious and apparently, if we rest the box for 10 days, we can start the whole process again. It seems like magic!



About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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11 Responses to Confessions of a coffee drinker

  1. Those mushrooms are certainly magic in my book. On the subject of coffee grounds I used them around newly planted dwarf French bean seedlings mid-summer last year. The beans were the best I have ever grown and were I became a convert overnight to this organic slug control. But it could well be that the weather was dry and so resulted in less slug activity-who knows but I will experiment further next season..

    • Glad to hear of your success, I will try again this year then too. Last year the slugs were so big I think that they hardly even noticed the coffee grounds in the sunflower pots, they just stretched over it!

  2. Eliza Waters says:

    All our kitchen waste goes to the composter, which then feeds the garden. Nothing organic, even hair trimmings and old sisal door mats, gets thrown away around here. I’m impressed with your son’s mushroom kit – ready-to-eat in a week, and reusable? Amazing!

  3. Brian Skeys says:

    I did read last year that s trial to test coffee grounds as a slug deterrent concluded it didn’t work. Reading this reminded me that my grandmother use to empty her teapot out in the garden.

    • Ah yes, my Gran used to cosset an apricot tree she had growing against her wall with tea leaves from the pot. I will persist with the coffee ground experiments though since last years slugs were particularly monstrous, but if that trend continues then I don’t hold much hope.

  4. Chloris says:

    Magic mushrooms hey? Whatever next?
    I use coffee grounds as a slug deterrent and have found it useful. Maybe the smell confuses them.
    Your MiL’ s garden is lovely.

    • Those mushrooms were an amazing colour. In fact I then noticed both pink and yellow oyster mushrooms in Tesco, which took some of the wind out of our sail! Still an impressive turn around though. My MiL’s garden feels like a secret garden, I love it!

  5. Have not tried this on slugs yet. Exciting looking mushrooms- love the colour.

    • I am going to try the coffee grounds again this year as slug protection, because I suspect they don’t like the way it sticks to their trails. However, I do think that size is an issue and last season there were a lot of massive slugs around and the barriers were big enough.

  6. inesephoto says:

    Your mother-in-law has a fairy tale looking garden. Also, I was fascinated with the mushrooms 🙂

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