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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coffee grounds in compost make superior garden fertilizer

By Lynn Mastic

Toss those expended coffee grounds into the trash no longer. Your daily morning wake-up elixir can do more than bring you to life in the morning – it can literally bring plants and vegetation in your home garden to life, too!

Often mistakenly regarded as highly acidic, coffee grounds lose most of their acidity during the brewing process, rendering them with an almost neutral pH. Complete neutralization occurs as they mix with other composting materials, which serve as a buffer for any residual acidity. In this state, coffee grounds in compost serve as an exceptional addition to your fertilizing mixture in numerous ways.
Household waste is converted into humus by earthworms
Plants use nitrogen to maintain and grow healthy green foilage

Compost coffee grounds as a nitrogen source

Primarily, the components of a compost pile are moisture, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen, and in their broken down state, these ingredients break down organic matter until it becomes a rich humus. Coffee grounds are considered a green nitrogen source with a carbon/nitrogen ration of 20:1, which is the equivalent to grass and tree clippings. For those with no lawn maintenance, coffee grounds can help balance a compost mixture with optimal nitrogen levels to expedite decomposition.

Coffee grounds create compost heat

The breakdown processes of compost are fueled and accelerated by high temperatures, and when sustained, the heat additionally kills weed seeds and most pathogens. In one Oregon State University study, coffee grounds were shown to be more effective at maintaining optimal temperatures between 135 and 155 F than manure. Backyard composters find coffee grounds to be an excellent substitute for manure, which tends to not only be smelly, but full of pathogens.

Vermicomposting efforts excelled

Enthusiasts of vermicomposting delight in the earthworms’ voracious appetite for coffee grounds and other kitchen scraps. Vermicast, or earthworm manure, helps create the richest nutrients that can be applied to soil. When earthworms consume coffee grounds along with other compost materials, the particulates are finely ground before expulsion leaving humus that boasts and ideal balance of micronutrients that provide a remarkable boost for gardens.

Compost bins and rain buckets save money
Worm manure is highly nutritious for garden vegetables

Reduce waste composting with coffee grounds

The grounds from your coffee pot may not seem substantial, but over time, they truly add up. According to the EPA, organic materials like coffee grounds not only take up precious space in landfills, but they also produce leachate pollutants and methane. Many die hard composters and recyclers visit local coffee house to collect expended grounds – helping their compost efforts, reducing waste, and protecting the environment simultaneously.

Composting is easy and benefits the environment

A compost tumbler is ideal for any enthusiast, and these implements are rather affordable and come in a variety of sizes to suit the needs of any backyard composter. The best way to integrate adding coffee grounds and kitchen scraps to your compost is to keep a sealed container in your kitchen. This allows you to dump the grounds and other compost materials in a convenient spot, and then these can be taken to the compost pile or tumbler every evening.

Beyond enriching and regenerating poor quality soils, compost can literally aid in the cleanup of soils contaminated with volatile organic compounds. Additionally, heavy metals tend to bind to compost, which prevents these toxic substances from further eroding, or being introduced into the food supply and water sources. You will also save money during the fertilizing season by using your compost supply, while Mother Earth reaps her own benefits from your efforts.

Oregon State University Extension; "OSU Extension-Trained Composters Use Coffee Grounds"; Tiffany Woods; April 2008

About the author: Lynn Mastic is fortunate to work from home, enabling her to take care of her daughter, dogs, and backyard garden. She lived and worked in the Texas Hill Country for several years and writes to encourage visitors to explore this beautiful part of Texas.  Visitors can visit www.thehighlandlakes.org info on hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities.


  1. This blog is nice and amazing. I really like your post! It's also nice to see someone who does a lot of research and has a great knack for writing, which is pretty rare from bloggers these days.

  2. thanks for sharing.