Coffee Confidential

The Curious Conveniences of Coffee (That Don’t Involve Actually Drinking Coffee)

Even when I take a break from coffee, I can’t really start my day without it. It’s not just about glugging down that first mouthful of espresso, it’s also the way the smell fills the house and kicks off your day – it’s the whole ritual of it that grounds you. Speaking of grounds, when coffee is a daily occurrence, it means you’re generating lots of the stuff that, if you’re like me, you usually throw out (although I do have a separate compost bin for organic waste). But I recently discovered that coffee – especially the grounds – have so many uses inside and out of the house that I never knew about before, I just had to tell everyone about it, even though I suspect many of you already know more than I did on the topic. I grouped coffee’s many uses into different categories as a kind of cheat sheet, so brew yourself a cuppa, sit back and let’s swap notes.


I’m not crafty in general, but something I’d love to try is to stain wood with coffee. Apparently, it’s as simple as brewing a pot, letting it cool and washing a freshly sanded surface with the coffee. And who said blondes have all the fun? I’ve heard that brunettes can intensify the colour of their hair by rinsing their hair with cold coffee and leaving it in for 45 minutes.

I keep a stainless-steel pebble in my kitchen for when I need to rid my hands of garlicky, oniony smells, but I’ve found that rubbing my hands in used coffee grounds both exfoliates them and absorbs those persistent odours. For now, I keep a small Consol jar under my kitchen sink with my old coffee grounds in it, just in case. You can also sprinkle those same grounds at the entry points to your house to ward off ants!


What threw me about using coffee to clean things was, if it can stain wood, why would you use it as a cleaner? Well, the brewed grounds won’t stain anything in a permanent way, so it’s a perfect alternative to scourers when cleaning pots and other surfaces, and isn’t nearly as abrasive.

Back to coffee grounds’ odour-absorbing qualities, you can get rid of those “last week’s leg of lamb” smells wafting out of your kitchen sink’s drain by pouring some used coffee grounds down the drain, leaving it for about 10 minutes, and then washing the grounds down with boiling water. Similarly, if a mysterious smell in your fridge starts getting you down, try putting an open bowlful of coffee grounds in the fridge. If that doesn’t work, time to unpack everything and find the culprit!



It’s not just salt, coffee grounds repel slugs and snails, so if your herbs and fruit trees are starting to look a bit worse for wear, sprinkle some used coffee grounds at the base of the plant. The caffeine in coffee is also toxic to insects, so it makes for a natural, earth-friendly alternative to chemical insecticides. Coffee is especially good at repelling mosquitos, fruit flies and beetles.

You can also use your old coffee grounds as a fertiliser by working it into the soil. The coffee will also attract worms, which are great for your garden’s health. And if you can compost your old coffee grounds for fertiliser, even better!


It’s not just wine (and Coca-Cola) that’s great at tenderising meat, the acids and enzymes in coffee are just as good at breaking down the muscle fibres in the meat while at the same time enhancing the flavour. On that note, have you ever tried pickling aubergine in coffee and olive oil? Back to meat, if you rub fresh coffee grounds into it, you’ll get a dark, crispy crust when you grill it. For a less intense flavour, rebrew your old coffee grounds and marinade the meat in the watered-down coffee for 24 hours before cooking.