grounds for change
February 4, 2010 7:27 AM   Subscribe

French-press coffee drinkers, what do you do with your spent grounds?

For 15 years I've just flushed them down the in-sink disposal (we're in a townhouse with too small a yard for a garden or a composter), but recently I've been scared off the disposal-route by frightening talk of the potential for clogged lines and broken appliances (all's well to-date, however). Dumping them in the kitchen trash is so messy. Seeking your clever alternatives...
posted by RockyChrysler to Home & Garden (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just put them in the rubbish bin in the kitchen; I don't really find it that messy, personally.
posted by different at 7:29 AM on February 4, 2010

Best answer: I pour them out into a strainer and then bang that off into the kitchen trash. No particular mess. I'd compost them if I didn't live in an apartment.
posted by ghharr at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2010

Best answer: If they're messy, just do what we do with kitchen grease: have a dedicated container, like one of those larger things of yogurt, and put them in there. Then, when the container is full, put a lid on and throw that away. If you don't want to smell it all the time, put it in the freezer.

I feel like Heloise!
posted by Madamina at 7:32 AM on February 4, 2010

I know that some of my coworkers fight over the spent grounds here at work. If I particularly cared about them, I'd probably save them up in a bag in the fridge and then bring them in once a month.
posted by muddgirl at 7:33 AM on February 4, 2010

then cast away your blasphemous french press and swith to TEA!

....Erm, I use my French Press for tea as well.

I've always just poured my grounds down the drain and never had problems. But I've also once in a blue moon used coffee grounds as fertilizer for house plants -- they're good for a shot of nitrogen into the soil, which is good in the spring when most plants are gearing up to produce new growth and need the extra nitrogen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on February 4, 2010

Best answer: I have a strainer in my sink. Coffee grounds go straight into the sink and the liquid swirls away. Then, depending on how organized I am on any given morning, I pick up the strainer and the grounds either go into the compost or into the trash. In the summer I dump the whole pot of leftover coffee and grounds onto the roses by the front door because my grandmother told my mother that roses love coffee. My roses are kind of miserable looking despite their highly caffeinated diet, so ymmv.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've heard the coffee grounds are good for composting, if that's your thing.
posted by elder18 at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2010

Oh and by strainer I mean one of these. I swear by these things.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:41 AM on February 4, 2010

Before I had a composter, I crumbled and rinsed everything away in my kitchen sink, moka-pot leftovers, French Press leftovers, etc. (no tea, obviously). Never had a problem, done it for decades. They say it takes away sinky smells, but I still have to see that happen.

Unless you have a lot of hairy stuff going into that same sink, of course: if something else is already half clogging the drains, coffee will rapidly turn things worse. Then again, un-clogging a properly installed sink is not really hard.

They say that the little composty beasties like this stuff really well, so one could also spread it under tiny-yard plants and let it lie; should vanish soon, and the plants get a bit of the taste of the world.
posted by Namlit at 7:47 AM on February 4, 2010

I add a little bit of water, swirl around, dump into work kitchen trash can. The remaining grounds go into the garbage disposal'ed work kitchen sink.

At home, they go in the compost bin or the trash, depending on how backed up the comcost bin is.
posted by teragram at 7:48 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I compost them outdoors. (They may be a bit on the acidic side for an indoor worm composter, however.)
posted by Kurichina at 7:51 AM on February 4, 2010

If you've been doing it for 15 years and have not had a a problem, then your experience trumps all "frightening talk."

I've been putting coffee grounds in the disposal for 20 years now. With filters.

It makes my husband crazy that I put the filters down. But they grind up, so what's the problem?
posted by SLC Mom at 7:51 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I use an Aeropress (kind of similar). I just throw my grinds away, although if you haven't had a problem in 15 years of putting them down the drain, it may not be an issue. I once tried making an exfoliant from them, and it was okay, but I'm not the daintiest guy, so I don't usually bother with it.

I think it's 1 part (ideally rough) grinds to 1 part moisturizer. It'll probably also give you a bit of caffeine through your skin, too.

If I were concerned about the grinds and their impact on the environment (truthfully, I probably should be), I'd use them for composting, or I've heard you can even just mix them straight with soil. For a while, Starbucks was giving away sacks of used grinds for gardeners and composters to use.

Also, any incantation needs a mention of the most gifted of the cheap supermarket roasters, Bustello.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:51 AM on February 4, 2010

PS: In case you weren't aware of it, the Aeropress makes a nice, compact puck that is easy to shoot into an open trash can. Here's a video of it.

Just a thought if you felt like buying a new press.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2010

We feed them to the worms.
posted by cabingirl at 7:58 AM on February 4, 2010

If you have a fireplace, they burn quite well, once dry of course. There's a company that makes logs out of coffee grounds.
posted by musofire at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2010

Years and years of them going down the disposal without a single issue. I find straining and garbage dumping to be too messy.
posted by bluejayway at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2010

Huh, the log bit is pretty neat. I just throw 'em down the in-sink-erator.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:25 AM on February 4, 2010

We throw the grounds into the outdoor planters. Shoot, our lavender plant is now growing in equal parts soil and coffee grounds and it's doing great. We've got five different plants we throw em on. Given that we go through a pot or two a day in our French press, we have a lot of grounds.
posted by azpenguin at 8:26 AM on February 4, 2010

Dumping them down the drain is mainly a problem if you are also putting stuff like bacon grease down there; the two elements can make a pretty fine cement, I hear. Other than that, the stuff washes out and is caught in the water treatment plant (assuming you have one), so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

If you're really worried about clogging stuff, you could always flush them down the toilet.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:30 AM on February 4, 2010

Mine go down the disposal. I mean, they are grounds; they're tiny. Out of all the shite I shove down that thing, the coffee grounds make me wonder the least.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:56 AM on February 4, 2010

Depending on realtive dryness of the grounds (and then how easily they slide out of the coffee pot) ours either go straight into the compost bin or I add a little bit of water, swish it around and then pour the whole thing into a coffee funnel with a reusable filter on it. The grounds left in the reusable filter eventually dry out and get added to the compost. It's a bit of a production, to tell you the truth. Occasionally I just dump it all down the drain.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:57 AM on February 4, 2010

We have composters at home and at the office. Weekly, DH brings home about 3 gallons of coffee grounds from his office and tosses it into the compost with our kitchen scraps.
posted by onhazier at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2010

Call the water/sewer company and ask. Grease is really bad for drains, I dunno about coffee grounds. French presses are hard to clean out neatly, the grounds turn to sludge in the bottom, and don't tip out easily, though a silicon scraper would probably do the trick. I have a septic tank, so no grounds down the drain at my house.
posted by theora55 at 10:08 AM on February 4, 2010

FYI on the logs - if you have pets, be careful.
posted by Leezie at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2010

I compost mine, but here's the trick: I don't have a compost pile. Some neighbors do and are more than happy to receive contributions. If you're in an area with a townhouse, maybe it's unlikely that you'll have people with composting in their backyard, but ask on craigslist (that's how I did it) in the garden, or free, section to offer up what you have.

I imagine that what you're generating at home with your press isn't a lot but it's a nice feeling to do something good for the planet and certainly a lot better than letting it build up in your trash can.
posted by knile at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2010

I compost.

Also, grounds make a great mulch and repel slugs and snails. So if you DO want to say, put a little herb garden in or something, you can just dump your grounds on the, errr, ground.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:17 AM on February 4, 2010

Best answer: You can mix coffee grounds with shower gel for a delightful exfoliating body scrub! Other ideas from here: use like baking soda to deodorize your fridge, repair scratches on dark wood furniture, or as meat tenderizer.
posted by *s at 11:18 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Down the kitchen's sink.

Nature's Drano(tm) ...
posted by CitoyenK at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2010

Thinking of it, when I recently cleaned out part of the attic I found some containers of stuff that I had assembled for my model train landscape in the mid-eighties, all neatly sieved and sorted to varying grits: various colors of tropical sawdust from my dad's workshop and, yes, dried used coffee grounds. If dried well before storing, they apparently keep for 27 years. At a normal coffee drinker's rate, you'll need quite a large layout to make any real use of this, though. Some accumulating coal mine theme, perhaps.
posted by Namlit at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2010

Years ago, I read somewhere that dumping them down the drain is actually good, because they pick up other debris (lots of surface area?) and help keep the sink from getting clogged. So that's what I've done ever since. Who knows if it really works, but my sink never gets clogged, so...
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:08 PM on February 4, 2010

I put them in the worm bin, or if the worms have too much to eat already, in the trash. Sometimes I dry them out and mix them with epoxy to fill in gaps and holes in woodturning projects.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2010

I bought mine in Florence at a specialty store and the man who sold it to me made a point of mentioning that I must never knock the [thing that holds the grounds] against the garbage can or side of the sink to get out the grounds. That will damage it. Instead, you should blow through the nozzle; they'll fall right out.

That detail aside: I blow the grounds into the sink, then wash out the remaining grounds. No drainage problems in the past few years as a result of doing this regularly.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 2:47 PM on February 4, 2010

I just got a French press and was debating over the proper/cleanest method myself -- I have settled on spooning out the bulk of the grounds into the bin (sometimes they clump at the bottom of the press, you know) and then rinsing out the remainders in the sink, letting the disposal take care of the little that's left.
posted by fantine at 5:31 PM on February 4, 2010

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