TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
Location: US

Coffee Grounds

Went in to pick up my coffee grounds from Starbucks today and a different woman handed them over. She said some decaffeinated grounds got in there by accident as they had a new employee and that she was really sorry about that. I told her not a problem.

Left with my bag of grounds and while driving off started wondering why she would have apologized for mixing in the decaffeinated coffee grounds into the regular coffee grounds. What types of chemicals are used in the decaffeination process? I always assumed carbon was being used and now I'm not so sure with the way she apologized.

Also too, while poking around to find the answer... which I couldn't find... I ran across this which makes a lot of sense-
https://www.peacecoffee.com/pcfg/drcoffee.html
excerpt-
Coffee grounds are a very good addition to your composting efforts. They are considered a "green" or nitrogen source with a C/N ratio about 20:1. While it is widely thought that they are acidic, it has been shown that most of their acidity is removed in the brewing process. Used grounds are essentially neutral and composting them with other materials will buffer any minor residual acidity. As a rule of thumb, the amount of grounds you would want to add to a compost pile is dependent on how many you may have available to you. If you were just using the amount that an average household might generate you should have no concerns. But some of you may have access to larger volumes and in that case you should limit the percentage to no more than 25% of the volume of the pile.
Anyone know what the pH of coffee grounds is?

editing to add the Starbucks site-
https://www.starbucks.com/aboutus/compost.asp
Applying coffee grounds directly in the garden Coffee grounds can be applied along with other materials as a side dressing for vegetables, roses, and other plants. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, but are also acidic. Adding brown material such as leaves and dried grass to the mulch will help keep a balanced soil pH.

doccat5
Green Thumb
Posts: 399
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:48 am
Location: VA

They are slightly acidic and not to worry about decaff, it doesn't matter. The worms don't care! LOL
doccat5

I'd rather be gardening!

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
Location: US

Hey, I was given a used coffee grounds label this morning. Evidently larger volume Starbucks stores are experiencing such a demand for their coffee grounds that they don't just hand over a 15# bag to just one person in favor of splitting the grounds up into 3# and 5# bags so they can be spread out amongst more gardeners. Makes sense for a larger volume store as they can spread more good will. The Starbucks I've been going to only has a few gardeners coming in regularly to ask for their grounds so they don't bother packaging it in favor of just handing over a whole tall kitchen garbage bag to which ever one of us gets there first. Starbucks corporate provides locations with sticky labels that have basic info about the coffee they use as well as basic composting direction. I guess it's up to the individual location manager whether or not to use them or not. The location I go to doesn't use them but when I asked why no decaffeinated grounds should go in a composter this morning as well as what the pH of their coffee grounds was, I was given a label to take home.

Here's what the label says-
Used Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are a nutritional additive for your soil. During the brewing process most of the acidity is removed, leaving used grounds with an average oH of 6.9 and a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 20-1.

Directions:

Add grounds directly to your garden...

Apply this "green" material as a side dressing of nitrogen loving plants, including most perennials and Allium plants. Balance the nutrition of your soil with "brown" materials such as leaves and dried grass.

Or to your compost...

Combine with "brown" materials in your compost pile. Use grounds within 2-3 weeks of brewing to capture the most nutritional value.
This is just for Starbucks coffees. Regarding the decaffeination process, the manager claimed that they were using chemicals that they didn't believe should be added to a composter in their process for all but one of their special blends. He could not name the chemicals but stated it is their hope to continue eliminating chemicals from the decaffeination process of all of their coffees in favor of natural decaffeination in the near future.

Being the curious person I am and being that we use Folgers and Maxwell House over here depending on which one is on sale, I contacted both of them because I want grounds that are acidic for some of my acid lovers. This is the content of my e-mail to Folgers-
I use coffee grounds in my composter but I also use them directly in garden beds. What is the average pH of Folgers' used coffee grounds?

Next question- other than your one brand of coffee 'Simply Smooth' which states no chemicals are used processing this coffee... what chemicals are used in the decaffeination process of your other brands?

Thanks much,
A gardener
The reference number for my question is '080501-001228'.

Then I contacted Maxwell House-
800.432.6333

When I asked what chemicals were used in the decaffeination process, the gal read from a script which claimed no harsh chemicals were used. I asked her to define harsh. She couldn't do that. I asked her to provide me with the names of the not-harsh chemicals they were using, she couldn't do that.

Average pH of their Medium Dark coffee grounds is stated as being acidic not slightly acidic.

Here's my e-mail to Kraft Foods-
I use coffee grounds in my composter but I also use them directly in garden beds. What is the average pH of Maxwell House's coffee grounds as in after they have been brewed?
These are the brands we use at home-
Columbian Supreme
French Roast
sometimes Slow Roast

I'm sort of hoping used coffee grounds are slightly acidic as I have some plants that are acid lovers. The gal from customer service stated the coffee had a pH of 4.0 which I have difficulty believing but would be thoroughly ecstatic were it true. Remember, I am inquiring about the average pH of coffee grounds not the actual cup of coffee.

Next question- when I contacted your customer service department regarding what chemicals are used decaffeinating your coffee, I was told that no harsh chemicals were used in the process. I then asked her to provide me with the names of the non-harsh chemicals used in the decaffeination process and she was not able to do so. Please provide me with the actual chemicals being used in your decaffeination process.

I'm just trying to determine whether or not I can use coffee grounds from decaffeinated coffee in my composter.

Thanks so much,
A gardener
Bottom line, I think I'm going to toss coffee that hasn't been brewed around the bases of some of my plants! 4.0, which I suspect would be a similar pH for Folgers coffee in the cup, works for me because the longer it sits around in a cup... the lower the pH! Would probably be a nice slow release acid for around the base of at least some of my plants.

So now I know more about coffee grounds than I ever wanted or needed to know and that's without receiving replies to my inquiries. I think I'll just toss the decaffeinated coffee grounds in my wormless composter along with the other coffee grounds per doccat.

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7500
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 7:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Thank you so much for pursuing these questions! Please *do* post any responses you receive.

And I am particularly happy to see that it's possible to try for a max. of 25% coffee grounds in compost. Wow!

I'll not be so reticent to visit the local independent coffee/tea shop in future.

Cynthia H.
El Cerrito, CA

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
Location: US

I pursued it and am still attempting to get answers however it isn't easy. Here is the correspondence from Kraft and my reply. Still waiting for an answer but won't hold my breath-
Hello,

It would appear some sort of an artificial intelligence program is replying to me and picking up certain words.

It would be real nice if a human being got back to me about the average pH of coffee grounds given they don't sit around waiting to be drunk in a coffee cup. I'm asking about the average pH of spent coffee grounds not a cup of brewed coffee. Also too, I am well aware that pure water is used in the decaffeination process as am I also aware that carbon dioxide is used in the decaffeination process... what I want to know is what else is used in Kraft's decaffeination process as I don't know that I am all that comfortable with how Kraft might be using the word "harsh". If I am provided with the other chemicals used in the decaffeination process, I'll be in a better position to do my own research. For your convenience, I have included a copy of my original correspondence to Kraft. Would someone please take a moment to answer the questions I asked.

Thanks.

Here is a copy of my inquiry-

I use coffee grounds in my composter but I also use them directly in garden beds. What is the average pH of Maxwell House's coffee grounds as in after they have been brewed?
These are the brands we use at home-
Columbian Supreme
French Roast
sometimes Slow Roast

I'm sort of hoping used coffee grounds are slightly acidic as I have some plants that are acid lovers. The gal from customer service stated the coffee had a pH of 4.0 which I have difficulty believing but would be thoroughly ecstatic were it true. Remember, I am inquiring about the average pH of coffee grounds not the actual cup of coffee.

Next question- when I contacted your customer service department regarding what chemicals are used decaffeinating your coffee, I was told that no harsh chemicals were used in the process. I then asked her to provide me with the names of the non-harsh chemicals used in the decaffeination process and she was not able to do so. Please provide me with the actual chemicals being used in your decaffeination process as well as Kraft's definition of harsh.

I'm just trying to determine whether or not I can use coffee grounds from decaffeinated coffee in my composter.

Thanks so much,
A gardener

-------Original Message-------

From: Kraft - Online Team2
Date: 5/2/2008 2:48:48 PM
To: xxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Your Comment/Question

Hi A gardener,

Thank you for visiting https://www.kraftfoods.com/.

It is very hard to provide specific amounts of acid in coffee, as they tend to increase while the coffee stands, the level can also change with the blend of beans and brewing process and can be affected by acidity of water used in preparation.

Furthermore, pure water is utilized to prepare the beans and draw out the caffeine. The beans are exposed to carbon dioxide (a naturally occurring gas that is present in the air). This procedure gently draws the caffeine out of the beans, preserving the delicate coffee flavor.

If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Sometimes, it's not what is stated but what isn't stated. Don't think I'll be using any decaffeinated coffee grounds in any raised vegetable beds I may have in the future.

User avatar
JennyC
Green Thumb
Posts: 310
Joined: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 pm
Location: NW Georgia

Dregs of brewed coffee seem to work wonders with some plants, too. We had a big ficus in the foyer at one school, and the director would inevitably set his (Starbucks) coffee down somewhere and let it get copd as the kids started arriving. He dumped the remains in the ficus on a daily basis, and it was really thriving!
Jenny C

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28229
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I scored some coffee grounds from SB!

So I stopped by a local SB and asked about getting coffee grounds. :D
The nice young man went to the back to check "if we have some" then came back and looked under the counter, and apologetically said "we only have a little bit but if you come back tomorrow morning, we'll have more"
I asked him how much is "a little bit" and he said "not even 1/2 a trashbagfull"
I said I'll take whatever he had, that compared to my 1 filter-full at home, "every little bit helps" and he came out with a double-bagged white tall kitchen trashbag. :shock: It was SO HEAVY I could barely carry it out to the car. :roll: Needless to say, next time I go, I'll take a wagon or a garden cart. 8)

Obviously, this is a SB store as yet untapped by other gardening enthusiasts. I don't think I'll be expecting the sophistication of individual portions carefully labeled or separated into caffeinated vs. decaf. For the time being, I'll choose not to worry about the decaf issue :wink:

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
Location: US

Obviously, this is a SB store as yet untapped by other gardening enthusiasts.
Shhhh, don't divulge your source... treat it like a morel mushroom patch deep in the woods!

With a double bagged tall kitchen trash bag, bet you felt like it was Christmas in May! I was shocked when I saw how much Starbucks handed over to me too. I bet I was passed about 1/3 of a tall kitchen garbage bag. Not as much as you but sure did make me happier than a pig in slop. I pick up about that much almost every other morning now which is nice.

None of those places ever got back to me. I'm picking up my free coffee grounds from Starbucks mostly and they separate the fully leaded from the decaf so as long as they're doing to the work for me, I'll go fully leaded.

doccat5
Green Thumb
Posts: 399
Joined: Thu Apr 03, 2008 10:48 am
Location: VA

I doubt very much there's enough decaf in the mix to make a critical difference in the safe use of your compost.

It would take tractor trailer loads of the stuff to have any affect on your pH. Changing pH takes time even if you use some of the really "heavy hitters" to adjust it. Changing the colors of hydrangeas comes to mind.
doccat5

I'd rather be gardening!

User avatar
JennyC
Green Thumb
Posts: 310
Joined: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 pm
Location: NW Georgia

You guys are making me wish I lived near a Starbuck's! Though at the moment I need browns most of all. And to get my bin built!

Hee hee -- husband's off for the summer as of today and itching to do things outside -- well, after he gets up, that is. Today he gets to sleep in as long as he wants! But he actually asked for a "honey do" list for when he's bored or can't figure out what he wants to do!
Jenny C

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7500
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 7:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

It doesn't have to be a Starbucks. I regularly drop in at an independent coffee place near here and ask for their grounds. Evidently, there is someone else who does, too; often they tell me they're out of grounds. It saves them $$$ on garbage disposal, so they have a definite motivation to separate out the grounds and give them to gardeners.

Hmmm...think I'll look at more coffee shops!

I also tend not to use Starbucks b/c of their business practices when they moved in on the Bay Area. :evil: They signed, then voided a contract with a friend of mine AFTER she had made changes to her business to accommodate them. Very $$$ for her.

But if I can get coffee grounds for FREE without giving Starbucks any of my $$$, I'll definitely do it.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

User avatar
JennyC
Green Thumb
Posts: 310
Joined: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 pm
Location: NW Georgia

Sorry, cynthia_h. Should have said it almost makes me wish I lived near a coffeeshop. (I don't. But I do have a practically inexhaustible supply of manure!) :)
Jenny C

cynthia_h
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7500
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 7:02 pm
Location: El Cerrito, CA

Where are you in North Georgia? I lived in Atlanta for seven years while I was working (and working...) my way through college.

There's bound to be a restaurant nearby. Cultivate (:wink:) a relationship with them. They may do bulk-brewing of coffee, whether in a Mr. Coffee or something similar, or even :!: an espresso maching, so they'll generate more grounds in a day/three days/whatever period of time than you could.

Offer to give them a bucket (with lid) to put the grounds (and any tea bags) in. You will come every X days and give them a clean bucket. This system requires that you have two buckets with lids, but it may be worth it!

Good luck. I liked living in Atlanta...

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

User avatar
JennyC
Green Thumb
Posts: 310
Joined: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 pm
Location: NW Georgia

Hi, Cynthia. That's a good idea with the restaurants. I'll give it a try, maybe with someplace that does a good business at breakfast.

We did recently escape from Atlanta (Roswell most recently). Now we're in the northwest corner of the state, rural. I don't have any particular problem with Atlanta in and of itself. I enjoyed it for a while, in fact -- when I lived in the city, not in the suburbs. I'd just reached a point in my life where I was done with living in cities, or anything resembling them.
Jenny C

wolfie
Senior Member
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:45 pm
Location: Chester, VA

If you don't live near a coffee shop, how about a donut shop? They prolly have/make loads of coffee, perhaps a convenience store might also have grounds you can use?
Shan -
Who is learning to garden and loving every minute of it!

TheLorax
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1416
Joined: Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:40 pm
Location: US

Hey wolfie, The convenience store is a good idea. The problem I ran into was that they were tossing the coffee grounds out with their regular garbage and told me I was welcome to pick through their garbage before they tossed it. Ewwww yuck.

User avatar
JennyC
Green Thumb
Posts: 310
Joined: Thu May 15, 2008 2:25 pm
Location: NW Georgia

Ew. Man, that's foul.

But asking at the convenience store is a good idea.
Jenny C

ljcoolj
Full Member
Posts: 38
Joined: Tue Mar 24, 2009 10:45 am
Location: Cincinnati, OH

My work place has plenty of coffee grounds every day, as well as the coffee/smoothie counter at the local YMCA.

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:04 am
Location: Ohio

lj,
I used very little UCG until last fall. I have added nearly a ton,
yes 2,000 lbs. Don't know exactly, I didn't weigh them. But added 5-20 gallons a week for 3-4 months and Still adding them, but not as often or as much. Mine are raised and semi-raised beds. Likely and inch to two incehs over the whole thing, all mixed in in different amount over time.
I have never had worms in the garden like this year, it is amazing and the main difference this year is the UCG.

Soon, I'll be starting to get more grounds again. I will be adding them to the compost pile, maybe I won't have to go back to Parky's Farm for manure. The grounds seem to work just as well as manure.

User avatar
Diane
Green Thumb
Posts: 511
Joined: Tue Jun 30, 2009 4:38 am
Location: Mass

doccat5 wrote:I doubt very much there's enough decaf in the mix to make a critical difference in the safe use of your compost.

It would take tractor trailer loads of the stuff to have any affect on your pH. Changing pH takes time even if you use some of the really "heavy hitters" to adjust it. Changing the colors of hydrangeas comes to mind.
It works. I used coffee grounds on my hydrangeas and they turned from a light purple/pink back to a darker purple. I did nothing else at that time to change the color.
I use mostly Folgers coffee.
Gardens are a little bit of heaven on earth.

https://s600.photobucket.com/albums/tt87 ... G00047.jpg

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:04 am
Location: Ohio

Last winter was an experiment, how much coffee grounds are too much.
I put UCG directly into the garden...
Incorporating a half to one inch into the top 8 inches did not have a noticable affect.
But, other places in the garden had 2-3 inches and that brought growth to a halt. Didn't seem to kill plants, but prevented growth.
I had put way too much into the garden.
Those places were dug out and added to the compost pile for future use.
Supplementing the areas with excessive UCG with other compost and top soil helped bring the growth back.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Thanks for doing the experiment for us 2cents! :) Now we all know there is such a thing as too much coffee grounds!

I've never put any directly into the ground, just in my compost pile. For awhile I was bringing a bucket to work, and asking the people that made the coffee to put the grounds in the bucket, then bringing it home. I got tired of lugging the buckets back and forth and haven't done it for awhile, but maybe I will again in the spring to help wake the compost pile back up.

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:04 am
Location: Ohio

How to get free Used Coffee Grounds:

The local Starbucks, I started to stop and ask for grounds.

One SB sets the grounds out the back door in trash bags. There has to be several people interested, I've watched others picking them up.
They set them out 3 times a day, late morning(10:00ish), early afternoon(2:00ish), evening (7:00ish).

Another SB has a large metal bucket beside the front door. They place UCG in reused/refilled coffee bean bag with a large sticker to keep them closed. There seems to be no regular schedule to the bagging of UCG.

A local circle K gas station is happy to provide UCG, they have no one else picking them up, the ladies there appreciate the free tomatoes.

I started around November last year very few at first. By January I was picking up 10-20 gallons a week and some weeks even more. I stopped around May, because it was planting time.

I plan on starting up getting more soon. If I don't use them, a couple of my friends appreciate all I bring them.

opabinia51
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

I used to get my coffee grounds both from the University Cafeteria, and coffee shops as well as from an organic coffee shop in town that roasts it's own beans.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

I have a Starbucks by me that offers grounds but I haven't gone yet. It's 15 min away, one of these day's (my truck is a gas hog).

But every morning I throw yesterday's coffee and filter out my back door into my garden. I have gotten pretty good at either hitting the garden in general or hitting the compost pile. :) I used to put them in a container with all my other compostables now I just give them a toss in the morning.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

So your garden is littered with coffee filters?

I know they will break down after awhile, they do in my compost pile. But awhile is long enough that you will have several weeks worth of filters lying around.

Won't hurt anything, but it's not my garden esthetic... To each his own!

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 28229
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 7:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

:lol: I have a sort of a reverse situation going on :lol:

I used to chuck apple and pear cores and even melon rinds and seeds out the back door for the squirrels. (The words "Apple Core! Who's your friend?" ringing in my head... :oops: ) Leftover toast used to be frisbeed out there, too. If my aim was good and the arm strong enough, I could get them into the shrubbery near the back fence, otherwise they fell somewhere in the lawn. :roll:

HOWEVER, since the groundHOG has been persistently coming into the garden, I stopped throwing these temptations out into the open and now SQUIRREL them away DEEP inside the compost pile. :wink:

User avatar
gixxerific
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 5889
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:42 pm
Location: Wentzville, MO (Just West oF St. Louis) Zone 5B

rainbowgardener wrote:So your garden is littered with coffee filters?

I know they will break down after awhile, they do in my compost pile. But awhile is long enough that you will have several weeks worth of filters lying around.

Won't hurt anything, but it's not my garden esthetic... To each his own!
Easy now. I pick up the filters after I get home from work. It' too dark and I'm in a hurry in the morning. They do go in my compost.



Return to “Permaculture Forum”