Is It Okay to Use Old Coffee Grounds

used coffee grounds

If you do not like to take trips to a coffee store and aren’t fond of grinding your coffee beans daily, you might be interested in getting your coffee grounds in bulk. Bulk-bought grounds grow old. All coffee grounds do, and perhaps you’ve rediscovered an old bag in your kitchen. Either way, we have the answer to the question you have in mind.

It is okay to use old coffee grounds if you drink coffee for its caffeine more than taste. But if you want to serve coffee to friends or drink it for its taste, then old coffee grounds will disappoint you as they taste noticeably stale and can even lead to social embarrassment.

In this article, you’ll learn the pros and cons of using old coffee grounds. If you want to know about old grounds’ usability because you like to buy coffee in bulk, then the section about best ways to preserve coffee’s freshness will be of interest to you as well. Finally, you’ll discover what you can do with coffee grounds that you do not plan on consuming.

Pros of Using Old Coffee Grounds

Using old coffee grounds might not be something you would boast about. Still, one of the perks of brewing coffee at home is that you don’t have outsiders judging you. Moreover, judgment for using old coffee grounds isn’t even fair because coffee doesn’t lose its essence with its freshness. Here are the advantages of using old coffee grounds

Zero Waste

Coffee cultivation puts strain on the water resources of the agricultural region where it is grown. It also requires human resources and supply chain assets to be brought to your home. To throw away a bag of coffee grounds because a week has gone by isn’t an eco-friendly choice. In contrast, stomaching the downgrade in taste and consuming old coffee grounds leads to zero waste.

Pocket-Friendly 

Gone are the days when instant coffee used to be a college student’s friend. With the recent boom in the coffee market, hundreds of affordable coffee bean brands have popped up alongside an equally high number of affordable coffee machines. 

However, the fact that you have a coffee machine doesn’t mean you have the monthly budget to afford to use half your ground stash before purchasing a new bag. Even though it might not taste great, an old coffee can be practically free compared to buying new coffee grounds.

Cons of Using Old Coffee Grounds

The drawbacks of consuming old coffee, for the most part, are variations of a single drawback: it tastes bad. Still, it is worth knowing the different angles from which you might be inconvenienced confining yourself to that old bag instead of getting a fresh batch. Here are the key disadvantages to keep in mind.

It Tastes Bad

When you drink old coffee, you can taste the staleness. That said, if you consume sugar-pumped coffee beverages, you might get away with using old coffee grounds and not even feel a difference. But you might not be able to get past the stale taste if you consume any of the following types of coffee: Americano, Long Black, Macchiato, and Espresso.

Can Be Embarrassing on Social Occasions 

Disregard this drawback if you don’t have people over at your place often. If you expect people, though, then you should know that not having freshly ground coffee if you have a coffee machine is considered a social sin among coffee connoisseurs, and you might be judged quite harshly for not having coffee or having old coffee. 

Can Interfere With Your Buzz 

Yes, coffee doesn’t lose all its potency just because it is old. However, its effectiveness decreases with environmental exposure. The longer coffee grounds sit interacting with air and humidity, the more caffeine they lose. More importantly, your daily buzz is associated with a combined physiological signature: the smell and taste of coffee alert your brain. But if the taste is inconsistent and you have coffee made from old grounds, you might not get the same kick.

How to Make Old Coffee Taste Better

One of the key drawbacks of having coffee that is made from old grounds is that it tastes bad. If you can stomach it and not even notice the difference, you don’t even need to keep track of how old the coffee is. In most cases, though, you will pick up on this difference. Furthermore, you will actually see the difference as a downgrade in taste.

To make old coffee taste better, you must add a pinch of salt to a batch of coffee grounds. The salt will make your coffee taste less bitter and will neutralize the stale taste to a significant degree. You can also use old coffee to make frappes and coffee cakes, as these do not rely on the actual grounds for the majority of their taste profile.

Still, the fact that old coffee grounds can be used to make coffee doesn’t mean that you have the license to consume stale coffee. As mentioned earlier, there are certain health risks associated with consuming old coffee, especially if the grounds have been exposed to the environment long enough.

When Do Coffee Grounds Become Stale?

Coffee grounds become stale after 2 weeks of opening. They can still be consumed if you’re sure they aren’t in an environment where they can grow mold. It takes about a week of consistent humidity and warmth for coffee grounds to have traces of mold. The longer they sit exposed to humid air, the more mold growth occurs. It is crucial to differentiate between stale coffee that tastes bad and stale coffee that’s dangerous to consume.

For clarity, let’s use “old coffee” for bad tasting stale coffee and “stale coffee” for grounds that have mold and bacteria because of poor environment and extended exposure. It will take your coffee grounds two weeks in any condition to become old and the same period in a humid and warm environment to go stale.

If you’ve kept your coffee grounds in an opaque container and a cool place while ensuring minimal exposure to air, then you might be able to consume coffee made from said grounds for a whole month. Obviously, it will not taste as good as the first few days, but you’ll not have to worry about mold and bacteria.

There’s little price difference between purchasing grounds in bulk and getting a smaller batch ground at a local coffee shop. Usually, people who stockpile large amounts of coffee do so because of a lack of access. With online shopping, you can not only order coffee grounds like Cafe Du Monde Coffee Chicory off of Amazon, but you can also schedule purchases, so you keep receiving fresh batches of coffee at your doorstep.

In case you live in an area Amazon considers remote and ships slowly to, you might want to stick to your bulk purchasing strategy. If you do so, it would be wise to get opaque containers and freeze your coffee grounds in them, so they remain relatively stable and inert to an extent. This can extend the longevity of your coffee grounds.

Best Practices to Preserve Coffee Ground Freshness

If you find the idea of freezing coffee grounds valuable, then you’ll enjoy this section as it goes over the various ways you can preserve the freshness of your coffee. Consequently, you’ll not only have coffee that’s free of mold and microbes, but you’ll also have access to coffee that tastes fresh.

Have Your Containers Packed to the Brim

Instead of getting a single container that houses the entire bulk batch of coffee grounds, get smaller containers like Ball Regular Mouth Mason Jars that you can stuff to the brim. Doing this will preserve the grounds in all canisters except the one you’re using. That’s because the stuffed units will have grounds that aren’t interacting with as much air as the opened container. 

To make sure that the coffee from the canister currently in use tastes fresh, remove the first layer of grounds by lightly brushing a teaspoon across the first layer and dumping the grounds. Even within a few hours of air exposure, the top layer of coffee grounds starts losing its freshness.

Store in Three Different Tiers of Coolness

If you purchase coffee grounds in bulk, you use them across a long enough period to warrant different storing directions for different containers. Ideally, you would need just the first one, which can maintain freshness for one week: keeping coffee grounds in an opaque container, in the shade, in an airconditioned or a naturally cool room.

But any grounds that will be used past one week should be kept in an even cooler environment. That’s why the second canister must be filled to the brim and kept in the refrigerator. This can improve your coffee’s longevity to an extent. You can keep the grounds you plan to use in the second or third week in this condition.

For grounds you wish to use for subsequent weeks (week three onwards), you should use your freezer. Place all the canisters, except the most recent three, in a freezer and make sure they remain unopened. When you’re done with the first canister and have moved the second one from the fridge to your kitchen counter, take a canister from the freezer and put it in the fridge. So the containers must move from the freezer to the fridge a week before use.

Use Opaque Containers

This was casually mentioned in the previous instructions but is explained here: light often speeds up chemical reactions. And in the case of coffee, the reactions encouraged by light make the grounds lose their essence and flavor alongside caffeine content. So, try to keep your coffee grounds out of the light as long as possible. 

One of the best ways to do this is to use an opaque container. Using glass jars used to be trendy because such containers were popular in coffee shops. However, a coffee shop runs out of its glass-housed coffee beans within a day. Some people believe that glass storage adds to their coffee’s taste. If that’s the case, using a glass jar that’s covered with wood can be the ideal middle-ground between opaque storage and glass housing.

Best Ways to Use Old Coffee Grounds

While you can extend your coffee grounds’ lifespan with refrigeration, you don’t need to put up with old-tasting coffee in order to make use of old grounds. Here are a few ways in which you can use old coffee without having to taste it.

  • Use coffee grounds as fertilizer – coffee grounds are rich in calcium, potassium, iron, nitrogen, phosphorus, and chromium. They can also help reduce heavy metal interaction with soil, which otherwise contaminates the plant bed. Sprinkling coffee grounds sparingly over the soil can help fertilize it.
     
  • Make insect repellent out of old coffee grounds – Caffeine is toxic to insects, and sprinkling coffee grounds around your home’s seating areas and even around your houseplants can be useful. Insects do not like to be in coffee grounds’ vicinity, which can keep your living space free of pests.
     
  • Use coffee grounds as a flea-remover – If your cat or dog has fleas, using old coffee grounds to massage your pet might be a great idea. Since insects can’t tolerate caffeine exposure, they definitely won’t like being massaged with coffee grounds. This is a handy way to make the fleas flee.
     
  • Make an antibacterial skin scrub out of old coffee grounds – Coffee grounds have antibacterial properties even when they do not taste good. So if your coffee grounds have gotten old but have been in a contaminant-free environment, you might want to use them as a natural scrub the next time you shower.

Final Thoughts

Using old coffee grounds isn’t a novel concept. Many coffee drinkers, save for the connoisseurs, can’t even tell the difference between day-old grounds and week-old ones. It is therefore okay to drink coffee made from grounds as long as the taste sits right with you. And if you purchase your coffee in bulk, then delaying the grinding process or freezing the unused batch can help extend the grounds’ lifespan.

Tim S.

Tim loves roasting, brewing, and experimenting with coffee. After years of perfecting this craft, working as a barista, and owning a small coffee service in college, he has decided to share his knowledge with the world.

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