Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Caffeinate Your Compost

There's nothing like that first cup of morning coffee to us caffeine addicted souls.  When I was recently deprived of my daily jolt of joe to perform some routine medical testing, I realized how much I look forward to that steamy, nectar of the Gods.  I guess you could say I like coffee.  

After sleep walking my way through some fasting lab work, I couldn't get to the nearest coffee shop fast enough.  Ummmm... Hot, Ummmm... Creamy, Ummmm... Sweet.  Now, I can move forward with my day.  

I somehow imagine my garden microbes under go the same transformation when I feed them coffee grounds.  Can you hear them?  "Ummm... Nitrogen, Ummm... Phosphorus, Ummmm... Potassium.  That slightly acidic PH really excites us, and those micronutrients are so yummy."   

Do you feed coffee grounds to your plants?  Do you compost them?  If you're a gardener and you're not taking advantage of everything coffee grounds have to offer, you're missing out.

So, you say you don't have a good source for spent coffee grounds?  Maybe you drink your coffee at the office, or you hit up your local coffee shop.  Aha, there it is, the local coffee shop.  Think of all the coffee grounds they produce.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to have some of those coffee grounds to use in the garden?

Have I got a deal for you!  

I've recently become involved in a program that strives to keep nutrient rich coffee grounds out of the landfill and puts them into the hands of gardeners.  The program is called Ground to Ground.  The idea of the program is to create a network of businesses who are willing to save their coffee grounds and allow gardeners like you and me to pick them up for use in our landscapes.

One of the first businesses to join the program was the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 4100 Red River.  The store manager, Jessica Anello, is an avid supporter of the program.  On my husband's first visit to her store, he garnered six - 5 gallon buckets of coffee grounds.  That's a lot of coffee grounds folks.  Aren't they wonderful? 

It takes a lot of compost to supply my vegetable and ornamental beds, and this is where my husband, Richard, makes the magic happen.  Five separate compost bins hold yard and household wastes at various stages of decomposition.

Our compost pile has been slow and inactive due to the dry weather and a large influx of fall leaves.  Adding coffee grounds to the compost pile provides the additional moisture and nitrogen that the pile needs to heat up.

Coffee grounds, paper filters and tea bags are all welcome additions to my compost pile.

An active compost pile with temperatures of 135 - 160 degrees is optimal for killing pathogens and weed seeds.  This steam tells me that the coffee grounds are really helping to heat things up.

The compost bins were built with our tractor in mind.  The width of the bin allows the tractor bucket to fit in nicely to turn the pile, or move compost from one bin to another.  The simple beams that keep the compost neatly in the bin can be removed.  Look at the interesting layers.  It's definitely time to mix things up.

Removing composting material from bin three and placing it in bin one is an effective way to mix the pile.  Easy peasy!

Compost is a valuable soil amendment in the garden.  Because of it's value, finished compost is often referred to as black gold.  This wheel barrow is headed straight for the asparagus bed, which has been cleaned and prepped for the spring harvest.

I hope you'll consider visiting the businesses that are now supplying post-use coffee grounds to consumers.  The list and map are on the Ground to Ground page of the Compost Coalition's web site.  We are striving to add new businesses all the time, so continue to check the list for a store near you.  

So, how about it?  Give your microbes a little jolt of Joe!  They'll thank you for it!


  1. Love it. Thanks so much for posting!

  2. That is quite an operation you have there. Well done.

  3. I would love to add even more coffee grounds to my compost. I only use what I generate myself. Unfortunately, there aren't any businesses in far south Austin (south of Ben White) that appear to be part of this yet, and the coffee grounds at my nearest Starbucks are often already spoken for when I ask for them. Luara

    1. I'll keep my eye out for one in your area. They are adding new ones regularly. It's just a matter of time.

  4. Great entry, Ally!! I'll send the link to Jessica - sure it will make her day.

  5. I use coffee grounds in the compost bin. I sometimes just work it around plants, right in the ground. Adds some acid and nitrogen.

    That is some set up you have there. Doesn't hurt to have a tractor to turn it and switch bins. Good work, indeed.

  6. An Awesome effort - and a great post!

  7. Fantastic bin idea Thx

  8. Top quality info you've provided!!! an awesome way to signify. Many thanks.

    Garden Design in Norwich & Garden Design in Norfolk

  9. I am experimenting with adding coffee grounds (as greens) and coffee chaffs (as browns) to the compost that I collect from a local coffee shop and coffee roaster. Does anyone have experience on how much coffee grounds compared to other greens and browns to add is still ok since it is more acidic and has a lot of nitrogen?

    1. sorry, does not seem to show my blogger name. I am Matthias. Any advice is appreciated.