Coffee Grounds for Your Compost. Get Your Brew Right.

Yummy Compost

Yummy Compost

Many of you are following my series on coffee grounds in the garden.  Just to catch you up to speed,  I used coffee grounds for my sorry looking roses, and they came alive.  But conflicting information on the internet made me rethink my decision. Was I hurting or helping my plants?  Read are coffee grounds friend or foe to find out.  But what about using them for compost?  

Adam Michaelides, the Compost Education Program Manager at the Cornell Cooperative Extension stated:

“Coffee grounds are very acidic. So if someone (like a coffee shop) was composting mostly coffee grounds with some sort of bulking (brown) material, they might experience slower composting. This is because certain decomposers need certain pH ranges to live and if the pH is too low, some won’t be able to live there to break down the grounds.

But, in general, backyard composters who have some coffee, and some leaves, and some other food scraps, and maybe some wood ash, etc. are going to be fine. When a diversity of materials are used, a diversity of decomposers will work to break them all down. As the material that is composting changes form, the pH will go way down, then way up, and then level off around neutral. Some composts are more acidic or alkaline than others, but some of this has to do with the way that they were composted, not necessarily the inputs.”

The Right Ratio of Browns and Greens in Composting

As for composting,  Dr. Hepperly of the Rodale Institute indicated in my previous coffee ground article, compost should be one part green to three parts brown. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand the whole compost thing.  You could easily call me a haphazard composter.  I just throw in leaves and whatever comes out of my kitchen.

Michaelides explained as follows:

“A more useful rule of thumb is 2 or 3 parts “brown” to 1 part “green.” This is by volume, so if you have one 5-gallon bucket of food scraps, you will need 2 or 3 buckets of dry leaves. As it applies to lasagna layering, one part brown will be on the bottom of a layer, the other on the sides and the third on the top. And you will have one layer of greens sandwiched in between. Hard to describe, but look at the diagram on that fact sheet.”

See Cornell’s composting online fact sheet for more information.

Want more brown for your compost? (No, not the UPS guy.)  Read how to find and keep more brown for your compost.   And for the green?  Keep a handy composting pail in your kitchen.

What Do Worm Think About Compost?

The other day I dropped some green scraps in my compost to find a ton of small worms just lounging in the coffee. I never had so many worms before and thanked the coffee for my new visitors.   So, I decided as I picked up another bag of coffee, a little coffee will do my garden good.

Be sure to check out my other gardening stories and videos.  I am a little obsessed about gardening.  (Just a teensy bit.)

Photo by Normanack

Join the Conversation:

  • Do you compost?
  • Would you describe yourself as a lazy or methodical composter?
  • Do you use coffee grounds in your compost?
  • What makes your worms happy?

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  1. 2


    I definitely put coffee grounds in our compost. I figure it is biodegradable, why would I not? But I’m a bit of a compost rebel. I’m more concerned that it stays out of the trash than it composts quickly!

  2. 7

    cheryl says

    I use coffee grounds around plants all the time; but in the amounts that come out of my coffee maker, they aren’t huge. Here in the desert our soil is SO alkaline that there is no worry that a cup or two of coffee grounds will turn it acidic

  3. 8

    Suzanne says

    I keep a compost pail under the sink. since I looove coffee there are lots of grounds in there, but also banana peels, as well as other compostable kitchen scraps. Since I am a lazy composter, these are dumped every couple of days in the bin and turned into the rest of the materials. Since I have no grass, I take what my neighbors give me. Any other suggestions?

  4. 10

    Mary says

    If you add compost to your plants each year, how does that not begin to bury the plant in soil? Do you dig out some soil before composting? Thanks so much. I enjoy your blog!

  5. 12


    Thanks for the tips to compost with Coffee Grounds, I also add them to my Blueberry Plants, they seem to love the Coffee, Also I cover a compost material with Alfafa Meal and the material composes fast into black loom

  6. 16


    I use copious quantities of coffee grounds and kitchen scraps from our restaurant and dig it into shallow trenches on my farm. I call it ‘trench composting’ . That way I can prepare vegetable beds for the following year and I don’t have to move it twice and the digging is a good workout.

      • 18


        I guess it depends what you mean by issues. I am growing organic/biodynamic vegetables in what use to be a very old apple orchard. I have voles, moles and mice, not to mention deer. The deer and voles cause the most damage. For now I am ignoring the little gnawing that happens on my potatoes. This relatively little damage and I the ‘trench composting’ could act as a distraction to the voles. I will be discing again this year (moving to minimal or low till in the following years). This should also act as a deterrent :) I can’t bear to kill the little creatures. I have even bought some traps and will try that as well.

  7. 19

    Jen-ra, Superhero Momof3 says

    Thank you for the helpful resource fron Cornell. I learned a lot from that comprehensive article and felt it covered enough as any class might. Much appreciation!

  8. 20

    Donna Snider says

    You asked what my worms like. I have been giving them coffee grounds every day for about 3 years. I really can’t tell if they like it. However, you can almost watch watermelon disappear from the rind when I put it in. :-)


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