Starbucks has Free Spent Coffee Grounds for the Garden!


I just love it when a large company like Starbucks goes out of their way to do a decent, responsible and sustainable thing to make the world a better place. They don’t have to do it. It doesn’t net them any extra cash, in fact, it probably adds some costs. But they did it anyways!

Many Starbucks locations now keep their spent coffee grounds out of the landfills and into our garden! Which is really smart when you think about it. Used coffee grounds are very nitrogen rich and although some of their acidic properties are stripped away during the percolating process, raw spent coffee grounds are best saved for your acid loving plants. They are however a perfect addition to your compost bins or a yummy treat for your worms (vermicomposting). Once composted, they can be used as a top dressing or a soil additive with the rest of your compost.

Raw un-composted coffee grounds can be used for all your acid loving plants. Or, if you have very alkaline soil (like we do in San Diego), they can be used with more fervor on most any plant species. Roses absolutely adore the nutrients from coffee grounds. So do plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries and raspberries. In fact, you can make a fertilizer “tea” with these spent grounds that will make any berry bush seem to double it’s production and growth rate. Pink hydrangeas aren’t your thing? Lowering the pH with acidic coffee grounds will turn them blue!

There’s also a lot of Magnesium and Potassium, both of which plants really like; but not a lot of phosphorus (the fruiting and flowering nutrient) or calcium, a mineral that many plants crave. So use these grounds carefully and know your soil pH levels before going hog wild!

In other words, Mind Your Dirt!


0 Replies to “Starbucks has Free Spent Coffee Grounds for the Garden!”

  1. I was just thinking about using our own grounds the other day. My hydrangea wasn’t as blue this summer. Some Starbucks in the Seattle area have been giving out grounds for years–pretty cool. My husband and I produce plenty every week! 🙂

    1. I had no idea. I knew you could go ask a barista for their grounds but never did. I love the packaging and convenience of this though! I pass by the little Starbucks stand inside an Albertsons I shop at often. All I need do is bend and scoop and I’m off. I have mounds of it in the garage. Sweet sweet garbage! My worms have made me their king.

  2. I live in Seattle, home of Starbucks. Not all stores take the time and effort to bag up the grounds and put them out but they will give them away on request. I’ve been collecting them for years.

      1. I’ve added them to my Rhody bed but they were unsightly when they began to mold. So now I add them to the compost. Recently I got a load of Free fill dirt I’ve never seen such lifeless dirt. It needed organic material so as I sifted out the rocks I also sifted in coffee grounds. During that project the staff at two Starbucks stores (near home and work) would get out the grounds when they see me come in the door.

        1. Composting seems to me to be the best course as well. However, my blueberries wouldn’t have survived in this drought and alkaline soil were it not for the raw grounds. What kind of soil do you have? High, neutral or low?

  3. my used up ground coffee goes to the compost heap since a long while. and also to places, where ants take over too much. ants don’t like the smell of coffee, by zhe looks of it….

  4. It really is a sensible, responsible use of waste. And it’s cool that they package them up like that. Last winter I got huge bags of grounds from an Ann Arbor Starbucks, but I had to call the day before to request saving them. Mine went either directly onto the winter garden or into the compost. I believe they were responsible for an unbelievable raspberry harvest this year.

    1. Yes, I think that’s what impressed me the most, the packaging and the forethought for waste management. Really stellar!

      And they are perfect for berries! What other crops do you have in your winter garden? I’m still curious as to how coffee grounds fare with non acid-loving plants.

      1. Last winter I combed the internets for everything I could find on used coffee grounds. Everything I found (by non-opinion, non-forum writers) indicated that used coffee grounds are neutral in acidity. They’re a good source of nitrogen. From what I’ve read, they will actually USE UP nitrogen when first applied to soil, but once they start to decompose, nitrogen is released.

        I think most of the acidity is released into the coffee itself as brewing water is run through the grounds.

        That’s my understanding, and can be taken with a grain of salt 🙂

        1. I’ve done some pH readings of the grounds themselves and they aren’t neutral. It’s true that they lose a lot of acidity during percolating, but not all of it. I’ve never heard about them taking up nitrogen though. That’s interesting! I’m learning more in the comments here than I wrote in the whole post! Great stuff. Exactly why I’m writing this blog. Thanks Dan!

          1. Very interesting indeed James! Acidity isn’t a huge concern for me ( I welcome it because my soil’s naturally alkaline). But I would trust your personal pH readings over any cyber-theory for sure.

          2. Same here regarding the soil. Growing blueberries or raspberries is always a challenge if I do them in the ground. Which stinks because raspberries are my all time favorite thing to snack on. Thinking about getting a truck load of pine needles as mulch…

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