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Coffee Grounds for Composting

May 19, 2016

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I’ve picked up coffee grounds from a neighborhood coffee shop for close to ten years. When business picked up I enlisted two composting neighbors and we collected almost all of their grounds. 

Three times a week one of us arrived with a clean five gallon bucket to exchange for a full or nearly full bucket of black gold. Before this symbiotic relationship developed, the coffee grounds were hauled out to the trash. 

Unfortunately, our coffee shop closed about two months ago. Possibly, for good. I see a dramatic difference in the composting processing in my bin. Not much is happening.

Coffee grounds speed the decomposition in my compost bin and add needed moisture. I haven’t taken time recently to fork over and mix the contents of the bin. If I had, I would have noticed how dry the materials are. Microbes, need water to do their work.

Read a short article on composting with coffee grounds at Serious Eats. 

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I remember how, for a time, Starbucks packaged their grounds for gardeners to pick up for free. Desperate to get the composting process on track again, I called the Ocean Beach Starbucks this morning to see if they make their grounds available. Happily, they do. I quickly drove the mile or so and carried in my five gallon bucket. 

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All their grounds and coffee filters are dumped in a trash can lined with this blue bag. Thankfully, no other trash, just the filters which are “browns” (carbon-rich) in contrast the the grounds which are “greens” (nitrogren-rich).

So here we go again–coffee grounds for my compost bin. I’ll be returning to local Starbucks at least once a week. The worms lurking in moist corners of the compost bin are thanking me. They love coffee grounds. 

Do a nice thing for your compost bin and the planet. Check with a local coffee shop near you.

Here’s the start to the piece on composting with coffee grounds:

The same stuff we use to perk ourselves up in the morning can do the same for soil. Used coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, which is one of the three main nutrient components—along with potassium and phosphorus—in any successful fertilizer. (For you soil geeks, here’s why: Nitrogen allows plants to convert sunlight into energy; phosphorus helps that energy get transmitted throughout the plant through its root system and cells; potassium helps the plant retain moisture, which aids photosynthesis.) When managing the “ingredients” in a compost pile, it’s important to have proper balance: Nitrogen-rich material (greens) needs to be appropriately tempered by carbon-rich material (browns). Read more

Starbucks photo:  Tristan Ferne

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