We all know that grinding your own coffee beans usually results in better tasting coffee, but what do you do with the used grind when you’re done with it? Do you throw it directly into the trash like most people? Do you save it for the garden like some avid composters and gardeners? Do you rinse it down the sink?
When I use my drip coffee maker, it’s super easy to pull the filter out of the machine and toss it all in the trash (or the compost if I’m feeling ambitious), but most of the time I make coffee from a French press or a moka pot. These are far more difficult to clean than just pulling out a filter and tossing it.
Can You Put Coffee Grounds Down the Drain?
The first couple times I cleaned my French press, I just rinsed it out in the sink and let all the grounds go down, but after doing some research on whether this was good for the disposal or not I found that it really can be a problem for your pipes. Not so much for the disposal, but the pipes further down the system.
This is important to remember if you brew only a cup at a time or use brewers like moka pots or French press pots where a paper filter is not present to hold all the spent grind. When you have to take grind out of the pot by hand, it’s important to get as much of it directly into the trash or compost pile or some other container for future use before you rinse the brewer out at the sink.
It’s inevitable that some grind will go down the drain. For instance, the little bit of grind at the bottom of your cup or the small bits that remain in a French press’ mesh screen that must be washed under flowing water, but if you use a lot of water and keep the grind to an absolute minimum then things should be ok for your pipes and your septic system.
Why Coffee Grounds Are Bad for Your Water Pipes
Coffee grind is basically a gritty substance or “mud” that can slowly start to form or exacerbate existing clogs. If you don’t rinse it away very slowly or run the water for a long period of time during the cleaning the grind can slowly build up in the pipes.
When the grind is still wet it is easily able to rinse away with plenty of water flow. Think about your coffee maker, though. Unused grind or freshly spent grind will wash away from your pot right away with little effort, but if wet grind is allowed to dry in the filter basket or on the bottom of your coffee pot you have to scrub it away.
In a pipe setting, the grind that is not adequately flushed away will settle in your pipes and harden, slowly forming a thick, cemented layer in the pipe. This will decrease the diameter of the pipe to the point where water flow is slowed and clogs eventually form. If you throw grease into the mix then the problem will become quite big, quite fast!
Coffee Grind is Bad For Septic Systems Too!
So you’re stubborn – just like everyone else. You decide it’ll probably be ok to slowly flush coffee grounds down the kitchen sink if you just do a little at a time and use a lot of water… but what about the septic system? Did you know that even if you were able to get all the grind to go through the pipes the coffee grounds would also put your septic system at risk for backing up?
In septic systems, coffee grind acts just like it does in pipes. It can get through the main septic chamber into the drain pipes. If the grind settles in the pipes, the overflow system can slow and cause a blockage, which can then cascade back through the system into your house.
As you can guess, if a lot of coffee grounds get into a septic tank then you will end up dealing with some hefty bills and headaches down the road. It’s just not worth it, especially when there are so many wonderful things you can use old coffee grounds for.
See this post for a ton of creative ways to use old coffee grounds.
How to Keep Coffee Grind Out of the Drain
As we’ve discussed, coffee grounds in garbage disposal systems are a big no-no, so how then should you clean coffee grounds without putting them down the drain?
If you don’t want to reuse them, you can do what I’ve been doing for a while now. I’ve started rinsing the grind out into a paper towel which I’ve laid out to line the sink. I then either throw that away or drop the whole think into a compost pile, depending on how things are going in the garden. It makes things easier for me and it is safer for the pipes.
For my French press, I basically lay the paper towel over the drain and then put a bit of water in the pot and swish it around. I, then, slowly pour the water with all the spent grounds in it into the paper towel.
The towel holds the grind while the water passes through into the pipes. This keeps the vast majority of my mess away from my plumping and should prolong the healthy life of my pipes.
Things That Should Not Go Down The Sink Drain
Here is a short video that shows other things that you can’t or shouldn’t run through the disposal.
Where to Put Used Coffee Grounds For Later Use
OK, so you may not want to put your grind down the sink and you think you may want to start recycling it for other purposes later, but where do you put it?
It’s actually pretty simple to dry out old coffee grind if you lay it out flat on a paper towel, but one of the most common uses for used grind is in that garden. A popular solution to storing coffee ground for reuse is to get a countertop composter.
Just take your paper towel filled with grind and put it straight into the composter on the counter. The paper towel is just as compostable, so no worries there. Then, every few days or so empty the countertop jar into a larger compost bin outside or directly into a garden bed or lawn – after all the grind is healthy for lawns too!
Looking for something different to read?
I’d also like to invite you to take a look at this sweet page I put together on grinding coffee beans without a grinder. Keep it in mind the next time you go camping.