I have been thinking about gathering coffee grounds for compost for a while ever since I read about how good it is for gardens. Coffee grounds have a 20:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio which make for a good addition for a compost pile. The balance is not optimal which should be about 30:1-35:1, but the addition of vegetable scraps, leaves or hay make for a great balance. The good news is that coffee grounds are free.
Almost every town has a coffee shop and Ann Arbor being a college towns uses its fair share of coffee beans. Most of this garden providing fertility is thrown out, which cost the coffee shop money to dispose of. An important conversation to have when talking about local food is also local soil fertility.
So I purchased a few five gallon plastic containers with lids and started going around to local coffee houses to ask if I could have their leftover coffee grounds. So far I have three places that are willing to let me have their coffee grounds. Some places can have about 1-2 containers a week, while others can do 1-2 full five gallon buckets a day.
I have a corner area on the side of my garage where I plan to start piling up the grounds, leaves and veggie scraps. It is 5×5 and 3-4 feet high which comes to about 75-100 cubic feet. One five gallon bucket comes to about 1 cubic feet, so I can shooting for 75 buckets. Compost experts say that a pile should only be made up of about 25% coffee grounds. So I might have to stop at 10-20 buckets.
If you want to start collecting coffee grounds, get at least two containers and lids. One container is for giving to the coffee house. The second container is to replace full container when you pick it up. Make sure you give them a lid because they do not want the grounds sitting out uncovered.
Remember that you are doing them a favor. Without you taking the grounds off their hands they would have to pay for its disposal. Make sure that you do not forget the ground and pick them up when they are full. If they sit too long the coffee shop will see you as a pain and stop letting gardeners collect grounds. So be good about picking up your grounds so you don’t ruin it for the rest of us. I find that you also have to keep on them to give you the grounds. Some employees will not know to save the grounds, so you have tell them what you are doing.
I think there really should be a local gov’t initiative to collect and compost all coffee grounds along with leaf pick up to add to garden fertility of a town. Granted, coffee is far from a local food, but it is here and it can be used to provide a beneficial use for a local food system instead of going to waste.
American’s drink 450 million cups a year, which comes to 2.5 million pounds of coffee. Every last good to the last drop (ground) can be use to give back to the soil to support a local food system.