Coffee beans have an outer protective layer present as dried and scaly skin. This outer layer is shed before the brewed coffee (or perhaps instant coffee) on your countertop reaches you.
Usually, the shedding process happens while coffee beans are roasted. The dry layer of skin comes off and is discarded as chaff. Technically speaking, coffee chaff is a waste product of the roasting process.
Because it is very light and fluffy, chaff can get everywhere. I mean, quite literally everywhere. Roasters spend a good amount of time cleaning the mess created by the chaff, and it can really be a nuisance for them.
But as annoying as it can get, coffee chaff can serve many purposes. As a bonus, it is a “utilizable waste” that won’t be occupying our landfill sites.
In this blog, I’ll list the top uses of coffee chaff that can help us be environmentally friendly while devouring delicious (no-waste) lattes: let’s be responsible and not waste the waste!
Coffee chaff is ideal For Mulching
If you have a backyard garden, coffee chaff will be your best friend.
Because it is organic and hydrophobic, it makes a great addition to regular mulch. By incorporating a three-inch layer of chaff onto your garden’s soil in autumn, you can considerably reduce soil erosion. In this context, the chaff will act as a soil cover.
Adding to that, chaff is a great nutritional supplement for soil. It breaks up rapidly and releases nutrients to the soil sooner than you’d expect.
One of the most essential nutrients coffee chaff provides is nitrogen. It is so high in this replenishing nutrient that one part of compost (enriched with chaff) is believed to supply 20 parts of nitrogen.
Additionally, it provides potash in minute amounts and a solid 2% of potassium.
These nutrients taken together will improve the health of your soil and boost plant growth. The coffee chaff also helps preserve soil moisture, preventing it from drying out.
Bonus benefit: The chaff adds to garden aesthetics – it makes a statement of its own.
But Remember – Less Is More
The benefits are great, but monitoring the amount of coffee chaff you add to your garden is important. If you add too much, it can form a sticky barrier that keeps water and air away from the plants of your roots. Generally, sparsely sprinkling a few handfuls of it should suffice.
Use The Remains For Composting
Being light and fluffy, chaff can easily mix with other compostable components. Plus, it technically comes from a plant, which means it is a powerhouse of natural goodness.
When the spring season has sprung, you can incorporate the remains of chaff from autumn into your soil. This will enhance soil fertility and boost the growth of your vegetable plants. It is especially effective for tomatoes.
The chaff will also keep pesky snails and slugs away from your garden. This is because these insects, which can potentially harm your vegetable patch, can’t stand the smell of coffee.
Beware – The Wind Can Steal Your Coffee Chaff. The wind can pick up your coffee chaff (owing to its light and airy nature) and run away with it – no jokes!
To prevent this from happening, you can layer chaff with compost.
Firstly, incorporate a layer of compost. Then add an optimal amount of chaff. Leaving the process here would allow the wind to blow the chaff away, but if you add another layer of compost (such as food waste) on the top, your coffee chaff will be safe and sound.
This also gives the benefit of breaking down quickly and spreading its nutrients to the compost.
Use It As An Animal Bedding
If you have feathery and furry friends, such as chickens and rabbits, you can use coffee chaff as an alternative to their beddings.
It is feasible as animal bedding because it is free and upcycled. It is especially great for chickens because these feathery fellows need something to scratch, and giving them loads of chaff for this purpose will make them super happy.
Because it is light, coffee chaff is also easy to handle and pick up. If your chickens poop in their coop, the chaff will form clumps in the littered area. This makes it relatively easy to remove.
Plus, it has the beautiful aroma of coffee – your backyard animals will thank you for it.
Don’t Own A Garden Or Keep Animals? Pack It Up!
If you’re not a plant parent, throwing away that bag of goodness still wouldn’t be a good idea. Here’s what you can do with it in such a case.
Divide your chaff into optimally sized portions, and pack each portion into small burlap bags.
Once the bags are ready, pack them into buckets, or perhaps watering cans, along with a pair of gloves, pruners, seed starting kits … really anything that will be helpful in the garden.
These pocket-friendly bundles will make a great gift for your neighbours, friends, or any gardeners you know.
Trust me, they’ll appreciate it!
… Or Eat It!
Yes, you read that right – you can really eat chaff. And you’d be surprised to know that it’s actually a pretty healthy option; coffee chaff is believed to have medicinal properties, including fighting obesity-related inflammation. Plus, it’s non-toxic and has anti-oxidant properties.
Although coffee brewed from beans without the chaff removed might not taste really yummy, you can incorporate chaff into your diet in many other ways.
For example, you can sprinkle a few pinches of it onto your bowl of ice cream. When fresh, it also makes a great topping for your acai bowls and custard.
In fact, you can top any dessert with it. I mean, you’re taking the extra calories for your sweet treat; why not get some benefits as well?
Coffee chaff is a waste-product of coffee beans, sure. But as they say, even trash can be transformed into treasure when used right.
Chaff is a valuable addition to your garden. It can keep your chickens and rabbits comfortable, and you can even eat it. If you have a lot of chaff, you can divide it into bags and gift it to other gardeners.
One product and so many uses – if you think about it, coffee chaff is actually quite versatile.
Do you have other ideas about what you can do with coffee chaff, or have you tried any of the ones discussed in this blog? Share your experience in the comments below!
I am an Italian coffee lover that pushed for the love of this “amazing drug” decided to come to London to study about coffee and its different extraction procedures and tastes.