13 Surprising Uses for Coffee

Here's how to use coffee after brewing and give new life to coffee grounds, cans, and the java itself.

Adapted by Damon Beres from More Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things

You can halt headaches!

A clinical trial in Illinois found that caffeine, which reduces the swelling of blood vessels, can reduce both the intensity and frequency of headaches. Subjects in one group were given caffeine alone, and 58 percent reported complete relief. Subjects in the other group were given caffeine in combination with ibuprofen, and 70 saw symptoms disappear.

You can fix furniture!

Is that small crack, nick, or gouge all you can see each time you look at your dark wood dresser? Reach for the instant coffee. Mix 2-3 tablespoons with just enough water to make a thick paste; for wood with red tones, add a few drops of iodine. Put the paste on a small putty knife or a disposable plastic knife and use it to fill the crack. Remove any excess around the edges with a barely damp cloth. Let the paste dry completely, then buff with furniture wax.

You can clean your car!

To keep your car smelling fresh and clean, place a small open container filled with freshly ground coffee beans where it won't get knocked over. The grounds will absorb any strong odors you bring into the car—the smell of fast food, for example.

You can speed up your composting!

Pour on coffee (or tea, or non-diet cola) to increase the bacterium population and help both soil and compost break down faster.

You can grill your food!

Here's a handy tip from Mother Jones. Turn a coffee can into a grill by cutting some holes into the metal bottom and a "moderate size" triangle into the top. Flip the can upside down and throw some kindling—dry pine needles, for example—into that triangular space and light. Once the metal bottom is heated up, add meat and veggies.

You can fertilize your plants!

It isn't the caffeine in coffee grounds that plants like azaleas and rosebushes and evergreens love but rather the acidity and aeration the grounds provide—not to mention nitrogen, phosphorous, and trace minerals. Just be sure to dig the grounds into the soil to keep them from becoming moldy. But don't overdo it: Dig about 3/4 cup of grounds into the soil near the roots, repeating once a month. Fertilizing even acid-loving plants with coffee grounds too frequently could increase soil acidity to undesirable levels.

You can eliminate pet odors!

Some pet owners have found they can remove pet odors from a room by heating a cupful of freshly ground coffee beans in a cast-iron skillet over low heat. As soon as the scent is released, remove the pan to the smelly room and set it on a trivet. By the time the ground beans are cool, much of the pet odor should be gone.

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You can clean your face!

Chris Barnes notes in this Stylelist feature that you can exfoliate your skin with coffee grounds. Rub the moist grounds in gently to get rid of dead skin, then rinse.

You can bake bread!

Caught without cookware? A quick bread will bake just fine in a coffee can. Be sure to spray the interior with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour.

You can get glossier hair!

According to EcoSalon, applying "extra-strong" coffee to your hair while it's dry and clean will make it shinier. Keep the coffee in for about 20 minutes, then rinse. Repeat for seven days to get the best results.

You can keep cords under control!

What are the holidays without strings of lights, and what are fresh-out-of-storage cords of lights if not tangled? Grab an empty coffee can and its lid. First, slice the plastic lid of the can with a sharp knife and insert one end of the cord. Then wrap the cord of lights around the can, taping the end to the can to keep everything in place. Before putting on the lid, fill the can with extra bulbs and an extension cord. No tangles, no misplaced accessories.

You can perk up your meat!

To give lamb stew a beautiful dark color and great flavor, add one cup of black coffee to the stew pot about halfway through the cooking process. You can also look up great dry rubs with coffee for beef, pork, and other meat dishes.

You can dye Easter eggs!

We've rounded up 11 ways to dye Easter eggs naturally, and among the colorful ingredients is simple, brewed coffee. Make one quart of strong coffee plus water to cover for an easy brown hue.

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