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Apr 19, 2007 07:10 AM

Disposing of Coffee Grounds

Is it OK to just rinse coffee grounds down the sink? I don't have a garbage disposal. (Sorry, I don't compost.)

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  1. You don't have to compost. Just spread 'em around in your garden. Otherwise, toss them in the trash. If you put them down the sink, you might want to set aside a couple of bucks every time, so you have money to pay the plumber to clear the drains when the time comes. Unless, of course, you're using a LOT of water to rinse them down, in which case you're wasting water.

    21 Replies
    1. re: ricepad

      Not 100% sure that this is not a myth: coffee grounds are about the only thing you can dump down the drain with no ill effects. Always dump mine and have never had a problem; and I'm very careful not to let anything elso go down the drain.

      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Well it may or may not be a myth, but it happened to me. We had a bad clog in our kitchen sink (house built in the early 1990s so old pipes weren't the cause) and the plumber found a lot of coffee grounds and advised us. Now my husband won't let even one little ground down the drain and we don't even live there any more.

        1. re: farmersdaughter

          Well your plumber was wrong. There may have been coffee ground behind the clog... but they didn't cause it. Coffee grounds actually clean your pipes. They're rough and acidic and break down food and other nasty stuff stuck to the walls for your pipes.

          1. re: CreamOfWeber

            I disagree. When Mr. Sueatmo had to pull our pipes because of a leak (plastic pipes) I noticed that the insides of the pipes had coffee grounds encrustations. We do have a garbage disposal. I stopped putting them through the disposal after seeing what the insides of the pipes looked like.

            A thing you can do with the grounds is put them on top of potted plants. You might know someone who would appreciate your grounds every so often for that purpose, if you don't keep plants yourself. In my experience they just dry out, but don't have an odor. I have saved them for the garden in the days when I had a garden.

            1. re: CreamOfWeber

              I am skeptical of this claim.

              if coffee had that effect pipes and other food, it would interact with paper filters, plastic cups, styrofoam cups and all kinds of less stable materials it comes in contact with.

              I don't recommend putting coffee grounds down the drain. Toss them in the trash or compost them.

              1. re: taos

                It does. Over time. It's not sulfuric acid.

              2. re: CreamOfWeber

                I guarantee you the people at the municipal waster water treatment plant would prefer if you did not put coffee grounds down the drain into the sanitary sewer. They have enough solid waste without adding unnecessary stuff like coffee grounds. They don't even want boxed tissue to go down the toilet, only human waste and toilet paper. Ask a plumber about the 'flushable' cleaning products, the only reason they will tell you it is fine to flush those things is because they want the future business. All of that stuff shows up at the wastwater treatment plant and it takes money and effort to get rid of the stuff because it does not go away on its own.

                1. re: John E.

                  But, if the person does not compost, then I think it is preferable to throw the coffee grounds down the drain and have us collectively pay more for wastewater treatment than to send it to the landfill.

                  1. re: hala

                    Nope. Coffee grounds is one thing in a landfill that will decompose. More energy, both fossil fuels and manhours, is used in treating the water which is more of a problem than coffee grounds in the landfill. There are some parts of Europe that will not allow garbage disposals in kitchen sinks.

                    1. re: John E.

                      Doesn't it take way longer to decompose in the landfill? We also need to use fossil fuel to move it from the garbage can to the land fill. Does treating solids in a wastewater treatment plant take more energy than transporting the garbage even if they are using biological methods (good bacteria eats up the solids)? I am not argueing, I am just asking.

                      1. re: hala

                        I don't know everything about the subject but I recently read an article about municipal wastewater treatment facilities and how their life would be so much easier if people did not put so much stuff down the drain that did not belong there, either from the kitchen or the bathroom. My father used to be on the state water resources board in Minnesota, he was also the longtime chairman of our local watershed district. He knew a lot about the subject of water and he has always said that if you don't need to put something down the garbage disposal put it in the trash. On the subject of trash, today was garbage pickup day for us. What is amazing is how much less garbage we generate these days compared to when I was a kid. The recycling bin has more stuff in it that does the trash bin.

                    2. re: hala

                      I wouldn't do this. Especially if you don't have a garbage disposal, I would not do this. But even with a garbage disposal, I have see the inside of plastic pipe, pulled from my sing. There was coffee in the pipe. Eventually I think you'd get a clog. I don't want to pollute, but I don't want an expensive plumbing bill either. Figure out a way to compost these, if you are dead set about throwing them in a landfill.

                  2. re: CreamOfWeber

                    nope - like many other people on this thread we successfully clogged our pipes with coffee grounds!

                    we now stick them in the trash (no compost option in our building). Usually we pop them into an old yoghurt pot to allow them to dry out a bit (we use a French press so there's often quite a bit of water mixed in with them)

                2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Coffee grounds stopped up the sink at my work. Our facilities people tried to clear it, then they called a drain company who tried with a "regular snake" (work had a "home improvement store" snake), they had to bring in special equipment to clear the clog, the drain people "blamed" coffee grounds. It wasn't in the trap, it was far down stream. The "regular snake" couldn't reach the clog.

                  I live in an area that occasionally has droughts/water rationing. A neighbor of my folks was a plumber, he usually worked new construction/remodels but after a year or so of water rationing he spent several months clearing drains. The plumber told most of the neighbors, it takes a lot of water to keep drains clear if one puts anything other than liquids down the drain. Since then (1976) I don't put food down the drain (nor in garbage disposal).

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Maybe I should clarify a little. Coffee grounds down the drain are ok if you run enough water to flush them completely out of the plumbing system. It takes a lot of water in most houses to rinse them that far.

                    1. re: ricepad

                      Kind of like what we kids wrote on the lav walls, "Flush twice; its a long way to the cafeteria"!

                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      I did say in another post which you might want to hear, or uncle owns a very successful plumbing company in NYC and he has alwasy told the family to use the sink to dispose of coffee grinds, he said it clears the grease...we have done it for many, many, years and none (thank God) have ever had a problem...don't think he would want to steer us wrong, since HE WOULD BE THE ONE WE CALL, IF WE NEED HELP....he hasn't had to help any of us for this problem, ever....he said a plumber night tell youj not to do, since they want to have their businesses flourish....why give you a hint which might SAVE you money and you won't need them....but, of course, you follow your heart and mind...

                      1. re: BobbiBean

                        If you expect a reply, it won't happen. Sam was a great guy, but he died about two years ago. He seemed to know something about everything on these threads. Do you have any interests in food other than putting coffee grounds down the drain? Having never been to NYC I'm always interested in a New Yorker's take about food and cooking.

                    3. re: ricepad

                      Spread them around your plants but only if they're acid loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, laurels, etc. I'm not sure coffee is acidic enough to influence hydrangeas but it might be fun to test.

                      1. re: chowser

                        I have heard that spread around the hydrangeas it will change the color of the flowers. Starting the process shortly, but I also heard it takes a while to kick in.

                      2. re: ricepad

                        "Coffee grounds and grease."
                        The answer to a question posed to a plumber on what causes the most blockages in drains.
                        Even if you don't put them down the drain at the same time, they'll meet up and form
                        a sludgy inpenetrable nightmare.

                      3. I put them in a plastice bag and into the trash every morning ( along with the fruits of cleaning my kitty litter box!)
                        There is really not much I put into the disposal. Had it back up once on Thanksgiving- with 25+ - and vowed never to have that happen again. Of course, it happened becasue the men- doing the clean up- put everything down the disposal- too bad for them- they had to snake the drains, before they could finish the dishes. We all learned a lesson that day!!

                        1. We had just this discussion at my house last week. I never put them down the drain, and somehow remember reading or being told never to put them down a disposal, that the grounds can clog it up. My friend, who lives in a 1930s flat in London, says she always puts them down the drain - no problem. I'd be worried about the pipes in my old NY building, disposal aside. My husband insists there is nothing wrong with putting them down the drain/disposal, but kindly indulges me and doesn't do so.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: MMRuth

                            If you look at how a kitchen disposer works you'll see that coffee grounds are already MUCH finer than anything that the disposer spits out -- SO I think by indulging you your husband is actually saving you from a lot of headaches.

                            1. re: renov8r

                              Since this thread has been brought back to life - I had a new garburator installed earlier this week, and the plumber said the he advises not to put them down the drain, as they can have negative effects (not that I remember the details) on older pipes.

                          2. With a septic system, we don't put ANY food materials down the drain.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: CindyJ

                              The problem with septic systems is that the bacteria that are part of the design/function of turning solids into liquids are not very fast or efficient. The enzymes that they produce are slowed down by the presence of fiber and oils. Since there is almost nothing but that in ground coffee beans they slow down septic systems. The starchy/sugary wastes ought to be handled fine...

                              1. re: renov8r

                                I've heard discussions on both sides of the septic system/food disposal argument. In the end, we've decided not to fill it with anything except what gets there as intended. We do add some kind of enzyme product once a year. Ahhhh... the joys of country living!

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Septic system here, too. No grounds, no food waste down the drain even with a garbage disposal unit. And we do the septic product monthly. So far no issues after 10+ years.

                            2. The jfoods get major demerits on this one. We do not compost, we do not spread on ppalnts and have >50 rhodys and azaleas, we place down the drain, put on the cold water and then the disposal. The the grinds go straight to the septic system.

                              We clean the septic once per year.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                My question would be why dump them down the drain in the first place? Seems to me it's just as easy to to grab the paper filter full of grinds and pitch it. Unless of course you use a re-useable filter, but even then give it a few good smacks agains the inside of the trash can then rinse the rest down the drain. It's not like used coffee grinds stink so there shouldn't be a problem letting them sit in the garbage for a few days.

                                1. re: Rick


                                  I start with the gold filter, not paper, can't stand paper, one of the few items that curls Jfood's tongue.

                                  My coffee maker is around the island from the compactor and I have a second sink right next to the coffee maker. So I open the machine, grab the filter, extend my arm to the right and dump the grounds. I rinse, fill and back into the machine. It's just a very easy process when one of the droopy-eyed jfoods come down in the morning.

                                  In addition, anything wet in compactor always gets on the "plunger" and its a bear to clean.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    "I start with the gold filter, not paper, can't stand paper, one of the few items that curls Jfood's tongue. "

                                    Sorry, but I just caught this thread and have to ask: what's jfood's tongue doing anywhere in the vicinity of a paper coffee filter?

                                    I use my hands and a measuring cup to load the filter, which work just fine; but I'm always eager to learn new tricks -- especially when it comes to filtering coffee grounds..

                                    1. re: Muskrat

                                      oy...let's connect the dots like a hole in the bottom of the sea :-))

                                      paper filter into coffee maker...grounds into paper filter...close...water into resevoir...close...turn on...water heated and drops onto and through goese through paper filter into container...finsih...pour into cup...raise to lips...sip...over the tongue.

                                      sorry but jfood is from NJ and tries to minimize words, but the aftertaste of the paper filter when the coffee is drunk is what jfood referred to.

                                      Hope that helps and connects the dots.


                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Ah. I was thinking paper cuts or cooties or something like that. The aftertaste of filter paper has thus far and evidently fortunately eluded me.

                                  2. re: Rick

                                    I use a french coffee press for both coffee and tea, and have a gold filter when *lots* of coffee is needed. I just add a little water to the lees, swirl the mixture in the press, and use centrifical force to throw everything into the toilet. I do not recommend flushing coffee filters.

                                    1. re: Rick

                                      Rinsing coffee grounds down the sink helps keep the drain from clogging because it creates the proper PH to grow helpful bacteria that eat sediment on the side of your pipes and/or is abrasive to clean the pipes as they are flushed. That is the general idea. We have done it for 21 years and recently added a room and got into the pipes and they were clean as a whistle. Not sure if this is the same in all cases.

                                      1. re: Rick

                                        rick the reason I personally never put coffee grounds in the trash is because they drip liquid and make for a wet messy bag. I have a little (former) ice bucket under the sink for filter and coffee grounds, when its full, it goes into the mulch pile. i try to not put anything wet and drippy into my trash for in no time, it finds its way down to the bottom and you have leaky , icky messes. plus we believe that all natural food, that has not been altered, such as processed, spiced or otherwise addtional substances such as butter, should go back to the garden. why throw perfectly good mulch in the trash ?unless, of course. you live in the city. In that case I would make sure it was bagged well before tossing it.