Get Free Coffee Grounds for Your Garden

From the office to Starbucks, free coffee grounds are easy to find

Close up of whole coffee beans and ground coffee
Adam Gault / Getty Images

Many gardeners have found that coffee grounds make excellent additions to the soil, enriching and fertilizing it so plants thrive. You do not have to buy canisters of coffee and brew your own to get the results; you can get free coffee grounds from many places.

How Do Coffee Grounds Affect Soil?

Coffee grounds have a great deal of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They also release nitrogen into the soil when added. Because they are acidic, they are particularly helpful in Western climates.

Adding coffee grounds can increase the soil's mineral content by more than 30 percent. The grounds have long-lasting effects, changing the soil for many months. Often, the use of coffee completely eliminates the need for other fertilizers or mineral additions.

Where Can I Get Free Coffee Grounds?

If you do not drink coffee or do not have a large enough quantity of coffee grounds for your gardening or composting needs, there are many places that give away grounds for free. Locations include:

  • Major coffee shops: Major coffee shops are often happy to give away the grounds. If you call ahead, they will set aside the grounds for you rather than throw them out. Starbucks, one of the most famous coffee brands, has a special program for gardeners. 
  • Gas stations: Gas stations and convenience stores that have a lot of morning traffic sell vast amounts of coffee and throw out a lot of grounds. If you offer to take them away, filters and all, they will set them aside. 
  • Diners: Diners, particularly those open late into the night and open early in the morning, also use a lot of coffee. Many people make weekly visits to pick up coffee grounds. 
  • Office: If you work in an office, you likely have a central coffee maker. You can set up a small trash can and ask your co-workers to empty the grounds into it whenever they make a fresh pot. 

Using coffee grounds is a no-cost way to add to your garden and increase your yield. Thanks to the locations listed above, you can get all the benefits for free.

What Is the Starbucks Gardening Program?

Known for its coffee, Starbucks also places an emphasis on global responsibility and sustainability. In 1995, it launched the Grounds for Your Garden program, a campaign that offers free coffee grounds to frugal gardeners all over the country.

On a first-come, first-serve basis, you can go to a local Starbucks and pick up a package of coffee grounds at no charge. Even the bags used to hold the grounds are recycled; the baristas use the bags in which the coffee beans and espresso were originally packaged.

After more than twenty years, the program is still going strong. It provides gardeners with a great way to enrich their soil, grow more fruits and vegetables and reduces the amount of waste going to landfills.

Not all Starbucks locations participate in the program, due to some regulations or zoning issues. Call your local locations to see if any are part of the program.