In many parts of the world, starting the day without a cup of coffee is equivalent to leaving the home without shoes. It just isn’t done!
Making coffee at home is more affordable than visiting Starbucks or your local coffee shop. But it can also lead to a kitchen trash bin filled to the brim with used coffee filters and spent beans.
Is household garbage really the best way to dispose of old coffee filters? Or can coffee filters be composted with the rest of your kitchen scraps?
It’s true! (Most) coffee filters can be composted and used in your backyard or garden. You can even compost the old coffee grounds inside, too.
Here’s everything you need to know to successfully compost your old coffee filters, plus how to tell if your favorite filter brand is safe to compost!
Can You Compost Coffee Filters?
Yes! All coffee filters made of 100% paper are compostable.
Coffee filters, like all paper products, are considered a brown material. This means that adding coffee filters to your compost is a great way to increase the amount of available carbon.
Carbon-rich matter is essential to creating balanced compost. It’s largely responsible for preventing foul odors from forming in your compost bin or heap!
Can You Compost Coffee Grounds?
Used coffee grounds are compostable, too!
(After all, there would be little point in composting used filters if the coffee grounds inside weren’t compostable as well.)
While coffee filters are considered brown material, coffee grounds are considered green. This is because spent coffee grounds are high in nitrogen rather than carbon.
Nitrogen is just as important to healthy compost as carbon. It ensures that the compost heats up enough to properly break down and keep harmful pathogens at bay.
Which Coffee Filters are Safe to Compost?
The best way to know if your favorite coffee filters are compostable is to research what they are made of.
The vast majority of coffee filter brands on the market are made of paper! But you should still double-check before adding your go-to filters to the compost pile.
Here are some of the most popular coffee filter brands and whether or not you can safely add them to your compost:
Starbucks Coffee Filters
Starbucks coffee filters are all made from paper. This means that, yes, you can safely compost your used Starbucks filters!
Chemex coffee filters are beloved by many for their thickness. This thickness is better at removing impurities than traditional paper filters, leading to better-tasting coffee overall.
While Chemex coffee filters are thicker than others, they are still made with paper. Chemex coffee filters are compostable.
No, Keurig K-Cups are not compostable. But you can remove and compost the spent coffee grounds inside!
There are some non-Keurig coffee pods that are compostable in an industrial facility (but not in your backyard).
If you’re looking for a more sustainable alternative to these single-use coffee pods, consider switching to a refillable K-Cup that can be washed and used many times over.
How to Compost Coffee Grounds and Filters
Once you ensure that your chosen coffee filters are made of 100% paper, the rest is easy!
Coffee filters will break down faster when torn into small pieces. You can use a pair of scissors or rip up used filters by hand before adding to your compost.
You can compost coffee grounds and filters using a wide variety of systems.
Coffee grounds are even safe to place in a vermicomposting system (worm bin) in moderation!
Frequently Asked Questions
Are used coffee grounds too acidic for compost?
No! Most used coffee grounds are within the neutral range of the pH scale.
Experienced composters know that highly acidic food scraps should be kept out of the backyard compost heap. And experienced coffee drinkers know that the drink is fairly acidic. So why are coffee grounds safe to compost?
Roasted coffee beans are acidic. But most of that acidity transfers to the liquid “coffee” during the brewing process. The leftover coffee grounds are, therefore, neutral!
Are bleached coffee filters compostable?
Coffee filters are one of many examples of household paper products that are bleached to achieve a nice white color. Fortunately, bleached coffee filters are just as safe to compost as unbleached ones.
Can you compost whole coffee beans?
Yes. But you shouldn’t expect them to break down anytime soon!
While there’s nothing harmful about placing whole coffee beans in compost, it’s best to grind them up first. This will ensure the coffee beans decompose quickly and make it easier to disperse them throughout the compost mixture.