The Last Thing You Should Do with an Empty Coffee Pod

published Jan 25, 2024
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Look, I love a good shot of espresso, but I’m not the biggest fan of pod coffee. I prefer a stronger taste, and I hate knowing that those pods lead to a buildup of single-use plastic waste. For those who adore starting the day with a K-Cup or Nespresso, though, there are all sorts of ways to repurpose the mini containers around your home. And recently, I learned of another clever way to reuse those pods before recycling them.

Recently, this TikTok by @violet.cooks went viral for showing how to use old coffee pods to help your plants thrive. Simply cut one open, dump its grounds into a container full of water, and let it steep to make a coffee-like “tea.” Then, feed your plants with it.

That way, you can give your morning cup a second life by making a nitrogen-dense fertilizer using a pod’s coffee grounds. Depending on the plant, diluted coffee grounds can be an excellent fertilizer, offering nitrogen and micronutrients that are essential for rapid growth and rich soil. Coffee grounds can also work as a natural pest deterrent, warding away slugs and snails. And because brewed coffee grounds are nearly neutral in pH, you don’t have to worry about excess acidity in your plant’s soil.

I’m a plant and coffee lover just the same, and while the TikToker’s instructions are pretty straightforward, it’s a great idea to start small to, quite literally, test the soils and not harm your plant. Sources like The Spruce and blogger This Is My Garden say that you should let your used coffee grounds steep for a few hours to up to overnight before pouring your coffee ground fertilizer to feed your plant. And I say, make sure to strain out those grounds for a cleaner, no-mess pour. 

The TikToker uses one coffee pod’s innards per quart of water, and while she recommends watering once a week, it’s wise to continue your plant’s regular feeding schedule. And finally, it’s best to test this method with a common houseplant and not a rarity you have sitting pretty in your living room. Plants like azaleas, African violets, rhododendrons, blueberries, and hollies, for instance, tend to love coffee water.

Using your coffee pods to caffeinate you and nourish your plants will likely have you both feeling an extra pep in your step — and it gives those plastic pods more of a useful life, too.