Tips for Using Leftover Coffee

By Muk Eun Ji / a couple of weeks ago
Hot coffee and dessert on the leftover plate

Most folks have a morning ritual with their coffee. Some languor over the morning paper and sip their way from the front page all the way to the funnies; others chug it mindlessly as part of a multi-tasked morning event.  But what about the leftover java in the coffeepot?  Most folks just toss it down the drain.

Stop! That left-over coffee is nothing short of palatable liquid gold!  

Numerous award-winning recipes use coffee as the magic ingredient that blends flavors into full-bodied delectable taste experiences for the tongue.  Adding coffee to certain foods creates robust, tantalizing delicacies that are often too tempting for only one helping.

Take a look at the following suggestions for foods that are enhanced by the flavor of coffee.  Have a napkin handy; you’ll probably drool.

Dessert Masterpieces


When your recipe calls for water, use coffee instead. Chocolate Devil’s Food cake is particularly sumptuous when made with coffee. The flavor of chocolate combined with coffee is highly complementary; it’s enticingly delicious and truly sinful.

If you’re not a chocoholic, don’t despair. Try it in other recipes: Cinnamon Coffeecake, Banana Coffeecake, Orange Coffeecake, Caramel Pecan Coffeecake. Beware though: The aroma alone has been known to attract huge crowds. Strangers may show up at your door, begging and salivating.


Yum. They’re chewy, rich, and dunkable. Substitute coffee for the water then bake as directed. You'll swoon before the very first bite. Carry them to work with you and use them for bartering power; it’s a guarantee your work productivity will increase. Single males looking to attract a female should never leave home without these; the women will flock to them like yuppies to Starbucks.

Coffee Jello

Use unflavored gelatin and substitute coffee as the liquid. Chill to set. Turn out and slice in squares, top it off with whipped topping, sprinkle with cinnamon and add chocolate shavings as a garnish: A royal treat! You'll be coffee King/Queen for the day.


Beat leftover coffee together with whipped topping. Refrigerate and you’ll have a delicately delicious coffee mousse. Ladies, this is a great treat for those times when you want to settle down with a good book or a chic-flick. Why?  It's light, flavorful and soothing if you happen to pull a tear-jerker.

Vary The Drink Experience

Iced Coffee

Freeze left over coffee in ice trays then add to your coffee for a stimulating, refreshing cold drink. You can sip at your own leisure and savor it slowly because as the cubes melt, your flavor doesn't dilute. Nobody likes watered-down coffee. That stuff's just nasty.

Hot Chocolate

A couple of tablespoons of coffee in your hot cocoa really take the chill off a cold 'brrr' night. Top with whipped cream and you're warm all over; heart, body and soul.  Plus, it just smells so darned good – a little aromatherapy perhaps?

Hearty Soups, Stews and Gravies


Add to chili with beans to cut the overpowering acidity of tomato flavor. Some cooks use sugar and beer for this, but try coffee instead for a unique flavor. Girls, this is a real, manly, hearty dish; truly the way to a guy's heart, right through the old esophagus into the gut. You'll probably get a ring on your finger if you serve this. If you're already married, you'll probably just get some gaseous ramifications.


Put a few tablespoons of the brewed beverage into your roast gravy for a richer, full-bodied flavor. This is great for the traditional red-eye gravy used on ham. It’s suspected this was the real reason for the War Between the States. Those southern rascals likely refused to give up the recipe for ham and red-eye. Down South, they consider their recipes as valuable as the gold at Fort Knox.

Steak Rub and Marinade


An all-time favorite use for left-over coffee - use as the base liquid in a marinade for steaks, chops and chicken. Not only will it tenderize, it will add a delicious deep flavor to the meat. Even vegetarians have been known to wrinkle up a wistful nose toward a juicy, coffee-marinated steak, grilled to sizzling perfection.

Coffee Grounds

Speaking of steaks, here's a Texas suggestion for those left-over coffee grounds: It makes an excellent rub when combined with other seasonings like peppercorn, crushed red flaked pepper, onion, garlic, and anything else on your spice rack. It adds a crusty topping that's flavorful but not greasy. Sounds a little strange, but try it. You'll take one bite and probably let out a real cowboy "Yeee-haw!"

Finally, if you’ve exhausted all your culinary options and decided not to Rachel Ray it for the day, you can still put that leftover coffee to good use. Dump it in your yard.  Look at the benefits you’ll get from that.

Grow a Garden


Coffee is terrific compost for the garden: Just dump those coffee grounds around the base of your plants to promote growth and keep away those darned slugs that love to eat your plants. Sprinkle spent grounds around your flower beds. Hostas love coffee because the slugs and snails hate it.


Use left-over coffee as an alternative water for plants. Coffee has a high nitrogen count so your plants perk up when fed your leftover perked pot. Instead of chemical fertilizers, feed your plants coffee. You can practice being green (or would that be brown?) and actually enjoy it.

Be diverse, be creative and above all, don't throw it out. That java's expensive.

About the author

Muk Eun Ji