Q: Is it okay to eat used coffee grounds? I like to put half the grounds from my morning brew in my oatmeal. And what about chocolate-covered espresso beans?
A: Small amounts on occasion probably won’t hurt—but we’d advise against eating a lot of the grounds or beans.
Coffee beans contain hundreds of substances, many healthful. Brewed coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gall stones, and some other disorders—and the grounds may have similar effects.
But some of the chemicals in coffee are potentially harmful. For example, coffee beans contain diterpene compounds, called cafestol and kahweol, which raise blood cholesterol. These are removed by paper filters when coffee is brewed, but people who drink a lot of unfiltered coffee (such as Turkish, French press, and espresso) may see their cholesterol go up. If you eat the grounds, you’ll also get these compounds.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1995 looked specifically at the effects of consuming used coffee grounds (about 1/4 ounce a day). After three weeks, blood cholesterol increased by an average of 26 points.
Eating the grounds or whole beans may provide an extra (welcome or unwelcome) laxative effect. You won’t get much of a buzz from the used grounds, since brewing extracts most of the caffeine. But an ounce of chocolate-covered whole coffee beans has about as much caffeine as in two to three cups of coffee.
Also see Coffee and Your Health.