This Is How You Should Take Your Coffee

by Pamela J. Hobart

Coffee bounces back and forth between being portrayed as an unhealthful vice and a health-boosting habit. Fortunately, right now, the energy-giving brew appears to be on the upswing. Naturally, this leads to questions about extending coffee's healthy reach. Could the good components be extracted? Which coffees are healthier than others? Is there a particular way you should drink it? Now, researchers have given some attention to our used coffee grounds — you might assume that all the good stuff is pulled out during brewing, but you'd be wrong. In fact, that byproduct is apparently chock full of antioxidants, so it may actually be healthy to eat coffee grounds.

Researchers publishing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry analyzed used coffee grounds and discovered that they are full of antioxidants (namely, “dietary phenolic compounds," which help to protect cardiovascular health). In fact, depending on which method the researchers used to extract the phenols, the grounds sometimes contained even higher levels of phenols than the brewed coffee!

This suggests that coffee shops, offices, restaurants, and homes are routinely trashing a hidden source of nutrition. So what are we supposed to do about it? Unfortunately, though they're happy to float the idea in theory, the news release and original academic study conveniently lack any actual suggestions for using coffee grounds as a food in practice.

I cold-brew coffee concentrate weekly at home (for making iced coffee), so once a week I am left with even as much as a full pound of used grounds. I cook frequently at home too, but have only a few ideas for how to use these coffee grounds until the extracting process can be more formalized. I'm imagining a future in which we put our coffee grounds in a special collection bucket, like compostable materials, and then they are swept off to a high-tech factory for processing.

In the meantime, I can perhaps imagine coffee ground-infused baked goods (though I'd probably process the grounds first, into a powder). Coffee-crusted pork loin would be OK, though it'd need some other spices too. Coffee pudding, oatmeal, and yogurt — sign me up. And for sure, coffee grounds could work in the original, already well-loved form for eating coffee beans: chocolate-covered coffee grounds, anyone?

Image: Mara Zemgaliete/Fotolia