The Leftovers of a Morning Cup of Coffee Can Reinvigorate Forests

The Leftovers of a Morning Cup of Coffee Can Reinvigorate Forests
The Leftovers of a Morning Cup of Coffee Can Reinvigorate Forests

A nice cup of coffee in the morning can set every worker right. However, a new study shows that for trees, a bit of caffeine is just as good. Tropical trees can regrow much faster when running on the caffeine from the pulp of the coffee. It’s a waste product from coffee production. This was discovered in a direct-case control study of degraded tropical land in Costa Rica.

Coffee Pulp Can Rejuvenate Tropical Forests

The University of Hawaii and ETH-Zurich spread 30 dump truck loads of coffee pulp over a 113 x 151 ft plot of land. The experts designated an equal size plot of the same land just next to it as a control plot. Those who drink coffee that also starts composting in their homes often find that coffee grounds make up the majority of their weekly biomass. However, coffee grounds are naturally acidic. They have a pH of less than 5. That said, they are not always nutritious for some decorative flowers or houseplants.

On the other hand, tropical soil that traditionally contains very poor nutrient profiles can tolerate the acidity of the coffee and contains a wide range of microorganisms and plants that thrive in low pH environments.

3 years after coffee pulp was applied to a forest area in Costa Rica/Dr. Rebecca Cole
The Leftovers of a Morning Cup of Coffee Can Reinvigorate Forests

More About This Research

Dr. Rebecca Cole, who is the author of the study, says that the results show soil carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen were substantially elevated in the coffee pulp compared to control treatment after two years. She also shares that coffee pulp addition significantly altered the ground cover characteristics, facilitating the establishment of herbaceous plants, eliminating pasture grasses, and increasing the percent area covered by leaf litter.

This is a significant finding because coffee is grown mostly in tropical climates, where tropical soil tolerates its acidity and tropical forests are cut down at rates faster than any others. The authors cite one study that figured 218,000 tons of pulp could be managed for every one million bags of coffee sent to the market.

Coffee pulp being applied to the Costa Rica forest/Dr. Rebecca Cole
The Leftovers of a Morning Cup of Coffee Can Reinvigorate Forests

Enriching the tropical lands is a great solution as countries produce a cash crop. It’s affordable, it’s local, the nutrients match, and it gives animals more habitat while pulling more carbon from the atmosphere.