Coffee Grounds + Coffee Filters = ??

toast5616January 31, 2008

I have been adding coffee grounds to my compost pile for a good 2 months (at least) now, and I always do the dirty work of extracting the paper filters by hand just to be sure I don't add any dyes or bleach (hence the WHITE color of a filter - they DO sell the brown ones, which say BLEACH FREE). I am trying to do the whole organic thing as STRICTLY as I can. But from the experts... does it really matter? What effect will it have? And how nicely will the filters decompose/effect the ratio of everything and PH? Thanks.

- Toast

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I've been composting coffee and filters for years. They decompose just fine in the bin.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 8:53PM
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Thanks. What about in bulk sizes? For example, I know a local coffee shop that has a trash can for their employees to dispose of coffee grounds and their filters ONLY. Would mass amounts of filters be okay as long as the pile itself was also relatively large?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 11:49PM
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Compost piles love eating coffee filters. The tiny amount of bleach in the filters is nothing to worry about.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 12:24AM
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Those white coffee filters are made from bleached pulp but by the time you get them there is no bleach left, no dyes, no toxins other that he ones you might add. They can be composted just like any other paper product.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 7:40AM
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Out of necessity, I've gotten more lax on the quality of the materials I'll add to my pile. I can't make enough compost without getting grass clippings and leaves, of unknown origin, from the town. After recognizing that, I relaxed and started putting stuff in my previously organic pile that, for instance, contained preservatives (grocery store leftovers) or bleaches (as in coffee filters). For the most part I try to run an organic pile.

Worms like the filters, so there's that.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 8:35AM
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"Would mass amounts of filters be okay as long as the pile itself was also relatively large?"

I suppose there is a limit where it would just cold compost, but i can't imagine it would be a problem. Folks put newspapers and other things in their pile and they decompose just fine. I put in a lot of filters without a problem other than the wind blowing an occasional one across the yard...then i hear about it from my wife...:-)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:05AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Our coffee pot doesn't use filters. Something to consider, if you ever have to replace your coffee maker.

I've put entire telephone books, whole and intact into my cold pile.

Dec 1, 2006:

Nov. 2007:

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 11:38AM
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Wow, joepyeweed. That is very impressive, not only that you did an entire phone book, but that you also had photos to track the decomposition rate. This really did answer a lot of questions. But I have one last one that you triggered: what exactly is a cold pile? I mean, yeah, I see that it's cold, hence the snow. But what is the difference in compost production than that of a normal pile? And how does it work with such condracting cold temperatures?


    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 3:10AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

The only reason I took the pictures, was because I thought it was going to take forever to break those books down, and I wanted to somehow monitor it. I was surprised to see how much they had decomposed in one year. I am sure i won't be able to find them when I dig in that pile next fall.

What I meant by cold pile, is that I don't mix and turn to maintain a target temperature. Sometimes its warm, sometimes its frozen,, but usually its just at ambient air temperature. I don't monitor the temperatures, except by sticking my hand in there once in awhile to see if its warm.

A cold pile decomposes slower than a hot pile. But it still decomposes.

One thing I have noticed is that the pile heats up pretty good in the spring. In the winter, it freezes almost solid. I think freezing helps break down the cellular structure of material in the pile, such that it gets real active once it thaws.

So I guess my point was that if I can compost entire telephone books, I think a pile could handle a substantial amount of coffee filters.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:16PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Are these filters from your own coffee-making or from a shop? What I'm getting at is, if you are prepared to drink the coffee made with those filters it is a bit late to worry about whether ithey will harm your compost. You've already ingested the bleach. You say "I am trying to do the whole organic thing as STRICTLY as I can." If so you are going to tie yourself in knots because have you considered whether or not the coffee itself is organic? I'd just bung them in the pile. If you are worried about bleached filters just buy brown ones. Or use a cafetiere which doesn't need filters.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:39PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

I am not following the question in the OP. Do you drink the coffee that has been made with unbleached filters?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:41PM
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flowerfloosey(z8 NCal mnts)

I think you are worrying way too much about the coffee filters! I shred newpapers in my paper shredder and use for the browns. Cold composting is the easiest and if you use the three pile method you always have a pile ready to use.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 2:15AM
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Yeah. I had no idea it still decomposed regardless of the temperature. I didn't know compost was still produced. I understand the rate is slower, but I thought the heating was pretty much necessary for the end product of compost. Thanks guys.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 7:10PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

The heat is beneficial for the inoculation of diseases, pathogens, seeds, etc. But its not required to make compost.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 11:28AM
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The heat in a compost pile is produced by bacterial activity, the more active your bacteria are the more heat is generated and there are at least three different species of bacteria active depending on the temperature, those bacteria that work to get the temperature to 100 degrees stop about there and another species takes over and gets the temperature even higher. The heat is an indication of bacterial activity but it has little do do with the bacteria that function in your soil aiding in disease prevention. Many bacteria, if allowed, will develop immunities, or a means of attacking disease pathogens. You find this happening in your garden as well as in the compost pile, indicating that the heat generated during the digestion process is not required for those immunities to develop.
Once again, by the time you get the bleached paper what was used to bleach that paper has been washed out and is no longer in the paper.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 7:25AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I run a hot pile year round because I compost dog waste, dead animals and seafood leftovers. I use tons of coffee grounds in the compost pile, filters and all unless I am putting the coffee grounds directly on my gardenias, then just the filters make it into the pile. I too compost card board, phone books, newspapers and paper from my bill shredder. They break down amazingly fast especially if I add some of my own urine that I save in a large OJ bottle. Takes a few days to fill it, but the ammonia and nitrogen it produces helps keep the pile hot all year round.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 11:28AM
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Regarding coffee filter papers, I find that they are fast to decompose and have never given me a problem.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 3:57PM
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Wow...thanks for providing information everyone, I was researching coffee filter decomposition and found this forum. I just started my composting pile this w/e and was thinking about using my extracted rocks to create an oven-type system for sun heat absorption and transfer during fall/winter months. -As for the cold piles, phone books, and urine oh my!?! Thanks!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2010 at 9:43AM
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While I certainly mean no disrespect to those individuals striving for totally organic compost to use in their gardens, I would not hesitate to place materials in my compost bin that were not originally prepared as organic products. I look at my compost bin as my family's way of reducing the amount of landfill space required by our waste stream. Whether a filter is bleached or not, I am going to put it in my compost bin and keep it out of the landfill.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 11:10AM
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