Did you know you can use coffee as wood stain? It is surprisingly simple and effective, but, how does it compare to using a traditional stain? Today, we’re going to learn all about how to stain wood with coffee, and if it’s worth it to use this method!
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Pros & Cons of Using Coffee as Wood Stain
Using coffee as an alternative to traditional stain has some amazing benefits.
- All natural
- No harsh chemicals
- Safe, non-flammable
- Very affordable
- Easy to apply
- Smells amazing while applying
- Simple to make
- Reduces waste
- Produces an even finish
However, it also has some limitations.
- Works best on lighter woods like oak, ash, chestnut or pine
- Rarely produces a very dark finish
- Can be difficult to replicate identical formula for larger projects
- Over time, direct sunlight can slightly fade the finish
The main deciding factor to determine if it is the right choice for you is how dark you want your stain to be. If you are looking for a very dark finish, coffee as a stain will not be your best choice.
However, if you’re looking for a lighter tone, then coffee gives you a lot of control over how dark your finish ends up with a beautiful caramel hue. This is because when you use coffee as a stain, you need to apply layers.
Each layer applies a slightly darker tone, until you’ve achieved your desired look.
Let’s discuss the process in more detail.
How to Stain Wood With Coffee Grounds
Using coffee as wood stain is a very simple process. Anyone can make a homemade stain from coffee in a few simple steps.
1. Prepare the Wood Surface
The first step to staining wood is to prepare it properly. This is essential whether you are using coffee or a traditional wood stain.
Your wood needs to be sanded smooth to start. Depending on how rough your wood is, start with 80 or 100 grit sandpaper, then run 120 and then 150 over it to finish.
Once everything has been sanded, vacuum the dust with a shop vac and then use a tack cloth to remove any remaining particles. I prefer this smaller shop vac as it’s much easier for me to transport and still has great power for smaller projects.
2. Brew Strong Coffee
The next step is to brew your coffee. Just like you’re making a cup o’ joe.
The darker the roast, the darker your stain.
The stronger your pot, the darker your stain.
So if you want a medium to dark stain, brew a very strong pot of dark roast coffee. The type of coffee isn’t as important as how much you use.
Brew a small amount for a small project and a whole pot for a larger project. If you are doing something very large, like flooring, take note of exactly how many scoops of coffee you put into your first pot so you can replicate it again and again as needed to make more.
Let the coffee cool 30 minutes, or until room temperature, before applying.
All wood species take stains differently.
- Do a test on the same species of wood as your project before applying stain to the project piece.
- Play with application method, number of coats, how strong the coffee is, and type of sealer to see which gives you the desired results.
3. Apply Coffee To Wood
Next, apply your coffee to the wood using a foam brush.
When using traditional stain, I usually like to use a rag. However, the coffee stain is very runny (because…it’s coffee) and a rag tends to soak up too much. A foam brush works much better so you aren’t wasting your stain.
Alternatively, you can also use a regular paint brush. However, I feel it tends to hold less stain than I want and leaves streaks if you aren’t careful.
In even coats, apply the coffee stain across the entire surface. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then wipe any coffee off that hasn’t soaked in with a rag.
(For lighter stains, start at the 10 minute mark and increase the length of time for desired coloring.)
Wait until fully dry to reveal the true coloring before deciding whether to apply more than one coat. This can take up to 2 hours.
Since coffee is water based, you may notice a slight raising of the wood grain. If this isn’t the look you want, you can sand lightly after the first coat has dried.
4. Apply 1-2 More Coats of Coffee Stain
After your first coat is fully dry you’ll be able to tell how much one layer of stain will change the color.
As you can see in this example, the wood gets progressively darker with each coat. However, the changes are subtle with each layer to create a beautiful caramel color.
After three coats, it is difficult to see much difference in the depth or hue. So I wouldn’t apply more than three coats, letting each coat dry fully in between applications.
5. Seal Your Project
The final step is the same as any traditional wood staining project: sealing.
This step is optional based on your preference and the amount of use the piece will get.
I prefer to keep my wood pieces gloss-free for a more natural look. So, this is my favorite matte sealer.
I’ve also heard excellent reviews of this wood sealer, but am on the hunt for a new project piece to try it on!
Take a look at the full article on my $250 bathroom remodel where I used coffee as wood stain on our vanity knobs. It worked perfectly in a pinch and they turned out the perfect hue!
Using Coffee As A Wood Stain FAQs
What Does Coffee Do To Wood?
Since wood and water don’t usually mix, using coffee to stain wood will raise the grain as it darkens the wood.
This is easy to remedy with a quick sand after the first coat with 150 grit sandpaper. If you like a more rustic look, feel free to leave it.
Can I Use Instant Coffee to Stain Wood?
Yes, you can use instant coffee to stain wood.
This is an excellent choice as it is traditionally darker in nature.
Play with the ratios of water to coffee. Start with 5-6 tablespoons in a half cup of boiling water. If that isn’t dark enough, add more until the desired color is achieved.
Let cool before applying.
Do You Have to Seal Coffee Stained Wood?
Sealing helps wood surfaces become easier to clean and dust. It also protects from water damage.
Depending on the sheen you use, it can also add a nice gloss to your wood.
Using coffee as a wood stain is very durable. Your finish won’t come off if you don’t use a sealer, it is simply a best practice to seal wood after staining.
Can You Stain Wood Floors With Coffee?
You can absolutely stain wood floors with coffee. The tricky part will be recreating the exact same coffee stain formula for the entire project.
With larger projects, take detailed notes on how you brew your coffee and how many layers you apply, with the specific wait and drying time.
Replicate all those details for every new brew you make until the project is finished.
I would highly recommend sealing floors as they need that protection from wear and tear.
How Do You Make Homemade Wood Stain?
If you are looking for other ways to make homemade wood stain, there are actually quite a few options.
You can also make homemade wood stain from tea, steel wool, various vinegars, and even rusty nails. It is worth an experiment to see which option you like best to make wood stain naturally.
How Long Does Coffee Take to Stain Wood?
Using coffee to stain wood is a fairly quick process.
While traditional stains typically apply the stain and let rest for a 5-10 minutes before wiping excess off, coffee wood stain needs to rest for 10-15 minutes.
That’s really the only difference in timing. Once each coat is dry, you can apply the next layer, conceivably completing a small project in one morning.
How Do You Darken Wood With Coffee?
The trick to darkening wood with coffee is the strength of the coffee brew, and the amount of layers you apply.
If you’re looking for a very dark wood stain, brew a pot of coffee 4-5 times normal strength. Then, apply three layers.
Is It Worth It to Use Coffee As a Wood Stain?
Now the main question: Is it worth it to use coffee to stain wood?
In short, yes.
It is an excellent option as the pros outweigh the cons significantly.
However, I would take precaution to use it on outdoor projects where sunlight may fade the finish. You simply need to apply the pros and cons to your specific project idea to see what is the best fit!
More DIY Project Ideas
I hope that this has been helpful as you decide whether or not using coffee as wood stain is the right option for you!
If you’re looking for more DIY project ideas, you’ll likely enjoy these articles.
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