Let’s debunk some common myths about the various uses of coffee
The world of coffee is a tangled web of truths, half-truths, and total nonsense. As coffee geeks, we’ve decided to sift through eight popular coffee rumours to find out if there is any truth behind them.
“Coffee grounds are great for plants”
The myth goes: sprinkling coffee grounds on your plants will make them flourish. Tall claims indeed…
Turns out that coffee grounds do contain some important plant nutrients but they are not the horticultural elixir they are claimed to be. In fact, excessive use of coffee grounds can do more harm than good, causing acidity imbalances and stunting plant growth.
If you want to dig more into this claim - the green-thumbed experts over at Rural Sprout do an excellent job telling us where this coffee myth belongs (hint: not in the compost bin).
“Coffee stimulates hair growth”
People are slathering their heads with instant coffee, but we’re more interested in the big-brand hair care products that use caffeine as a star ingredient.
You might have noticed things like caffeine-based shampoos, conditioners and hair serums appearing in the last few years - all promising a stronger, thicker, Rapunzel-like mane.
Sounds great - but any big claim on the back of a shampoo bottle can be taken with a pinch of salt. So what is the truth about coffee and hair growth?
Call us cynics, but we were surprised to discover that there is actually a lot of evidence-based research that supports this myth. According to various scientific studies, the caffeine in coffee can potentially stimulate hair growth at the follicular level. The mechanism behind this is to do with caffeine's ability to block DHT, the hormone responsible for hair follicle damage and consequent hair loss. A study was even conducted into the role of caffeine in managing alopecia.
In general, it seems then, like there is enough evidence to suggest that caffeine in the right form and concentration could give your hair a boost. Maybe.
For a longer read on this topic, check out Healthline's dive into the subject of coffee and hair.
“Coffee is a #skincarehack”
We've all seen those DIY skincare recipes floating around (hello Tik Tok).
Quite a few claim coffee grounds can be used as a brilliant exfoliating scrub for the face. “It leaves your skin feeling SO soft and energized!” says one video. “Reuse coffee grounds skincare” is even a search term on Tik Tok with 6.9M views.
The idea of using coffee grounds to remove dead skin cells doesn't sound too far-fetched. By nature, coffee grounds do have an exfoliator-esque appearance. And the zero-waste sentiment is something we can get behind, however - don’t do it.
Due to its coarse texture, scrubbing your face with coffee grounds can also cause microscopic tears. Especially if the grounds are too rough or if it's used too harshly onto the skin. These tears can lead to irritation, redness, and even infection. So… not so great for the skin. Not to mention your drains.
Verdict? Big myth.
If you are tempted to make a scrub from coffee grounds - we reckon you keep it away from the skin on your face.
“Coffee neutralises odours”
There’s a rumour that coffee grounds have the power to eliminate smells from spaces like your fridge or shoes. The truth is a tad more nuanced.
It's a bit like air freshener - coffee doesn't eliminate the source of the bad smell, but it does a good job of covering it up.
The science behind this lies in coffee's strong, aromatic compounds. Both in its brewed and ground form, it can act as a powerful masking agent, but unlike things like activated charcoal or baking soda, coffee doesn't trap odorous compounds. It just outshines the unpleasant smells with its own.
Here’s an interesting fact: If you've ever been to a fancy perfume shop, you might have noticed small bowls of coffee beans on the counters. Coffee beans have been used in traditional perfumeries for many years as a "reset button" for our sense of smell. Apparently smelling coffee beans in between testing different fragrances helps to cleanse the olfactory palate and prevent something called 'olfactory fatigue'. This basically allows you to ‘accurately’ smell the next fragrance.
“Coffee is a cleaning product”
Coffee as a cleaning product is another myth that makes the rounds.
And - again, we kind of get why. Coffee grounds might seem like a natural, eco-friendly choice for a homemade cleaning scrub but the truth is, it's never going to be the best candidate for the job.
Coffee grounds might be able to scrub away some surface debris due to their gritty texture, but they can also cause a few problems of their own. Like staining. In addition, the grounds can clog drains, leading to some expensive plumbing issues.
Also, lastly, let’s not forget that coffee doesn't contain the disinfecting properties that most conventional cleaners have - making this claim way more myth than fact.
“Coffee is a natural dye”
Can coffee double as a dye? Yes, but with a few caveats.
Coffee grounds can produce a rich, brown dye that's perfect for giving fabrics, paper, and even Easter eggs a vintage, rustic look. The downside is the dye is not very colourfast and tends to fade or wash out over time. It's also not recommended for dyeing hair as the colour is temporary and can be uneven. Or for dying your eyebrows.
“Coffee disrupts sleep”
We've probably all heard this one before - coffee keeps you awake. There is a healthy amount of truth to this one, but it's not the complete picture.
Caffeine, which is the primary stimulant in coffee, certainly has the ability to ward off drowsiness. It achieves this by blocking adenosine, a neurotransmitter that signals your brain that it's time for sleep. This leads to increased alertness and wakefulness, which is why so many of us rely on a brew to start our day.
However, whether or not coffee truly disrupts your sleep can depend on various factors, including your individual sensitivity to caffeine, the amount consumed, and the timing of consumption.
Some people can have an espresso after dinner and sleep like a baby, while others might find themselves staring at the ceiling all night after an afternoon cappuccino. If you are sensitive to caffeine, it's generally advised to avoid coffee and other caffeine-containing products for at least 6 hours before bed.
Additionally, coffee won't prevent the physical need for sleep. Consistently relying on caffeine to push through sleep deprivation can lead to a cycle of poor sleep and increased daytime fatigue, even with caffeine consumption.
Secret London have a good blog on this topic: “Why Drinking Coffee Before Bed is Actually Fine, Says Science”
“Coffee sobers you up”
While coffee might pep you up, it’s not going to help you sober up. The bitter truth is that a cup of coffee might awaken your senses, but it won't undo the effects of alcohol. So, if you find yourself intoxicated, reach for a glass of water and a responsible friend. Not an extra espresso shot.
As much as we would love to live in a world where coffee solves all our problems - coffee's magic has its limits.
At 200 Degrees, we’re always going to believe that coffee is best enjoyed in a mug, not as part of a beauty regime or plant fertiliser. That being said… coffee grounds do make a nifty, eco-friendly alternative for firewood. And that's one for the 'fact’ column.