From Bean to Brew: What is Coffee Chaff?

what is coffee chaff

What is coffee chaff and why is it more than just waste? Coffee chaff is historically discarded after roasting coffee because in the past it had no practical use. 

However, coffee roasters and those who upcycle alike have found that chaff is more than just waste and can be used for various purposes including gardening and handmade Cascara syrup.

Coffee Chaff is a byproduct of the coffee roasting process. It is the thin skin or husk that comes off the bean as it roasts. The chaff has a light brown or golden hue, is light and papery and although often discarded, it has various uses.

Key Takeaways

Nature of Coffee Chaff:

Chaff is the thin husk shed from coffee beans during roasting. It’s historically discarded but is separated using specialized equipment like the Chaff Coffee Collector.

Versatile Uses of Chaff:

Beyond being waste, chaff has roles in gardening, composting, and sustainable products, including car parts and biofuel. It’s also explored for potential health benefits and culinary applications.

Chaff’s Sustainability Impact:

Growing awareness highlights chaff’s shift from mere waste to a sustainable resource, underlining its environmental significance.

How Is Coffee Separated From Chaff?

During the roasting process, the skin of the coffee bean falls away as temperatures rise. This skin, known as chaff, is collected using a machine called the Chaff Coffee Collector. 

The collector ensures the chaff is separated from the coffee bean.

There are various types of chaff collectors, all designed with a singular purpose: to collect the chaff. 

Some roasters utilize an internal collector integrated with their roasting equipment that can be vacuumed, while others prefer an external collector equipped with a separate drum specifically for chaff collection.

The Many Uses of Coffee Chaff

Why is it a Sustainability Hero? For many years, no one ever thought of coffee chaff as being something to be tossed in the trash. 

However, as time has gone on and with both roasters and consumers looking for ways to reduce their footprint, coffee chaff has the potential to be a sustainability hero from gardening alternatives to car parts. 

Coffee chaff has gone under a change and it’s all in the name of innovation. Roasters have found various ways to repurpose and reuse coffee chaff including syrups, foods, fertilizers, and even bio-friendly fuels.

Coffee Chaff for Gardens

Coffee Chaff has been discovered to be an asset in the garden as it is known to contain nitrogen. In addition, the coffee bean including the husk is acidic in nature. But once roasted, the PH and acidity are greatly reduced, making chaff a lightweight, nutritious, hydroponic fertilizer base for almost any garden.

Coffee Chaff Compost

Chaff is naturally organic and is a direct byproduct of the coffee bean. Full of nitrogen, chaff is ideal for composting as it is light, and soaks up moisture well. 

Coffee Chaff In Animal Feed

Studies have been performed on the use of chaff in animal feed and while many in the agricultural industry believe chaff is safe for certain animals, the general consensus is that it is not safe in animal feed without further testing.

Coffee Chaff for Chickens

Coffee Chaff can be used as a natural alternative to traditional bedding. Coffee chaff in a chicken coop can be useful for soaking up chicken waste and breaks down well, unlike wood chips.

In Sustainable Products

Researchers at the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences allege there are compounds in chaff that may be good for human consumption. 

Those compounds are known as phenolic compounds which include gallic and protocatechuic acid which may possibly reduce glucose absorption and insulin sensitivity in those with type-2 diabetes. 

Uses In Automotive Production 

According to several news sources, and Ford themselves, they are working to find innovative ways to reduce their carbon footprint, and one of those ways is with coffee chaff. 

Because chaff can be heated and compressed at high temperatures, they found that mixing chaff with plastics and additives, results in a heavy-duty plastic that can be formed into various shapes creating everything from headlights to interior components. 

Food and Beverage – Is It Edible?

While there is still a lot of exploring to do with coffee chaff, some roasters have already made strides in finding creative ways to use chaff in foods and beverages. 

Chaff can be used as a topping on ice cream and can be used to make cascara syrup which is a naturally sweetened alternative for coffee drinkers.

However, it doesn’t have a generally appealing flavor or texture. Some describe it as woody, bitter, or bland.

It’s also important to consider the source to ensure it is free of potentially hazardous contaminants 

Uses In Biofuel And Energy

Coffee Chaff is having its moment as a recyclable material, slowly but surely. Some coffee roasters are now compressing chaff into briquettes and some companies use chaff as compressed pellets to smoke foods which some companies have found ways to compress chaff into charcoal.

Coffee Chaff Use Summary (Table)

CategoryDescription and UseHow to Obtain
AgricultureUsed as compost and mulch in gardensGarden stores, coffee shops, DIY methods
AnimalsUseful for chicken beddingFarm supply stores, coffee roasters
Sustainable ProductsUsed in pillows, car parts, etc.Specialty stores, online
Food and BeverageIn Cascara SyrupSpecialty food stores, online
Biofuel and EnergyAs a renewable energy sourceResearch centers, special programs
Impact on Coffee TasteIt’s removed after roasting and does not affect tasteN/A

Where to get Coffee Chaff

Many roasters, retailers, and coffee shops are willing to sell their coffee chaff. This brings more income to the roaster and provides composting and fertilizing alternatives to the general public. 

Commercial roasters will typically sell their collected Chaff. Find a local roaster in your area, connect with them and they may chaff en masse. 

Does Chaff Affect Coffee Taste?

Coffee chaff does not affect the taste of coffee after the roasting process. Chaff by itself does not have any antioxidants or tannins, so it will simply taste nutty or slightly bitter depending on the origination of the bean.


Coffee chaff is more than just an afterthought in the coffee process. Now, it is used in products many use day to day from fertilizers to cascara syrup. 

Since awareness has been brought to the byproduct that is coffee chaff, roasters, scientists and members of the upcycling community continue to explore the power of coffee chaff finding unusual and unique uses for what was simply thought of as an inconvenient mess.


What is coffee chaff used for?

Coffee Chaff has many uses, including gardening, fertilizing the lawn, in biofuel, composting and so much more.

What does chaff look like in coffee?

It may look like small flakes of coffee cherry skin. Light and fluffy in texture and color. It is not generally seen in the finished product.

How do you get the chaff out of coffee beans?

Chaff is the skin that is removed from the coffee bean during the roasting process and is collected using a chaff collector.

Where does coffee chaff come from?

Coffee chaff is created during the roasted process. As the coffee bean heats up, the skin or husk from the outer layer of the bean falls away.

Is coffee chaff edible?

It is not edible in large quantities, although it has been known to be used for topping desserts and making cascara syrup.

Does coffee chaff affect taste?

Most of the coffee chaff is removed during the roasting process. And although it has an odd taste, there is not enough left behind to affect taste.

Is coffee chaff flammable?

Yes, coffee chaff is highly flammable.


CITESEERX. (n.d.).

 A critical review on feed value of coffee waste for livestock feeding. (n.d.-a).

Login. Double Shot of Sustainability: Ford and McDonald’s Collaborate to Convert Coffee Bean Skin into Car Parts | Ford Media Center. (n.d.).

Christopher Mize

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