Looking for a non-toxic, homemade wood stain idea? Coffee makes a great natural stain – plus it is super inexpensive and easy to come by. Here is a step by step tutorial on how to stain wood with coffee – and a how-to video!
I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with different ways to stain wood lately.
I blame my joining a DIY wooden toys Facebook group. It made me really aware of a need (sometimes) for non-toxic wood stain options. I decided to make my own natural alternative!
Even when you are building furniture that won’t be chewed on – the idea of a non-toxic finish is still a great option.
Plus, let’s get real. If you enjoy making things from scratch, you will probably be intrigued at the idea of making your own wood stains from scratch, too.
So, I am going to be really trying to experiment and try out a lot of our own DIY wood stain options and basic recipes. Here are all of the ways to DIY wood stain!
Did you catch my tutorial on how to dye wood with food coloring?
Using Coffee as a Wood Stain
Today I am going to share how to stain wood with instant coffee. This was super fun to try – and I also did some staining with black tea at the same time!
Coffee can be used to stain any type of wood. It is natural, inexpensive, and readily available. It’s a great way to add subtle tone to natural wood!
Why Use Coffee to Stain Wood?
There are several pro’s to using coffee as a wood stain:
- Coffee is non-toxic (and therefore mouth-friendly) and great natural products, especially compared to most commercial stain
- Natural coffee wood stain is not flammable – unlike many wood stains that are highly flammable.
- Very light natural look – coffee gives just a slight richness to wood and brings out the existing wood grain.
It’s a great alternative if you want to highlight the existing wood and not cover it up with a thick stain.
- Doesn’t get blotchy – Wood contains tannic acid, which causes the color of a piece of wood. Lighter woods have less tannic acid and darker woods have more tannic acid.
Coffee has a chemical reaction with the tannins in the wood to even out the tone of the wood, reduce blotchiness and gives the wood a uniform color.
- Coffee is cheap – you probably already have coffee in your home, making this a free way to stain wood!
Similarly, you can make a black tea stain!
What Do You Need to Make a DIY Coffee Wood Stain?
To make a DIY coffee wood stain, all you really need is coffee. But here is everything that I used:
- Coffee grounds
- Coffee maker or french press + any supplies required to make coffee such as pods or coffee filter
- Cup of water
- Coffee mug or glass jar to make coffee into
- Foam paint sponge brush
- Wood to stain – I used pine wood
- Scrap pieces of wood – to test stain
What Kind of Coffee Do You Need to Stain Wood
Great news – you can really use any type of brewed coffee to stain wood! You don’t need anything fancy – your grocery store bought instant coffee granules work just fine.
It would be fun to mess around with different roast of the coffee and type of tea to see if you could get different natural color results!
We used the normal dark roast of coffee that Sean drinks. I would suggest sticking to a dark roast coffee for the darkest possible brown color.
How Long Does Coffee Wood Stain Last?
Coffee stain should not fade once applied to your wood furniture and dried. Applying a sealant will help it last. However, if you place your furniture in direct sunlight, it will slowly fade regardless of the sealant!
The cup of coffee itself can be stored in the fridge, but I would not keep it more than 24 hours. If you plan to store it, put it in a container with a lid such as a mason jar.
Luckily, coffee is cheap and easy to make!
How do I make my stain color darker?
Adding a steel wool pad to the coffee and letting that sit 24-48 hours can make the stain appear darker. This chemical reaction creates an iron acetate.The same can be done with rusty nails to achieve a darker desired color! Read about that process in my post about how to stain wood with vinegar!
This stain will also absorb more into soft, light wood and less into darker hardwoods.
What Kind of Wood Can You Stain With Coffee?
You can apply a coffee stain to any type of wood. I used pine wood for my example. The peg people that I dyed are birch and maple.
Just be sure to do a sample of the type of wood your project is before you apply the stain to a whole piece of furniture or build – the bottom of a piece of furniture is a good place to test.
How Do You Prepare the Wood?
The coffee based stain definitely takes best to sanded wood.
Sand with sandpaper – starting at a lower grit and ending with a higher grit (I like to end with 220) for a smooth surface that is ready to absorb stain.
When you are finished sanding, be sure to wipe down your wood to remove any dust or dirt.
How Do You Apply the Coffee Wood Stain?
I used a foam brush to apply the coffee wood stain to my wood. You can also use a lint-free cloth or rag if you prefer.
How Long Does Coffee Need to Dry Before Applying Another Coat?
I applied three coats of coffee stain, with a 5 minute wait in between coats. You could definitely wait longer, but want to wait long enough for the stain to feel dry to the touch.
How Many Coats of Coffee Stain Can You Apply to Wood?
You can apply as many coats of coffee as you’d like. I did three coats on my samples, 5 minutes apart.
I also allowed the peg dolls to soak for three different amounts of time – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes, pulling one out each time I painted a new coat on the wood.
Check out my youtube videos on how to stain wood with tea + coffee!
Does Coffee Stain Raise the Grain?
Yes, like many water based stains, coffee can raise the grain of the wood. You want to sand with a very fine sandpaper to help reduce it.
Some people actually use a brown paper bag! This will bring down the grain without losing the color.
How Do You Seal Wood Stained with Coffee?
You can apply the sealant of your choice over your coffee stain. I prefer polycrylic.
If you are making kid’s toys, I suggest something non-toxic like spray shellac.
How Do You Stain Wood Toys with Coffee?
Coffee is a great wood stain option for kid’s wooden toys. It is non-toxic which makes it great for mouth-y toddlers.
I love that coffee adds a slight warm tone, making it a great way to add some diversity to your wooden dolls.
To do this, I followed this same process but used a ziplock bag.
Once your coffee is cool, pour it into a ziplock bag. Add your wooden toys to the bag and seal it.
Allow to sit for five minutes, shaking the bag every minute or so to be sure you get even coverage.
I pulled dolls out every 5 minutes (at 5, 10, and 15 minutes) to get slightly darker stain colors.
Allow to dry. I prefer to seal with a spray sealant that is also non-toxic.
How to make wood stain from coffee grounds
Always wear gloves to avoid staining your hands!
Step One: Prepare the wood
Sand your surface of the wood to make it ready to absorb the stain. I prefer starting with a lower grit (if the wood is rough) and working up to a 220 grit.
Wipe clean to remove any dust or dirt with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Step Two: Prepare the coffee
Prepare your coffee as you usually would. I only made a small Keurig cup for my samples, but you can add as many cups of coffee grounds and cups of water as your coffee maker with accommodate.
Step Three: Apply the coffee to the wood
If you are uncertain about the finish, always test on a scrap piece of wood first.
Use a foam brush or rag to apply the first coat of coffee to your wood or woodworking project. Allow to dry for five minutes, then re-apply. If too much stain is pooling, use the rag to wipe excess.
Repeat additional coats of stain as needed.
Step Four: Apply sealant
Allow to dry for at least one hour and then the final step is to apply the sealant of your choice to the stained surface.
Want to try staining wood with coffee? It is cheap, easy, and totally non-toxic. Here is a step by step guide on how to do it!
- Coffee grounds
- Wood to stain – I used pine wood
- Coffee maker + any supplies required to make coffee such as pods or filters
- Coffee mug or jar to make coffee into
- Foam paint brush
- Prepare your wood by sanding. Start with a lower grit if it is rough and work up to a 220 grit. Wipe clean with a rag.
- Prepare your coffee as usual and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Use a foam brush or clean rag to apply coffee to the wood. If you are staining small items like peg dolls, place them in a ziplock bag with the coffee.
- Allow to dry for five minutes.
- Apply another coat.
- Allow to dry as necessary.
- Apply sealant of choice.
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Want to see our favorite wood stains?
Looking for more non-toxic, natural wood stains?
Here is how to dye wood using food coloring!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you stain wood with coffee?
You can absolutely stain wood with instant coffee grounds! While more complicated recipes exist, I had great success just brushing cooled coffee onto a sanded and prepared wood surface. You can apply several coats until you achieve your desired darkness. Then, seal as you would any other stained wood.
Any tips for sealing wood?
I have a whole blog post tutorial on how to seal stained wood! It is full of tips and tricks for best results.
Any questions about staining wood with coffee?
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