Coffee Playdough

Coffee Playdough

EDIT: Oops… I forgot to add flour to the ingredients' list. A lovely reader caught my mistake, and the recipe my includes 2 cups of flour. Thank you, Laura 🙂

I have a confession to make. Actually, not really a confession because that would imply that I am apologizing, and I'm not 🙂 I guess this is more of an admission. Sometimes, oh, probably 4 or 5 times a week, I look at the clock before going to bed and I think… just 6 more hours and I can have a cup of coffee! Pretty pathetic, right? I'm telling you this just to let you know I'm always looking for things to do with coffee grounds. Yep, I do compost them, and I frequently use them in place of dirt in crafting projects, but still, I generate a lot of coffee grounds.

So, it's no surprise, that I'm drawn to making coffee playdough. Besides the abundance of coffee grounds in this house, it is a fun sensory dough. Yes, it does smell like coffee, but not enough to make wee ones wrinkle their noses. It also gives the dough an interesting texture and unique appearance. Over the years we have used this playdough as mud for pigs to wallow in, for dinosaurs to leave their foot prints in, and to make "brown stuff" like tree trunks, mushrooms, and at some point, someone will inevitably make doggy doo-doo… just happens 🙂 

This playdough does tend to dry out fast, so always keep the unused playdough in an airtight container. Also, if you allow the playdough to dry out, the color does lighten up. You can intensify the color by rubbing a little oil on the finished piece or coating it in a sealer like Mod Podge.

Another comment… the original recipe I got many years ago called for instant coffee and plain water. Instant coffee in my house… blasphemy! So, instead, I add very hot, very dark brewed coffee to the dough as a substitute for plain water. It still will not have a dark brown appearance, the instant coffee does make the dough darker, so I do add enough red and green food coloring to achieve a nice, deep brown.


1/2 cup of coffee grounds
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
1 cup of very hot coffee
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/8 teaspoon vegetable glycerin (available at grocery, drug stores and some craft shops in the cake decorating section)
optional: brown food coloring
optional: 1 tablespoon instant coffee 

Gather all your ingredients.

If the wee ones are making this with me, we mix it up in a big bowl.

However… if I am making it myself, I sometimes cheat and mix it all in my food processor 🙂

If you want your dough a deeper brown, knead in food coloring by hand.

Store in an airtight container.

I love to make mushrooms and tree trunks with this dough. To make a mushroom, simple make a round disk with an indentation in the center for the cap. Roll out a stem.

Wet the end of the stem and add it the indentation. 

Wah, lah… a mushroom. Make many for your wee folk and woodland friends 🙂 



  1. And I thought I was the only one who thought about morning coffee at bedtime! I have also found myself trying to calculate how late I’d have to stay up if I give in and have just one more late-afternoon cup of coffee.

    This playdough sounds fantastic – I’ll definitely have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I lurk, and this probably sounds like a weird comment, but: coffee grounds are also useful for use when disposing of some pharmaceuticals. In general, it’s not good to flush old/expired prescriptions down the sink or toilet, and simply tossing them can put animals (especially pets!) at risk. *Some* meds can be mixed with coffee grounds and safely tossed. If you have old meds to throw out, check with your pharmacist about disposal. They may advise you to use this other good use for old coffee grounds.

      1. I've never heard of that but I will definitely look into it. It must create some type of chemical reaction. Interesting. Thanks for sharing… and lurking 🙂

        1. We were left with a lot of drugs when my sister died a few years ago. We were told to put them in coffee grounds and duct tape the containers shut until we could dispose of them. It was a blessing to have a way to get them taken care of. We miss her a lot.

          1. I have not heard of that way to get rid of drugs, but makes sense. I know the concerns on getting rid of drugs is twofold: first, that they don't wind up being used by other people, and two, that the drugs don't leech into the soil in landfills. Putting them in coffee grounds, then wrapping with duct tape would certainly take care of both of those conditions.

            I'm so sorry you lost you sister, and hope you have been able to hold on to all the joyous moments you spent together. ((hugs))

          2. I teach 2nd grade and have used coffee ground playdough for years to make dinosaur imprints. We are just getting ready to make them again tomorrow. I bought the plastic dinosaur skeletons from Oriental trading. We make the play dough, press the skeletons in, pull them out gently and let them dry. By the next day, we have what looks like fossilized rocks with dinosaur imprints and lots of happy kids! Thought you might enjoy this idea for your coffee play dough 🙂

          3. Wonderful idea! I've also seen really beautiful imprints using ferns and flowers. Also, bugs would work great. There were bugs around when dinos walked this earth. (Bugs in amber!)  Might be fun to throw in ferns, shells, and insects. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Definitely going to try this with my classroom of 4-year-olds (I work at a daycare). I’m not a coffee person, but the 3-year-olds’ teacher has a coffeemaker in her room and uses it daily, so coffee and grounds should be no problem! I also found some instant coffee powder hanging around in the back of a cupboard left over from some recipe or something my sister made, so I’m hoping for a good rich color. The scent and texture should be fun for my kids. I’m trying to come up with more sensory activities that engage several senses at once, and homemade play-dough seems to be one of the best ways to do that! I brought in pumpkin pie play-dough today and it was a huge hit. Thanks for posting your recipe!

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