Characterisation of waste coffee grounds as a design material

A case study of material driven design, 2014


This project is about deigning with waste coffee grounds, to find a meaningful product application which would bring forward the technically and experiential qualities of the material. Following the Material Driven Design Method, I proposed three material concepts, which varied in technical and experiential qualities: Cofflexi (a flexible rubber/silicone composite), Café Maché (a lightweight recycled paper composite that is fully biodegradable) and CapPurcino (bio-polyurethane composite material). I mapped my findings from the material characterization of the coffee grounds to encapsulate a vision for coffee waste composites. Foremost was the use of ‘otherwise’ waste material being transferred to a 100% bio-degradable material, as a replacement for throwaway ‘petroleum based materials’. The intention was to make a solid contribution to environmental sustainability (i.e., impacts on the planet). Next to that, being different than other food-based materials, a coffee waste composite would also be food for plants, corresponding with the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) principle of “waste = food” (McDonough & Braungart, 2002), since coffee grounds are a very good fertilizer and might be used to change people’s pre- judgments about waste materials. Nevertheless, I realized that it couldn’t be used as a structural material for high performance products as coffee particles reduce strength of the composite material. Yet, its unique aesthetic quality was its imperfect surface qualities (i.e., its Wabi Sabi aesthetics), which could be embraced to allow unique products to be produced, even under mass production facilities.

Café Maché

Café Maché

Cofflexi

Cofflexi

CapPurcino

CapPurcino

I developed my final product concept, using two of the material concepts (. It is a set to grow greens at home, Cof2Grow. Café Maché was used for the packaging as well as a nutrient for tablets that contain seeds of preferred greens. The seeds sprout rapidly after adding water and are fed by the waste coffee. The material will change quickly due to the growth inside and after the seeds are fully grown and consumed, the entire tablet can be disposed of as organic waste. The tablets come with a pot that is made from CapPurcino and that can be reused. Taking into account the natural course of maturing of the material, it will change over time slowly due to the influence of UV and touch. Anticipating the process of curing the material, the pots are designed to have unique design features (e.g. different textures, different colour tones, etc.) for each cast.

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Collaborator

Re-Worked, UK