Local Grad Student Using Apotheos Coffee Waste to Grow Mushrooms

At Apotheos, we are always trying to build to something better. It's even in our name. Apotheosis literally means "elevation to divine status." So when an ambitious grad student from Kennesaw State came knocking on our door, explaining his concept for a more sustainable way to get rid of our coffee grounds, we knew we were all ears.

Like any coffee company, we end every week with mounds of used coffee grounds, and they're surprisingly hard to unload. Sure, we could throw them away, but it takes years for food waste to decompose in a landfill. Plus, with the sheer volume of our used grounds, regular trash pickup doesn't always cover it.

As a result, we started composting earlier this year, which is a fun, effective way to manage our waste. Just behind our roastery, we have a growing compost hill, mostly made of used coffee grounds. It will decompose into rich, fertile soil – eventually. So, while waiting for the decomposing process, the small pile is quickly growing into a rather large hill.

So you can imagine our interest when we met Will Beeson, the KSU grad student, who told us of an innovative and sustainable use for our used coffee, all having to do with mushrooms.

Fungus Among Us

Will, who's working toward his masters degree in integrative biology, was first inspired by this news story. About a decade ago, a few creative students at Berkeley formed a business where they grew a variety of edible mushrooms in wet, used coffee grounds.

In the wild, the mushrooms we like to eat grow in hardwoods and their derivatives. These substances can be costly, to both the budget and the environment. But scientists now know that mushrooms flourish in an array of sustainable environments.

One excellent fertilizer for mushrooms is cotton gin waste—that is, the excess of cotton plants that can't be used for making materials. Farmers all around Georgia are stuck with huge piles of cotton gin waste, with nowhere to put them. That is until Will and his fellow researchers at Kennesaw State have begun collecting this waste. They're using it to grow and harvest mushrooms at scale.

And it turns out that another substance can foster mushroom growth – used coffee grounds.

Grounds to Gold

By providing our used coffee grounds to Will and his team, we can help them grow a huge variety of tasty mushrooms that are sometimes hard to find in our local markets. Will's team currently plants lion's mane, chestnut, tarragon oyster, paddy straw, and silky Rosehill mushrooms in their lab, using cotton gin waste and coffee as soil.

They aren't selling these mushrooms, at least for now. (Will says they mostly share them with their friends and families). Rather than making a business out of it, Will is more interested in proving that the sustainable process works, and inspiring local farmers to take part.

Still, the process doesn't end when the mushrooms are ready to be eaten. Following the harvest, the coffee ground soil remains rich with carbon, which means it can return to the fields as a fertilizer, beginning the cycle anew.

Altogether, the process is practically free of waste, which means it is not just more cost efficient, but immeasurably better for our environment. You can't get more Apotheos than that.