Coffee makes a great stain for wood. It’s natural and easy to apply. It’s a simple way for anyone to enhance the beauty of wood with a warm, caramel tone.
Coffee Wood Stain
Do you have coffee and water? Then you have everything you need to make a natural stain for wood. Coffee is a great alternative to store-bought wood stains. It’s easy to make, easy to apply, and gives wood a warm, caramel tone.
You may also enjoy: 3 Reasons to Stain Wood with Tea and How to Make a DIY Black Walnut Stain
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Table of Contents
- Can You Stain Wood With Coffee?
- Why Use Coffee to Stain Wood?
- What Do You Need to Make Coffee Wood Stain?
- What Kind of Coffee Do You Need to Stain Wood?
- How Long Does Coffee Wood Stain Last?
- What Kind of Wood Can You Stain With Coffee?
- How Do You Prepare the Wood?
- How Do You Apply the Coffee Wood Stain?
- How Long Does Coffee Need to Dry Before Applying Another Coat?
- How Many Coats of Coffee Stain Can You Apply?
- Coffee Stain Raises the Grain
- How Do You Seal Wood Stained with Coffee?
- Use Coffee Wood Stain to Reduce Blotchiness
- How to Stain Wood With Coffee
Can You Stain Wood With Coffee?
Yes. Coffee makes a great, natural alternative to store-bought wood stains.
Why Use Coffee to Stain Wood?
There are several benefits to using a coffee stain rather than buying a traditional wood stain.
1. Not Flammable
Traditional oil-based wood stains can be dangerous. When we read the instructions for an oil-based stain we’ll see that they’re flammable and that they need to be used in a well-ventilated area.
Coffee is not flammable. It also doesn’t have stinky fumes like an oil-based stain. This means we can safely use coffee to stain wood indoors. We don’t need to worry about it igniting or making sure that we have a lot of ventilation.
2. More Control
We have more control over the final color when we use a coffee stain. The color of a coffee stain is more predictable because it adds a small amount of color with each application.
3. Doesn’t Get Blotchy
Some woods like pine get blotchy when a stain is applied.
To prevent blotchiness when using store-bought stains, we should first apply a pre-stain wood conditioner. The pre-stain conditioner prepares the wood and helps it to stain more evenly.
We don’t need to apply a pre-stain conditioner when we use a coffee stain.
Wood contains tannic acid. Tannic acid contributes to the color of the wood. Typically lighter woods have less tannic acid and darker woods have more tannic acid.
The coffee reacts with the tannins in the wood. This reaction evens out the tone of the wood. It helps to reduce blotchiness and gives the wood a uniform, warm color.
What Do You Need to Make Coffee Wood Stain?
We only need a few simple things to make a coffee stain. First, we’ll need some coffee and water. We’ll also need something to brew the coffee like an electric coffee maker, stovetop percolator, or a pour-over coffee dripper. The last thing we’ll need is a container (like a mason jar) to keep it in.
What Kind of Coffee Do You Need to Stain Wood?
We can use just about any kind of coffee to make a coffee stain. I used this coffee to make my stain.
When making a stain, it’s more about the quantity of coffee we use rather than the roast of the coffee. In other words, the more coffee we use, the darker the stain. But that said, I would go with a darker roast if you have a choice.
How Long Does Coffee Stain Last?
Coffee is a food-based product, so it could spoil and become moldy. Refrigerating the coffee stain will help it last longer.
What Kind of Wood Can You Stain With Coffee?
We can use a coffee stain on just about any kind of wood like pine, poplar, oak, maple, etc. I used the coffee stain on pine for all of the samples in this tutorial.
All woods take stain differently. As with any stain, it’s a good idea to try the coffee stain on some sample boards before using it on your project. This way, you can be sure it will produce the color you’re looking for.
How Do You Prepare the Wood?
We should sand the wood to prepare it for the stain. I sanded the samples in this tutorial with 100 grit and 120 grit sandpaper and then finished sanding with 150 grit sandpaper.
Related: 11 Secrets for Sanding Wood Projects Like a Pro
The end grain of wood tends to pull in more stain than the rest of the board. This is especially true when using a coffee stain.
One way to help prevent this from happening is to sand the end grain to a higher grit than the rest of the board. For my project, I used this sandpaper assortment to sand the end grain with 180 grit, 220 grit, 240 grit, 280 grit, and finished sanding with 320 grit sandpaper.Back to Table of Contents
How Do You Apply the Coffee Wood Stain?
I used an inexpensive 1″ foam craft brush to apply the coffee stain on some sample pieces of wood. The brush worked but I used a rag to apply the stain to the boards on my project.
I think the brush applied too much stain to the boards. I felt like I had better control using a rag instead of a brush.
How Long Does the Coffee Need to Dry Before Applying Another Coat?
I allowed the stain to dry for about two hours before applying another coat. It’s not necessary, but I aimed a box fan at the pieces to help speed up the drying process.Back to Table of Contents
How Many Coats of Coffee Stain Can You Apply?
In the video, I applied seven coats of stain to some sample pieces of pine. But I noticed something unusual when I started to apply the fourth coat of stain on my project.
The coffee stain was starting to pull off the previous coats of color. I applied some water to a sample piece that had seven coats of stain and the water removed some of the coffee color.
I compared the piece to a sample that had three coats of stain and the color was nearly identical. So I would say three coats of coffee stain is the most you would want to apply.
Left: This piece has three coats of stain.
Right: This piece had seven coats of stain. I applied water to the piece and wiped away some of the color with a paper towel.
Coffee Stain Raises the Grain
Water-based products, like a coffee stain, raise the grain of the wood. This means the surface of the wood is no longer smooth. Once the coffee stain is dry, the wood should be lightly sanded with 220 grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. Then the sanding dust should be removed with a ShopVac.Back to Table of Contents
How Do You Seal Wood Stained with Coffee?
I wanted to use a water-based polyurethane to seal my project. But as I mentioned earlier, water removed some of the coffee color from the test piece. I was concerned using a water-based product would remove some of the color.
I would say it would be best to topcoat a coffee stain with an oil-based product like an oil-based polyurethane, Bob’s Miracle Finish or shellac.
For my project, I chose to first apply a coat of shellac and then three coats of this matte water-based polyurethane. The shellac is easy to apply, dries quickly and seals the coffee which prevents it from interacting with the water-based polyurethane. Shellac also adds a warm glow to wood.
Related: What You Need to Know About a Shellac Wood Finish
Use Coffee Stain to Prevent Blotchiness
There’s one more thing we can do with a coffee stain. We can use it to pre-condition hard-to-stain woods like pine.
I mentioned earlier there are store-bought pre-stain wood conditioners that help to prevent blotchiness and make the wood absorb stain more evenly.
Related: What I Use Instead of Wood Conditioner
Both the wood conditioner and a coffee stain prevent blotchiness and evens out the wood tone. But the real difference is the way they accept stain.
It appears to me store-bought wood conditioners reduce blotchiness by preventing the stain from soaking deeply into the wood.
In my experience, wood treated with a store-bought conditioner produces a lighter stain color than I expected. To me, wood treated with a coffee stain produces a darker, richer color.
Left: This side was treated with one coat of coffee stain and one coat of Rust-Oleum Dark Walnut oil-based stain. The color is darker and more even.
Right: This side has one coat of Rust-Oleum Dark Walnut oil-based stain.
Video: How to Stain Wood With Coffee
Watch the quick video to see how to make and apply a coffee stain.
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How to Stain Wood With Coffee
Step 1. Brew the Coffee
First, I brewed a strong batch of coffee. I used a ratio of 6:1 water to coffee. In other words, 6 parts water to 1 part coffee. For my coffee stain, I used 6 cups of water to 1 cup of this coffee.
I brewed the stain just like I would brew my morning coffee. I placed a filter in the coffee maker, added 1 cup of coffee, 6 cups of water and turned the machine on.
When the coffee was cooled, I poured it into a 32 oz mason jar.
Step 2. Prepare the Wood
While the coffee was cooling I prepared the wood for the stain. I sanded the entire board with 100 grit sandpaper, 120 grit sandpaper and finished sanding with 150 grit sandpaper.
The end grain absorbs more stain than the face grain and edge grain. I sanded the end grain to a higher grit than the rest of the board. This helps to reduce the amount of stain that can be absorbed into the end grain.
I sanded the end grain with 180 grit, 220 grit, 240 grit, 280 grit, and finished sanding with 320 grit sandpaper.
Related: 11 Secrets for Sanding Wood Projects Like a Pro
Step 3. Apply the Coffee Stain
When the coffee was cooled, I applied the stain to the wood with a clean rag.
Step 4. Apply Additional Coats (optional)
I allowed the first coat of stain to dry for two hours, and then I applied a second coat. The second coat was allowed to dry for two hours, and then I applied a third coat of stain.
Step 5. Lightly Sand
When the wood was dry I lightly sanded the boards with 220 grit sandpaper and removed the sanding dust with my ShopVac.
Step 6. Seal the Coffee Stain
As I mentioned earlier, water removed some of the coffee color from a test piece. My recommendation is to seal the coffee stain with an oil-based topcoat like an oil-based polyurethane, Bob’s Miracle Finish or shellac.
For my project, I chose to first apply a coat of shellac and then three coats of this matte-finish water-based polyurethane. The shellac is easy to apply, dries quickly and seals the coffee which prevents it from interacting with the water-based polyurethane.
Coffee makes a great stain for wood. It’s natural, easy to make, and easy to apply. It’s a simple way for anyone to enhance the beauty of wood with a warm, caramel tone.
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