How to Use Coffee to Stain Wood


Did you know you can stain wood using supplies you have at home? I discovered this trick last year, and am now completely hooked on making my own wood stain. For this project, I'll show you how to create a homemade coffee stain and apply it to custom-made bookends.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Things You'll Need

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 pieces fine steel wool (such as #00)
  • 1 tablespoon coffee grounds
  • 1 quart glass container with lid
  • Red oak wood (11 inches x 14 inches)
  • Sanding block
  • Paint brush
  • Hot glue gun


  • We selected a red oak for this project because the wide grain in the wood species absorbs the stain well and will result in a darker stain. A tighter grained wood, such as poplar, will product a lighter stain.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 1

Pour white vinegar into glass jar filling the jar half full.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 2

Carefully add a few pieces of steel wool to vinegar in the jar.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 3

Add 1 tablespoon coffee grounds to steel wool to the vinegar mixture.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 4

Seal glass container and shake. Let sit for three to seven days, shaking once a day. The longer the stain sits, the darker the color will become. For this project, the stain sat for six days.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 5

To create custom bookends, cut four pieces of wood: Two pieces measuring 5 1/2 inches x 8 inches and two pieces measuring 5 1/2 inches x 6 inches. Red oak was used in this project. The final color of the stain will vary depending on wood species.


  • At your request, home improvement stores will cut wood to size.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 6

Lightly sand any rough edges off the wood.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 7

Using a paint brush, lightly paint the stain onto the wood, covering each edge.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 8

Allow the stain to dry, and then repeat on the back of the wood pieces. At first the stain will look light, but will grow much darker as it dries. After drying, wipe off the excess stain with a damp towel.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 9

Add a bead of hot glue down the wood edge.

(Image: Julia Fain)

Step 10

Attach an 8-inch piece of wood to a 6-inch piece of wood in an L shape. Hold for a minute while the glue dries. Repeat to create the second bookend.

(Image: Julia Fain)

This projects works because the steel wool, vinegar, and coffee solution quickly oxidizes the wood. The longer the stain sits in the glass container, the darker the stain will become. The type of wood will also affect the final color of the stain. There will be enough leftover stain for multiple projects, and the bookends will make a beautiful rustic addition to any bookshelf.

(Image: Julia Fain)
(Image: Julia Fain)
(Image: Julia Fain)
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