A soap-making startup gives life to coffee grounds.
BY MARK VAN STREEFKERK
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Kyle Anderson
Seattle is well-known for its tech companies, startups, eco-consciousness, and of course, coffee. When Kyle Anderson, a product designer for Microsoft, founded a soap-making startup called Coffee Bar Seattle that utilized recycled coffee grounds, the concept was about as Seattle as it gets.
Last year, Kyle found more time on his hands when he made the switch to telecommuting at the beginning of the pandemic—which eliminated his physical commute time. At the office before COVID-19, he would typically fill up his thermos multiple times a day at the company coffee station. However, preparing coffee on his Breville home espresso machine showed him the sheer amount of coffee grounds he was composting every day. “Between my girlfriend and I, we’re going through a lot of coffee. I was sort of looking at the compost and thinking, maybe there’s something more than I can do with this besides just composting, something that can really incorporate the recycled grounds into something else where you can enjoy it twice,” Kyle says
Having more downtime in his day, Kyle started experimenting with candle and soap making, incorporating coffee grounds that would typically be on their way to the compost. Coffee and soap isn’t a new pairing, he points out, but he wanted to put his own spin on the concept, making coffee the front-and-center ingredient, giving the bars an almost pumice stone-like quality. Perfect for exfoliation, or as Kyle calls it, “a shower companion.”
Originally making the soap to put in care packages for friends, Kyle received such positive feedback that he fine-tuned his recipes and launched a website to reach a larger audience last November. Coffee Bar’s soap offerings are inspired by cafés and coffee drinks. The Coarse Grind is a bar heavily packed with coffee grounds on one side, and mostly shea butter on the other side, “so you can flip the bar to use for exfoliation or lathering, depending on what you want,” Kyle explains. The Fine Grind has coffee grounds distributed equally throughout the bar. Experimenting with other ingredients led to the Peppermint Mocha Bar and Tea Bar, made with green and herbal teas. Coffee Bar also offers Vanilla Mocha Soy Candles, so you can have that sensory café experience at your home office. Right now Kyle is tinkering with two new soap ideas based around matcha and London Fog tea drinks.
When the demand for soap outgrew his personal supply of coffee grounds, he started picking up grounds at Squirrel Chops, a women-owned coffeehouse and hair salon in his neighborhood that uses Stamp Act Coffee. In fact, Kyle has plans in the works to produce a Coffee Bar x Squirrel Chops soap bar. He hopes to collaborate with other cafés on soap bars specific to their shops by using their grounds. Kyle notes that in a pandemic, a handcrafted product like coffee soap could be “another product line. Traditionally this is not a product that shows up (in a café). I’m hoping it invokes a curiosity and people are curious about it enough to try it.”
Coffee Bar might have been inspired by taking a second look at something we typically throw away or compost daily. “It’s another way of viewing something you’re normally thinking about as single-purpose,” Kyle says. But the business has also turned into an unexpected outlet for expression. “Making the bars, it’s a fun thing. It’s almost therapeutic. It’s a way to mentally reset in the same way you would do in a car ride. It’s really rewarding.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Van Streefkerk is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.