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How to Stain Paper with Coffee

If you want to give your letters an old-fashioned look, create a sketchbook, or bind a nostalgic journal, you’ll need to learn the art of staining paper with coffee. This article will provide you with a quick guide to get started.

What You’ll Need

1) Mug, Tray, or Bowl

To brush the coffee onto your paper, a mug is a convenient tool. If you plan to soak the entire paper, use a wide tray or bowl.

2) Coffee

Any type of coffee can be used for paper staining. Popular options include instant coffee, ground coffee, and used coffee grounds.

Instant coffee dissolves quickly and produces a darker shade of coffee liquid. For a lighter shade, you can dilute the coffee or use fewer instant coffee granules.

Ground coffee is similar but takes longer to extract. You can also dilute it to achieve a lighter shade.

My personal favorite is to upcycle used coffee grounds. They are generally lighter in color and take more time to extract the colors. However, they allow you to create a wide variety of patterns and layers. Plus, it’s an environmentally friendly option.

How much coffee to use? The amount of coffee depends on how dark you want the stain to be. As a reference:

  • Instant Coffee: 2 teaspoons in 300ml (~10oz) of water
  • Ground Coffee: 2 tablespoons in 300ml (~10oz) of water
  • Used Coffee Grounds: 7 tablespoons in 300ml (~10oz) of water

A simple rule of thumb is to use twice the amount you would normally use when brewing your morning coffee.

3) Paper: Choosing the Right Type

Most papers will work for staining. The choice of paper depends on what you intend to use it for.

If you plan to create a monthly calendar, opt for thicker paper. For bookbinding a journal, thinner paper is more suitable.

Here are some popular paper options:

  • Printer Paper (~80 gsm): These papers are commonly used for printing at home and absorb coffee quickly.
  • Lined Notebook Paper (~60 gsm): These papers work well for creating stained journals. However, they are more delicate and can easily tear when wet.
  • Artboard Paper (~120 gsm): These papers take longer to absorb coffee but are less fragile during the staining process. They are great for making greeting cards.

Remember that the thickness of the paper will affect the final thickness of your project.

4) Brushes

Use a brush or a sponge brush for better control while staining.

5) Hairdryer

A hairdryer will come in handy to speed up the drying process of your stained paper.

6) Protection

Cover your table or floor with trash bags, old newspapers, or used magazines to protect them from coffee spills. This will also make the cleanup process easier.

How to Stain Paper with Coffee by Soaking

If you’re working with larger pieces of paper or staining in bulk, try this method:

i) Prepare Your Coffee

Add water to your coffee and wait for 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of coffee and the desired darkness of the liquid. Instant coffee simply requires dissolving the granules.

While waiting, prepare your paper. You can explore different patterns by creasing the paper, as creased areas tend to retain more coffee, creating interesting patterns.

If using coffee grounds, remove them before proceeding. You can use a metal sieve or a coffee sock.

ii) Soak Your Paper

Transfer the coffee liquid to a large tray that can accommodate your paper. Submerge the paper in the coffee liquid and allow the fibers to soak up the coffee for about 30 seconds.

iii) Dry Your Paper

Remove the paper from the coffee liquid and let any excess liquid drip off. To speed up drying, you can press the paper between two cloths or use a hairdryer.

Once dry, the stained paper is ready for your next bookbinding project. Optionally, you can create interesting patterns by double dipping the paper, which adds layers and depth.

How to Stain Paper with Coffee by Brushing

If you prefer a more natural and aged look, or want greater control over the staining process, try using a brush:

i) Prepare Your Coffee

Follow the same steps as in the soaking method to prepare your coffee.

ii) Brush Your Coffee Liquid onto the Paper

Dip a sponge brush into the coffee liquid and brush the edges of the paper according to your desired final look.

iii) Dry Your Paper

Once you’ve finished brushing, allow the paper to dry. You can speed up the process by pressing the paper between two cloths or using a hairdryer.

How to Keep Your Coffee Stained Papers Flat

If left to dry on their own, coffee stained papers may warp as the fibers contract. Here are two common methods to keep your papers flat:

1) Flatten After Drying

The easiest method is to place your dried coffee stained papers under a heavy weight overnight. They will be ready to use the next day for your bookbinding project.

2) Keep Flat While Drying

Place the stained paper between cloth and press it down with a weight during the drying process. Leave it under the weight for a couple of days, preferably in the sun. After a few hours under the sun, remove the paper, clip it on a hanger, and let it air dry completely.

If you’re short on time, you can oven dry the paper while pressing it under a weight. Just ensure that the weight you’re using is oven safe.

How to Dry Your Stained Papers

There are three common drying methods:

i. Air Dry

Simply leave your paper in a warm place or under the sun for a couple of days to dry naturally.

ii. Oven Bake

If you’re impatient, you can bake the paper in an oven at 200°F (94°C) for about 10 minutes. This method may result in a darker and crisper paper.

iii. Use a Hairdryer

This method is suitable for smaller, thin pieces of paper. Use a hairdryer to blow hot air over the paper to speed up the drying process.

If you prefer visual guidance, check out this tutorial that provides step-by-step instructions on paper staining.

Start Staining Your Papers with Coffee!

Now that you have a guide, it’s time to embark on your paper staining journey. Don’t limit yourself to just coffee—try experimenting with different stains for a variety of effects! If you have butterfly pea flowers or rose buds, give those a try too.

Happy paper staining!