Skip to Content

Does coffee work to dye hair?

Coffee is a popular beverage that many people enjoy on a daily basis. But did you know that coffee can also be used to dye your hair? While commercial hair dyes use harsh chemicals, coffee offers a natural way to darken your locks. Read on to learn if using coffee to dye hair really works, the possible benefits and drawbacks, and how to brew a coffee hair dye at home.

How Does Coffee Dye Hair?

Coffee contains compounds called melanoidins that can stain hair. Melanoidins give coffee its dark brown color. When applied to hair, they coat the outer hair cuticle, making it appear darker. The effect is similar to commercial permanent hair dyes, which use ammonia and peroxide to open the hair cuticle so that coloring agents can penetrate the hair shaft for long-lasting results.

However, coffee only temporarily coats the outside of hair. It does not permanently alter the underlying hair pigment. This means that the color change is only superficial and will wash out over time. The coloring effect of coffee typically lasts for around 3-4 weeks, but can fade faster with frequent shampooing.

Does Coffee Actually Work to Dye Hair?

Yes, coffee can temporarily darken hair. However, the results are more subtle than commercial dye. If your hair is light blonde or gray, coffee will not make it look black or brunette. At best, it will take your hair down one to two shades.

Here are some examples of what you can expect from an at-home coffee hair dye treatment:

Natural Hair Color Color After Coffee Dye
Platinum blonde Dark blonde
Golden blonde Light brown
Light brown Medium brown
Dark brown Very dark brown (nearly black)

As you can see, coffee darkens hair subtly rather than producing an intense, jet black shade. It works best on light to medium blonde hair. Very dark hair shows the least color change. Coffee dyeing is ideal if you want to gradually deepen your color or cover up some early grays.

Benefits of Using Coffee to Dye Hair

Some of the benefits of using coffee to dye hair include:

  • Natural ingredient – Coffee is an all-natural dye alternative compared to chemical-laden boxed dyes.
  • Minimal commitment – The color washes out gradually so if you don’t like it, you don’t have to wait long for your hair to return to normal.
  • Easy to do at home – Brewing and applying a coffee dye is simple and inexpensive.
  • Free of chemicals – Coffee hair dye skips the harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia.
  • No skin irritation – The gentle coffee dye is less likely to irritate your scalp or skin.
  • Subtle, natural-looking color – Coffee provides subtle color enhancement that looks polished but natural.
  • Conditions hair – Coffee can enhance shine and add moisture to dry hair thanks to oils like cafestol.

For those with skin sensitivities or who want to avoid chemicals, coffee offers a safer dyeing option that adds understated color. The simple ingredients and easy process also makes it a good choice for DIY hair color at home.

Potential Drawbacks of Dyeing with Coffee

Although it has benefits, there are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind with coffee hair dye:

  • Messy process – Coffee grounds can create a mess in your bathroom or on your skin if you aren’t careful.
  • Skin staining – The coffee dye can temporarily stain your skin, especially around your hairline and neck.
  • Brassy tones – On light blonde hair, coffee may pull brassy red-brown tones rather than nice neutral browns.
  • Color variations – The shade you get depends on your brewing method and underlying hair color.
  • Temporary color – The color washes out after a few weeks and roots will be obvious as your hair grows.
  • Can dry out hair – Coffee is slightly acidic so overuse could dry out your hair and scalp.

While less damaging than chemical dyes, coffee dyeing has some minor drawbacks to consider. Doing a strand test and tweaking your brewing method can help you achieve better results.

How to Brew Coffee for Dyeing Hair

Brewing coffee for dyeing hair is similar to making coffee to drink, but a few tweaks can boost the dyeing power:

  • Use coarse ground coffee – Finely ground coffee is great for drinking but can be tricky to rinse out of hair. Opt for coarse coffee grounds.
  • Go darker – Choose a dark roast like French, Italian, or espresso versus lighter roasts.
  • Brew it extra strong – Use more grounds per cup of water for concentrated color-enhancing coffee.
  • Let it cool – Heat damages hair so allow the brewed coffee to cool completely before application.
  • Try black tea – For lighter brunette hues, brew black tea along with the coffee.
  • No cream or sugar – Skip the add-ins to prevent the dye from getting gummy in your hair.

The coffee brewing method also impacts the color results. Brewing coffee with a French press maximizes contact between the grounds and water to extract the most pigment. Slow cold brewing also produces a dark, concentrated brew.

How to Dye Hair with Coffee

Ready to test out coffee hair dye for yourself? Follow these simple steps:

  1. Brew a large batch of extra strong coffee and let it fully cool.
  2. Put on an old shirt you don’t mind staining and apply petroleum jelly on skin around your hairline.
  3. Shampoo your hair then towel dry it so it is damp but not dripping wet.
  4. Divide your hair into sections. Start applying the cool coffee mixture from your roots to ends using your fingers or a tint brush.
  5. Massage the coffee thoroughly into your hair, section by section, until hair is fully saturated.
  6. Cover your hair with a plastic shower cap. For darker color, let sit 30-60 minutes. For subtle color, rinse after 10-15 minutes.
  7. Rinse out the coffee mixture until the water runs clear. Shampoo again if needed to remove residue.
  8. Style as desired and allow your hair to air dry.

Tips for best results: Doing the dye process outside can minimize coffee staining in your bathroom. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from staining. To minimize damage, only dye your hair with coffee 1-2 times per month maximum.

How Long Does Coffee Dye Last in Hair?

On average, the coloring effects of coffee hair dye last between 3-4 weeks. However, there are factors that impact how quickly the color fades:

  • Your initial hair color – Darker hair shows longer lasting color.
  • Washing frequency – Frequent shampooing fades the color faster.
  • Hair porosity – Color washes out quicker on more porous, damaged hair.
  • Water temperature – Hot water removes color faster than lukewarm.
  • UV exposure – Sunlight can cause the color to fade more rapidly.

You may notice the coffee color starts fading after 2 weeks. Using a sulfate-free shampoo and washing in lukewarm water can help extend the life of the coffee dye.


While not as dramatic or long-lasting as chemical dyes, coffee hair dye offers a simple, natural way to temporarily enhance your hair color at home. The subtle, soft color is perfect for lightly covering grays or experimenting with a darker shade.

To maximize the depth of color, brew an extra strong coffee concentrate and leave it on for at least 30 minutes. Those with light to medium blonde hair will notice the most significant shift in shade. While not damaging like bleach, limit coffee dyeing to 1-2 times per month to prevent excessive dryness.

So next time you need a quick color refresh, save yourself a trip to the salon! Brew up a batch of coffee hair dye for a safe, budget-friendly DIY alternative to traditional boxed dyes.