Brewed coffee as a leather dye

For a brew we use dark roasted coffee. With coffee you can give the vegetable tanned leather brown colors. What kind of tone will you get, that is not so easy to predict. It depends a lot on what kind of tannins are already in the leather form the tanning process, how does your brew do it’s job and if there was some iron added to the brew. Of course in time you’ll get experiences and if you know your leather and your brew, then you might start to know better what kind of results to expect.

For a brew you’ll need

  • Dark roast coffee
  • Water
  • A piece of an iron (if you wish)
  • Rubbing alcohol

After dying you’ll need

  • Olive oil (Extra Virgin type) or “Neatsfoot” oil
  • Beeswax
Leather belt before coffee brew dye
Leather belt before coffee brew dye

Brewing the brew

– coffee, water and a piece of iron –

Coffee must be first heated until boiling and then simmered under the lid about three hours. If you add a piece of iron now, then the brew will become stronger and you´ll get darker color.

I had about 1 liter + 1 cup of of water and I used ten bigger spoonfuls of coffee for that amount of water. And the coffee should be added to the boiling water.

Then the brew must be cooled down. And into the cooled brew I added 0,375 dl of rubbing alcohol.

In my earlier conspectus I have marked that according to some of my calculations 6 spoonfuls of coffee should be enough for that amount of water. But in the end it will depend also on the coffee itself. Also, I once red a story about a leather worker who used already used coffee for this kind of brew. He had an agreement with local coffee shop, so he got all the already used coffee from there and it worked fine.

Brew can be used for dying right away or it can be stored for later use. For storage you should have some kind of vessel that can be closed really tightly and if you used iron, then put that into the vessel as well.


– stick the leather into the brew –

For dyeing you need to stick your leather into the brew so it is all covered/ sunken. Let it be there,
under the lid again, for example over the night. Depending on your brew, it might take up to about 24 hours to get desired results. You can check it time after time and maybe turn it around. Darkness of the color will depend on how long you keep in there.

Next step is to rinse the leather in the cool clean water and then let it dry in warm but not hot place ad so the air can reach the leather piece.
If you do not attempt to make leather harder and stiffer, you should never use hot water on vegetable tanned leather.

Leather belt dyed in coffee brew
Leather belt dyed in coffee brew

After dyeing

– give the leather some life force –

While drying, when most of the water is already out, you can start oiling the leather. This way you’ll put the oils back into the leather that went out while dyeing. It is fine, even better if the leather is a bit damp yet when you start oiling. Just add thin layers of oil at a time and let it dry. Water in the leather helps to spread the oil more evenly in the leather. Extra Virgin type of olive oil is suitable and of course “Neatsfoot” oil suits for vegetable tanned leather always. You should repeat oiling at least two or three times and you can now leave the leather to dry in the warm place but not hot and see that it can have lots of air around it.

You should be careful when oiling – too little of oil is bad for the leather and too much of it is also bad. There is no recipe for this – you have to feel it yourself. Oiling is ment to make leather softer and elastic. So if your leather feels too stiff when dry, you should add more oil – thin layer at a time.

When the belt has dried, you may go on and wax it. You can use just beeswax but in my opinion it is too hard and I get much better results when using beeswax and olive oil mix.

On the photo you can see that my belt turned out a bit reddish dark brown. As I wrote before, the final outcome depends on many things. We usually have the kind of leather that is tanned with such a bark that leaves to the leather a airy- fairy reddish tone. So the outcome was expected to show the same.

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