There are a number of ways to dye leather apart from using commercial leather dyes. For instance, in our previous article, we discovered that wood stain can be used on leather safely. But in this post, we will look at dyeing leather with coffee and how to do it right.
Yes, you can use coffee to dye or stain leather without ruining it. Actually, people have found good results using instant or brewed coffee to dye vegetable-tanned leather.
What does coffee do to leather?
Before we talk about the dyeing or staining process, it is crucial that we understand what coffee does to leather and the advantages and potential concerns.
Aged leather looks pretty good and the coffee dye does exactly that. It gives leather an aged and weathered look due to the slight texture and grit it leaves on the leather surface.
The natural unevenness of the dark brown coffee dye on the leather goes particularly well with rustic décor, which appeals to many people.
Commercial leather dyes may have a slightly similar effect but they tend to make leather look too artificial instead of natural.
However, dyeing leather using coffee tends to dry out the natural oils causing it to become stiff. Thus, you will need to condition or moisturize your leather item after dyeing to prevent cracking.
Another possible outcome is the growth of mold. This is likely to happen if the leather is stored after staining before it is completely dry.
How to dye leather with coffee (Steps)
To use coffee as a dye, start by gathering all the things you need for this project; Coffee (brewed or instant), warm water and soap, soft microfiber cloth, isopropyl alcohol, 100-200 grit sandpaper, and leather conditioner or moisturizer.
Step 1: Clean and sand your leather item
Unless you want to dye a new piece of vegetable-tanned leather that is untreated, you will need to clean and strip off the finish on your leather item.
Use a soft microfiber cloth with warm water and mild soap to remove dirt and dust on the leather surface.
Once dry, use 100-200 grit sandpaper to strip down the leather finish so that the dye can get absorbed. This will also aid in cleaning up residue, particularly if the leather has peeled.
Alternatively, you can use a leather deglazer to remove any top coat or finish from the leather surface while preserving the leather’s original suppleness.
Finally, use isopropyl alcohol to remove any silicone coating, wax, or grease from the leather surface.
Step 2: Prepare your coffee dye
Whether you are going to use a coffee brew or instant coffee, you must make sure it is highly concentrated or strong. Most people prefer to use dark roast coffee because it produces a darker dye than light roast coffee.
So start by boiling the coffee for a few minutes and then leave it to cool down.
Step 3: Soak your leather item
Pour your cooled coffee dye into a large bowl or any large container that will fit your leather item. Dip the item into the dye and make sure it is completely covered and soaked into the dye.
Let it soak. The longer it stays in the dye the darker the color will be. If you want a light tan or stain, let the leather soak for about 30 minutes but leave it for 8 hours or more if you want a darker tone.
Step 4: Rinse
Once you are satisfied with the results, remove the item from the dye and rinse it thoroughly with a lot of cold water.
This will get rid of the excess coffee dye and residue and also stop the dyeing process.
Leave the item to air dry.
Step 5: Condition the leather
Once dry, your leather item will be quite dry and stiff so you will need to condition it.
Apply a leather conditioner of your choice generously to add moisture back into the leather and make it soft and flexible.
The color intensity of coffee-dyed leather
Coffee does add color to your leather items. However, the intensity of the color depends on factors such as whether the leather is treated or untreated, the amount of time the leather stays soaked in the coffee, and the concentration of the coffee used.
Raw or untreated leather
Raw or untreated leather tends to absorb the coffee ‘dye’ quite easily. In fact, if your leather is treated with a protective finish, you will have to strip it off first before starting the dyeing process.
Also, you will probably get the best results if your leather is vegetable tanned.
Additionally, the longer the leather stays soaked in the coffee, the darker it will be.
Leaving leather soaked for 30 to 60 minutes will most likely give you a light walnut color while leaving it in the coffee overnight (8 hours or more) will result in a rich darker color.
The concentration of the coffee
The color intensity will also depend on how strong your coffee is. You can use instant or brewed coffee but it has to be strong enough to give you visible results.
Moreover, you can add steel wool to the coffee solution and let it simmer. The steel wool will act as a mordant to make the coffee dye darker and make it stick permanently to the leather.
While dyeing leather with coffee is possible, there are a number of things you should keep in mind when doing this project. Here are a few takeaway points;
- Staining or dyeing leather with coffee works best on unfinished or untreated vegetable-tanned leather.
- Coffee needs to be highly concentrated for the best results
- The length of soaking time will influence how light or dark the leather item will be after staining
- You must condition the leather once it is dry to make it soft and pliable.