Coffee Scented Parchment Paper

Making parchment using coffee and normal white paper.

Materials: white paper (whatever kind you want, preferably thick. Rough oslo is a good choice); Coffee powder (instant coffee is okay, as long as it doesn’t have any cream mix); water, two trays, a hairdryer and a cup.

Note: Instead of a hairdryer, you can opt to sun-bathe your parchment, however this will take a very long time. Instead of the tray you can use a plastic tabletop; just make sure it resists coffee stains.


1. Preparation. Make sure you’ve got everything you need. This project is better done with a stack of papers rather than just a couple; it would be a waste of good coffee to keep doing this in small amounts. Also, your papers will look more uniformed, if that’s what the effect you want.

2. Coffee brewing. Fill a cup halfway with hot water, and mix in the coffee. Add a little cold water into the mix and also a little more coffee. We want to allow some coffee grains to melt in the hot water, but also some to remain firm. Mix it: it should look a little like mottled muck.
Important: Not too much water, unless you have a BIG stack of papers waiting to be stained. Also, putting too little coffee will make your paper look pale and uninteresting; putting too much will make it look like a paper bag. In the end, it’s really your concoction: you must find your middle ground.

3. Paper Staining. When your brew is set, put a subtle amount onto one tray, making sure that it has reached the surface equally. Place the piece of paper flat on the “wet” tray for only a few moments, then flip it over gently to stain the other side. When you are finished, place your creation onto the “dry” tray.

Caution: Be gentle in handling wet paper; chances are you can rip it without meaning to, or splatter some mucky coffee onto your clothes.

4. Paper Crisping. Okay, now your papers are all properly stained, and should look like a couple of motley shanghai paper rolls. Don’t fret! Take one piece of paper and lay it flat on some stain-resistable spot (or place a newspaper under it). Plug your hairdryer (hopefully in the right socket) and begin drying the paper off (while holding the paper of course). Make sure to also dry the other side. Your paper should start becoming crisp again. (In some cases, crisper, which really isn’t a problem, right?) And then you’re done!

Styles – Coffee paper staining is an art. From the time you concoct your coffee, to the way you treat your paper, you are creating its style. Here are some effects you might want to try:

Smooth and Even
Elves are known for beauty and elegance, (plus lots of merry teasing sometimes) so their paper should also be smooth and even. To create that elegant look, make sure your “wet” tray has equal amounts of coffee (smoothen it out with a spoon if you must). Your paper shouldn’t be crumpled. When you dip you paper, hold the sides (preferably near the top) and drag the paper smoothly against the tray, then upwards. When dried, your paper should look quite even, if not a little gradient-ed.

Crude and Rough
For old, tattered parchments, try crumpling the paper before washing it in the coffee. Even when you’re dipping it in, you can try to crumple it up against the tray, but make sure that when you dry it, you dry it flat. Be careful when opening your paper after having it wet and crumpled, as you can easily tear it.

Splattered and Folded
A nice little trick to make your paper look more artful. Fold the paper non-too-neatly before you stain it. Make it look naturally crumpled. (Over crumpling would be more of the above style, so opt for… uhh, a “gentle crumpling.”)
Don’t put too much coffee on the tray before you dip it. Instead, place the paper first, then spoon down some coffee onto it, making it trail deeply into the nooks and crannies. Make sure you wash the entire paper though, or else there will be strange white splotches.

Lighter Side Up
Another trick is to re-dip one side to make it darker. This can be used when you want to write letters with your paper, using the lighter side for your calligraphy.

Extra Touches
Another well known trick is to burn the edges. A word of warning, however: coffee-paper does not react in the same way to fire as normal paper would. Depending on the brand of coffee and the paper, your “burn marks” won’t look the same as a normal burned paper would look, until you learn how to control it. A safety tip requires that you do this with a near water source, in case your paper gets out of hand.

Writing on Parchment Paper
Writing in pencil is pretty hard on coffee paper, but it is not impossible. Pencil marks are erasable, if you use the better quality erasers. Pens work just fine, and black sign pens work best. Ink won’t seep to the other side or blot unless you’ve really purchased a horrible brand of paper. Never write when your parchment paper is still drying.

Parchment Scent
Different types of coffee smell differently. Likewise, different types of paper from different sources will all end up smelling different. Sometimes, the scent of your coffee and your paper may be a horrible clash; at other times, it may come out wonderfully sweet-scented or strange and interesting. It all depends on which ingredients you use, and an ample amount of luck.

Note: Wash your hands unless your coffee really smells nice.

Happy coffee scented parchment making!

~ Hwindë

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