The "Illy Coffee empty cans" Project

The question that has plagued humanity for decades has finally an answer: What to do with your empty cans of Illy coffee?

If you are like me, every time you reach the bottom of an Illy coffee can you are left with a challenging decision: Should I throw it away or keep it? On one hand, the cans are so beautiful. Their shiny body and red branding make us believe that a trash can or a recycling center is not the right place where it belongs. On the other hand, we already have 4 or 5 of them stored on our shelves without serving any purpose, and the number continues to grow!

If you Google: "what to do with empty Illy cans" you will find that several people have asked this same question before and that most of the standard responses do not do justice to their looks. Some of the answers involve recycling, painting or cutting them.

Some months ago, my wife and I realized that the number of cans at our kitchen was starting to accumulate, and we decided it was time to do something beautiful and useful. From the many ideas, we generated we chosen to go for a pop art (very Andy Warhol-ish) set of containers for our kitchen.

These are perfect for storing things such as coffee (duh!), sugar, rice, pepper, and others. Something cool of this design is that the lid and spoon can be temporarily "held" by the can. You will see how this is possible.


8 Cans of Illy coffee (The main reason to do this)
1 Metallic board (23"x17")
8 Industrial looking bolts (at least 3in long)
16 Nuts for the bolts above
2 Wall screws (long enough to pass through the board and go at least 1/2" into the wall
8 Strong magnets*
1 Bottle of strong glue (we used Gorilla glue)

* Note on the magnets: we tried several types and sizes, including small ones, magnetic tapes with adhesive, but we found that the ones that work the best were big magnets (1"x2"x1/2") from Home Depot. The stronger the magnet you select the more weight you will be able to put on the cans without they becoming out of balance.
Wall Screws
Magnetic Board 


Driller and drill bits


Once you have all the materials, execution is fairly simple:

First you need to find a drill bit that will match the size of bolts you acquired. We drill them on the following coordinates in inches, considering that the lower left corner is (0,0) on the magnetic board:

  • (3,1.5) (8.5,1,5) (14.5,1.5) (20,1.5)
  • (3,10.5) (8.5,10.5) (14.5,10.5) (20,10.5)

Second, the bolts are inserted in the holes and a nut should be placed on each side of the board. Thus using two nuts per bolt. The purpose of this is to keep the bolt at a predefined distance and preventing it from moving. The purpose of these bolts is twofold: aesthetics and support: the magnets might not be strong enough to hold a can full of sugar by itself. They need the bolt to provide stability and help the magnets carry the weight.

Third, you will need to glue the magnet on the back of each can using the Gorilla Glue as shown in the following picture. It is important that you are consistent on always using the same spot so that your cans look the same and are perfectly aligned.

Finally, drill two holes in the upper left and right corners of the board. Then select the place in your kitchen where you will place it and mark the places where the wall screws will go. Drill the holes using the right drill bit for the wall screws.

Place your board on the wall and secure it with your wall screws The final result should look something like this

For more design ideas, please visit the following blog: Cool Design Findings

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