Significant amounts of wastes are generated by the coffee industry, among of which, coffee silverskin (CS) and spent coffee grounds (SCG) are the most abundantly generated during the beans roasting and instant coffee preparation, respectively. This study evaluated the sugars metabolism and production of ethanol by three different yeast strains (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Pichia stipitis and Kluyveromyces fragilis) when cultivated in sugar rich hydrolysates produced by acid hydrolysis of CS and SCG. S. cerevisiae provided the best ethanol production from SCG hydrolysate (11.7 g/l, 50.2% efficiency). On the other hand, insignificant (⩽1.0 g/l) ethanol production was obtained from CS hydrolysate, for all the evaluated yeast strains, probably due to the low sugars concentration present in this medium (approx. 22 g/l). It was concluded that it is possible to reuse SCG as raw material for ethanol production, which is of great interest for the production of this biofuel, as well as to add value to this agro-industrial waste. CS hydrolysate, in the way that is produced, was not a suitable fermentation medium for ethanol production; however, the hydrolysate concentration for the sugars content increase previous the use as fermentation medium could be an alternative to overcome this problem.