Coffee Filter Substitutes: 8 alternatives

By Shabbir
Last update:

Waking up only to find no coffee filters is very frustrating. The first thing in the day- most of us need is a freshly brewed cup of coffee to kick start our mornings. Having coffee, a coffee maker, hot water, but running out of filters can be seriously annoying. Below are some very useful life hacks to make coffee filter substitutes.

One thing is common in all coffee filters and their substitutes: If you grasp this easy science – even you will be able to find substitutes for coffee filters yourself. Basically you need any porous material that will allow the liquid to pass and prevent the coffee residue from passing through.

Here are some materials which act very similar to coffee filters.

GOLDTONE Reusable 8-12 Cup Basket Coffee Filter fits Mr. Coffee Makers and Brewers, Replaces your Paper Coffee Filters, BPA Free

7 Coffee filter substitutes for coffee emergencies

1. Paper Towels, Dishtowels or Napkins

A a roll of paper towel or a paper napkin works very similar to a coffee filter. Shape the paper towel or the napkin to fit your coffee maker and you are done for the moment. Try using good quality napkins.

Low quality paper towels will affect the taste of your coffee and there is always a risk of paper chemicals permeating your coffee. Avoid using fabric materials too because coffee stains are not very easy to wash off. However, you may want to dedicate a handkerchief for coffee emergencies, in which case you can just use that instead.

2. Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth is the best of all coffee substitutes. Cheesecloth is loosely woven cotton fabric used to filter whey from cheese curds. It also holds the curd together while cheese is formed. There are different grades of cheesecloth – and the best for a coffee filter is the most fine one. The grounds can get into your coffee if the cheesecloth is too permeable.

Worst case scenario, you can just double or triple fold a cheesecloth to make the pores finer and that will do the trick.

If you don’t have cheesecloth at your house, then consider keeping some around because it has many uses. You can use it to strain stocks and custards, to bundle herbs, in making tofu and ghee, and you can even thicken yogurt.

3. Wire Mesh Filter

Buy a metal filter the first thing after reading this post. Paper and cloth can only be used as a temporary substitute. A metal filter is best for filtering coffee. It is specially designed to filter the most fine coffee grounds.

Secondly you get fresh and pure coffee because papers and cloth can end up contributing some extra unwanted flavors to your coffee. Wire mesh filters are reusable.

A good quality filter can last at least 5 years. And lastly modern wire mesh filters are made to fit most coffee makers. You can replace your coffee filter with a wire mesh filter and will get a snug fit.

This way you’ll never have to worry about running out of paper filters or throwing out filters and contributing to landfills.

4. Socks or Muslin

Yes, we’re serious! Your socks can be used as a coffee filter. Remember the following things if you are using your socks as filters:

Do not ever use a used sock! (Of course you never will, but we want to caution you from picking up a dirty sock just after your night’s sleep). If you do mistakenly use an old or used sock, you’ll end up with a lot of unwanted flavors and extremely unpleasant odors.

Avoid thin socks and go for thick ones. Thin socks have high permeability and hence don’t make good filters, but thicker socks will do a great job of keeping all the sediment out.

Use colored socks and use both the pairs. So that even if they get stains – they have an even tone. Maybe you can make a fashion statement and start a new trend at the office!

Once you’re done with the brew, just turn the sock inside out and dump the grounds out. Wash thoroughly, and you can even reuse it once it is dry.

Although I must repeat: “NEVER USE AN OLD SOCK!”

Just making sure.

One company was so inspired by the sock idea that they came out with a reusable coffee filter called the Coffee Sock.

5. Tightly woven fabric

Tightly sewn cloth can be a last minute resort. Use only the tightest fabric that you have if you don’t have any of the above items. Generally cottons and silks are not woven that tight – and will not help in preventing the grounds from going through.

Go for polyester cloth if you can. Do not use a worn or old fabric which can make your coffee dusty and unhygienic.

6. Instant Coffee

Having instant coffee sachets is always a good option for emergencies. You don’t need any coffee maker, nor any filters. And you can enjoy as much coffee as you want.

Consider checking out our list of great tasting instant coffees. There’s also an option of tea bag coffee!

7. Use a fine sieve

Chances are you’ve got a sieve lying around in your kitchen. Use a fine mesh sieve and you’ll basically end up with pour over coffee.

You can either use medium grounds and simulate a dripper with the sieve, pouring slowly and in a circular motion until you’ve got all the coffee you need.

Alternatively, you can simulate a french press by using coarser grounds and letting them steep through the seive for four minutes.

8. Make cowboy coffee

Finally, if you just want to ditch the idea of using a filter altogether, why not take a trip to the Wild West and make yourself some cowboy coffee?

Just add your favorite ratio of coffee grounds to hot water and let it steep for 4 minutes. Scoop off the foam from the top, and the rest of the grounds will settle to the bottom of the cup. Then you can enjoy some cowboy coffee made from fresh beans. It will taste almost as good as french press coffee.

If you want, there are lots of other ways to make coffee without a coffee maker that you can look into.


Frequently asked questions

Are coffee filters toxic?

Properly manufactured coffee filters are not toxic. If you use any old paper, it may contain unwanted chemicals and glues that you don’t want in your coffee.

Is it ok to use paper towels as coffee filters?

Sure, as long as the towels are food-safe. Double or triple fold the paper towel to prevent it from disintegrating too soon as you’ll be using hot water and coffee grounds can be quite coarse.

Can I use parchment paper as a coffee filter?

Parchment paper is not porous at all. In fact, it does a great job of preventing liquids from going through, so it’s not advisable to use parchment paper as a substitute for coffee filters.

Last update on 2024-06-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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About Shabbir

Shab is the Chief Caffeine Officer at Coffee Brewster. When he's not weighing out coffee beans for his next brew, you can find him writing about his passion: coffee.