Alternative Coffee Filters - Top Coffee Filter Replacement Hacks!

Alternative Coffee Filters – Top Coffee Filter Replacement Hacks!

Last updated on November 24th, 2023 at 13:31

If you are looking for alternative coffee filters that you can use in an emergency when you are straight up in need of a cup for coffee but just found that you are right out of filter then this article is for you.

(It happens to the best of us!).

Keep reading to find out my three tiers for coffee filter and which ones make the best quality coffee.

Alternative Coffee Filters – My Favorite Substitute For Coffee Filters A Fine-Mesh Sieve

When it comes to alternative coffee filters this is my top choice and as a testament to the quality of the results I’ll often use a fine-mesh sieve to filter cold brew coffee and when I need to, I’ll filter a whole pot of coffee using them.

The reason of course is the quality of the end result. They do, in all honesty, make a great cup of coffee. The reason being they are clean, easily cleaned and do not have scents of detergents or fabric softeners.

Also, and just as important, a mesh sieve does not filter out any of the coffee oils, meaning you get a full flavored and full-bodied cup of coffee.

If you are out of coffee filters, make a fine-mesh sieve your first choice as an alternative coffee filter. Just be aware of the one big drawback – cleaning them can be a bit annoying when and if coffee particles get stuck in them.

You could go a step further and get your hands on a metal coffee filter that is made for the very purpose of filtering your coffee. They are better at filtering out coffee residues than a sieve and never worry about the awkwardness of running out of coffee filters.

Alternative Coffee Filters
Alternative Coffee Filter

Read: How to strain coffee without a strainer

Coffee Filter Replacement Hack – Use Your French Press

The advantage and benefit here is that French press coffee makers have a built-in mesh filter and this is something you can take advantage of, and not only when making a cup of French press coffee.

You can make coffee of any kind, using a variety of coffee brewing methods, even drip coffee without a filter.

Simply brew as you would without a filter and let it brew into your coffee pot and then pour the contents of your coffee pot into your French press and push down on the plunger and pour your cup of coffee or decant back in your rinsed out coffee carafe where it can sit on the hot tray and stay warm.

If you are out of paper filters, don’t forget about that handy built-in filter that is in your French press.

This is my second preferred emergency coffee filter behind a mesh sieve. I tend not to want to wear out the parts and keep my French press, which is a great brewing method, for making French press coffee.

Coffee Filter Replacement Hack
A French Press Has A Built In Filter

Read: Using a paper towel as a coffee filter

Emergency Coffee Filter – Use A Clean Dish Towel

When it comes to looking for a substitute for coffee filters, and I am on the hunt for an emergency coffee filter, my top tier type of filter are metal mesh filters. A clean dish towel, cheesecloth and handkerchief are all second tier filters that I’ll use if I can’t find a top tier option.

A clean dish towel is very convenient as everyone has one somewhere in their kitchen and is a good coffee filter alternative and gets the job done perfectly well and, as bonus, it is very sustainable and good for the environment.

Just don’t go about using your favorite towel as you will probably stain it with a stain that cannot be removed.

Using them as a homemade coffee filter is easy. Simply drape it around the filter basket of your coffee machine, put your coffee grinds in it and brew your coffee as you normally would and enjoy.

You can also use a clean dish towel as a makeshift coffee filter for making pour over coffee using the same technique of draping the cloth over your filter holder and putting your coffee in it.

Reusable Coffee Filter – Use A Cheesecloth

When it comes to alternative coffee filters getting your hands on a reusable coffee filter that you can use as a makeshift filter that you can use multiple times a piece of cheesecloth is something that fits the bill and will make you a great morning coffee every time that you need it.

This is why, if you notice my top tier and second tier of alternative coffee filters are all reusable filters. This is good for you and good for the environment.

It is good for you as you will always have one that you can keep and reuse when you run out of paper filters.

A cheesecloth as far as DIY coffee filter options go fits the bill perfectly.

Simply use a piece of cheesecloth that is big enough to use when you have folded it twice. It must be doubled, folded in two, to ensure that it is an effective emergency coffee filter.

Its use is simple: Put the cheesecloth in your drip coffee maker in your coffee basket and put your ground coffee in the cloth and brew you coffee as normal.

As a pour over coffee, the technique is just as easy: fold your cheesecloth and fold in two and put your coffee in it and brew as you normally would.

Reusable Coffee Filter
A Cheesecloth Is A Reusable Coffee Filter

Read: Coffee filter substitute 

DIY Coffee Filter – Reusable Tea Bags, A Great Coffee Filter Substitute

Reusable tea bags, are more than adequate coffee filters as they make for both a tier one choice and a tier two depending on what material they are made of.

Metal reusable tea bags fit into the tier one category as they filter out none of the coffee oils and the result is a great tasting cup of Joe.

You can use these an infinite number of times. The material based ones, these fall into tier two – great for using multiple times and are great for the environment but do filter out some oils resulting in a less than perfect brew.

Using them is easy, add two tablespoons of coffee grounds, close it and let it steep in hot water of 92° C to 96° C (195° F to 205° F) for a few minutes.

It is a good easy-to-use method and will hold your coffee grounds well without getting into your beverage and can make a perfect brew, especially when you use the metal ones.

Makeshift Coffee Filter – Make Use Of Your Handkerchief

A handkerchief, and we all have a spare one, serves as a very handy alternative coffee filter and a very easy makeshift coffee filter that you can quickly use without too much work involved.

Similar to some techniques already mentioned, put it in your drip coffee maker where the coffee basket is and put your coffee grounds in it and brew your drip coffee as you normally would.

For coffee lovers that enjoy a pour over coffee, you can put your handkerchief in your filter holder and put your medium-coarse coffee grounds and continue with the pour over brewing technique.

A third method is to put your handkerchief in your coffee cup, and make sure it touches the bottom of the cup. Ensure that your handkerchief is held in place with elastic bands, clips or whatever you have.

Add hot water and let your coffee brew for a few minutes by letting coffee steep for 3 min to 4 mins. Remove the elastic bands or clips when your coffee is ready and enjoy your tasty morning coffee.

Makeshift Coffee Filter
A Handkerchief Is A Good Makeshift Coffee Filter

Homemade Coffee Filter Idea – Use a Paper Towel

As a simple coffee filter alternative, as a paper towel, they fall outside the top two tier and fall into the third tier category for me as they are not reusable.

Simply fold your paper towel into a pouch to use it as an alternative coffee filter and put it in your coffee filter basket of your drip coffee maker and brew you coffee as you normally would.

As pour over coffee, make your paper towel into a cone shape and place it in the coffee filter holder, add your grounds and brew your coffee as you normally would.

Make sure that pouch and cone shapes that you make are two-ply and doubled as hot water and paper towels is not a good mix as they tend to break down and fall apart.

It makes a good and acceptable makeshift pour over coffee filter.

Makeshift Coffee Filter Use Your Socks Or Stockings

Coffee connoisseurs and coffee lovers know all too much about coffee socks, a very common brewing method all over Asia, Central America and South America.

Here as a backup emergency coffee filter, I’m talking about the use of a regular sock, the type that you wear. Make sure it is a clean sock and give it a real good rise to remove the scent of detergents and fabric softeners.

The method is simple and straightforward; for what it is worth, ankle socks work better. Simply roll them over to cover your coffee basket, fill it with coffee grounds and brew your coffee with your drip coffee machine as you normally would.

For pour over coffee, use the same method and roll the edges of your ankle sock over to cover your coffee filter. Fill it with ground coffee and start your pour over.

You can also make a single cup of coffee by rolling your ankle sock over your coffee cup and putting two tablespoons of coffee and adding your water and let your grounds steep for a few minutes and then remove the sock and give it a squeeze and enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alternative Coffee Filters


there are a number of very effective alternative coffee filters that you can use as an emergency DIY coffee filter, a kitchen dish towel, fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth, paper towels. You can even use your French press as a means of filtering your coffee as has a built-in coffee filter.

Of course, you can brew a cup of coffee without a filter as Turkish coffee, cowboy coffee and mud coffee are all brewed without a filter.

Nothing bad will happen if you don’t filter your coffee. Just be aware that the grounds in your coffee will continue to brew and extract and will get stronger and eventually bitter if you leave your cup of coffee sitting too long.

You might get a slight gritty feeling at the end of your beverage, just leave that bit of the coffee. A nice easy solution is to transfer your brewed coffee to a new cup and leave that last bit there, and you should have no grounds in your coffee.

No, although cupcake liners look like flat-bottomed coffee filters, they are made of very different materials and are a lot thicker and hot water does not flow through them easily at all. If you try it, you will just end up with a huge mess.

If you don’t change your coffee filter regularly, dirt, coffee particles and more will make their way into your cup of coffee. When old coffee grounds make their way into your coffee, it will taste a little off and start to go bitter.

Failing to replace your coffee filter regularly will result in a brew that is not as fresh or as delicious as it could be.

You should replace your coffee filter every three to four times that you use it. After which you should discard it. Ultimately, it is up to you as you can use it for a long or as short as you like. The determining factor for me is taste – a good benchmark. When my coffee becomes less than perfect or starts to become off, I throw it out.

What Can I Use Besides Coffee Filters?

If you are clean out of traditional coffee filters there are many options that you have that you can use including taking advantage of fine mesh sieves that you have in your home, cloth napkin and other creative solutions like using an old tea towel, a cheesecloth and old T-shirt and similar cloth options which perform the same function and are used in a similar way.

Paper towels including kitchen paper and paper handkerchiefs can be used as an emergency coffee filter too.

How Do You Filter Coffee Without A Filter?

It is relatively easy to filter your coffee without a filter. For drip coffee or pour over coffee, line your filter holder or mesh filter basket with a cloth material or paper material of some kind. If you are using a fabric based on like a towel or an old T-shirt, wash it first by rinsing it in hot water to remove any unwanted flavors from the taste-altering chemicals that were used to wash it.

Add your coffee grounds and slowly and evenly pour your hot water over your coffee grounds and into your cup of water.

What I wouldn’t do is use those alternative filters in my automatic drip coffee maker as I may end up flooding and damaging my coffee maker due to a different flow rate of the water into the carafe or coffee cup below.

Even if the flow rate is okay you will still likely make a mess of your machine.

Can I Use A Strainer Instead Of A Coffee Filter?

Yes, a fine mesh strainer or a sieve is a great alternative to using fabric or paper-based emergency alternative coffee filters.

Mesh strainers are fine enough to prevent your coffee grounds from passing through and yet large enough for your water, the brewed coffee, to flow past. Keep any eye on the contact time. Depending on your strainer size and the amount of coffee used, you may need to pass your brewed coffee through it for a second time, especially if the gap between the mesh is too large.

Final Thoughts – Alternative Coffee Filters

Reading this far you have a neat list of alternative coffee filters and what you need to stock up on – just in case you absolutely run out, and you will one day!

These methods are great, and the metal option does provide a better quality cup of coffee. It is handy to have them as a backup.

Have you tried any of these methods? Or better still, do you have any of your own emergency coffee filter hacks that work?

Share them with us by joining our online coffee community on Facebook/Meta and share them with us all!

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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