Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter Unveiling The Bold Alternative!

Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter? Unveiling The Bold Alternative!

Last updated on January 22nd, 2024 at 13:42

That question, can you substitute a paper towel for coffee filter, is one that is asked fairly frequently.

The quick and easy answer is yes, you can use a paper towel as a coffee filter but you shouldn’t rush out to use it as there are some concerns that you should be aware of.

Keep reading to find out what those concerns are.

Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter In Coffee Machine?


a paper towel is a very commonly used substitute when coffee lovers run out of coffee filter paper.

They are the most obvious solution as we all have paper towels, kitchen towels or some kind of usable paper in our kitchens.

Personally I am not a fan of using paper towels not for any reasons related to coffee snobbery but because the vast majority are chemically treated, bleached and may even have some dye used to pattern or color the paper.

These will all seep into your coffee and there is no way of rinsing them out which is what makes a cheesecloth, dish towel, cloth napkin and other similar materials a better option.

A paper towel can be used to brew coffee for a drip coffee maker, pour over and even cold brew coffee. It is not something that you should use for Chemex coffee as this particular brewing method requires a thicker coffee filter.

I’ve tried multiple layers and have yet to enjoy a good Chemex coffee using a paper towel as a makeshift filter.

Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter In Coffee Machine
Paper Towel Can Be Used As Coffee Filter

Read: What can I use instead of coffee filters?

Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter Without Damaging My Coffee Machine?

Yes, using a paper towel as an emergency coffee filter will not damage your drip coffee machine or even if you are using it as a paper filter for your espresso machine.

The worst possible thing that will happen is your mesh coffee basket has some paper stuck to it, but this is easy to clean.

It will not break your coffee machine at all.

Let’s get to detailing how to use a paper towel as a coffee filter.

Bounty Paper Towel As Coffee Filter

Using bounty paper towels as a coffee filter is easy, and it doesn’t really matter which type of bounty paper towels you have or even the brand.

The easiest and most straight forward option is to line your filter holder like your Hario V60 when you want to make pour over coffee.

For drip coffee, do the same; line your filter basket with paper towels.

For an espresso machine and portafilter that you use a paper filter with cut it to shape and use it to make espresso.

The same with an Aeropress: cut to your emergency filter to shape and use it. For percolator coffee, like Chemex, I advise that you avoid the use of any type of paper filter. Percolator coffee cycles through it multiple times, which means there is a high probability of your paper towel disintegrating and dissolving and getting some into your coffee.

It won’t damage your coffee percolator in any way at all.

Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter Without Damaging My Coffee Machine
Your Paper Filter Won’t Destroy Your Machine

Read: Diy coffee filter

Emergency Coffee Filter Options

Metal coffee filters are a one time investment and can be used for generations like a coffee lovers pass me down!

There are different styles for different coffee brewing methods with circular ones for your AeroPress, mesh styles ones for your drip coffee maker and cone and flat-bottomed ones for pour over coffee.

They can be made of a variety of materials, including:

  • Gold.
  • Aluminum.
  • Copper.
  • Stainless Steel.

My favorite two are gold and copper with my favorite being copper as it is said to be a very healthy material to use according to Ayurvedic traditions.

Having reusable metal coffee filters results in a coffee that is bolder, stronger and a little more intense due to this type of filter allowing all your coffee oils to get into brew.

They are a great backup to paper filters and as permanent filters. They also serve to switch up your coffee routine and are perfect for camping. I’ve been in that situation camping out and having a bunch of wet and torn filters!

Semi-Permanent Coffee Filter

Semi-permanent filters can be used multiple times and not just as an emergency coffee filter. These are not “forever filters” like the metal ones I just mentioned but can be used for 90 to 120 times.

They come in all the expected shapes of cone-shaped, flat-bottomed and as a coffee sock.

Various material options exist also with the best two options being organic hemp and organic cotton.

These cloth coffee filters brew a coffee that is not as bold as a metal filter but bolder than a paper filter as some, not all, coffee oils pass through.

Using them requires the exact same technique as a paper filter. Having some of these around works great when you want to change up your coffee routine yet still use the same beans.

These can also be taken with you to the great outdoors and are easier to carry as they can be rolled up and stuffed in your backpack.

Semi-Permanent Coffee Filter
Cloth Filters Are Great

Read: Coffee filter substitute 

Use A Cheesecloth

A cheesecloth is made with food grade material which makes it one of the better materials for using as a coffee filter.

The one drawback is that this material is more porous than paper filters and thus your hot water will flow quicker. The easy solution is to use a double ply cheesecloth filter.

Depending on the type of coffee maker or coffee machine, the way you use it will alter slightly.

With an Aeropress and percolator you can cut your cheesecloth to the required shape. With pour over coffee and a drip coffee, make cut a section and drape it over your coffee filter holder or coffee basket.

Add your coffee grounds and pour your water. With your drip machine, monitor the flow rate and make sure your coffee compartment doesn’t flood.

A Metal Mesh Sieve

Fine metal mesh sieves and using them to filter my cold brew coffee is where my love for metal filters arises. You can expect the same quality of results as a metal filter as all the coffee oils will get into your cup of coffee.

You can use a mesh sieve filter in two ways. Add your coffee grounds and pour your hot water over your coffee grounds. Or, a better way is to steep your coffee grounds in hot water for 3 to 4 minutes and then use your sieve to remove the coffee grounds.

Reusable Tea Bags

Reusable tea bags are an excellent solution. You have the same options as permanent and semi-permanent coffee filters as they can be made of metal or cotton cloth.

Simply use them in the same way as you would for tea, only you are adding ground coffee. Let it steep and remove when your coffee is ready.

Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter

Can Toilet Paper Be Coffee Filter?

Yes, you can use toilet paper as a viable, but very unusual coffee filter substitute.

Even though they are very delicate, soft and thin, they can be used to prevent coffee grounds from getting into your cup of coffee. You need to be very careful how you use them, so your toilet paper does not break down and dissolve.

Can I Use Cloth Instead Of Filter Paper?

Yes, an old dish town, cheesecloth and a cloth napkin all make better alternative coffee filter substitute than paper towel or toilet paper and make a good quality cup of coffee as long as they are clean and well rinsed before use.

What Cloth To Use For Coffee Filter?

A 100% cotton cloth is the best type to use as an emergency coffee filter. The cotton will allow your hot water to flow through and prevent your coffee grounds from getting into your cup of coffee.

Rinse the cloth well before you use it to remove any scents and tastes of detergent and fabric softener.

How Do You Make Coffee Without A Paper Towel Or Filter?

It is very easy to make coffee at home without a paper towel or coffee filter. Add your ground coffee into a reusable tea bag, be it metallic or cotton, and add it to a mug of hot, almost boiling water and let it steep for 3 to 4 minutes and then remove it.

What Material Can Be Used In Place Of Filter Paper?

The best alternative material that you can use when you are out of filter paper are cotton, cloth, or metal sieve or a similar fine mesh.

As long as your hot water can pass through while preventing your coffee grounds from passing through.

How Do You Make Coffee Filters Without A Cafetière?

Boil water and let it cool down for 30 seconds and add your coffee grounds, stir well for a minute. Put your saucepan lid in place and let your coffee extract for 3 to 4 minutes.

Put a cloth over your coffee cup and pour your coffee through it. Use rubber bands or paper clips to hold your cloth in place.

The result is your cloth will catch the coffee grinds while your coffee passes through.

Why Do You Need A Paper Filter For Coffee?

Paper filters are needed to ensure that none of the fine coffee grounds makes their way into your cup of coffee. They are also needed to produce the clean, crisp taste of the coffee oils being filtered out.

Is Baking Paper The Same As Filter Paper?

So, baking paper, also known as parchment paper, is coated with a silicone (food grade) and is water-resistant, thus water does not pass through it, making baking paper an impossible coffee filter or for filtering any liquid.

Final Thoughts – Can You Substitute A Paper Towel For Coffee Filter?

If you have read this far you know that the answer to the question can you substitute a paper towel for coffee filter, and have some better ideas and options that will ensure that you will not face the problem of running out coffee filters.

Join our cool coffee community and tell us about your own amazing coffee filter substitutes that you can use.

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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