Coffee Filter Substitute - My Top Coffee Filter Substitutes

Coffee Filter Substitute – My Top Coffee Filter Substitutes

Last updated on November 28th, 2023 at 15:20

If you are in need of a coffee filter substitute this article lists the best items that you can use that are probably already in your kitchen somewhere and will still produce an equally great cup of coffee.

Some coffee filter substitutes will produce a less than ideal brew, but when you are out of filters and really need a cup of coffee you just gotta make do with what you have!

Keep reading for some great alternative coffee filters that you can use in an emergency.

The Best Coffee Filter Substitute – Metal Reusable Tea Bags

It is, in my own humble opinion as a legitimate coffee lover, enthusiast and expert that the best coffee filter substitute is a metal reusable tea bag.

They are so easy to use, hold your ground coffee inside them easily and, above all, produce an excellent cup of coffee that is every bit as good as a cup of coffee made with a metal filter.

Simply put your coffee grounds in it and let it steep for 3 to 4 minutes in hot, almost boiling water to allow your coffee to brew and then remove.

If you are a regular drinker of filter coffee, it will be worth your while getting your hands on a couple of them, at the very least as a back-up coffee filter just in case you run out!

The Best Coffee Filter Substitute
A Metal Reusable Tea bag The Best Coffee Filter Substitute

Read: How to strain coffee without a strainer

Reusable Coffee Filters And Fine Mesh Sieves As Coffee Filter Substitutes

I have intentionally placed a reusable coffee filter and fine-mesh sieves as below a metal reusable tea bag as a reusable coffee filter is a metal coffee filter and a fine mesh sieve is what you have with your drip coffee maker, if you have one, well, you will not be searching for what you can use as a coffee filter substitute in an emergency.

If you have one, you will be using it for life, unless you want a slightly different tasting coffee.

A permanent reusable coffee filter is a metal filter; a semi-permanent reusable coffee filter is an organic cotton cloth filter.

I advise owning both as you may want to change how your coffee tastes from time to time.

A metal filter will allow all the coffee oils to get into your cup of coffee, while a cotton cloth filter will filter out some, resulting in a lighter tasting coffee.

A paper coffee filter, for that matter, results in a crisp, clean tasting cup of coffee.

Fine-mesh sieves, be they the coffee filter basket or a one you have in your kitchen, are more than a good coffee filter substitutes, they are great for staining out ground coffee for cold brew and can be used an infinite number of times.

Personally, I advise only using that mesh filter that is part of your coffee filter holder or coffee basket in your drip coffee machine in an emergency as it is not designed as a permanent filter nor as a reusable filter. They can get clogged with your coffee grounds.

They can be delicate to clean also. If you do have to use them, be assured they provide great quality coffee. At Latte Love Brew, we are all about helping you to brew excellent coffee. 

Permanent Coffee Filter Substitute
A Permanent Coffee Filter

Emergency Coffee Filter Alternatives – Tea Towels, Dish Towels, Cheesecloth, Butter Muslin, Cloth Napkin And Handkerchiefs

As a coffee filter substitutes, each one of these are great and their function, how you use them is exactly the same. The bonus is that you will have some, if not all, of these readily available in your kitchen.

Make sure the items that you use are clean and fresh. I’d avoid using your favorite dish towel as you might end up staining it permanently.

As coffee filter replacement hacks go – these are all good to go and can all be used similarly and for multiple types of coffee drinks and brewing methods, including using it as a back-up alternative chemex filter.

It is very easy to use these materials with some techniques being as simple as draping the material over your brewing device or coffee maker and adding your coffee grounds and pouring your hot water.

Other techniques involve folding the material into a pocket and then putting your coffee grounds into the pocket.

It is a very sustainable method and can prevent even the smallest of coffee particles from getting to your cup of coffee.

The big drawback is the potential of drawing out the flavors and scents from detergents and fabric softeners. Be sure to rinse the item that you are using beforehand.

One Off Coffee Filter Substitutes – A Paper Towel Or Kitchen Towel

A paper towel of some kind, like a kitchen towel, is something that we all have at home and while we can use them, they are not high up on the list for a reason. There are many chemicals used in the manufacturing process.

Anything with bleach, and other horrible chemicals potentially seeping into your cup of coffee is not good for your health long term. Using a paper towel once or twice or on the occasional emergency when you have no paper filter to use is fine.

There is no need for you to change your brewing method or technique at all to use a paper towel as a makeshift filter. Just fold it into a pocket and put it in your drip coffee maker and put your coffee grounds in and brew you coffee.

For pour over coffee, you can fold it into a cone shape and place it into your coffee filter holder, add your grounds and then pour hot water over them and continue with the pour over method.

Paper Towel As A Substitute Coffee Filter
Paper Towel As A Substitute Coffee Filter

Cotton Sock – A Very Out There Coffee Filter Alternative

I expect that upon hearing the use of a cotton sock as a coffee filter alternative to give you the icky factor. The hard fact is, it is a great emergency coffee filter substitute.

As a matter of fact it emulates a very popular brewing method that is used all over the world, from Costa Rica to Cuba to Colombia and beyond to Thailand, Vietnam and a number of other nations across Latin America and Asia.

The famous Cafezinho is made with a coffee sock. Notably it is a purposely designed heavy cotton flannel with a wire at the opening.

Use a clean sock and rinse it well with hot water and let it step for a while and rinse it again in hot water. This is an extra step and is absolutely necessary, unless you want the taste of detergents and fabric softeners in your coffee.

There are various ways of using your cotton sock as a filter. You can roll it over your coffee filter basket for your drip coffee maker and fill it with ground coffee and brew your drip coffee as you normally would.

For pour over coffee, follow the same method and roll your sock over the filter holder or Chemex, put your coffee grounds in and pour over your hot water as you normally would.

For a single cup of coffee, roll your sock over your coffee cup, add two tablespoons of coffee and add your hot water. Let your coffee steep for 3 min to 4 minutes and then remove your sock.

Frequently Asked Questions About Coffee Filter Substitute

Do I Have To Use A Coffee Filter?

You can make coffee without the use of a coffee filter as there are methods of brewing coffee that do not require the use of a filter and produce a great quality coffee.

Such examples of coffees include Turkish coffee, cowboy coffee, mud coffee and Indonesian Kopi Tubruk.

When you are using a known brewing method that needs the use of a paper filter, it is best that you use one to get that expected flavor and without the coffee particles in them, which for the coffee brewing style of perhaps, drip coffee is not supposed to be there.

What Is The Best Improvised Coffee Filter?

The best improvised coffee filter is undoubtedly a tie between a fine mesh sieve and a metal reusable tea bag. Any form of metal filters win for me. A metal filter simply produces a better tasting coffee that is full of flavor and full-bodied.

Is It Okay To Use Paper Towels As Coffee Filters?

As a coffee filter alternative in an emergency, it is perfectly okay to use paper towels as a back-up coffee filter when you have run out. 

Due to the fact that they are used with bleaching agents, and other chemicals that may be harmful for your health, I advise against daily or regular use of paper towels or kitchen towels of any type for that reason.

Can I Use Toilet Paper As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, you can use toilet paper as a coffee filter substitute. Simply use a little origami skills and fold your toilet into a pocket to hold your coffee grounds and pour your hot water.

Toilet paper is not the greatest of materials, but it does work and can be used until you get proper coffee filters for your coffee maker.

What Are The Side Effects Of Unfiltered Coffee?

One of the side effects of unfiltered coffee is a stronger, and in my opinion, a better cup of coffee. The reason behind the stronger and better cup of coffee is the same reason why I prefer a metal filter: they leave all the beans’ natural oils in your cup off coffee.

The only major side effect is having some coffee particles in your cup of coffee and a slightly gritty taste. The coffee continues to brew while it is sitting in your cup.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have A Filter For Coffee?

Paper towels and napkins can be used if you have no actual coffee filter available. As long as the material is clean and allows the water to flow through it and prevents yoru coffee grinds from getting into your coffee.

Both cloth and paper material are good to use.

Is It Safe To Use Paper Towels As Coffee Filters?

Paper towels as a coffee filter are generally considered safe for temporary use. The ink used to pattern kitchen towels is food-grade and safe. Paper towels are bleached; naturally they are not as healthy as unbleached coffee filters.

Can You Put Coffee In Without A Coffee Filter?

Coffee without a coffee filter is something that you can do as you can use a paper towel or cloth as a substitute for coffee filters in an emergency. You also have many options for making your coffee that doesn’t need a coffee filter. Turkish coffee and cowboy coffee are two such examples.

You can also use a coffee brewing method that has a built-in coffee filter like a French press or moka pot.

Final Thoughts – Coffee Filter Substitute

If you have read this far you have a good idea of what you want to use as a coffee filter substitute and what you want to get your hands on as a back-up just in case you ever run out.

Which of the coffee filter substitutes have you tried? Which will you use?

Better still,

do you have some excellent and brilliant emergency DIY coffee filters of your own?

Share them with us and our online coffee community on Facebook/Meta, we’d love to hear from you.

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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