How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer - Top 8 Emergency Coffee Filters

How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer – Top 8 Emergency Coffee Filters

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

Learning how to strain coffee without a strainer is a key skill that all coffee lovers and coffee enthusiasts must know.

There are some easy and readily available emergency coffee filters that you have in your home that you can use to strain or filter your coffee grounds and let you enjoy a good strong cup of hot coffee.

Keep reading to find out some emergency coffee filter methods that you can use without too much effort on your part.

How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer – Use Napkins Or A Paper Towel

The most common coffee filter substitute to use is napkins and paper towels. These are not designed to be used for a coffee pot or even as a coffee filter; they are an acceptable emergency coffee filter and will let the water flow past while preventing the coffee grounds from passing through.

Simply place your napkins or paper towels in your coffee filter basket, or where you would normally put your coffee strainer.

This method works and is a good method and is very effective when you don’t have a paper filter left.

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

Read: Alternative coffee filters

Emergency Coffee Filter Method – Use Dish Towels Or A Cloth Napkin

A great and very effective emergency coffee filter method is using a clean cotton cloth napkin or a clean dish towel and using them as a coffee strainer to filter the coffee and the coffee grounds.

Make sure that it is clean and fresh as any scents, odors, grime or oils will affect how your coffee tastes. With your drip machine simply place it in the compartment where you would normally put your coffee filter and then place your coffee grinds on top of them. Switch your coffee maker on and let the hot water and coffee run through it.

Coffee Filter Replacement Hack – Use Fine Mesh Sieves

Using a fine mesh sieve is my own personal favorite coffee filter replacement hack. They are extremely easy to use and will produce a cup of coffee that is full of flavor and with all the coffee oils in it.

As a coffee strainer, the results are great, but due to the shape and design cannot be used in a coffee machine, but manually making a cup of coffee is easy.

Measure how much coffee grinds you need and put them into a mug, add hot water and stir. Wait 3 to 4 minutes for your grounds to extract and then pour your coffee through your fine mesh sieve and into another coffee mug.

You can also use this with cold brew coffee and other brewing methods.

Fine Mesh Sieves
Fine Mesh Sieves Are Great For Straining Coffee

Read: Coffee filter substitute 

Backup Emergency Reusable Coffee Filter Method – Use Reusable Teabags

If you are also a tea lover or there is a tea lover in your home. This is also very simple to use. Take the reusable tea bags and add two tablespoons of coffee to them for regular strength coffee. For a strong taste of coffee, add twice as much coffee and add the reusable tea bags to a cup of hot water and let it steep for 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove when your coffee is ready.

How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer – Brew Your Coffee With A Sock Or Stocking

This might be raising an eyebrow or two, but a coffee sock can and will strain coffee perfectly well.

It is an adaptation of a popular coffee brewing technique that uses a proper thick cotton sock that is designed for the method. It is much larger in width and length and popular all over South America and Asia. I’ve seen it in Vietnam, Thailand, Cuba, Colombia and even in Brazil where their famed Cafezinho is made using a coffee sock.

Using an actual sock or stocking is an effective emergency adaptation that you can use to keep the grinds and sediment out of your coffee.

Here is how to use it. Heat your water to the ideal brewing temperature of 92 °C to 96 °C (195 °F to 205 °F).

Roll your sock over your coffee mug and fill it with a tablespoon or two of ground coffee and add your hot water.

Let your coffee brew for 4 to 5 minutes – depending on how strong you like your coffee. Remove your sock or stocking and give it a squeeze.

This is not my favorite method as scented detergent and softeners used to wash your socks can make their way into your coffee.

If you wash without strong detergents or give your sock a good rise beforehand, you can mitigate that effect somewhat.

Coffee Sock
A Professional Coffee Sock

How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer – Make Coffee Using A Nut Milk Bag

If you love making your own plant based or nut based milk and have a clean nut milk bag around you can use it as an alternative emergency coffee strainer.

This is fairly similar to the sock method.

The types of bags used are made of hemp, nylon or cotton. They are not always resistant to heat and would make a great emergency coffee filter for straining cold brew coffee.

Simply pour your coffee through your nut milk bag and use it to separate your coffee from the coffee grounds.

Milk Nut Bag
A Milk Nut Bag Is A Good DIY Coffee Filter

DIY Coffee Filter – Brew Your Coffee Using A Handkerchief

This works the same as the dish towel, napkin, kitchen towel and cheesecloth method. Simply place it in the part of your drip coffee maker where you would put your coffee grounds and use it as an alternative or back up DIY coffee filter that you can use in an emergency.

You can also place your handkerchief over your coffee mug, put your coffee grinds in it and secure it in place by using elastic bands, clips and pour your hot water over them and let your coffee steep in your back-up DIY cloth coffee filter that is your handkerchief, cheesecloth or dish towel for 3 to 4 minutes.

Once your coffee is ready, remove your DIY coffee filter and enjoy your morning coffee.

How To Make Coffee Without A Filter – Brew Coffee With Your French Press

If you have a French press handy, you can take advantage of it and either brew a great tasting cup of French press coffee with it or use it to filter out the coffee grounds as it has a built-in filter.

French press or plunger coffee as it is also known is easy to make. Using a coffee to water ratio of 1:12 and using 30 grams (1 Oz) and 360 ml (12 Oz) of water you can get a good quality cup of coffee.

Simply stick to the ideal water temperature of 92 °C to 96 °C 195 °F to 205 °F). Add your 30 grams of coarsely ground coffee to your French press and give it a light shake on a flat surface to ensure even distribution of your grounds.

Add your hot water and stop when your coffee grounds are slightly submerged and stop for 25 seconds plus or minus 5 seconds to allow them to bloom.

Then continue to pour until you have poured all your water into your press. Stir your coffee and hot water with a long spoon or stirrer for a minute. Press down on the plunger until it is submerged just below the surface.

Wait 3 to 4 minutes for your coffee to brew and once it is ready, push down on your plunger evenly until it reaches the bottom.

Pour and enjoy your coffee.

Finally, If you Have Nothing At All Use No Strainer At All

This is very old school and predates the invention of coffee filters and coffee strainers themselves. You can go raw and use no strainer or filter itself.

If it is a drip coffee, usually these machines come with a coffee basket that can act as a filter, at the very least as an emergency coffee strainer and filter.

Simply put your coffee grounds directly into the basket with no filter and brew. You can also use it to strain coffee grounds if you are brewing using alternate brewing methods by passing your coffee through the basket and into a coffee mug.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer

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

You have a lot of options available for alternative emergency coffee filters. Here are some ideas for you to try:

  • 1. A clean dish towel or cloth napkin.
  • 2. A very fine mesh sieve.
  • 3. Napkins and paper towels.
  • 4. Reusable teabags.
  • 5. Go filterless.

That last option, for what it is worth, is how Turkish coffee and cowboy coffee are made – filterless.

How Do You Strain Coffee At Home?

It is not difficult to strain coffee at home. You of course use a coffee filter and place it into the very fine mesh sieve. If no filter is available, you can wrap a cloth, napkin or dish towel over your sieve and pour your coffee through it.

That is how easy it is. It is not going to be perfect, but it gets the job done.

Yes, paper towels are a very simple coffee filter alternative that you can use. It is not a perfect solution and has its drawbacks, but it does get the job done. Fold the paper towel into a small pouch that fits and suits your filter basket or fits perfectly into your pour-over device.


I advise not to boil your coffee as the boiling point is over the ideal temperature range of 92C to 96C (195F to 205F). It is better that you boil your water and let it cool for 30 seconds and then add your coffee grounds and stir well and let the coffee and water solution to brew for 3 mins to 4 mins. Then strain your coffee grounds.

If you boil your coffee grounds in a saucepan, it will end up being overtly bitter.

Can You Brew Coffee With A Tea Strainer?

Yes, a tea strainer is something that you can use to strain your coffee beans just as long as you are using coarsely ground coffee. What’s more, you will get a more natural flavor of coffee; the result will have a taste that is fairly similar to French press coffee. 

How Do You Filter Coffee Without A Strainer?

There are a number of methods that you can use to filter your coffee without a strainer and make a great cup of coffee. Line your pour over coffee maker or drip coffee basket with a paper towel, cheesecloth or dish towel. Put two tablespoons of coffee inside your makeshift coffee grounds. Pour hot water over your coffee grounds. 

When the hot water flows, remove and discard your used paper towel and coffee grounds or temporary coffee filter.

What Can I Use To Strain My Coffee?

There are a number of very effective everyday tools that you can use to strain your coffee. You can use a fine mesh sieve, paper towels, cheese cloth, cloth napkin, reusable tea bags, an old towel and other similar objects. 

Can I Make Coffee Without A Filter?

Yes, there are many methods of making coffee that don’t involve the use of a paper filter. Moka pot coffee, French press coffee and a home espresso machine don’t use paper filters. 

Final Thoughts – How To Strain Coffee Without A Strainer

Congratulations on reading this far – you now know how to strain coffee without a strainer using multiple methods, all of which are around your home and mostly in your kitchen already. 

It is good to have these ideas in mind as backup when you shockingly find out that you are out of filters! 

Have you tried any of these techniques? Have you strained your coffee using an emergency coffee filter or have your own DIY coffee hacks?

Join our online coffee community on Facebook/Meta and jump in and contribute by telling us all about your super “secret” way of straining your coffee when you have no filter paper left!

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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