Makeshift Coffee Filter

Makeshift Coffee Filter – Emergency Coffee Filters!

Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 19:38

So you need a makeshift coffee filter, something you can use in an emergency. By the time you have finished reading this article, you will have a great idea and a list of items that you can use as emergency coffee filters.

…And the great news is, these are all items that you will find around your home and, in all probability, you already have many, if not all, the common items that make for a great substitute for coffee filters and as coffee lovers will tell you, it is far better to use these emergency makeshift coffee filters than brewing a cup of instant coffee!

Keep reading as we dig down and talk about substitutes for coffee filters!

Makeshift Coffee Filter – 10 Coffee Filter Replacement Hacks!

The following is a great list of alternative coffee filters that you can use to make a great cup of coffee without having to use the last resort, instant coffee.

The bonus part is, most of these are great temporary reusable filters while you wait to get your hands on new paper coffee filters.

Coffee Filter Replacement Hacks
A piece Of Cotton Can Work Wonders!

Read: Can I grind coffee beans in a blender?

#1 Emergency Coffee Filter Substitute Paper Towel

The first thought and idea that comes to coffee lovers and coffee enthusiasts mind in their coffee filter backup plan is a paper towel.

You can most certainly use a paper towel as a makeshift coffee filter, but keep in mind that this as a homemade coffee filter will work, and is said by many to be an excellent coffee filter substitute. Just keep in mind the extraction rate will not be the same rate.


be aware of the not so healthy chemicals used in their production as they may adversely affect the flavor of your coffee.

The process is no different from making regular drip coffee. Just put the paper towel in place of your regular paper filter and add your coffee grounds. Make sure it is double or triple ply to ensure a decent extraction rate.

#2 Cloth Napkin or Dish Towels

Using a clean dish towel or a cloth napkin is another great effective coffee filter substitute that is very easy to use. Coffee will stain your dish towel so don’t go using your favorite one. Simply just drape it into the coffee compartment where you put your coffee filter and then add your coffee grounds.

Then add hot water, and you are ready to go. Keep an eye on the drip rate or extraction rate and taste test your coffee to ensure that it is well brewed and not under or over extracted.

#3 No Filter At All And Use Filter-Free Brewing Methods!

Got absolutely nothing around your kitchen that can be used as a fantastic coffee filter substitute to brew up a great cup of unfiltered coffee. You have a number of options, including French press coffee, Moka pot, or go old school and brew up some cowboy coffee.

Be sure to let your coffee steep to let it extract well, as per requirements of the brewing method. When I screw up and run out of filters, I simply use my fave filter-free coffee maker – the French press or the Moka pot if I want a particularly strong coffee.

Cowboy coffee is great because you can brew it with whole beans.

Coffee Filter Pro Tip: When you buy coffee filters, buy an extra pack. When the first one runs out, use the second one and immediately purchase a new packet of coffee filters. Stock management!

#4 Fine Mesh Sieves

Those of you that are masters in the kitchen and love baking and cooking will have a mesh sieve or a fine mesh sieve that you can use as a makeshift pour-over coffee filter and as a filter for a number of coffee brewing methods.

The simplest of techniques is to simply brew a cup of coffee in a similar way in which you would with a French press. Add coffee to a mug. Pour in your hot water. Then stir for 60 seconds or so and let them extract for 4 to 5 minutes.

Then pour your coffee over a fine mesh sieve and into a new cup, filtering out the coffee grounds.

Fine Mesh Sieves
Fine Mesh Sieves Are Great Backup Coffee Filters

#5 Cotton Sock

A cotton sock is a great alternative to coffee filters. It is a solution that has been used for many years. Reusable coffee sock is even a legitimate coffee brewing technique that I believe originates in Cuba and is used all over South America, specifically in Colombia. I’ve even seen these used street side in Thailand!

So, sock coffee without paper filters is a legitimate way of brewing coffee as it is.

Just put a couple of tablespoons of coffee grounds, medium or coarsely-ground coffee, into your clean and recently washed coffee sock. Put your coffee sock inside your coffee pot and allow it to steep for approximately 3–4 minutes.

#6 Use A Handkerchief

A handkerchief or any sort of cloth, especially a cotton cloth that you have, can be used as a backup makeshift coffee filter.

The technique is the same as the paper towel method that we spoke about earlier. You may need to cut it into shape to suit your coffee brewer.

#7 Cheesecloth

This is probably one of the most common DIY coffee filter options as many coffee lovers use it as an emergency coffee filter and often as a piece of cheesecloth is used to filter out the coarse coffee grounds from cold brew coffee.

You can cut this alternative coffee filter replacement to size and to suit a number of coffee brewing methods. Be careful and don’t overfill it and perhaps fold it as your hot water will flow through it faster than it would through a paper filter. You will need to double brew or steep it for a couple of minutes in your coffee to compensate for an under extracted coffee.

#8 An Old T-Shirt

An old but clean T-shirt makes for a great coffee filter. Don’t use your favorite clothing item as it will stain it. Just like the methods above, you can cut it to shape to fit your coffee brewer or coffee maker.

#9 A Used Paper Filter

Well, if you have got to the last paper filter in your pack of paper coffee filters you can wing it and try and use that last paper filter until you get your hands on a new pack.

Backup Coffee Filter
The Best Solution Is Not To Run Out Of Coffee Filters!

#10 A Wire Mesh Filter

A wire mesh filter is a great option that is reusable, washable and a backup that is there for you whenever you need to use it. There will be no unwanted flavors that you would expect from some of the other methods above.

Due to its design and functionality, it will not filter out any of the coffee oils and will brew a full flavored pot of coffee for you with the boldest of flavors – since none of the oils are filtered.

Frequently Asked Questions About Makeshift Coffee Filter

Is It OK To Use Paper Towels As coffee Filters?


Paper towels are a great and simple coffee filter alternative. There are a few drawbacks. You will need to fold the paper towel to filter well, and be careful of the drip rate and test the brew and see how it compares to a paper coffee filter.

Can You Make Filter Coffee Without A Filter?

Absolutely you can brew a great cup of coffee without a filter. Better still, you can and will end up with a better, stronger tasting cup of coffee as no coffee filter means none of your coffee oils will be filtered out.

Many coffee brewing methods use no filter or a metal filter.

Can I Use Cupcake Liners As Coffee Filters?

No. A cupcake liner is made of a different material and cannot be used as a coffee filter – not even as an emergency coffee filter. Cupcake liners are made of stronger perforation-free paper which means your coffee will not drip through them.

It’s a total no-go!

Are Coffee Filters Necessary?

Coffee filters are optional, depending fully on the coffee drink that you are brewing. Many of the brewing techniques that require a medium-to-medium-coarse grind and above does not require a filter of any kind as an absolute must.

Their use can help to define how a coffee tastes. A paper filter produces a clean, crisp taste while no filter or a metal filter produces a bolder flavor. A cotton filter will produce a taste that is between the two.

Can You Use A Cloth As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, make sure your cloth is clean and better still has not been washed with chemicals or fabric softeners as these scents and chemicals will get into your coffee. Give any cloth that you use a good rinse first.

What Happens If You Don’t Filter Coffee?

If you don’t filter your coffee you will end up with coffee grinds in your cup of coffee which will make the final few sips a little gritty.

Is Filtering Coffee Necessary?

Yes, some kind of coffee filter is needed to ensure that you don’t get any coffee grinds into your coffee. The type of filter that you use is a personal choice and taste preference be it paper, cloth or metal as all produce a slightly different tasting cup of coffee.  

Can I Use Aluminum Foil As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, foil filters are technically speaking a better choice for the environment as you can use them multiple times and reduce waste.

It is a good idea to have a permanent filter, like a metal one and some semi-permanent filters like cloth filters; at the very least they will serve as back up when you run out of paper filters. You can also consider using them an environmentally friendly option.

Frappé-Ing It All Up – Makeshift Coffee Filter

You have in this article 10 makeshift coffee filter ideas that you can use in an emergency as a backup for that undesirable situation of running out of paper filters.

Use the one or ones that are best suited to your coffee tastes and if you know of other ideas and common household items that you have used to filter your coffee in an emergency – give us a buzz on our social media and tell us about it – we will happily include it in this list. Find us on Facebook/Meta!

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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