What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter - Unconventional Solutions!

What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter? – Unconventional Solutions!

Last updated on January 29th, 2024 at 12:32

If you need to know what can be used as a coffee filter and need a conventional or unconventional solution, this article is for you.

It happens to the best of us and the worst possible times!

Keep reading for some great DIY coffee filter hacks!

What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter?

When you run out of coffee filters you have multiple options for what you can use an instant coffee filter paper replacement that will produce an excellent coffee.

Paper towels, paper and cloth napkins, dish towels, handkerchiefs and socks can all be used to great effect, but these are not my first choice as they all have the problem of potentially imparting some unwanted chemicals and flavors into your brew.

Cheesecloth, reusable teabags and permanent and semi-permanent coffee filters are my preferred choices. Only in an emergency will I use the aforementioned options.

Let’s get to detailing what can be used as a coffee filter and why I am apprehensive about some popular options.

What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter
There Are Many Coffee Filter Alternatives

Read: Diy coffee filter

What Can I Use Instead Of Filter Paper?

Let’s get straight to it and talk about what you can use instead of a paper coffee filter when you have mismanaged your supply and need one in an emergency.


Using a cheesecloth as a DIY coffee filter is a great idea because they are porous and made from food grade material.

If you are someone that loves making their own plant and nut based milks as well as cheese and have some cheese cloth around, perfect! Cut out a section and use it as a coffee filter substitute.

For most coffee brewing methods, including Aeropress, siphon and a percolator, all you will need to do is cut your cheesecloth to the correct size and shape.

For drip coffee and pour over coffee, cutting a section and draping it over your filter holder or coffee basket is enough.

You will need to double your cheesecloth due to the material being more porous than a paper filter. For chemex coffee you will need to use three or four folds.

Reusable Tea Bags

Even though I don’t drink tea or even enjoy its taste I own a few reusable tea bags. As a matter of respect for my guests, which includes family and friends, I try to make the best possible cup of tea for them, and that requires the use of reusable tea bags and a similar set of barista skills to ensure they have a great cup of tea.

A reusable tea bag can be made of a variety of materials including various fabrics and metals with popular options being aluminum, stainless steel and organic hemp and cotton.

Simply add your coffee grounds, pour hot water and let them steep. Remove after a few minutes and enjoy your cup of coffee.

Reusable Cloth Coffee Filter

While my top two solutions are cheesecloth and reusable tea bags when I need a coffee filter substitute.

Far better, if you have one, is a reusable cloth coffee filter which you can use instead of filter paper for your regular coffee and not just as a paper coffee filter substitute when you have run out.

I love taking these on camping trips as I have no problem of them ripping or tearing in my backpack.

You have choice of fabrics with my preferred two being organic cotton and organic hemp. They come in all the expected shapes and sizes to suit your coffee maker.

Their use is the same as a regular coffee filter.

Add your ground coffee and pour your hot water over it. With drip coffee makers, proceed with caution and monitor your coffee compartment to ensure that it doesn’t flood.

It is not likely to be a problem, but different materials have different pore sizes and thus varying flow rates.


Can I Reuse A Coffee Filter
Can I Reuse A Coffee Filter

Permanent Coffee Filter

Better than semi-permanent coffee filters are filters that will last you a lifetime. These are made from a wide range of metals, including:

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

Metal coffee filters come in all shapes and sizes and for various brewing methods including Aeropress, which is a disc style filter, and drip coffee maker, which are mesh-styled coffee baskets and pour over coffee.

They come in conical and bucket shapes too.

The coffee brewed is more intense and bolder than what you would expect from both filter papers and cloth coffee filters.

It is more than worth your time and investment to buy a permanent and semi-permanent coffee filter both as an insurance when your run out of filter and when you want to change up your coffee routine.

Cloth Napkins, Dish Towel And Handkerchief

All these materials and items you have around your home and while they can be used as a DIY coffee filter in an emergency situation they all have an inherent problem.

They have been washed with detergent and fabric softener. Even if you use organic detergent, you have the problem of chemicals seeping into your brew and spoiling your coffee.

Chemical detergent is obviously worse as you will be consuming them. Thankfully, as a one-off solution it is relatively harmless.

Rinse your temporary cloth filter well in an abundance of hot water before you use it.

Simply drape your dish towel, cloth napkin or handkerchief around your filter basket or filter holder and use it as you normally would as if it was a paper filter.

Can I Use My Coffee Maker Without A Filter
Can I Use My Coffee Maker Without A Filter

Read: Coffee filter substitute 

Paper Towels, Paper Napkins And Toilet Paper

These materials are the most popular, with kitchen towels being the most popular type of emergency filter used.

They, like paper napkins, have the problem of being chemically treated and bleached, which is why I don’t particularly advise or like to use them myself unless I absolutely have to.

Unfortunately there is no way of rinsing out the chemicals and bleach.

Toilet paper, although it can be used, I absolutely do not recommend it as it is very fine and can disintegrate too easily which may result in some paper getting into your coffee.

Simply line your coffee filter basket or filter holder with your paper towels and add your coffee grounds.

Can I Reuse A Coffee Filter?

Yes, absolutely. No matter what material your coffee filter is made from, you can reuse it multiple times. The only question is how many times can you reuse a coffee filter?

Here is how many times you can reuse a coffee filter based on the material it is made from:

  • Paper filter: 3 to 5 times.
  • Cloth filter: 90 to 120 times.
  • Metal filter: Unlimited!

Even though a cloth filter can be used 90 to 120 times, it must be washed frequently. It is best that you use organic detergent and rinse well.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter

Can I Use My Coffee Maker Without A Filter?

Yes, you can use your coffee maker without a coffee filter. Although paper coffee filters are better for brewing coffee and getting that clean, crisp taste, you can brew your cold brew coffee in an emergency by only using the metal mesh filter basket.

In the case of an emergency and if you wish you can use a paper towel, a cloth napkin, cheesecloth, and old dish towel, toilet paper, a handkerchief or a clean sock as a coffee filter substitute.

You can also use a reusable tea bag and put your coffee grounds in it and let it steep in hot, almost boiling water.

Can I Drink Filter Coffee Without Filter?

Yes, it is totally fine to drink filter coffee without filtering your coffee grounds. There are some coffee brewing methods like Turkish coffee that do not filter the grounds at all.

Don’t worry about drinking or consuming the coffee grounds as they are edible and perfectly safe to eat.

Can I Just Add Hot Water To Ground Coffee?

Yes, you can add hot water but not boiling water to your ground coffee. The ideal coffee brewing temperature is 92C to 96C (195F to 205F).

Add your hot water, stir your grounds and let your coffee extract for a few minutes.

Let it extract for 3 to 4 minutes and pour your coffee into your coffee cup and let it settle.

Optionally, you can pour your brewed coffee through a cheesecloth and strain the coffee grounds.

How Do You Make Instant Coffee Filters?

It is relatively simple to make an instant coffee filter. Simply fold your dish towel, cheesecloth, handkerchief or paper towel into a pocket and put your coffee grounds in the new makeshift filter.

You can also place your material over your coffee mug so that it fits over the top and is touching the bottom of the inside of your mug. Hold it in place with a rubber band or series of paperclips. Put your coffee grounds inside and pour your hot water over your coffee grounds and let it steep.

After a few minutes, typically 3 to 4 minutes, and then remove your cloth material and discard your coffee grounds.

Can You Make Filter Coffee In A Pan?

Yes, this is how sock coffee and cafezinho starts out!

Start by boiling water and then let it cool down for 30 t0 45 seconds. Add your coffee grounds. Stir gently for a minute. Let your coffee extract for 3 to 4 minutes.

Filter your coffee through a cloth or metal mesh sieve and pour slowly and into your coffee cup.

Are Coffee Filters Important?

Yes, coffee filters are important as they are the easiest and most convenient way of ensuring that no coffee fines or particles get into your cup of coffee.

You can also filter out the coffee oils too with different types of filter filtering out various amount of the coffee oils depending on the material the filter is made from with a paper filter removing all the oils and a metal filter almost none.

Is It OK To Drink Coffee With Grounds In It?

Yes, it is perfectly okay to drink coffee with coffee grounds in it. Coffee is edible and used to bake cakes, cookies and even espresso roasted coffee beans can be coated in chocolate and enjoyed as a treat.

Can You Use Fabric As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, any fabric can be used as long as it is not toxic or has any horrible tastes and can let your hot water flow through and prevent the coffee grounds from getting into your brew.

Cotton is the preferred material for fabric-based coffee filters.

Final Thoughts – What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter?

After reading this far, you know what can be used as a coffee filter should be in an urgent caffeine emergency!

The best solution is the one that you don’t need, which is what makes permanent and semi-permanent coffee filters such an attractive option. Give them some serious consideration.

Join our cool coffee community and join in the conversation with your own fantastic alternative coffee filters that you use in an emergency. 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 Derek@LatteLoveBrew.com, mentioning your name and location

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