What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter Your Coffee Emergency Solved!

What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter? Your Coffee Emergency Solved!

Last updated on January 30th, 2024 at 11:35

Bugged by that question, What can I substitute for a coffee filter? This article will have your unfortunate coffee emergency solved forever!

Follow the tips in this article and use the “secret” filter management method and get some of the permanent or semi-permanent coffee filters that I talk about.

Keep reading for the details.

What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter?

It happens to all coffee lovers and coffee enthusiasts at some point, and we all know that feeling of throwing that last coffee filter and reaching for your box of coffee filters and finding it empty!

Rather than using some shoddy coffee filter substitute like a dish towel, or a handkerchief or paper towel which may be full of unhealthy chemicals due to their manufacture or the detergent used I encourage you to practice preparation, and good management of your paper filters.

By three boxes and when you get down to your last box, buy three more!

Have backup solutions too. Not just for that moment when you screw up and are out of filters but for a different tasting coffee from the same beans and nice little to your regular coffee routine.

Back up solutions I’m talking about reusable coffee filters like aluminum, stainless steel and copper coffee filters. These filters will outlive you!

It is also a good idea to have some semi-permanent solutions like a cotton cloth filter or a hemp cloth filter. These will last for 90 to 120 uses each.

As a matter of politeness and making world-class tea for your guests or yourself, use reusable cloth or metal reusable tea bags. These will also serve as a back-up coffee filter substitute.

What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter
What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter

Read: Emergency substitute for coffee filter

What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter In Coffee Maker?

In your coffee maker, assuming you mean a drip coffee machine, you can use a cheesecloth as a great substitute for a paper coffee filter.

A Cheesecloth

If you have never used one before, they can be a little awkward as you will need to figure out and calculate by means of trial and error before you know how many layers you will need. One, two or three. It is unlikely that you will need more than three.

It is a matter of watching closely the flow rate and how your coffee tastes in regard to being over brewed or under brewed.

Cut your cheesecloth to an appropriate size and shape for your coffee basket filter holder. Drape around your coffee filter holder, your coffee basket.

Add your coffee grounds and keep an eye on the flow rate. As I said you may need to use two or three.

For a siphon coffee maker, percolator coffee or an AeroPress you will need to cut your filter to shape and monitor the flow rate. Consider using two or three.

If you use a paper filter in your espresso machine, the process is the same. Cut your cheesecloth into shape and use it as you normally would use a paper filter.

Paper Towel Or Serviette Napkin

Paper towels are the most popular options that are used to filter coffee and uses the same technique of lining your filter holder and adding coffee grounds.


If you have other options, use those first as paper towels and serviettes are chemically treated and may have some ink or dye used to pattern the paper, particularly if you are using kitchen paper.

This is the reason why I discourage the use of paper towels. Use them only in the case of an emergency and if you can’t find anything else.

What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter In Coffee Maker
Paper Towels Are Chemically Treated

Read: What can I use instead of coffee filters?

A Cloth Napkin, Dish Towel or Handkerchief

These solutions are great, but you must have a certain awareness of the fact that a cloth napkin or dish towel you will have likely washed it with chemical detergent.

Even if you have used a natural organic detergent it may still affect the taste of your coffee.

Rinse your material well with warm water before you use it.

Simply drape your cloth napkin, dish cloth or handkerchief around your filter holder or filter basket and add your coffee grounds. Carefully pour your hot water and monitor the flow rate.

What Can I Use Instead Of Filter Paper? – More Emergency Coffee Filter Ideas

There are a lot more items that you can use instead of filter paper as an emergency coffee filter and get great coffee as a result.

Let’s start with something that has a large icky factor!

A Sports Sock

Yes, a sock! Be sure that it is clean and rinsed well before you use it. It is the shape that makes them perfect for brewing coffee.

Simply add your coffee to your sock and either pour hot water slowly and evenly over it or let it steep in hot water for a few minutes and remove your sock.

A Fine Mesh Sieve Or Fines Sifter

A fine mesh sieve and a sifter are something that I use as my go-to and most convenient and best way of filtering my coffee grounds from my cold brew coffee.

A mesh sieve gets all the tasty coffee oils into your coffee. There are two convenient ways of using it as a DIY coffee filter.

The first way is to use the pour over method and add your coffee grounds to your sieve and pour over your hot water over your grounds.

This is, in my opinion, not the best way. The best way is to use the full immersion technique. Add your coffee grounds to hot water and let it steep for 3 to 4 minutes.

Then pass your coffee grounds and your coffee through your sieve and into a new cup.

A Fine Mesh Sieve Or Fines Sifter
Fine Mesh Sieve Is A Good Substitute Filter

Read: Coffee filter substitute 

Reusable Coffee Filters

Reusable coffee filters are the obvious solution to using a paper filter and, depending on how you like your coffee, may even produce a better tasting cup of coffee.

Personally, I love using metal coffee filters for the bolder and more intense tasting cup of coffee with a slightly heavier body. I love using one that is made with copper as it is said to be healthier as per ayurvedic traditions.

Semi reusable coffee filters, cloth filters, I find the best ones are organic, with little difference between cotton and hemp based ones.

Can You Make Coffee Without A Filter In A Coffee Maker?

Yes, you can make coffee without a filter in a coffee maker, but it is a method to use too often as you will clog up and block your mesh coffee basket.

The technique is simple. Add your coffee ground to your coffee basket without using a filter. Switch on your coffee maker and wait for your coffee to be ready.

Serve and enjoy.

My Favorite DIY Coffee Filter Replacement Hack

As a DIY coffee filter replacement hack my favorite is to use a cheesecloth as it is very versatile, cheap and has not been treated with harmful chemicals. It’s ready-made for the purpose of being used for food.

You can cut and fold it in to many different shapes and experience slightly different results based on the amount of oil that seeps through and the contact time and flow rate of your hot water.

You can let your paper folding origami skills go wild.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter

Can You Put Coffee In Without A Coffee Filter?

Yes, you can prepare your coffee without the use of a coffee filter by using an effective coffee filter substitute like a fine metal sieve or a reusable tea bag, cheesecloth, paper towel or cloth napkin.

Is It OK To Use Paper Towels As Coffee Filters?

Yes, a paper towel can be used as a coffee filter substitute when you have no alternative. You will need to fold it into a pocket, add your coffee grounds and slowly add your hot water.

It’s an imperfect solution as paper towels are chemically treated, which will seep into your cup of coffee.

Can I Use Cotton As Coffee Filter?

Yes, cotton cloth is a great material for filtering coffee. In fact, there are many purposely made coffee filters that are made with cotton and produce an excellent brew.

It is one of the best semi-permanent alternatives to paper filters. A cotton filter can be used many times.

How Long Do Cloth Coffee Filters Last?

Cloth filters will last you at least 90 uses, which is enough for your morning coffee for almost whole months.

This is a huge plus point of reusable coffee filters – they can be used many times reducing waste and the problem of running out of coffee filters.

Can I Use A Sock As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, you can use a clean sock as an emergency coffee filter. Be sure to rinse your sock well first to flush it of the chemical detergents and fabric softeners.

Notably there is an entire coffee brewing method called the coffee sock where a large sock-shaped cotton flannel is used.

Is Coffee Without A Paper Filter Bad For You?

It’s said that coffee without a paper filter has the potential for increasing cholesterol levels. Without getting all bad on cholesterol, it is a substance that is essential for the production of hormones. Put simply, no cholesterol, no hormones produced.

The goal is not zero cholesterol, but to maintain healthy levels of both good and bad cholesterol.

Unfortunately, the use of paper filters removes a compound known for its anti-cancer properties.

The science as I see it is that it is perfectly okay not to use a paper filter as long as you have a balanced diet and don’t have excessive cholesterol in the rest of your diet.

What Is The Best Fabric For Coffee Filters?

The best material for coffee filters in my opinion is to use a metal filter as it is both very effective and completely reusable. You can use it and reuse it as many times as you want to. It will last you a lifetime and reduce waste.

You’ll also get a bolder and better tasting cup of coffee.

Can You Use Tea Filter As Coffee Filter?

Yes, a reusable tea bag be it a cotton cloth one or one of the many metallic ones can be used as a coffee filter. Simply add your ground coffee and let it steep before removing.

Final Thoughts – What Can I Substitute For A Coffee Filter?

If you read this far, thank you kindly, appreciated, you should have that annoying question what can I substitute for a coffee filter answered and already thinking about hopping over to Amazon, Target or Walmart and getting yourself sorted out with a metal coffee filter and semi-permanent filters to make sure that you never run into this problem again!

Join our cool coffee community and tell us all about the cool and amazing new coffee beans that you are trying out just now. 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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