Coffee filters are tools that filter caffeine from the soothing and strong-tasting coffee that fuels our day. There are three main types of coffee filters: paper, metal, and cloth. There are many different shapes and brands within those three broad categories, all with pros and cons.
To select the best coffee filter for your need, you must know the functionality of each filter. Let me walk you through that.
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Paper filters are the best filters to use if you’re looking for clarity of flavour, particularly if you’re buying gourmet, single-origin beans with complex, delicate flavours. These filters are great at soaking up oil from your beans, and the tightly woven paper keeps even the finest grounds from passing through, creating a smooth, salt-free cup of coffee. Because of that, you won’t have to worry about grinding your beans too finely.
Paper filters are not reusable, so you’ll have to keep buying them. They’re a smaller upfront investment, but you’ll have to restock regularly, which can add up. This also means that they’re less environmentally friendly since they’re single-use, though most are compostable.
Metal filters are typically made of perforated stainless steel or aluminium. Coffee brewed with a metal filter is bold, strongly flavoured, and very aromatic.
The small holes allow water to pass through but also let through the finest grounds. If you prefer thicker coffee with more mouthfeel and can handle a little sediment at the bottom of the cup, these filters could be for you. However, they don’t work well with finer grinds, so you’ll want to be careful not to over-grind your beans.
Metal filters also don’t absorb the oils in your coffee beans, meaning extra flavour and aroma. If you don’t love that sediment or you’re concerned about the health effects of coffee bean oil, in some types of brewers, like percolators, you can layer a paper filter on top of the metal filter.
Cloth filters perform similarly to paper filters, absorbing oil and holding in even the finest coffee grounds. Look for filters made of durable fabrics with tight weaves for the best brewing. Using these filters, you can brew light, smooth coffee with complex flavours. Cloth filters are primarily compatible with pour-over brewers. You may want to check the dimensions of your pour-over before settling on a brand of cloth filters.
To thoroughly clean these filters, manufacturers recommend that you boil them for 10 minutes. This will sanitize the cloth and shrink its weave, so you don’t get grounds passing through. You’ll probably want to do this when you first purchase them and whenever they become dirty.
Substitute for Coffee Filter
The coffee filter is the easiest item to forget to buy. When this occurs, or you run out of some, you will need a quick and handy substitute. Using perfectly simple methods and materials you might already have on hand in your home, you will soon have caffeine running through your system. So, what do you do when you run out of coffee filters, or you don’t have any? While you can try to brew your coffee without one, there are better options.
Below is a list of substitutes that you can easily use as coffee filter substitute without fear of the quality of the filtration process.
Another option for filtering your coffee without a coffee filter is to use a cheesecloth. Cut a piece that’s about the right size to fold over once or twice, and you’re good to go. Cheesecloth is a versatile fabric used to strain liquids when making cheese from milk, but many other filtrations are used. If you have cheesecloth in your house, you can brew your morning coffee!
Measure out your coffee grounds. You’ll want medium-coarse to medium size granules. Place the grounds in the cheesecloth, with the cheesecloth over a glass dispenser. Pour your boiling water over the grounds slowly, adding more water as your pour seeps through the cheesecloth.
If you can get a hand on a fine-mesh sieve, it is a suitable substitute for coffee filters. This substitute doesn’t require throwing anything away! It’s also very scalable—you could make a whole pot of coffee this way. You control how strong the coffee is and adjust how long the grounds are steep based on your preferences.
Brew your coffee to your taste, then pour the coffee through a fine-mesh sieve set over a mug. If you want to make sure as few coffee grounds make it through as possible, you could lay a piece of cheesecloth over the sieve to catch them. The sieve doesn’t catch the finest coffee grounds, but it will give you a favourable filter.
This is a substitute you most likely have somewhere in your home. If you don’t have a handkerchief, you probably have a fine cloth that could easily suffice and take the place of the handkerchief. When using any cloth as a filter, you need to cut out a square or two about the right size to create a pouch for the beans. Place the handkerchief over a mug and pour in your coffee for the filter. Do this slowly for the best result.
If you brew tea at home as often as you make coffee, you might have reusable tea bags. This is the most creative method in this list of alternates, but it works pretty well.
Put your coffee grounds into the teabag. Usually, two tablespoons or less is best. Then get a mug of hot water and dip the tea bag into it. This needs to steep for four to five minutes, longer if you like it stronger, and you’re done!
An easy but somewhat controversial option for filtering coffee most of us have at home is a paper towel. To use a paper towel as a coffee filter, fold a full-size sheet in half, then fold it in half again. Place the folded paper towel over your mug ad pour in your coffee for the filter.
When using a paper towel, make sure it’s a plain paper towel, as in not treated with chemicals. The last thing you want is for chemicals to leach into your coffee. Paper towels have the potential to break down when exposed to hot water, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a brown coffee filter better than a white one?
They are less processed than bleached filters, as is evidenced by unbleached filters’ brown colour. Paper is naturally brown and only turns white with bleach. (Almost all the paper you use has been bleached.) Because they’re less processed, they are a better option for the environment.
Should you wet a coffee filter?
Pre-wetting the coffee filter helps heat ceramic and glass brewers and rinse away any flavours that a dry paper filter might impart to your finished cup. To pre-wet, open up the paper filter and place it in the cone brewer with a coffee mug or pitcher underneath.
Are bleached coffee filters bad for you?
Although there was concern in the ’80s that chlorine-bleached filters might be dangerous, it’s now widely accepted that they’re safe to use for brewing coffee. What’s more, the bleaching process won’t add any flavours to your drink.
Not all coffee filters are made equal. The type you choose for your daily coffee ritual can greatly impact your overall coffee experience. Your coffee filter type can impact the aromas, the body, the acidity, the way the flavours blend – all of these things. When you run out of filters or want to try something else for a change, consider those listed above.