Saturday, May 8

What Can I Use Instead Of A Coffee Filter?

Running out of coffee is bad enough but having beautiful smelling coffee beans to hand and seemingly no means to prepare them is even worse. If it happens first thing in the morning, you can pretty much kiss the rest of the day goodbye. If it happens late at night (yes, we know you shouldn’t drink coffee before bed), with a seriously tight deadline looming, it’s just as dangerous. Running out of coffee filters is bad. Fortunately, there’s a reasonable chance you have something laying around that can be used as a coffee filter replacement. You might not need to turn to anything as drastic as drinking tea. Below are 6 alternatives to filters that answer the question “what can I use instead of a coffee filter?”

Coffee filter replacements

Paper Towels

You can easily craft paper towels into the shape of a filter. They strain the drink, allowing the coffee liquid through but preventing the grounds from contaminating your cup of joe. They’re also readily available in most kitchens. Overall, they can do a reasonable job as a coffee filter replacement, but there are some caveats.

Depending on the brand and the manufacturing methods, paper towels might have glue and other chemicals in them. Not only does this flavor your coffee, but do you really want to drink liquid glue? Even if you have high-quality tissues that don’t use chemicals in this way, you’re likely to experience some tissue flavor.

Paper towels might be useful as a one-off, but it’s an experience you probably won’t want to repeat.


Cheesecloth is a useful coffee filter replacement. It is loosely-woven cotton and although any weave will serve the purpose at hand, the finer the weave the more effective the filter. Like paper towels, it is also easy to shape and add to your coffee maker.

Unlike the paper towel, it can be cleaned and reused. It should also be glue and chemical-free, so it shouldn’t taint the coffee, or give it a peculiar taste.

The problem with cheesecloth is its availability. Not too many of us make our own cheese anymore, but you may have some of this material left from making wine.


This is an odd, and sometimes questionable, alternative to a paper filter – a sock. You place coffee grounds in the sock, hold it above a carafe or other container, and pour hot water through it.

You can, theoretically, use an existing sock for this. However, we strongly urge you to use a clean one and not one that you grabbed from the laundry basket. Also, if it has been washed, you’re likely to be left with a detergent taste and it could leave you feeling quite ill. If you’ve got a pack of new socks, though, they could be your coffee making savior.

It really is a thing…

Fine Mesh Sieve

A lot of kitchens have a fine-mesh sieve in the drawer or cupboard, used for cooking. It needs to be a fine-mesh sieve because if the sieve holes are too large, they will let all but the largest grounds through.

Effectively, a fine-mesh sieve is used in the same way as a French press. Sort of. Add 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds, ideally coarsely ground, to the bottom of a jug or cup and add a cup of hot water. Stir the mixture and leave for between 5 and 7 minutes. Pour the mixture through the sieve and into your favorite coffee mug.

The sieve is obviously reusable and you can control how strong, or otherwise, you have your coffee. Paper filters and other methods also remove some of the oils from the coffee, which removes the secondary flavors. This technique retains those oils so you get a rounded, full-bodied, and strong coffee.

If you have a fine sieve in your kitchen, this is probably the best coffee filter alternative there is.

Reusable Metal Filter

If you’re searching for an emergency replacement for coffee filters, it’s unlikely you have one of these lying around. Otherwise, you would have just used it. However, it is worth buying one to replace the need for paper filters or to keep for emergencies.

The reusable metal filter sits atop your cup. Add a couple of tablespoons of coffee grounds and pour hot water over. The result is actually a good tasting cup of coffee, and the filter has been made in such a way that the water has some time to steep as it passes through.

There are also metal mesh filters that fit in traditional drip coffee machines. They save you throwing away paper filters so you can do your bit for the environment, avoid the nightmare of running out, and always have a good brew available.

Instant Coffee

We’re not as dead set against the idea of instant coffee as some coffee sites and drinkers are. It doesn’t tend to taste as good as the real stuff, but it is convenient, it’s readily available, and there are some half-decent tasting instants out there if you shop around. Also, it will last for years if stored in decent conditions, so it can be useful to have as a backup for such an emergency.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Coffee Filter?

There are a number of alternatives to paper coffee filters, some of which you might have laying around the house. Others, you probably won’t. Paper towels are effective, but we probably wouldn’t advise them unless you’re in a real bind. We also wouldn’t recommend the use of a sock, whether worn or fresh out of the wash. Buy a metal filter and get a jar of instant coffee for when all else fails, or use your fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth from the kitchen cupboard.

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