11 Surprisingly Efficient Coffee Filter Substitutes

It’s coffee till coffin for most of us caffeine addicts. I can not imagine going a day without my coffee. Recently, I have developed a love for pour-over coffee. But, I was unable to acquire enough coffee filters in time. Thus, I used a coffee filter substitute to make my pour-over coffee.

Surprisingly the substitute pulled through, and I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee without much hassle.

What are coffee filters?

Coffee filters are disposable paper filters made for brewing coffee. These filters trap coffee and allow the water to pass through, creating a complex liquid coffee called filter coffee.

coffee filter substitutes

How many kinds of coffee filters are there?

There are many types of coffee filters such as:

  1. Paper filters
  2. Metal filets
  3. Cloth filters
  4. Cone coffee filters
  5. Basket coffee filters

Are paper filters better than metal ones?

Yes, they are. A coffee filter paper removes unhealthy oils from the coffee better than a metal filter. This way, you can cut out the bad cholesterol and enjoy a sweeter and more flavorful cup of coffee without compromising your health.

Can I reuse paper coffee filters?

Yes, you can. But only a handful of times before it loses its efficacy and stops being useful, at which point it is time for a new one. I use my coffee filter three to four times before taking out a new one.

How else can I use paper coffee filters?

Some common household uses for coffee filters are:

  1. Use a coffee filter as a face mask substitute.
  2. Use it to grease pans.
  3. Protect dishes by placing the filter between plates.
  4. Use it to squeaky-clean your windows and mirrors.
  5. Use the filters for sprouting seeds.
  6. Try coffee filter crafts.

What can I use besides paper coffee filters?

If you’re unfortunate enough to run out of coffee filters on a rushed Tuesday morning, you have my utmost sympathies. But, all is not lost, and you can still enjoy your morning cup of coffee with a little creativity and patience.

I have listed some of my favorite coffee filter paper alternatives of all time and then some. Keep reading to know the best coffee hacks the next time you run out of filters for your coffee.

1. Table Napkins

Not an obvious choice, but definitely a handy one. Most, if not all kitchens, always keep a few unused or clean table napkins at hand. So if you have them folded in a cabinet somewhere, it’s time to put them to some good use.

I have only used this coffee filter substitute a couple of times, but I made sure to use clean and unused napkins even then. This way, I was less at risk of letting dirt and dust from assimilating in my brew.


Please use two napkins or a double one to ensure that your makeshift filter is thick. Or else there is a high chance the napkin might rip, or the grounds might seep through, and certainly, none of us want this to happen.

Table Napkins


2. French Press

French press is your chance to save the day with one easy plunge. If nothing else goes right, be confident that this will. A french press is a classic coffee brewing device of disputed origins. Some say it is French (per the name). Others argue that it is, in fact, Italian.

Call it what you want, but a french press is a perfect substitute for coffee filters. It is easy to make, unfortunately, not as easy to clean, but we can’t have it all, can we?

 All you have to do with this sub is grind your coffee in a burr grinder or whatever grinder you use, and put the grounds in the kettle (the jug).

Next, you must pour hot water (near boiling, but not boiling) into the jug. Make sure all the grounds are soaked through. Wait for 3 to 5 minutes before plunging the plunger, although 4 minutes is your safest option. Finally, pour the coffee, and voila!

I use 30 ml of water for every 15 ml of coffee. However, the proportions are completely changeable and entirely dependent on your taste.

French Press


3. Coffee Machine

No, I’m not going to ask you to buy a coffee machine to substitute coffee filters; that doesn’t seem like a very profitable investment. But, If you already have a coffee machine at home, please do not hesitate to use it for your coffee.

Coffee machines contain an inbuilt filter, so paper filters are not needed. The best thing about this option is the quality of the coffee. Of course, it won’t be like your classic Chemex brew, but a fresh brew nonetheless, right?

The mechanisms of this substitute are pretty self-explanatory. However, the only thing that I want you to remember is to ensure there is no coffee residue in the filter from your last batch.

Believe me; you don’t want to go down this road, as old coffee grains will be merciless to your new batch. Better to purge the poison, as they say, no?

Coffee Machine


4. Strainer

If a coffee filter hack is what you want, then a hack is what you will get. Suppose all other utilities are unavailable to you, grab your mother’s good ole strainer, and get brewing.

Simply brew the coffee in a mug. Next, strain the mixture with your strainer. Dump the coffee residue in the bin or store for recycling.

This option is easier, cleaner, and involves little hassle.



5. Teabags

No, I don’t know any magic trick that makes coffee from tea bags. But I do know a hack that will help you with just that. 

First, take a teabag and make a cut that is big enough to let the tea content come out. Next, make a tiny paper cone and use it to add your coffee grounds to the bag.

Finally, tie the tea bag with the string attached to prevent the coffee from spilling. Dunk it in the water for as long as you have to, and you are good to go!



6. Coffee Sock

It’s not a typing error; believe me, you can use socks as a filter for your coffee. The important thing is to use 100 percent organic cotton socks, as this will remove the risk of flavor alteration; unless you use cotton socks; please don’t use used cotton socks. That would be quite an unpleasant experience.

The coffee sock method is not quite as simple as it looks. A coffee sock is a piece of sock wound around a metal wire. The sock is immersed in water to let the coffee brew or you can place it in the coffee filter holder. This method uses a mix of pour-over and french press techniques to make coffee.

For hot brews, I use one teaspoon of coffee grounds for every one cup of coffee. You can, of course, change the proportions according to your taste.

Coffee Sock


7. Cupcake Paper Cups

If you, like me, are fond of baking, you already have some muffins or cupcake paper cups at home. We all know how incredibly versatile these cups are. But did you know that they are perfect for brewing coffee too?

You can use the paper cups to make a cone or give them a filter-like shape. Or you can choose the easier method and turn the paper cups into makeshift tea bags.

Once again, use fresh cups and not used ones to avoid contamination and flavor alteration. This is a suitable coffee filter substitute for coffee maker.

Cupcake Paper Cups


8. Cheesecloth

Another great coffee filter substitute is cheesecloth.  If you have ever tried to make some fancy Italian dessert, you already have this item at home. Cheesecloth, as the name suggests, is primarily used to make cheese. However, it is a great way to filter solids and strain water from other recipes.

One such recipe is brewing coffee. Grab a new cheesecloth, or wash an old one to create a filter from it. This is one of the most effective substitutes on the list and one of my favorites.


Wash the cheesecloth immediately after filtering coffee so that the fabric does not stain much.



9. Cotton Cloth

My mother always keeps the cloth’s scraps stowed away in her sewing cabinet, and I’m sure yours does too. So if you are out of all the options listed above, grab a piece of cotton cloth and make a filter from it.

But first, make sure the cloth is clean and made of cotton.

Making coffee filters is pretty easy. All you have to do is take an appropriate piece of cotton cloth and cut it according to your coffee filter sizes. Make sure their size is in proportion with your brewing device. Finally, stack the filters in your coffee maker and brew away!

Cotton Cloth


10. Tissue Paper

Not the best replacement on the list, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If you’ve exhausted all of the options listed above, grab a few thick tissue papers (the thin ones rip too easily) and stack them to create double or triple layers.

This substitute is a hit or miss and relies completely on the thickness of your tissue, your dexterity, and pure luck. May the odds be in your favor!

Tissue Paper


11. Sit The Coffee

Got nothing on your hands except coffee grounds and a caffeine-deprived body? Grab a cup, add coffee, and pour the water. Let this mixture sit for 3-5 minutes, depending on your coffee roast, and scoop the coffee out.

I understand this must seem a tad difficult, but it is not, not really. It might take a few scoops to get the major portion of the coffee out. But, the end result will be the same; perhaps you’ll have to tolerate a little grit. But this depends entirely on your coffee scooping skills.

Sit The Coffee


Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a kitchen towel as a coffee filter?
If you’re in the mood to get innovative, try using a paper towel as a coffee filter substitute. It works reasonably well and is easily available too.
Is coffee filter paper toxic?
No, neither bleached nor unbleached coffee filters are toxic. Therefore, there is no need to switch from bleached filters to unbleached now. Unbleached coffee paper filters use a minimum amount of bleach, and it is not enough to leach in your coffee. So worry not, and keep brewing.
Are espresso and filter coffee the same?
In essence, yes, but the resulting cups hit quite differently to the pallet. Filter coffee has lower acidity than espresso coffee. Moreover, it is less intense and lends a milder mouthfeel too.

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