The Best Coffee Filter Substitutes – Top 10 Picks

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Poulami Ganguly

Best Coffee Filter Substitutes

To make amazing cups of coffee, you don’t always need a filter handy. Granted, filters bring the utmost perfection to the job; however, in case you don’t have one and still want to satisfy your coffee cravings, here we present the 10 best coffee filter substitutes.

It’s ironic how we often forget things worth remembering and remember things worth forgetting. The finest example of this fact is missing out on purchasing filters. As boxes of filters generally come with plenty of them, and after using them all, it’s quite common to realize the unavailability just when you go for brewing your next cuppa joe. 

Indeed, it’s possible to enjoy coffee at the nearest cafe till the time you grab your next set of filters from the grocery store. However, that’s not always convenient. Additionally, if you are on vacation and forgot to checklist coffee filters, certainly, the moment stands unexplainable. 

Well, whatever be the situation, the good news is that there’s an array of coffee filter substitutes, out of which most are everyday household items. Surprising, isn’t it? Today, we will introduce you to the best coffee filter substitutes which you can use with your coffee maker when you run out of filters or simply don’t have any. Let’s get started!

The Best Coffee Filter Substitutes – Top 10

It’s unfortunate enough to run out of coffee filters on a busy day, especially when the craving is at its peak. However, there’s nothing to be disheartened as with a pinch of creativity and patience; you will still get to enjoy your cuppa joe with ease. Here are the hacks for the next time you fall into such a situation!

Table napkins

Though it’s not an obvious pick, it’s certainly something that is often handy. Therefore, when you run out of filters for the next time, grab some clean table napkins from the kitchen or any cabinet in which you might have folded and kept them. Ensure that you use two napkins or a double one so that there’s minimal chance of the napkins getting ripped and let the grounds seep through. Besides, always use clean and unused ones to prevent dirt and dust from getting into your brew. 


Strainers are an easier, cleaner, and hassle-free solution for the purpose of filtering coffee. All you need to do is brew coffee in a mug and strain it with the help of your strainer. Once done, put off the residues in your bin. That’s all!

Coffee Sock

Don’t be surprised; you can actually use socks as a substitute for paper filters to filter coffee. However, you should be very careful in choosing the right one – the ideal pick will be 100% organic cotton socks which diminish the risk of flavor alteration. Needless to say, the cotton sock you pick should be an unused one unless you want to play with flavor😉.  

To utilize a coffee sock, wrap it around a metal wire and immerse the sock in water to allow coffee to brew, or you can place it in a coffee filter holder. This methodology uses a combination of French press and pour-over. Besides, you can use 1 teaspoon of coffee/cup for hot coffee or alter it as per your taste preference.


Yet another easy solution, tea bags can act as a great coffee filter substitute. All you need to do is to empty the bag by making a cut that allows the tea content to move out. Now, take a piece of paper and make a small cone so that you can easily pass coffee grounds into the bag. Lastly, tie the bag with a string to avoid spillage and dip it in hot water (not boiling) for a few minutes, allowing it to be steeped.

Cupcake Paper Cups

For those fond of muffins, the chances are that you already have a good filter substitute handy – muffin or cupcake paper cups. Indeed these cups are versatile and when it comes to filtering coffee, simply give them a cone or filter-like shape, and you are good to go. Again, make sure that you use fresh cups to experience accurate flavors without any alteration.

Cheesecloth or Butter Muslin

As the name suggests, cheesecloth is generally used to make cheese; however, it is one of the best coffee filter substitutes. Simply drape it over the filter basket and tie it using a rubber band. Make sure you tie it as cheesecloth is flimsy, and the chances of slipping out of their place are very likely. Now simply put the coffee grounds at the center of the cloth and start adding hot water slowly. Once done, wash the cheesecloth right away to avoid much staining on the fabric.

Fine Clothes like Handkerchiefs or T-shirts

Apart from the coffee filter substitutes mentioned above, you also have the option to use fine clothes like handkerchiefs, old t-shirts, etc. When you use clothes as filters, you need to cut out a square or two in order to form the right size to create a pouch for the beans with edges higher than the center. This is one of the most common alternatives to paper filters and is undoubtedly available at your home anytime.

Tissue Paper

Certainly not the best pick, but indeed, desperate times demand desperate measures. By any chance, if you haven’t got any of the options mentioned above handy or have exhausted them all, you can choose to go with tissue paper. However, grab thick ones and make at least 3-4 layers of them, as thin ones will rip off easily. The productivity of this substitute totally depends on the tissue thickness and, to some extent, your luck (all the best!).

Sit the Coffee

Though it’s very unlikely if you are in a situation where you have nothing but coffee grounds and caffeine cravings, here’s what you can do. Take a cup and coffee and water. Let it sit for the next 4-6 minutes, depending on the roast, and scoop out your coffee. It may sound difficult, but it actually isn’t! It would take a few scoops to extract the major coffee; however, you might have to tolerate little grits (all depends on your scooping skill).

Permanent Metal Filter

Be it the peace of mind of never running out of paper filters or savings on buying replacements; metal filters are indeed a perfect pick. You can buy this filter for both pour-over and AeroPress, and talking about coffee machines, you will either find a permanent metal filter or a goldtone filter.


Hope this helps, and I have been able to pacify your anxiety related to brewing coffee without a filter. Give any of the mentioned methods a try when you run out of filters. However, it’s essential to remember that coffee filters invariably impact the overall flavor and nuances of your cups. So, it’s always recommended to use their original version😊.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the coffee filter matter?

Yes, coffee filters can significantly impact how your coffee tastes. They are not only meant to keep grounds out of your coffee, but they also absorb oils accompanying a particular blend.

What are the brewing methods that don’t require coffee filters at all?

Some of the best brewing methods that don’t require coffee filters are Cowboy coffee, French Press coffee, and Moka pot. Additionally, if you are running out of coffee filters or, more unfortunately, coffee beans, you can grab instant coffee too. 

Are coffee filter papers toxic?

Absolutely not! Neither the bleached ones nor the unbleached ones are toxic in nature. So, there’s no need to switch from bleached to unbleached, as the unbleached ones carry a minimum amount of bleach that won’t leach into your coffee. 

Are paper filters better than metal ones?

Yes! Coffee filter papers efficiently remove unhealthy oils compared to metal ones. Therefore, you get to enjoy more flavorful and sweeter coffee and cut off the bad cholesterol.

How many types of coffee filters are there?

There’s an array of coffee filters available, out of which paper and metal filters are the most common ones. Besides, there are cloth filters, basket filters, and cone filters available too.

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