coffee filter substitute

Top 6 Substitutes For Coffee Filter So You Never Miss Your Morning Cup of Joe

Who doesn’t love a good cup of coffee in the morning? For me, the day doesn’t start until I have my coffee. No matter which kind of coffee you like, if you are making it at home, then you know the importance of using a coffee filter.

So, what happens when you don’t have a coffee filter? Or perhaps you are trying to be more eco-friendly and don’t want to use coffee filters. Regardless of the reason, knowing what to substitute coffee filters with, is essential when you love coffee.

What Is A Coffee Filter?

A coffee filter is a coffee-brewing utensil that is usually made of disposable paper. The idea behind a filter is to trap the grounds while allowing the liquid and flavor to pass through, resulting in the coffee we all know.

There are various types of coffee filters these days, all of which serve a similar purpose, but have other functions too.

These are the most common coffee filters you’ll find out there:

  • Paper coffee filters: These are the most common filters, which are often meant for drip coffee makers. They are highly absorbent and come either in a cone or basket shape. Some can have white or brown paper, depending on whether the paper is bleached or unbleached.
  • Metal coffee filters: These filters are reusable, but the mesh has bigger pores that can let some oils and small grounds of coffee pass through. These filters are easy to clean, usually just requiring water and soap, and they are usually meant to go into a drip coffee maker as well.
  • Cloth coffee filters: Cloth isn’t the most common material, but it does a good job of filtering all coffee grounds. You should wash these cloth coffee filters between each use, and they last about 30 brews before they turn old.

What Can I Replace Coffee Filters With?

Regardless of the reasons, there are situations such as when you have no coffee filter, or you already ran out of coffee filters.

Here are some coffee filter alternatives to use:

Best For Coffee, Environment-Friendly, and More

#1. Make a Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee is one made without a filter, so it is a relatively easy solution that takes little effort.

All you need to do is fill a pot with water, let it boil, remove it from the heat, add the coffee grounds, stir, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. Once the liquid looks ready, you can pour it directly, making sure the coffee grounds stay at the bottom of the pot.

This method isn’t perfect, but it is a fast solution when you need a coffee soon. Keep in mind too, that you decide how strong your coffee will be depending on the number of grounds and water you use.

#2. Paper Towel

Paper towels are there to rescue you in plenty of situations and making a DIY coffee filter is one of them. All you need to do is fold one or more paper towels into the shape of a funnel. You can pour the coffee directly, particularly when you use a drip coffee maker.

Keep in mind that some paper towels are very thin, especially the ones made from recycled paper, so you may want to use more than one.

Using paper towels isn’t perfect, and you may find more coffee particles in your coffee than usual, but it can save you in a pinch. Also, some paper towels have traces of other materials, so you may want to check what kind and brand you use.

#3. Cheesecloth

If you like to cook a lot and make things like cheese or almond milk, then you surely have a cheesecloth in your kitchen.

Using a cheesecloth as an improvised coffee filter is not only effective but also environmentally-friendly. Use medium to coarse grounds so that the cloth allows more flavor through. 

You can use this method when you make any type of coffee, all you need to do is put the cheesecloth as a filter and pour the hot water over the coffee. Allow a few minutes for the cheesecloth to filter the grounds, as it is a thicker material and may take a little longer.

See More: Cheesecloth Substitutes

#4. Cloth or Dish Towel

While it seems weird to use one of your kitchen towels or cloth to filter your coffee, this is not a bad choice if you need an emergency coffee filter. All you need to do is make sure the cloth or towel is clean, drape it into the compartment where the filter would go, and make your coffee!

This is also a very eco-friendly choice, as you can clean your cloth or towel as many times you want.

Even though you can use this choice any time, the cloth or towel may stain forever, so you should pick one that you’re okay with having stains. Another key thing to remember is that cloth or towel material can impart a bit of a synthetic flavor.

#5. Instant Coffee

When it comes to saving time and energy, there is nothing better than using instant coffee. Some people think the flavor is not up to standards, and while that may be true, you can still make coffee even when you don’t have a filter.

Simply boil water, pour it into a mug, add the desired amount of instant coffee, and mix well.

With this choice, you can also decide how strong to make your coffee by adding more or less. Nowadays, there are also many brands of instant coffee with added flavors, so you have plenty of options.

See More: Coffee Shelf Life

#6. Socks

Yes, using socks as coffee filters sounds crazy. However, when you realize it has been done for centuries, it doesn’t seem that weird. Clean old cotton socks can be used as a filter and save you money and waste.

For this method, simply cut open your sock and place it in the shape of a filter. Make sure that there are no strings in the way and pour coffee and hot water over it. You can wash the sock and reuse it, but it may come apart after a few times.


How do you improvise coffee filters?

The options on this list are all great for improvising a coffee filter when you don’t have one. You can use paper towels, a cloth, a cheesecloth, or even a sock.

Can you use toilet paper as a coffee filter?

While you can use paper towels, toilet paper is too thin and won’t hold up when you add boiling water. It may even fall apart entirely and mix in with your coffee grounds, resulting in a mess and not coffee.

Are paper filters better for coffee?

Coffee filters made of paper are better at trapping more coffee granules, so they result in a more concentrated and better-tasting coffee. You can find recycled paper coffee filters, which may be more eco-friendly.


No one likes to wake up and realize there are no more coffee filters at home to make coffee. You won’t ever have that problem anymore since these six substitutes are all easy to find and use. Make sure you choose a clean item and pay attention to how you are supposed to use it appropriately.

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