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Coffee Filter Substitutes You Never Knew About

Coffee Filter Substitutes

Coffee filters can be expensive, but there are plenty of alternatives that can even help you save tons of money (for more coffee!)

This list includes some of our favorite coffee filter alternatives.


If you’re looking for a way to save money on coffee filters, then consider making your own cheesecloth filter. Cheesecloth is used to strain liquids through its fine and tight weave. Cheesecloth is proven effective in removing unwanted solids, so it’s an excellent coffee filter substitute.

Cheesecloth is reusable, washable, and inexpensive and will ultimately save you money in the long run.

To make a cheesecloth coffee filter, cut out squares of clean cheesecloth and fold them over each other until they form a square. You can tie the corners together to create a bag, use an elastic band to secure the sides, or leave it as is.

And don’t forget to wash your cheesecloth after each use. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a dirty mess and a bunch of used coffee grounds in your sink.

Also, look for cheesecloth made from 100% cotton. Cotton is soft and absorbent, so it holds its shape better than some types of synthetic fibers. Look for cheesecloth that’s prewashed and bleached, so it’s clear of impurities. Also, choose the finest weave option. 

Cupcake Sheet Cup

Cupcake sheet cups are great alternatives to coffee filters. You may even have them in your house already. 

They’re cheap, and they’re already shaped like coffee filters, so you don’t have to do much to use them. You only have to layer around 3 or 4 of them for better filtering results. 

Metal Coffee Filter

Metal reusable filters are a great option to cut down on the cost of buying disposable coffee filters. A metal filter or metal mesh filter is easy to use and lasts longer than paper coffee filters. They may seem expensive at first, but they’re guaranteed to save you money in the long run.

They’re also better for the environment because they don’t need to be thrown away after just one use.

Paper Towel

Another household item you can use as an emergency coffee filter or substitute is a paper towel. 

Using them is also pretty simple. After folding your paper towel into quarters, simply make a pocket where you can add your coffee grounds. Then, place it in your coffee maker as gently soak as you would an actual paper coffee filter. You should do this to help the paper towel hold its shape and get rid of the papery taste. 

If you opt to use paper towels, make sure to remove them from your coffee maker carefully because wet papers tend to tear easily, and you’ll be left with a coffee ground mess.

Toilet paper is not recommended because they’re thinner and tears more easily.

Reusable Tea Bags or Tea Strainer

Just as these reusable tea bags keep tea leaves in, they can also keep coffee grounds separate from your coffee.

And they’re better for our environment too. They’re biodegradable, recyclable, and compostable. So instead of throwing something away after just one coffee session, reuse them again and again.

Mesh Filter

Mesh filters are designed to keep grounds out of your coffee while still allowing water through. They’re made of fine wire mesh, which allows them to be used with drip coffee makers, espresso machines, and French press.

These are available in many sizes, including small and large. Small mesh filters are ideal for single-cup brewing, while large mesh filters are better suited for a larger batch of coffee.

Mesh filters are also reusable, unlike paper filters, which must be thrown away after use. And because they’re made of metal, mesh filters won’t get stuck in your coffee machine, unlike paper filters, so they’re easier to clean.

Cloth, Dish Towel, or Thin Shirt

A piece of cloth, dish towel, or think shirt works just as a cheesecloth would. Simply cut your fabric of choice into an appropriate size for your coffee maker and drape it in a single layer over your coffee maker before putting in ground coffee. 

Make sure that you’re using something thin enough that the water can seep through and something you don’t mind it having a coffee stain and can be washed thoroughly.

Avoid those with microfiber. The fiber may get loose as you use it and may go into your coffee.  

In fact, you can buy cloth coffee filters now. 

Stockings and Socks

Cotton socks and stockings make great filters because they can keep the ground in and let liquid through easily. Obviously, you’ll need a clean and fresh sock or stocking for this, or else you’ll end up with a coffee that tastes like sweat – ew. 

Brewing Methods That Don’t Require Coffee Filters

Instead of looking for alternatives for coffee filters, you can just eliminate the need for them totally!

You can find a filter-free coffee maker available in the market now. When buying a new coffee maker, choose one that has a permanent filter.

Or buy coffee brewing devices that don’t use any filter at all.

Here are some brewing styles to make coffee without coffee filters:

Cowboy Coffee

If you’re looking for a way to brew coffee without using a filter, cowboy coffee might be just what you need. 

The cowboy coffee method of brewing is more similar to steeping tea than the usual coffee making.

The result is a stronger cup of coffee than filtered coffee because there’s no dilution effect. In fact, some people say that cowboy coffee is better tasting than filtered coffee.

Brewing Process:

  • Boil a pot of water just a bit more than the amount you’ll drink.
  • Cool the hot water down for a couple of minutes.
  • Add some coarse coffee grounds directly to the pot.
  • Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure not to stir it after the first 5 minutes to make sure that the grounds of coffee settle at the bottom.
  • Here’s the tricky part. You need to pour your coffee steadily directly from the pot into your favorite coffee cup without disturbing the grounds, or else you will have a grainy coffee. 
  • Once the hard part is done, you can now enjoy your fresh cup of coffee!

French Press Coffee

The French press is a great way to brew coffee at home because it doesn’t require a filter. Instead, it uses a plunger to push hot water through ground coffee beans. The only downside with this might be the fact that you have to buy a French press.

This method produces a richer taste in your flavorful cup of coffee.

Brewing Process:

  • Pour your coffee grounds directly into the container of the French press.
  • Pour enough hot water over the grounds.
  • Stir and let the coffee steep for 5 and 10 minutes.
  • Press the French press plunger slowly. This will separate the grounds and the coffee. The plunger will press the coffee grounds down while the water seeps through it.
  • Pour coffee with the plunger still on. Enjoy!

Moka Pot

The Moka pot is a popular method for making espresso at home. In fact, it’s the most common way to brew coffee in Italy. Like the French press, you will have to buy a specific apparatus for this, the Moka pot.

Brewing Process:

  • Pour water into the bottom chamber of the pot.
  • Put some grounds into the filter basket. 
  • Assemble the pot.
  • Place the pot on top of a stove and heat it.
  • After a while, coffee will come out of the top portion of the pot as the boiler water creates steam. 
  • Once you hear a gurgling sound, take the pot off the stove.
  • Run the bottom chamber under cold tap water to stop the brewing.
  • Pour and enjoy!

Instant Coffee

Although not on par with freshly brewed coffee, instant coffee is still a fantastic option for making coffee without a filter. 

The coffee connoisseur may cringe at this idea, but instant coffee is better than no coffee at all!

It’s not a bad idea to have some in case you run out of coffee or coffee filter and really need your caffeine fix. 

Final Thought

You don’t have to panic when you run out of a coffee filter, nor spend so much on them. You don’t have to disturb your daily coffee ritual when you don’t have any coffee filters left. There are a lot of things you can use as a substitute for coffee filters – most are even already in your house!

Hopefully, you found these tips useful for making your next cup of joe.


Ellie Patchen

Ellie Patchen

I love a good cup of coffee on Monday mornings for that pick-me-up, also love them in the afternoon, and on Tuesdays. In fact, it's fair to say that I love coffee all day everyday! So much so that I created a whole site to blog about it, answer questions and to just have a place for my frequent ramblings on the wonder that is.. coffee!

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