One day, you may be unexpectedly asking yourself, “What can I use instead of coffee filters?” Say calm — it’s not the end of the world because there are several effective alternatives.
What to do if you’ve run out of coffee filters
When you’re asking, “What can I use instead of coffee filters?” You probably have a few options around the house.
It’s not a big deal to run out of coffee filters, especially in a big city where there are grocery stores or bodegas on every block. Most will have filters at any given time.
There are times when leaving your apartment without consuming caffeine is not an option, such as Saturday mornings or early working days. This is especially true if you live in an area without a filter-carrying shop within a few minutes of your apartment.
The good news is that it’s possible to make good coffee without a filter.
What should you do if you run out of paper filters?
First, you need to stay calm. Take a deep breath.
Second, check what you have in stock. If you’re also out of coffee, then head to the nearest coffee shop.
Third, find a reasonable alternative. If you have a fine-mesh sieve, that will do.
What can I use instead of coffee filters?
1. White paper towels
Line the basket of a pour-over or drip coffeemaker with a paper towel. Put the coffee inside and slowly pour hot water over the grounds. Take out the pour-over from the mug when the water has drained.
Throw away the grounds and paper towel after use.
Pros: Most people have paper towels in their homes. You don’t need to change your method. The towel can be used as a filter.
A paper towel’s fine weave can even strain very fine coffee grounds, so there is no bottom-of-the-mug mud.
Cons: It is possible to detect traces of glue, bleach, or other chemicals in the paper towel. They are also so thin that they could tear easily. Because of their fragility, a pour-over or automatic drip basket is crucial.
Also, your coffee could be too acidic or taste like paper or chemicals when filtered by a paper towel.
We would not recommend this emergency coffee filter. While it is not our favorite, it is not the worst.
2. Cloth napkin or dish towel
Get a clean dish towel or cloth napkin. Consider how you would feel if that particular cloth was stained by coffee. Place the cloth in a pour-over or automatic drip basket (or use rubber bands to secure it to your mug), and put the coffee inside. Slowly pour about a cup of water over it.
After the water has dripped through the cloth, discard the grounds and carefully wash the cloth.
Pros: You will always have a clean towel in your home. It’s also very sustainable. You can filter coffee even without a pour-over or drip basket. It can strain fine coffee grounds, just like a paper towel.
Cons: The cloth towel will dangle in your coffee. The coffee could also leave a stain on the cloth. The biggest issue with cloth towels is that the coffee will soak the cloth and drip onto the mug’s side, leaving a puddle.
The coffee also tastes like laundry detergent.
We would not recommend using cloth towels to filter coffee. However, there are some success stories with cloth filters.
3. Reusable tea bags
If you are a fan of tea, you may also have some reusable tea bags around the house. These can also be used to steep your coffee (Kahawa 1893 makes single-serve bags for this purpose).
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee to a reusable bag. Seal it up and pour it into a mug with barely boiling water. Let it steep for a few moments — you will find freshly brewed coffee waiting for you when the teabag is removed.
Pros: This method is very easy to do and leaves very little coffee grounds in your cup. You don’t need to worry about chemicals getting into your coffee because you are already using a food-safe material.
Cons: If you don’t drink loose tea often, it’s possible that you don’t have reusable coffee bags. This would make this method an unsuitable option.
We would highly recommend this method for its simplicity and ease. It may not produce a cup of Joe with the same flavor as a French press or pour-over drip coffee, but it can satisfy a coffee craving in a pinch.
4. Fine mesh sieves
Place 2 tablespoons of coffee into a glass cup or similar vessel. Pour hot water over the grounds, stir it, and wait for about 5 minutes. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a mug and pour the coffee through it.
To catch as many coffee grounds as possible, place a piece of cheesecloth on top of the sieve.
Pros: You can make a whole pot of espresso this way. You decide how strong the coffee is and you can adjust the time the grounds steep according to your preference. It tastes great and it’s the easiest way to make good coffee.
Cons: This sieve won’t catch fine coffee grounds and not all kitchens have a fine-mesh sieve.
We would highly recommend this method for brewing coffee in the absence of paper filters.
There’s no need to panic when suddenly asking, “What can I use instead of coffee filters?” We have listed at least four coffee filter alternatives that you probably have around the house. They will never replace traditional coffee filters, but they do are a good backup option and better than no coffee at all.