Coffee Filter Substitute: 9 Great Alternatives

I think we all agree that filter coffee is awesome.  

But what to do when you run out of filters, and you really need a boost of caffeine to start your day?

Don’t worry, there is a way to make delicious coffee without using a coffee filter.  

Stay with me through this article because I will show you what you can use as a coffee filter substitute. 

Let’s start! 

9 Great Coffee Filter Alternatives 

The coffee filter box is empty?!

It’s not the end of the world. It turns out that you can use really almost anything as a filter for coffee. Or just try a different method of brewing.

Take a few deep breaths and try one of these coffee filter substitutes. 

I’m sure you will find the right one for you and your coffee. 

Paper Towel  

I’m sure you have a paper towel sitting in your kitchen. 

Can you use it as a substitute for the paper coffee filter? 

You bet you can! 

This is pretty simple: 

Take two or three layers of paper towel and fold them in the shape of a coffee filter. 

There are a few negative sides to using a paper towel instead of a real filter. 

The paper goes through a lot of chemical processes, like bleaching. So, there is a possibility that it can infuse your coffee with those leftover chemicals. Those can be unhealthy and can affect the taste of your brew. 

Also, because of hot water, it can easily tear up.

The solution to these problems is using non-bleached, brown paper towels. Also, if you’re using them for pour-over coffee, pour hot water super-gently and slowly.  

Coffee made with a paper towel will be very similar to regular paper filter coffee. Tightly woven paper fibers will filter out even the fine coffee ground. 

Fine Mash Sieve 

Do you know that fine mash sieve for flour straining your mom is using when she’s baking? 

Well, you can use it as a coffee filter! 

Steep your coffee in water for a few minutes and then strain through the strainer.

The negative side of this method is there is a possibility that it won’t hold finer ground. The finer the mash – the better! 

If you have a grinder, just choose an extra coarse grind for your coffee beans. Or you can layer the sieve with some cloth. 

Sieve won’t hold oils and fats from the ground like a coffee filter. So, coffee made with a sieve will have a full and rich taste and may be less clear than filter coffee.

Tea Bag 

tea bags

If you are a tea lover also, there are big chances you have disposable or reusable tea bags in your kitchen. 

This is a pretty easy way to make great-tasting coffee.  

Steeping coffee grounds will give a strong and flavorful brew. 

Regular disposable tea bags are the perfect coffee filter alternative. They’re made from paper similar to coffee filter paper. It won’t leave any coffee ground in your cup.  

Most reusable tea bags are also a great option. Since they are not made from filter paper, they let more oils and flavors into your brew. 

The reusable tea bag is most often made from cotton cloth, and this kind is awesome for replacing the paper coffee filter.

But some reusable tea bags are made from hard materials like stainless steel or silicone, with a bunch of small holes. 

Also, they will let the finest coffee particles run through, but this small amount shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment.  

Cloth Napkin or Dish Towel 

You can actually make yourself a coffee filter from almost any fine cotton cloth. Even a t-shirt will work. Don’t need to mention it has to be clean.

Take a cloth and cut it with scissors in a filter-like shape. If it’s needed, double layered it. 

Place it carefully in a filter basket of your drip coffee maker. Or you can use it as a filter for pour-over. 

The cotton cloth should hold most of the coffee grounds, but of course, this trick works better with coarser coffee grounds. 

The downside of this method is that cloth can affect the taste of your brew.

Make sure you use a cloth you don’t care about because the coffee will totally stain it. 

Cotton Sock 

a person holding cotton socks

As much as this sounds crazy to you, this works! 

If you don’t have paper filters, put your coffee ground into the regular cotton sock.

Of course, not the one from your foot. 

You will need a clean sock, it would be even better if you never wore it. 

Only cotton sock is acceptable since synthetics can react with hot water, and you don’t want any of that in your brew. 

Regarding the shape, a sock can be used for pour-over in combination with a mason jar or for steeping the coffee into hot water. 

The coffee flavor can vary a lot depending on the sock you use. 

Cheesecloth 

This is grasping for straws, but did you ever tried to make your own cheese? 

Maybe you still have a cheesecloth lying somewhere in the back of your kitchen cabinet. 

Cheesecloth is a very thin, gauze-like cloth. Besides making cheese, it’s used for filtrating other stuff.  You guessed it – coffee too. 

It can be used for both a pour-over coffee brewer and a coffee machine. Fold it in a cone shape or cut it with scissors to fit the filter basket.

Cheesecloth has to be layered two or three times. It can let through the finer coffee grounds, but all in all, it’s a really good substitute for a coffee filter. 

But, most importantly, coffee made with cheesecloth will taste great. All the flavors will end up in your cup.  

French Press 

french press

If you have one at home, now it’s time to put it back to use.

French press is a genius coffee maker which makes a flavorful and full-bodied brew. 

It’s very easy to use: you soak the coffee ground in the almost-boiling water. After a few minutes, you press down the built-in stainless steel mash filter and separate the grounds from the brew. 

You will need to pay attention to the water temperature. Don’t use boiled water because your coffee will taste burnt. About 200°F is perfect. (It boils at 212°F.)

Its filter lets through more oils and sediments than other methods, so it will be intensive and aromatic. 

Mud Coffee 

If you have very fine ground coffee, you can try mud coffee.

Yes, you heard me right – mud coffee.

I promise it’s not as disgusting as it sounds.  

Mud coffee is probably one of the easiest brewing methods.

It’s similar to so-called cowboy coffee, except the latter is usually made in batches, while mud coffee is made in a cup.

The other relatable brewing method is Turkish coffee, which boils the coffee grounds in the water before pouring the coffee into the cup.

All you need for brewing the mud coffee is your coffee ground, a mug, and boiling water. 

Put about 2 coffee spoons of coffee into a mug and pour boiling water over it. 

Let it rest and cool down a little bit. 

And that is literally it. 

Enjoy this rustic cup of joe and watch for the “mud” on the bottom of the cup – you don’t want to drink that.

Instant Coffee 

If you don’t have time to experiment, but you desperately need your caffeine fix, there is always good old instant coffee. 

If you’re a brewed coffee enthusiast, you’re probably not a big fan of instant coffee. 

But, you got to admit, it is handy. 

And it can taste good. Pour hot water (or cold!) over it and add a splash of coffee creamer

It will keep you up until you pick up some real paper filters from the store. 

Final Thoughts 

And there you have it: 

You don’t have to despair if you run out of coffee filters. 

Use kitchen stuff like a tea strainer or sieve, or go crafty and make yourself a filter of cheesecloth or paper towel, or even a sock. 

 Or you can go the easier way and simply use a french press or make instant coffee. 

Anyway, you will get yourself a nice cup of coffee. 

Trying to find perfect coffee filters? Check out our article and find out how to choose the best one for your coffee maker. 

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Tijana Veljovic
Tijana spent a few years working as a barista. Now she’s enjoying writing about everything she learned about coffee and sharing it with you. Her weapon of choice for making it through the day is a hot latte. Besides writing and coffee, she loves traveling, camping, cooking, and good music.