If you asked some coffee enthusiasts to describe their process for creating the perfect pot, the answers will inevitably vary in one way or another. This is because there simply is no single method for brewing the ideal coffee.
What satisfies your taste buds depends on your personal preferences, with aspects such as aroma, flavor, strength and texture each being unique to you. So then, how do you go about finding your own perfect brew? There are many things that you can explore and experiment with, from beans to roast to the specific type of coffee maker.
As important as all of these factors are, there is something that coffee lovers seldom pay attention to: the filter. The role this crucial component plays in determining the quality of a brew is easy to underestimate. It’s certainly worth your consideration, as filters can make a noticeable difference to the taste of your caffeinated drink.
The Purpose of Coffee Filters
While filters primarily serve to keep the grounds out of your coffee, they can also affect how it tastes.
Cloth and paper filters in particular are able to absorb more or less of the oils that accompany your brew. These oils, also called terpenes, are the source of coffee’s bold flavor, so adjusting the degree of absorption can help you achieve the level of intensity you’re looking for.
On the other hand, filters made from plastic and metal absorb minimal amounts of oil, which is why they’re favored among those who enjoy a more robust flavor.
However, it should be noted that leaving most of the oil in your cup is not advised if you drink a lot of coffee, as studies have linked high cholesterol levels with heavy terpene consumption. In fact, medical experts recommend that people who frequently drink unfiltered coffee go for a check up to ensure their cholesterol levels are safe.
This means your choice of filter can not only impact the taste of your coffee, but also your health. At the same time, you want to identify an option that reliably delivers the convenience, quality and taste you expect without breaking the bank. Luckily, the following guide details everything you need to know to select the best filter for your needs.
Types of Coffee Filters
By far the most common material, paper filters feature a disposable design and are standard in most drip coffee makers. Their thin, perforated construction allows water to steadily pass through while preventing coffee grounds from reaching your cup. You can choose between brown or white coffee filters made from paper.
The only real difference is that brown filters haven’t been bleached, making them the more eco-friendly solution. As for flavor, paper has a higher absorption rate than most types of filters. This makes them suitable for coffee drinkers who prefer a clearer, lighter cup. It’s also a good option if you want to minimize the risk of raising your cholesterol levels.
The metal vs paper filter coffee debate has long left buyers unsure of which material to opt for. Metal has the advantage of being reusable, and its mesh filter is no less effective at capturing any unwanted grains. These filters also have larger perforations than paper filters, allowing more oils to reach your coffee and provide a bold flavor.
Where metal tends to fall short is cleaning, which can prove to be tedious if you don’t keep residue buildup at bay. But as long as you rinse after each use and perform a more thorough clean every month, your metal filter should serve you well for many cups to come.
The nylon coffee filter is essentially a budget alternative to the aforementioned metal filter. It offers the same degree of absorption and needs to be cleaned just as regularly. As you might have guessed, the cheaper cost of nylon comes with a downside, namely its inferior durability.
If you find yourself struggling to decide whether nylon’s lower price justifies its more regular replacement schedule, try recording your spending on both types of filters over a few months to see which one is more affordable in the long run. Since the outcome depends on the brand and type of filter you buy, it’s possible to get an unexpected result.
The fourth and final material, cloth filters often bring a welcome sigh of relief to new buyers who aren’t sure which of the previous options they should choose. You can rely on cloth filters to effectively block all unwanted particles, and still get a reasonable number of oils in your cup - not as much as metal, and not as little as paper.
Granted, there is a caveat to using cloth for a clean and flavorful coffee. While this filter type is reusable, you have to hand rinse them after every use. If you’re up for the job, you can expect an average cloth filter to deliver around 30 brews before starting to wear out. That is, if you make sure to never get your filter too wet when cleaning it.
Coffee Filter Sizes
Before you head out to search for your favorite type of filter, take a moment to understand this section where we have coffee filter sizes explained clearly and concisely. In doing so, you’ll avoid the risk of unknowingly buying something that doesn’t work with your coffee making system.
There are two ways in which coffee filter sizes vary, namely in shape and the number of cups they are able to serve. Drip coffee maker owners will be glad to learn that there is one standard size for the basket filters they’ll be using. Most of these are able to brew six cups before requiring replacement.
It’s a bit different for the cone or basket coffee filter, which is available in a range of sizes. The larger the size, the longer the filter will last. What’s great is that sizes are sorted by a simple number system, with the size representing the specific number of cups that the filter is guaranteed to service.
Once you’re familiar with the system, it’s easy to determine how long the filter will last. The coffee filter paper sizes for cone filters are listed below:
- Number 1 filters make one cup
- Number 2 filters make four to six cups
- Number 4 filters make eight to twelve cups
- Number 5 filters make up to ten cups
Coffee Filter Shapes
If you’re starting to wonder whether there’s ever going to be an end to all the information on this coffee filter thing, worry not as shapes are the last essential aspect to cover. It’s also vital to choosing and using the right option, as shapes change according to your coffee making method. There are also different shapes for some machines.
Fortunately, there are only three types of shapes you need to know to ensure you don’t buy the wrong one.
We’ve already touched on the first one in the previous section - it’s the cone filter, and you’ll usually see it used by coffee drinkers who brew with the pour-over method. The majority of filters in this category are constructed out of paper, but steel cones are available if you’re looking for a premium option with excellent durability.
Then there are basket filters. Sizes for this shape are standardized to comfortably fit any common household drip coffee machine. You can identify a basket filter by its crimped edges and flat bottom. The latter design element increases the surface area through which water can pass, thus preventing coffee grounds from slowing down or blocking the flow.
The third and rarest variant is the disk-shaped filter. You can probably ignore this shape as it’s only meant to fit in special types of coffee machines. If your brewing system happens to be one of the few that requires a disk-shaped filter, make sure that you select the correct size for your machine.
Now that we’ve covered all of the coffee filter essentials, you should be equipped with the necessary know-how to confidently go ahead and buy the perfect filter for your brewing setup. That said, there’s always more to learn, and you might be interested in checking out another two types of filters that are used to make coffee.
Did you know that there are unique filters designed especially for cold brew coffee systems? In larger units of this kind, the water is usually pushed through a brewing container where the beans are stored. To maintain a smooth delivery, a cloth or paper filter is dropped in the container and further supported by a strainer filter covering the brew receptacle.
However, the most unique filter of all is the charcoal water filter. These can be found in certain machines that purify the water before initiating the brewing process. Since charcoal filters are foremost designed to eliminate impurities such as calcium and chlorine, they can be a considerable option for coffee drinkers who lack easy access to purified water.
So, have you decided on the type of filter you’ll be using? Don’t hesitate to experiment and try out different options to see what will pour the perfect cup.