Many people start their mornings with a cup of coffee. Once they get out of bed, they wander over to their kitchens and make a cup of coffee to give them the caffeinated energy they need to start their day. But what happens if you woke up and found out that you had run out of coffee filters? Running out of coffee filters is not such a big deal if you live in a city or town with lots of stores that carry coffee filters. If you do not, there are several options of what to use instead of coffee filter.
What to Think About When Choosing an Alternative Coffee Filter
When choosing a coffee filter alternative, it is not enough to simply pick something that can strain the coffee and call it a coffee filter. You will need to think about the resulting taste of the coffee once you make it. Some of these alternatives have chemicals embedded in them from the manufacturing or colouring process, and so they may change the taste profile of the coffee.
Second, you should check if the materials have been bleached or treated. This bleaching and other treatments involve chemicals, and these chemicals can leach into your coffee.
Lastly, you want to check how well the material works as a filter. One of the most annoying things about using an alternative coffee filter is ending up with granules in your coffee. If the material is not a very good filter or falls apart when making the coffee, you will have to strain the coffee to remove the granules.
With all these in mind, what can you use as a coffee filter substitute?
Paper towels can be found in many homes but, can you use a paper towel as a coffee filter? Yes, you can. In fact, paper towels are the most common solution for when people run out of coffee filters. Although most paper towel brands are not meant to be used as coffee filters, they can come in handy when you need something that works well quickly.
To make a paper towel coffee filter, cut a piece of the paper towel that is large enough to give you two to three layers. Much more than this and the filter will not work as intended. Once you have the paper towel, line a drip basket with it. You can also use the paper towel wherever your coffee filter normally goes on your coffee maker. When doing this, ensure the drip bucket or coffee filter compartment is fully covered to prevent granules ending up in your coffee.
Once lined, add the amount of coffee into the paper towel and pour hot water over the coffee grounds. Give it a few minutes for all the water to drain through and then remove the paper towel and discard.
Paper towels are such a great substitute because they are inexpensive, they do not require that you fundamentally change the way you make coffee, and most homes have them. Also, most paper towels are so fine that they do a good job of filtering the grounds and coffee.
Paper towels come with a few caveats. One, paper towels can contain unhealthy chemicals that can change the coffee’s taste. To avoid this, have some unbleached paper towels lying around. Second, paper towels can break if they are exposed to water for too long. So, get the paper towels out of your cup of coffee as soon as you see the water has drained through.
Dish Towels and Cloth Napkins
Apart from paper towels, what can you use instead of coffee filters? Dish towels and cloth napkins! Dish towels and cloth napkins are tightly woven and this is what makes them great coffee filter alternatives. If you decide to use either to make coffee, ensure it is clean and that it is rinsed thoroughly. This is especially the case if you use softeners or bleach when washing the dishcloth and cloth napkins.
Coffee stains clothes so choose a napkin or towel that you do not mind being stained. As with the paper towels, place the towel or napkin wherever your filter would go. Do not do this with a coffee machine as things can go very wrong. If you use a drip basket or pour-over, secure the napkin or cloth using a rubber band letting the cloth or napkin droop a little. Add your coffee like you normally would to a filter, pour some water over it and give it some time to pass through.
Once all the water passes through, remove the cloth or napkin, throw the grounds away and rinse the cloth or napkin. If you don't want it to stain, it would be best to wash it thoroughly immediately or before it dries.
This is an environmentally-friendly option that is also inexpensive. Dishcloths and napkins and do a great job of trapping even the finest grounds. However, the type of cloth you use might be too absorbent and so you might have to use more water than anticipated to prepare the coffee. Also, the cloth or napkin may impart unwanted flavours to the coffee.
Reusable Tea Bags
If you drink tea, you might have a few reusable tea bags lying around. You can also buy these reusable tea bags from a store if you think they might come in handy in the future. These reusable tea bags can also be used as coffee filters. In fact, some companies make single-serve coffee bags using these reusable tea bags.
To use them as a coffee filter, grind your coffee to the desired fineness and then add 1-2 teaspoons of coffee to a reusable tea bag. Seal the teabag once you are done and place it in a mug. Add hot water, preferably that is almost boiling, but that has not yet boiled completely. Let the “tea” bag steep for a few minutes and then remove it when the colour of the coffee is the desired tint. For most people, three to four minutes will be fine, but you can leave the bag in longer if you like stronger coffee. Remove the bag, and you have a perfect cup of coffee.
You can also use a homemade tea bag. To do this, get a clean piece of paper, fold it in half, add the coffee and use a string to tie it shut. Ensure no granules can leave the bag and use it like you would a reusable or normal tea bag.
The best thing about this method is that it does not produce a mess. Also, there are only a few grounds that will end up in the cup if done right, and none if you use a finer tea bag. Another upside is that since these tea bags are food-safe, you do not have to worry about unwanted chemicals or flavours.
Those who cook or bake at home will likely have a mesh sieve in their kitchens. A mesh sieve can act as a great filter and produces coffee that is full-bodied and full of flavour. To use a mesh sieve as a coffee filter, add the desired amount of coffee in a cup. Add the desired amount of water, stir once and wait for the coffee to steep.
Depending on how strong you like your coffee, you would have to wait for about three to five minutes. Place the mesh sieve over another mug and pour the coffee through the mesh sieve into the second mug. Using a mesh sieve might not be desirable for those who do not like coffee grounds at the bottom of their mugs. To avoid this, you can use cheesecloth over the sieve before pouring the coffee.
A mesh sieve is a great option that produces no mess and does not require that you throw anything away. It is also very useful for making large quantities of coffee due to its scalability and repeatability. Also, this method gives you a lot of control over how strong you would like the coffee to be. There are also no foreign flavours or chemicals introduced into your brew. The downsides are that the sieve might not catch the finest grounds and can be difficult to clean.
Cheesecloth is a thin and loosely woven piece of fabric that is used to strain liquids when making cheese. Because of how fine it is, cheesecloth also makes for a great filter. If you have any cheesecloth lying around, you can use it as a coffee filter.
Place the cheesecloth over a glass dispenser or other dripper and add the coffee. Pour water over the coffee and wait for all the water to seep through. Ensure you pour water over all coffee granules for even coverage. You do not need to squeeze the cheesecloth because doing so might lead to coffee that is stronger than desired.
Running out of coffee filters should not keep you from making a delicious cup of coffee. There are several great coffee filter alternatives to try out, each with its pros and cons. Preferably, go with reusable tea bags and mesh filters. If you do not have them lying around, the rest of the alternatives work great too.