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What Can I Use as a Coffee Filter? (9 Easy Substitutes)

What Can I Use as a Coffee Filter? (9 Easy Substitutes)

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We go through quite a bit of coffee in our house, so as you can imagine, we go through plenty of paper filters as well. Because so many filters come in a box, it can be really easy to forget to purchase more when you run out.

Aside from running out of filters at home, coffee filters are an easy item to forget to purchase when you’re on vacation. You won’t forget to buy coffee, and you’ll probably even remember the creamer, but the filters seem to always slip the mind (for the same reason as mentioned above).

So, what do you do when you run out of coffee filters or you simply don’t have any? While you can try to brew your coffee without one, there are better options.

In this article, I’ll show you several substitutes for coffee filters you can use in a pinch.

What Can Be Used as a Coffee Filter?

Used coffee filter

A pack of paper coffee filters is relatively cheap, but when you find yourself without them, it’s hard to justify driving to the store. Fortunately, there are plenty of substitutes to use instead of coffee filters that will produce similar results.

Let’s take a look at a few of these next.

1 – A Paper Towel

An easy, but somewhat controversial, option for filtering coffee that most of us have at home is paper towel. To use paper towel as a coffee filter, simply fold a full-size sheet in half, then fold it in half again.

With this option, and most of the options below, form a small pouch (with the edges higher than the center) to hold the beans.

When using paper towel, make sure it’s plain paper towel, as in not treated with chemicals. The last thing you want is for chemicals to leach into your coffee. Paper towels have the potential to break down when exposed to hot water, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

2 – A Cheesecloth

Another option for filtering your coffee without a coffee filter is to use cheesecloth. Simply cut a piece that’s about the right size to fold over once or twice and you’re good to go.

3 – A Handkerchief

If you have a handkerchief, or any fine cloth, laying around your house, it can likely be used as a coffee filter. When using any sort of cloth as a filter, you just need to cut out a square or two that are about the right size to create a pouch for the beans (as mentioned above with the paper towel method).

4 – A Sock

While I wouldn’t recommend using a sock that’s been used on your feet, a cotton sock is known to work well as a replacement for a coffee filter. One of the benefits of using a sock as a filter is that it can be washed and reused again and again.

5 – An Old T-Shirt

Cutting up a t-shirt to use as coffee filters

While we’re on the topic of clothing, another option for filtering your coffee is an old t-shirt. Just make sure the shirt is clean, and don’t plan on reusing it as a clothing item after using it to filter your coffee.

6 – A Reusable Tea Bag

Reusable cotton tea bag

While this isn’t a great option for most of us, if you’re a big tea drinker, you might have reusable tea bags at home. These tea bags can be used for coffee as well, and they should produce a great tasting brew.

7 – A Wire Mesh Filter

While this won’t help you in a pinch, if you’re more the proactive type, get a wire mesh filter to use going forward. This type of filter is washable and reusable and does a great job of filtering your coffee.

Plus, you’ll never have to worry about running out of paper filters.

8 – A Reusable Cloth Filter

This option is similar to the wire mesh filter, except it’s made of a cloth material. Some people say this produces a better cup of coffee than a wire mesh filter, while others say it’s more difficult to keep clean.

Whatever the case, it is reusable, making it a great substitute for paper filters.

9 – A Used Paper Filter

This option will only make sense if you just used your last filter and didn’t throw it away (or compost it). Many paper filters can be reused one or two times, so simply clean it out, let it dry, then use it again.

Final Thoughts

Whether you ran out, forgot to buy some while on vacation, or simply don’t want to spend the money to buy more, you have plenty of options you can use instead of coffee filters.

The next time you find yourself in this situation, before you hop in your car for an unnecessary trip to the store, just try one of the ideas above for a nice cup of filtered coffee.

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