Best 10 Coffee Filter Substitutes – What To Use If You Have No Coffee Filters?


Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe. You can reach him at [email protected].

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If a big part of your morning routine is a cup of coffee, running out of coffee filters is never a good thing.

Of course, there is often the option of picking up a cup of coffee after leaving your home or buying some more coffee filters from a grocery store, but that’s neither convenient nor even necessarily possible for people living in less built-up areas. Thankfully, several everyday household items can act as a coffee filter substitute to save your daily coffee ritual. 

10 Best Coffee Filter Substitutes

As a rule, keep in mind that as long as the item can strain the coffee grounds and is clean enough, it can work as a coffee filter substitute. Let’s look at some of those items that you’ll find elsewhere in the home.

coffee filter substitutes

1. Permanent Metal Filter


If you’d like to have real peace of mind that you’ll never run out of coffee filters, as well as get rid of the cost of buying replacements, reusable metal filters are a fantastic option.

You can buy permanent metal filters for both AeroPress and pour-over brewing methods. At the same time, you can easily find either a goldtone filter or permanent metal filter in a coffee machine.

The only drawback to permanent metal filters is that they won’t hold fine grounds, so you won’t get a cleaner cup of coffee compared with a paper filter.

2. Paper Towels

Most people have paper towels somewhere in the kitchen. Also, you don’t need to alter your brewing process to accommodate a paper towel instead of a paper filter, acting as one of the best coffee filter substitutes.

You’ll need to make the paper towel cone-shaped by folding it twice before opening it. For coffee enthusiasts familiar with Chemex, it’s quite similar to folding a Chemex filter.

Place the makeshift filter into either the drip basket of your coffee maker or the pour-over dripper. An advantage of the paper towel filter is its fine weave will hold even extremely fine grounds, meaning none should seep into the cup.

use paper towel as an coffee filter alternative

The disadvantages are that paper towels (or toilet paper) are thinner than coffee filters, which can create messiness if they break. White paper towels could also contain traces of bleach, glue, or chemicals, so we don’t recommend using them as a substitute for coffee filters all the time. However, as an emergency option, paper towels are great.

3. Cheesecloth (Or Similar Cloth)

For this method, cut some cheesecloth that’s big enough to fit in the carafe after folding once or twice. Fold it and place it over the carafe, then secure it with elastic bands. Add your medium-coarse coffee grounds to the cheesecloth filter, pour hot water over the grounds and make a cup of coffee.

If you’re using immersion brewing, add your coffee grounds to a container such as a mason jar before adding hot water. Let it sit for around 4 to 5 minutes, then strain the coffee through the cheesecloth (or a similar clean cloth).

Other cloths or rags that will work similarly well as coffee filter alternatives, such as a butter muslin, dish towel, linen handkerchief, cloth napkin, or even an old T-shirt cut to the appropriate size. As long as they were not treated with chemicals that might be harmful to your body and affect your coffee flavor.

4. Fine Mesh Sieves

metal seive as coffee strainer

Most kitchens have sieves or strainers of this kind, which are often used for straining flour but will work just as well as a coffee strainer.

Allow your coffee to steep in hot water for 4 to 5 minutes, then, with the fine-mesh sieve placed over your coffee cup, pour the coffee over it.

Depending on how long the grounds steep will help determine the strength of the coffee.

The most significant disadvantage to using a sieve as a coffee filter replacement is it won’t catch very fine coffee particles.

5. Reusable TeaBags

Believe it or not, reusable tea bags can also double as more than adequate coffee filters if the need arises.

In a reusable tea bag, add one or two tablespoons of fine coffee grounds, close it and place the tea bag in a cup with very hot (but not quite boiling) water and allow it to steep for several minutes.

This easy-to-use method won’t result in much mess and will hold the coffee grounds to avoid any small pieces getting into your mug. Another advantage is you can be sure it is chemical-free as this substitute for coffee filters is already food-safe.

6. The Coffee Sock

Hario Woodneck Drip Pot, 480ml, Acacia Wood

If you are a coffee connoisseur, you might think of this. Coffee socks are common in coffee shops in south-east Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, and are made from some closely knit fabric suspended from a metal wire.

Coffee socks use untreated organic cotton, which is a significant advantage as the coffee’s flavor will be unaffected by contact with it, as cotton is both odorless and tasteless.

Coffee socks work so well as filters that they can act as substitutes for paper filters. This, of course, means running out of filters will never be a problem. However, the biggest drawback of using coffee socks is the need to clean them after each use.

Not a sock you are wearing, but if you don’t mind, you can always find a new sock made of cotton to use as a coffee filter.

Brewing Methods That Don’t Require Coffee Filters

Some coffee makers don’t even need additional filters, and we’ll round up the best of those here.

7. Cowboy Coffee

make cowboy coffee at home

Cowboy coffee is straightforward to brew. First, boil a pot of water before removing it from the heat. Once it has cooled down a little, add some coarse grounds to it and allow it to steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Let the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the pot, pour steadily into your mug to avoid disturbing the grounds.

It’s hard to avoid some of the grounds reaching your cup with this brewing method. However, Cowboy coffee will give you a strong and flavorsome brew that you can make plenty of cups with – and you neither have to be a cowboy nor have a campfire to make it!

8. French Press Coffee

french press coffee

The French press is extremely popular. If you have a French press to hand, it will offer you a robust coffee without the need for additional filters.

The French press will have a glass chamber, mesh filter, and a plunger. Add your coarsely ground coffee to the container, and then pour over water over the grounds. Stir it and leave it for between 5 and 10 minutes. Gradually press down the plunger so the grounds and water separate, then pour into your cup and enjoy!

9. Moka Pot

moka pot coffee

According to research carried out by the New York Times, a Moka pot is present in 9 out of 10 households in Italy [1]. You may not be Italian, but a Moka pot is still an excellent coffee maker for your morning coffee.

Brew coffee with a moka pot is easy. Pour water into the bottom chamber and measure out some fine grounds into the filter basket. Put the pot together, then heat it on a stove until the coffee comes out.

Your Moka pot should produce a coffee similar to espresso in only three minutes, which can be diluted with milk or hot water if desired. You don’t need to look for coffee filter substitutes if you found one lying around the house. Our tips for using a Moka pot >>

10. Instant Coffee

instant coffee we tested

While instant coffee will never satisfy a coffee enthusiast who enjoys freshly brewed coffee, it’s always good to have some in a cupboard for those times when you’re craving some coffee but have run out of coffee filters or – even worse – coffee beans! We are serious about coffee, even for instant coffee, we bought and tried different brands, and here is a list of our favorite instant coffee brands.

Final Thought

Never underestimate the determination and creativity of an obsessive coffee lover. 

If you’re a big coffee lover, there’s a good chance you’ll go to impressive lengths to enjoy a good cup of coffee – even if you’ve run out of your trusty paper filters.

Thankfully, as this coffee filter substitutes guide has demonstrated, you have at least 10 alternatives for either one-off or more permanent solutions. Next time when you are in such a situation, give one of them a go before you head off to a supermarket – you might be surprised how good they are!


[1] Renato Bialetti, the Mr. Coffee of Italy, Dies at 93 –

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Chris Clark

Chris Clark is the co-founder and chief content editor of With a passion for all things java, Chris has been a coffee blogger for the past 3 years and shares his expertise in coffee brewing with the readers. He's a hands-on expert, loves testing coffee equipment, and has written most of the in-depth reviews featured on the site. When he's not whipping up delicious drinks or experimenting with the latest coffee gadgets, Chris is exploring the local cafe.