Run out of coffee filters and need a quick fix? Try one of these easy coffee filter substitutes.
I’ve been there. And maybe you have, too. In fact, if you’re reading this, you may be having this issue right now. You’re out of coffee filters, but you still want — or need — your morning cup of joe.
What do you do? Don’t worry. These 5 coffee filter alternatives can help you brew a great cup of coffee the next time you’re in a pinch. In fact, you probably have one or two of them in your home already!
👉🏼 Note: These work best if you also have a pour over cone that goes over your coffee mug, but most will also function without it.
1. Metal sieve
This is my favorite coffee filter substitution. It’s easy to do and it’s effective. And the only equipment you need is a fine-mesh sieve. It works by sort of brewing the coffee in reverse. Simply follow these steps:
- Add a scoop of ground coffee to a mug (1 scoop = 2 tablespoons).
- Pour in hot water and stir thoroughly.
- Let rest for 3-4 minutes. The longer it steeps, the stronger your coffee will be.
- Grab another mug and place the metal sieve over it.
- Pour the coffee from the first mug into the sieve to filter out the grounds.
Why this works: This leaves you with a delicious cup of coffee with no waste and little mess. Simply wash out the sieve when you’re done. It’s also really easy and takes about the same time as brewing a pot of coffee with a traditional coffee filter. And it’s reusable.
Grounds for debate: This method does require some special gear, namely the sieve. And some fine coffee grounds may slip through and find their way into your coffee, depending on how fine the mesh is.
2. Reusable tea bags
Another coffee filter substitute that will give you a clean, great-tasting cup of coffee is a reusable tea bag. It takes just a couple of minutes.
- Place 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds into a reusable tea bag.
- Fill a mug with hot water and place the tea bag in it.
- Allow it to steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag and enjoy your coffee!
Why this works: Reusable tea bags are affordable, quick, and easy to clean. And for the most part, the grounds won’t escape into your coffee cup. If you don’t have a metal sieve. This is your second best bet.
Grounds for debate: Like the sieve method, this one also requires some special equipment that you might not have in your pantry or kitchen cupboards. So it may not be as convenient as some of the other methods.
👉🏼 Related: Can You Put Instant Coffee in a Coffee Maker?
This option is a great substitute, as long as you have some cheesecloth handy.
- Fold a piece of cheesecloth twice over and cut it to fit into your fold-over cone. If you don’t have a cone, use a rubber band to affix it to the rim of a mug.
- Add a scoop of coffee to the center of the cheesecloth.
- Pour hot water over the grounds and allow it to brew into the mug below.
- Then discard the used grounds and the cheesecloth (or wash if it’s reusable).
Why this works: Cheesecloth is an all-natural cotton cloth and it won’t affect the taste of your brewed coffee. And it’s an effective filter that can be cost-effective if you have cheesecloth that’s reusable.
Grounds for debate: Some cheesecloth may not be fine enough to filter out all the coffee grounds. Plus, cleaning them can be messy and time-consuming. Still, they’re an effective substitute if you’re out of regular paper coffee filters.
4. Paper towel
This method is one of the most accessible, as chances are you have a roll of paper towels in your kitchen. But in this case, a pour over cone is a necessity. (Or you can simply place the paper towel in the filter basket of your coffee machine.) Here’s how it works:
- Grab a pour over cone and line it with a paper towel. Then place the cone over a mug.
- Add a scoop of ground coffee
- Meanwhile, heat up some water until it’s nearly boiling.
- Pour the hot water over the coffee grounds.
- Allow the water to filter through the grounds and into your mug.
- Remove the cone and enjoy your coffee.
Why this works: Paper napkins or towels are porous enough to allow the hot water to pass through, but fine enough to not allow the grounds to slip through as well. That should leave you with a good cup of coffee without any grounds floating around.
Grounds for debate: Paper towels aren’t as durable as regular coffee filters, so depending on the quality, they could break apart during the brewing process. That’s why you need the pour over cone. Plus, if you have paper towels with colored patterns on them, they may contain dyes or other materials that you may not want in your coffee. So it’s best to opt for thicker, plain white towels if you use this method.
5. Cloth napkin
If you’re really in a pinch and out of filters and paper towels, this method can work. But you may want to use a napkin you don’t mind staining. Here’s how to do it:
- Grab a clean dish towel or cloth napkin and fold it into your pour over cone. Or attach it to the top of your mug with a rubber band. Be sure to leave some slack in the towel for the coffee grounds.
- Add 2 tbsp of coffee grounds to the center of the napkin or towel.
- Carefully pour hot water over the grounds.
- Once the coffee has brewed, gently remove the napkin and rinse.
Why this works: Cloth napkins are thick enough that they won’t break down like paper towels can. And they won’t let small grounds seep into your cup.
Grounds for debate: This isn’t exactly the least messy method. Chances are your napkin will end up being stained. And depending on what you previously cleaned your napkin or towel with, your coffee could end up tasting like detergent. So if you plan to use this method, consider using fragrance-free detergent for your napkins.