Paper coffee filters are the unsung heroes of many people’s morning drink rituals, but they can hurt your budget over time. If you want to save some bucks, why not make a DIY coffee filter? These ingenious solutions let you brew your favorite cup of joe without splurging on disposable paper filters.
I will share some of my favorite coffee filter substitutes that I’ve tried so you can get the benefits, all without breaking the bank. Pick your favorite creative solution and use it the next time you make pour over coffee or even for brewing loose tea.
7 Practical Coffee Filter Substitutes
If you’re looking for affordable alternatives for your usual coffee filter paper, here are some substitutes you can use immediately. Reusable coffee filters are best because they save you money and minimize the garbage produced in a single household.
Of course, you can use any of these great coffee filter substitutes when you run out of regular filters. I bet you can easily find the materials in your home, and if not, a quick trip to the store is all you need.
Cheesecloths are known for straining thicker liquids like yogurts and sauces. But did you know that you can also use it as a coffee filter alternative? In many ways, a piece of cheesecloth is the closest thing you can get to a paper filter. It looks almost the same as the paper filter but with larger holes. I started using cheesecloth for cold brew coffee and quickly learned it works for a hot brew just as well.
To use it, here’s what you can do:
- Fold the cheesecloth over itself a couple of times.
- Cut it to fit the filter basket with a little excess to drape over the basket.
- Secure the cloth with a rubber band around the wide part of the basket.
- Add your favorite ground or holiday blend coffee.
- Pour hot water over it, and you’re done.
What I like about using cheesecloths instead of traditional coffee filters is that they’re environmentally and budget-friendly. After every use, I rinse the cloth out in the kitchen sink, and I can reuse it whenever I want.
However, not all cheesecloths are a great way to filter coffee because they come in different grades. The grade determines the weave, which can be loose or tight. This difference creates bigger or smaller holes for the liquid to be strained. I suggest using a cheesecloth with a finer grade 90 so the coffee grounds don’t fall through the cloth. If you have a lower grade, you must fold the cloth over more and filter with more layers.
Paper towels are yet another common coffee filter substitute that you can also use. They are easy to find in your kitchen or pantry, too. Here’s how you can use a paper towel:
- Fold your paper towel into two and make a conical shape.
- Place the folded paper towel on your pour-over.
- Add your favorite coffee.
- Finally, pour hot water, and you’re done.
This substitute is nearly identical to the usual paper coffee filters. It has about the same sturdiness and filtering ability. Plus, paper towels can hold coffee granules without spilling.
Unfortunately, they can easily fold under hot water. So, if you’re trying this alternative, be extra careful when pouring hot water and never use paper towels without a filter basket to support them.
Additionally, paper towels may add an aftertaste to the coffee, especially if they are scented. I only use this method if I have nothing else on hand.
Yes, you’ve read it right — a sock. Don’t worry, though. I’m talking about a brand-new one, not a used sock. I first heard of this from my cousin after his time in the US Marines. A coffee sock might be an odd idea, but it makes it a good substitute. Use a cotton sock with a tight weave to filter the grounds completely. Here’s how you can use it:
- Put coffee granules inside the sock.
- Place the sock in your pour-over or hold it over a cup or pot if camping.
- Pour hot water and let the coffee drip.
This method is so easy because it doesn’t require cutting and folding – you use the sock as it is. What I like the most about this is that you can reuse the sock for your next cup of joe. Wash it, and you can use it the next day once it dries.
Remember this idea the next time you go camping! It’s really so much fun, especially for younger kids. They think it is hilarious.
However, you might not want to use this option for a big crowd. It’s possible not all the guests would be amused, even if you explain it.
Also, expect the sock to change color over time. Coffee is a natural dye that marks fabric, especially with repeated use. On this note, take caution and be prepared with my best tips for cleaning coffee stains out of carpet if you happen to spill.
Fine Mesh Sieve
Another DIY coffee filter choice is a fine mesh sieve or wire mesh filter. You can buy a fine mesh sieve and reuse it all the time for sifting powdered sugar, making cocktails, rinsing produce and more. The sturdy material makes this a smart choice with long-lasting durability. Unlike cloth or paper towels, the wire mesh is easy to wash. Here’s how you can use it:
- Add coffee grounds to the wire mesh.
- Place the wire mesh filter on your mug.
- Slowly pour hot water, and you’re done.
I like this method because it’s easy. The best part is that the strainer is reusable for many purposes. I bought a nesting set of strainers a while ago and use them all the time for different recipes. It’s nice to know I’m not making unnecessary garbage while enjoying my favorite seasonal coffee drinks.
What I don’t like about this is that only the smallest strainers fit over a coffee mug. So, if you have a medium or large size, rest it over a pot and pour the coffee into a mug from there. It’s an extra dish to wash, but the pot only needs a quick rinse, so it’s not so bad.
Reusable Tea Bags
Reusable tea bags are perfect coffee filter substitutes. if you like crafting your own tea bag blends, you’ll likely already have these in your kitchen. They can come in handy when you do not have a coffee filter. Here’s how you can make a cup of joe with this method:
- Place your favorite coffee grounds in the tea bags.
- Put the teabag on a mug.
- Pour hot water and let it seep for about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the tea bag and enjoy it freshly filtered.
I love this alternative because reusable tea bags are food-grade and safe to use with hot water. It’s also easier to use and wash than socks and cheesecloths.
This method makes a strong morning coffee, so it might not be for everyone. But this will be perfect for coffee drinkers who think the perfect cup of coffee is strong and black.
Using a clean cloth napkin is another easy alternative to take the place of traditional coffee filters. You can usually find cloth napkins in any home store. The fine fabric lets it hold the coffee granules without spilling, resulting in good coffee. A cloth napkin is better than paper towels since they are more robust and durable against hot water.
This is one of the best filters you can use right away with minimal preparation. Keep the cloth napkin in a place you can use repeatedly. Do not throw these items away since you can use them to make freshly brewed coffee another time.
If you want to try this alternative, here’s what you can do:
- Place the cloth napkin on your pour-over. Press a little inside so that water won’t overflow easily.
- Secure the cloth napkin with a rubber band.
- Add your favorite ground coffee.
- Pour hot water over the coffee.
- Take out the napkin and discard the coffee granules, and you’re done.
Cloth napkins like socks and cheesecloths are reusable, which makes me like this substitute. However, the downside of this method is that, due to the fine cloth weave, the dripping may take longer than other options. Also, as with other cloth filters, expect fabric napkins to get discolored over time.
Be careful that the napkin doesn’t smell like detergent. No one wants to infuse their coffee with a detergent aftertaste, so use a clean napkin completely washed free of detergent.
Even if nothing in this list works as a substitute coffee filter for you, the good news is that you can still brew your coffee without a filter. One of the things I like about using a French press is that the filter is built in and part of the unit. So I never think about washing and storing alternatives or buying paper filters from the store.
Alternatively, brew your coffee the old-fashioned way. Some people call this cowboy coffee, and it’s an old American tradition. You can still enjoy coffee at home, even without a coffee filter substitute. Here’s how you can do it:
- Get a pot and add coffee granules and water to it.
- Heat the pot.
- Once your coffee boils, that means it is ready.
- Remove the pot from the stovetop.
- Pour a generous amount into your mug and enjoy your freshly brewed coffee the cowboy way.
A Russian friend of mine turned me on to the cowboy coffee method. He promised that leaving the ground in the cup intensified the flavor and produced a strong brew. It was delicious! I do this occasionally, but I still don’t like sipping the ground coffee, so I leave a bit of liquid at the bottom instead of draining the cup like usual. All the ground coffee sinks to the bottom after it’s poured into the cup. If I leave it to sit for a minute or two before drinking, getting a gritty texture is never a problem.
If you’re on a budget, I hope these great ideas for DIY coffee filter alternatives helped. Having a good cup of coffee is always a good idea. If you need coffee and do not have the right materials, you can use these excellent coffee filter substitutes as an easy way to strain the grounds out of coffee.
I’m happy to say I haven’t used a disposable paper filter for more than DIY coffee filter flowers and other coffee filter crafts in years! These coffee filter art projects have been fun for my family and please kids of all ages.
Save this post in your bookmarks and return to it when you need more inspiration. Also, please share it with your friends and family so they can trim down their budget with these easy alternatives.