What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter?

When it comes to making the best coffee possible, everyone needs to have at least a few coffee filters handy. With these handy little paper-thin items, it’s possible to even turn the roughest, most coarse, and cheapest instant coffee into something that is smooth and drinkable.

(Of course, we prefer using smooth ground coffee when we can, but it says a lot that even instant coffee is improved with these!)

What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter

This means that pretty much any household that enjoys coffee should have at least a few of these filters handy in the morning or evening. But what if you’ve just run out? What if you’ve just woken up, and are just not ready to get out and by some more, especially just before work?

Well, in these cases, you’re going to have to get a little creative, and try and use some kind of substitute.

Which is exactly what we’re going to cover here! In this guide, we’ll show you the best items that you can use in case you have run out of coffee filter in your kitchen and need to make an amazing blend right now!

Paper Towels

Starting off with the option that is likely most readily available to try out, we have the humble paper towel. In a pinch, you probably won’t find a coffee filter that is easier to grab and use!

Pretty much everyone will have some kind of paper towels in their kitchen, making theme a very easy item to use as a substitute.

(Unless they don’t. In which case, back to the drawing board!) 

In this instance, you would use a couple of paper towels folded onto each other, then place them over whatever vessel you’re drinking from, whether it’s a coffee mug or a thermos.

It’s easy to see why this is such a popular method. Outside of the readily available item, this does pretty much the exact same job that a coffee filter does, capturing most, if not all of the ground coffee, while still leaving a strong, smooth brew.

It’s not ideal, of course. Paper towels are known to tear when wet, meaning that it’s very easily to accidentally tear your paper towels up, and allow the grains and paper to soak into your drink, running it.

Plus, some brands of paper towels like to add aromatic smells to make them nicer to smell and wipe your hands/surface on. That smell can translate into a slightly off flavor for your coffee, which not everyone will like.

Cloth Napkin

What Can Be Used As A Coffee Filter

Outside of paper towels, what is another item that many people will often have in their kitchens or other coffee-making space?
Well, a cloth napkin is usually a good bet!

This method is very similar to the one used for paper towels, folding up and placing the napkin over the cup as you pour your coffee blend into it.

Aside from being easy and almost always handy, this is also a very environmentally friendly option for filtering your drinks, as you won’t be needing to waste a napkin every time you use this method, like you would paper towels. Just wash the napkin afterwards, and you’re good to go.

Plus, it’s actually incredibly effective. Even the finest grains of coffee are unlikely to pass through the cloth napkin and into your drink, making for an even smoother coffee.

However, it isn’t perfect. Napkins can often have flavors from accumulated items and uses over the years, even after thoroughly washing them. Even then, the taste of fabric might be pretty easy to pick up through your coffee drink.

And that’s not even mentioning that there’s a good chance of staining and ruining a napkin like this. Not great if you’re using your favorite and most presentable kitchen napkin, is it?

Add to that the fact that you may actually lose a lot of the flavor of your coffee in the process, and that the napkin might absorb a lot more of the coffee than you might expect, and it’s not hard to see why, unless you’re 

Still, if you have a clean, relatively new napkin that you’re not afraid to stain, this might just be the method that gets you that coffee that you need this morning!


If you’re someone that has made their own cheese before in your kitchen, you might just have the perfect filtering surface for a coffee filter substitute!

Cheesecloth is often used for sifting whey from a homemade yogurt or cheese recipe, allowing the liquid to sift through and the solid to stay.

So, you can imagine how this might be effective for filtering a coffee brew into a cup!

However,r while a pretty good substitute for medium or large granules of coffee, you’ll probably find that very fine ground coffee will still seep through. After all, this cloth is made to be semi-permeable, so 

Still, if you have one handy, you can do a lot worse than a cheesecloth as a way of getting a decent cup of smooth coffee!

Fine Sifter

This is a great option for anyone that many bakers and cooks will have on hand.

Fine sifters/sieves are often used for stopping large grains or objects from going into a smooth blend.

And while this could obviously pose a problem if you are using a very small or fine coffee blend, this works amazingly for larger granules of coffee. No instant coffee will be able to get through, that’s for sure!

Outside of that, however, the only issue that we would have with this method is that it’s not an option that every kitchen has. These miniature sifters aren’t everyday cooking implements, after all!

Overall, if we have a fine miniature sifter handy, and we’re out of filters, this is our personal favorite method that we use for filtering coffee, providing that we’re using rougher and larger coffee granules.

Final Thoughts

So, overall, which do we think is the best option for you?

Well, it largely depends on what tools you have. We personally like the fine sifter method, but we can’t deny the practical advantage that using paper towels poses.

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