Brown Coffee Filters Vs. White Coffee Filters- Which One Is Better?

If you are a budding coffee enthusiast and love to start your mornings with a fresh cup of joe, then drip coffee is what you need. It is far easier than extracting espresso and tastes way better than instant coffee, hitting the perfect spot!

Now, for making drip/ pour-over coffee, you need to use a paper coffee filter, and there are two options to choose from, white and brown paper filter. 

It may seem that the color is the only differentiating factor, but as I dive deep, you will understand there are other significant differences like quality, price, health hazards, eco-friendliness, and so on. 

So keep reading as I discuss it all and help you judge which paper coffee filter you should pick!

What Are Paper Coffee Filters Made Of?

The coffee filters that we all use are usually made with 100 g/m2 filter paper. The raw materials used in these filter papers are the pulp of long coarse fibers that are collected from fast-growing trees. 

The fibers are tightly woven so they can keep the tiniest coffee particles separated, giving you the smoothest cup while brewing coffee. The fewer particles you have in your brew, the less acidic and bitter your coffee tastes. 

There are usually three types of paper coffee filters that you can use with a drip coffee machine. The bleached white ones, organic bamboo filters, and unbleached brown filters. All of them are great at doing their job (which is giving you a nicely filtered coffee) but have some pros and cons as well. 

Some argue that paper coffee filters are not 100% made out of paper and have plastic in them. But that is the case with reusable ones. If you are buying disposable coffee filters, then they are made solely out of paper and are absolutely decomposable. 

But if you buy reusable ones, they will have a small amount of plastic in them to add durability. 

Why Are Brown Coffee Filters Brown?

While buying paper filters at stores, you will find that some are brown while others are pristine white. Most of the paper filters (used in laboratories or water filters) we see are white in color. 

So naturally, when we see these off-white or brownish paper filters, the first question that arises is, “why are they brown?”. Some might say that they are made of recycled paper, hence the brown color. 

But that’s not true. Both brown and white filter papers are made out of the same fibrous pulp. The difference in color comes from how they are processed afterward. 

When plant fibers are broken down and turned into pulp, they get a naturally tan brownish hue due to oxidation. 

In the case of bamboo paper filters or brown coffee filters, this natural color gets preserved, giving them a slightly tanned appearance. 

What Makes White Coffee Filters White?

Brown Coffee Filters

Now you might be thinking, if the natural color of paper is brownish, then how come we get those perfectly white paper filters?! The answer is simple; we make them white. 

There is only one step that differentiates white coffee filters from brown ones, and that is the bleaching process. While the paper is still in making, it goes through an additional stage of chlorine bleaching or oxygen bleaching to get rid of the brown hue and become the tidy white paper we all know. 

This is also why brown coffee filters are known as unbleached paper filters and white ones are called bleached coffee filters. 

Q) What is the difference between chlorine bleaching and oxygen bleaching? 

In chlorine bleaching, a diluted (5.00%) solution of sodium hypochlorite is used to eliminate any hues that the fiber pulp might have. 

The bleach is highly caustic in nature, which helps take away the tan tones. Chlorine bleach is a popular stain-removing agent used in the laundry industry, but it has some negative effects, which is why some people prefer oxygen bleaching over it. 

In oxygen bleaching, a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, sodium, or carbon is used. This type of bleach is popularly known as the “color-safe” bleach since it is not as strong as chlorine. 

As coffee filters are used in the food and beverage industry, oxygen bleaching is what most companies opt for. 

However, that does not take away from the fact that the bleached coffee filters still have some amount of chemicals lingering on them. 

What Are The Differences Between Brown Vs White Coffee Filters?

Which One Filters Coffee Better?

Both brown and white coffee filters are made out of filter paper that has similar thickness and porosity. 

So, if you are to compare them based on how well they can filter coffee, it will be a tie between the two. 

Which One Is Pricier?

White coffee filters are more expensive than brown ones. As you already know, the only difference between white and brown coffee filters is that the white filters go through an extra step of bleaching. 

The production costs are higher for making white coffee filters, so their selling price is naturally higher. However, the quality of both brown and white filters will remain the same, no matter how many extra bucks you spend. 

Now there is also a price difference between the chlorine-bleached and oxygen-bleached white filters. The oxygen-bleached coffee filters are comparatively pricier than the chlorine-blacked ones. 

Which One Is More Eco Friendly?

Brown coffee filters, aka the unbleached filters, are more environment-friendly compared to white ones. Since the brown filters are less processed, it is easier for them to get decomposed. 

However, if you are used to buying white coffee filters, then oxygen-bleached variants are also an eco-friendly option you can go for. 

Which One Is Safer To Use?

Both. The bleached coffee filters only use a minuscule amount of bleaching agent to whiten the paper, and that cannot mess with your cup of java at all. 

Which One Is Sturdier? 

Since brown coffee filters are less processed, they are more resistant and rupture-proof.

Do Brown Filters Have A Papery Taste?

woman drinking coffee

You will find some people telling you not to choose unblocked filter papers as they might infuse your precious cup of joe with a papery taste. 

Well, unfortunately, it is true to some extent, and brown coffee filters do give off heightened paperlike notes since they are less processed. 

But you can easily save your coffee if you follow a simple trick. All you need to do is pre-wet the coffee filter and not use completely dry coffee filters for filtering your brew. 

It has two reasons. Firstly, as the filters are made of paper, the filter will absorb the first couple of drops of coffee (and those drops are the most aromatic ones!!!). And secondly, pre-wetting the filter helps eliminate any lingering paper-like smell that the filters might have. 

Plus, wetting the filter also makes sure that it sticks to the neck of the carafe. 

Are White Coffee Filters More Processed?

Yes. Be it chlorine-bleached or oxygen-bleached, white coffee filters are any day more processed than brown ones. This is also the reason why we do not get the papery taste from these paper filters.

Besides, it is the only big differentiating factor between the two. Most of the paper that we see or use is, in fact, processed the same way or even harder. But since they are devoid of any smell, some like to believe that they filter better-tasting coffee. 

Finally, Which Ones Is The Right Coffee Filter For You?

which coffee is best

In the race of brown vs. white coffee filters, the winner needs to be chosen by you. It all boils down to what your preferences are. If you are a nature ranger and want to make an eco-friendly choice while slightly compromising on the taste, you can go for the brown filter paper. 

However, if you absolutely cannot take a toll on the taste of your freshly brewed java, simply go for the bleached coffee filter. The amount of bleach used in the process is so minute that it is completely safe to use. 


1.  What Type Of Coffee Filters Are Most Expensive?

Metal coffee filters are priced the most. They are reusable, easy to clean, and rustproof in most cases. Metal coffee filters are usually made of stainless steel, which makes them a little pricer.

However, they are one-time investments. So you can buy it once and use it for years. 

2. What Are Some Alternatives To Coffee Filter Papers For Coffee Making?

If you are running short on coffee filters, you can use alternatives like a paper towel, a clean dish wash towel or cloth napkin, a fine mesh sieve, cheesecloth, or even socks (clean ones, obviously). 

3. Can You Use Aluminium Foil As A Coffee Filter?

Yes, you can brew coffee with a piece of aluminum foil. But do not think you can simply poke holes into a piece of aluminum and use it as a filter. 

You need to follow a particular folding technique to make a strainer that you can then use for filtering your coffee. if you don’t do it right, you will end up with a cup of brew full of coffee grounds.