What To Use Instead Of Coffee Filter: 9 Best Alternatives

As a coffee lover, you always have your coffee filters stocked up. Imagine you run out of coffee filters one fine day, but you need a coffee fix! What will you do? Will you run to your neighborhood store to buy coffee filters, or will you make one at home?

The smart coffee enthusiast will look for the best coffee filter alternatives at home, and get your brewing coffee in a matter of minutes. 

From paper towels to cloth filters to the fine mesh sieve – you can use a variety of these as coffee filter substitutes. There are various coffee options that you can avail yourself of without the need for a coffee filter, such as instant coffee. 

Here I give you a list of 9 filter substitute options to choose from if ever you run out of filters

These options are readily available and you need not rack your brains, especially at odd hours such as midnight. Read on, and let me know which works best for you.

What are the Alternatives you can Choose as Traditional Coffee Filter Substitutes?

These alternatives will pull you out of your coffee filter crisis while giving you a flavorful cup.

Paper Towels

As a regular household item, you must have paper towels stocked up in your cabinets. They make an excellent coffee filter substitute. Fold them and slowly pour your drink through them.

Here is how you can make traditional coffee filters out of a paper towel at home: How to make a Coffee Filter Using a Paper Towel.

Be cautious of two disadvantages:

paper towel

Fine Mesh Sieve

You must be using a fine mesh sieve to strain flour for baking purposes. Use the same for the coffee filter method. Brew the finely ground coffee in hot water for a few minutes or just as strong as you like it. Then pour over the mesh.

Sieves come  in two forms:

They, however, allow fine coffee grounds to pass through. I, therefore, personally line a metal sieve with a cloth to hold back the grounds from seeping into my cup.

Reusable Tea Bags

If you are an occasional tea drinker, then you may have some reusable or disposable tea bags in your kitchen. Use them. use one such empty tea bag to make a delicious beverage.

A reusable tea bag allows the essential oils in the beverage to pass through, thereby retaining the actual taste of coffee. 

You can make one at home. Check this DIY Reusable Tea Bags tutorial.

Cloth Napkin / Dish Towels

As a coffee drinker, you can use any cloth napkin or a clean dish towel to strain your brewed coffee. I recommend you use cotton cloth for this purpose.

After use, wash the cloth napkin/dish towel using laundry detergent and fabric softener and store it in the refrigerator for future use. This prevents bacterial growth in the cloth, from the continuous absorption of fats and oils present in coffee. 

Cotton Sock

Sounds crazy? But yes, it does work on the same idea. Grab one from a pair, wash it clean, and use it as an alternative to a filter. The fine mesh-like weave of the sock makes it a brilliant option as a coffee filter substitute

I recommend you use a new sock, preferably one that you have never worn, or one that your feet have grown out of. Always avoid synthetic socks and go for cotton ones.

Cheese cloth

If you have ever made cottage cheese at home, it’s time you bring out the cheesecloth from the closet. Place it over a sieve when you pour the brew or on the container that holds the brewed cup of coffee.

You can use cheesecloth in coffee makers too. Fold it in a conical shape or cut it with a pair of scissors to fit it into the filter basket.


This is similar to cloth napkins as mentioned before. Apart from this, you may use any clean cotton cloth lying around in your house.

I recommend you cut a square out of these handkerchiefs to hold the beans while you put them to brew.


Old T-shirt

This is yet another excellent alternative to a coffee filter. Use a cotton t-shirt for the best results. Also, make sure you don’t wear the t-shirt again because filtering will lead to coffee stained t-shirt.

Cupcake Paper Cups

Homemade cupcakes perhaps make the best desserts. However, we always throw away the empty paper cup. Next time, you have a cupcake, remember to keep the cups. 

These work as excellent coffee filter substitutes. Unlike paper towels, they don’t crumble when you pour the steaming brewed coffee through them.

You may use it in another way. Fill the glass cup with coffee grounds and tie up the open end. Now brew coffee like you brew tea. And there you have a perfect replacement for coffee filters.

How Can You Make Coffee If You Do Not Have Filters?

Now that you have a list of coffee filter alternatives, you can choose one or more and make do without coffee filters. However, during rush hours, you might not have enough time to improvise a coffee filter. Choose from the options below.

Instant Coffee

You neither have coffee filters at home nor have time at hand. But, you NEED coffee right away! What will you do?

Take a teaspoon of instant coffee powder and pour hot water or milk into it. It’ll save your day. Coffee drinkers who are on the move, swear by this!

Mud Coffee – No Filters Attached

It is not as disgusting as it sounds. Ditch that coffee filter and try making this one with very fine grounds. The brewing method is very easy.

Put two teaspoons of fine coffee grounds in your cup and add boiling water to it. Let it cool a bit. You’re all set.

French Press

If you have a French Press at home, bring that out. It is an excellent coffee maker that gives you a full, flavorful brew, sans the coffee filter.

Soak the coffee grounds in hot water and after a few minutes. As the grounds settle at the bottom, push the in-built stainless steel mesh. That separate the coarsely ground coffee from the brew. Learn How to make French Press Coffee at Home.

I would always recommend that you don’t use boiling water to ground coffee because that might give a burnt taste. The steel mesh allows the oils to pass through into the brew. Thus you get an intense and flavorful cup of coffee.

Cowboy Coffee

This is more or less similar to mud coffee, except for the fact that it is brewed in batches, whereas mud coffee is brewed in a coffee mug. The rest of the procedures remain the same for both.

Final thoughts

By now you can breathe a sigh of relief. Whether you are at home, or on a vacation and have fallen short of coffee filters, you know what best coffee filter substitutes to use. 

The list gives you several options, many of which are available in your home itself. Thus, there’s no need for you to run to the store unnecessarily for your morning coffee cup. Just dig up your closet and you’ll find hidden treasures.

The simplest of items like a fine mesh sieve, a hanky, a paper towel, or a paper filter available in your kitchen will always do the trick in times of crisis.

Just sit back and enjoy your cup of coffee, for now!


  1. What are coffee filters made of?

Coffee filters are usually made of disposable paper which keeps the coffee grounds while allowing the coffee extract to pass through. It holds back the coffee grounds.

Some coffee filters can also be made of finely woven cotton cloth, like those used in reusable tea bags

2. Can I make coffee without a filter?

Of course, you can make coffee without a filter! Go for instant, cowboy coffee or mud coffee. They do not require a filter for preparation.

3. What can I use as an emergency coffee filter?

You can use a paper towel, cotton cloth, a cotton sock, or even a cotton handkerchief as an emergency coffee filter.

However, if time permits, you can use a paper towel or cheesecloth for the same.

4. What can I use instead of paper filters for making coffee?

You can use single serve coffee bags, a coffee sock, fine mesh sieves or a drip basket in place of paper as an alternative to paper filters.

5. Is it necessary to use a filter at all?

No, it is not always necessary to use a filter. If you can do away with instant coffee, you do not need coffee filters at all. Not everyone love filter coffee. So, if you are preparing cowboy coffee or mud coffee, then again there’s no need for filters.