Top 5 Coffee Filter Substitutes (+No Filter Brewing Tips)

Coffee Filter SubstitutesWe’ve all experienced at least one dreadful morning when you wake up to find that your last coffee filter was used the day before, and you forgot to stop at the store for more.

But before you throw up your hands and drive off to work without your beloved coffee in your hand, there are a few other options that you can use for coffee filter substitutes.

Read on to see what those are plus a few other ways you can make coffee without using a filter at all.

A Cheesecloth is Probably the Best Coffee Filter Substitute

If you happen to have cheesecloth in your kitchen, it makes a great coffee filter substitute.

If you don’t have one then check this out – these reusable cheesecloths are super cheap and can be used in the kitchen for a bunch of different jobs. They are worth having around.

Use several layers folded over and cut it, so that it is a little larger than your filter basket. Drape the edge over the top of the filter basket so you can catch the sides. That way you won’t have the sides of the cheesecloth fall down while the coffee brews.

Cotton Cloth Or A T-Shirt

If you have any cotton cloth hanging around from a project or an old CLEAN t-shirt, either will work well to filter your coffee.

Cut a circle big enough so that it is slightly larger than your filter basket, and drape the sides over to catch them on the other side of your filter basket. Brew like normal, and you will be pleasantly surprised at your results.

Can You Use Socks to Filter Your Coffee?


Socks CAN be used as coffee filter substitutes, in fact, you can even reuse them for filtering by emptying them and washing them out. It is one of the easiest ways to make coffee while traveling because all you need is coffee, a sock, hot water, and a cup. Of course, use CLEAN socks that aren’t washed with fabric softeners so you don’t taint your coffee with chemicals and other flavors.

To make it, add a few scoops of coffee to the sock and hold it in your cup, slightly above the bottom then pour freshly boiled water into it. Pour slowly, like you would for a pour over, so that the water has time to extract the coffee from the grounds. Continue until your cup is filled with that wonderful elixir of life.

Reusable Filters

If you have a reusable filter, you never have to worry if you run out of filters. If you don’t own one, they are a good thing to have on hand not only as insurance, but they make great coffee. You will always run out of filters, but with a reusable filter, you will always be able to make coffee no matter what. If you like pour overs, the Yitelle Stainless Dripper is a great option.

And for drip coffee makers, Goldtone makes filters in various shapes and sizes for every coffee maker.

Reusable filters are great coffee filter substitutes because they don’t consume natural resources every time you make coffee. For the environmentally conscious coffee drinker, you can enjoy your coffee without using single use filters.

Paper Towels, We Don’t Recommend Them

Some would be quick to use a paper towel or a napkin as a quick fix since it resembles coffee filter paper. BUT, we don’t recommend them because they can tear and disintegrate when exposed to high heat. This will cause grounds to go through the basket and into your brew. They are also commonly treated with chemicals that could possibly harm you but most definitely affect the taste of your coffee. If you are in a bind, a double folded paper towel or a napkin can work in the place of a coffee filter. After all, you after the caffeine right?

Besides these coffee filter substitutes, there is another way…

And it doesn’t need a filter.

Actually, there is more than one way, here they are:

Other Ways To Brew Coffee WITHOUT A Filter

French Press

I know, this is kind of obvious, but in your morning un-caffeinated stupor you may have overlooked this lowly piece of coffee brewing equipment that is hiding in your cupboard. The french press uses the metal mesh filter to press the coffee grounds down and it takes less time for your french press coffee to be done than it does for a typical auto-drip coffee pot.

Cowboy Coffee

One of the oldest (at least in the United States) but forgotten ways to make coffee is the way cowboys would make coffee (actually, some still do). An enamel coffee pot is typically used, but you can use a tea kettle or other pot with a spout.

Depending on the size of your pot, you can put about 3/4 of a cup of coffee grounds in your pot and fill with water. Bring to a boil and keep it at a rolling boil for about 3 minutes. Once finished, take it off the heat and let it set for a moment.

When ready to serve, simply pour some COLD water into the pot and down the spout, this will cause the grounds to sink to the bottom. You will have crystal clear coffee without sediment until you reach the bottom of course. If you live at higher elevations or are backpacking, coffee made this way will actually taste better because the altitude causes water to boil at a lower temperature.

You can also see this post for more on making really great cowboy coffee.

Mud or Turkish Coffee

Desperate times call for desperate measures and this is one of those last resort options. Unless you like Turkish coffee of course.

You CAN brew coffee in your cup by putting about a 2 teaspoons of finely ground coffee into your cup and pour freshly boiled water into it. Stir and let it sit for a few minutes to allow the grounds to settle to the bottom. If you like to drink your coffee with sugar, simply add the sugar when you add your coffee grounds to your cup so that it has time to dissolve when you stir it.

Drink with care so you don’t drink your coffee grounds too! The name mud coffee comes from the consistency of the coffee when you get to the bottom, It literally looks like mud.

True Turkish coffee is cooked in a Finjan over a low fire where it gently heats the coffee until it foams up. It is then drunk with plenty of milk and sugar.

Israeli coffee adds cardamom to the brew for an exotic and eastern taste.

If you have lemons, you might as well make lemonade!

See? That Wasn’t The End Of The World After All

As you’ve read, there are so many ways to make coffee that don’t use a typical filter. You can still have your morning cup of Joe at home without a filter.

People have been making coffee for centuries without them. You can too!

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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