by Neptune Coffee  | 

8 Easy Coffee Filter Substitutes 

To some, it’s a subtle pick-me-up, to others it’s liquid gold. Regardless of the kind of coffee drinker you are, there’s nothing worse than reaching for your early morning blend, only to find out you don’t have any paper coffee filters.

Fortunately, with roughly 62% of Americans drinking coffee daily, there are a number of quirky, yet effective alternatives to brewing your favorite cup of joe without that pesky paper filter.

So, if you ran out of paper coffee filters, don’t sweat. Keep calm and carry on making your favorite morning brew with one of these coffee filter substitutes.

Paper Towels

The paper towel method to filtering coffee is great for the coffee connoisseur that is in a serious bind. It’s worth noting that an effective coffee filter doesn’t just filter coffee grounds, but should also keep oily substances, called diterpenes, from sneaking into your morning blend.

Not only do household paper products, like paper towels, accomplish this goal, but you’re also more likely to have them on hand, in the event of a coffee filter crisis.

Simply cut or fold the paper towel into the shape of a coffee filter, throw in some coffee grounds, and voila, your DIY coffee filter alternative is ready for steeping.

The process is so simple, you might think you’ll never have to buy coffee filters again, but this method is a temporary fix to your coffee filter dilemma. Nevertheless, there is no shame in your coffee brewing game, if you reach for paper towels the next time you need a coffee filter replacement.

The Sock Method

Another tried-and-true coffee filter replacement, that you’ll always have on hand (or foot), is socks. Known to be used, even today, in Central and South America, the sock method is an innovative way to brew a full-bodied, hearty cup of coffee.

When you’re in a bind, simply toss some coffee grounds into a clean sock, place the sock over your mug, and pour hot water over the grounds. Sit back and watch in amazement as the sock filters the grounds and fills your cup with a heavenly cup of hot coffee.

This method has the added bonus of helping the environment and works so well that it has been adapted to a variety of reusable sock cloth filters. So, if you’re looking for a permanent alternative to your paper coffee filters, you can become a sock cloth coffee connoisseur without having to burn through the socks in your sock drawer.

French Press

Wake up worry-free by eliminating paper coffee filters altogether and brew your favorite coffee blend in a French Press. Not only does using a French Press eliminate the need for filters, but most coffee aficionados will also tell you that it brews a better cup of joe.

Interestingly, some of the natural oils that get absorbed and trapped in a paper coffee filter (or sock, if you’ve already made the switch), aren’t retained when using a French Press.

This process is also highly customizable, so instead of Mr. Coffee doing all the work, you have the opportunity to easily craft your perfect cup.

If you’re worried about complicating the coffee-making process, you should know that, although a French Press sounds fancy, the process is really straightforward.

Place coffee grounds at the bottom of the container, pour hot water over the grounds, let them steep, and then press down on the plunger to filter the grounds.

Cowboy Coffee

You don’t have to be traveling through the Wild West to enjoy a delicious cup of filter-free cowboy coffee. In fact, the cowboy coffee method remains a popular choice for backpackers and campers that aren’t interested in hauling around excess stuff in their pack.

Cowboy coffee is created by an intricate process of heating coffee grounds with water in a kettle and then pouring the coffee directly into your cup.

You’re probably thinking that a mouth-full of coffee grounds is coffee-gone-wrong, but if made correctly, the coffee grounds will naturally sink to the bottom of the kettle, leaving you with a smooth, rich cup of java.

Tea Bags

One of the only perks tea has over coffee, is how portable and easy it is to make. You don’t need fancy machines or paper filters to brew tea – what gives? Well, fellow coffee-lovers, that’s about to change.

The next time you reach for a paper coffee filter, consider using a tea bag instead. All you have to do is grind your favorite blend on the finest setting, pour grinds into a tea bag, seal the bag, and you have coffee to-go.

Keep a reserve in your desk for early morning meetings, a supply in your cupboard for filter-free days or store them in your car for a quick pick-me-up on your morning commute.

This brewing method is so convenient, that companies like Steeped Coffee have turned what was once a thrifty life-hack into a full-blown alternative to brewing coffee the old-fashioned way.

When you need to tap into your emergency stash of coffee-bags, simply boil some water, pour it over the bag, and let it steep.

Kopi Tubruk Method

If you ever travel to Indonesia, particularly Bali or Java, chances are you’ll be introduced to a popular coffee brewing method called Kopi Tubruk, or “mud coffee.”

Don’t let the name of this coffee classic deter you. Although this brewing method is a far cry from your ‘typical’ American cup of coffee, Kopi Tubruk can be sweetened with sugar or condensed milk (Kopi Susu) to temper its full-bodied flavors.

To make yourself a perfect cup of Kopi Tubruk, spoon in two teaspoons of fine or medium grounds, add boiling water and allow the coffee grounds to steep until they settle to the bottom of your cup.

Just make sure you don’t drink the “mud” at the bottom of the cup!

Metal Mesh Reusable Filters

Listen, you work hard. You shouldn’t have to wake up in the morning wondering how you’ll get your first cup of coffee. Why not ditch the paper filters altogether? They’re costly, inconvenient, and arguably don’t make the best quality coffee.

A permanent fix to your coffee filter problems, companies like EPrance, make reusable mesh coffee filters that will not only save a few trees, but will also save you a ton of money.

In fact, investing in a reusable mesh coffee filter also means you can finally say bon voyage to your old dilapidated coffee maker, too!

Just place the mesh filter on top of your coffee mug, put two to three tablespoons of medium or coarse ground coffee in the mesh filter, pour hot water over the grounds, and in the blink of an eye, you’ll have a flavorful cup of freshly roasted coffee to enjoy.

Instant Coffee

Somewhere along the line, we’ve decided that the more complex the cup of coffee is to make, the better it must be. But you really don’t need to jump through hoops to get a tasty cup of joe.

Instant coffee gets a bad rap as being artificial coffee, but like any other blend, whole beans are roasted, ground, and brewed to perfection. Where it differs, is that it’s then dehydrated and packaged so you can just-add-water.

With a growing demand for everyday, easy to brew coffee options, specialty coffee brands and big-box chains, like Starbucks, have learned to perfect the process of creating high-quality instant coffee, so you don’t have to sacrifice quality for convenience.


Long story short, before you send out a caffeine-deprived cry for help or defeatedly crawl back into bed, channel your inner-innovator and try a coffee filter substitute instead.

Worst case scenario, you’ll get your coffee fix until you can replenish your paper filter supply. Or, maybe you’ll find a new coffee brewing method that you enjoy!