9 Ways to Make Filter Coffee Without a Filter
Aah, another beautiful day! I walked to my trusty coffee machine, measured my coffee, and —wait. Where’s the filter? I don’t know how to make coffee without a filter. HELP!
Relax drama queen, people have been enjoying coffee without a filter for thousands of years. 🙄
You can use a clean cloth napkin, or dish towel if you don’t have a coffee filter. But you could always just pour hot water over your ground coffee and enjoy it as usual!
Can you make coffee without a filter?
Yes, definitely! Our ancestors didn’t have coffee filters and they were able to enjoy a nice cup of joe anyway,
Coffee filters have only been around for around a century. The first coffee filter was invented in June 1908.
Melitta Bentz made her first coffee filter with blotting paper. It was taken from her son's exercise book!
When coffee arrived in Europe, it was usually prepared by adding ground beans to water in a pot and boiling it. You’d have to wait for the coffee grounds to settle before drinking it though.
This means coffee would already be lukewarm when ready.
Coffee was also prepared by placing coffee grounds inside a linen bag and brewing and removing it before drinking. Pretty much like tea.
If you don’t know yet, some coffee brands package their coffee the same way as tea bags. This is also pretty convenient if you ask me.
If you want to know “what can I use as a coffee filter?” I’ve listed some alternatives below. 👇
How to make filter coffee without a filter
You can make coffee with a DIY coffee filter or with no coffee filters at all. Let’s check out the different coffee filter alternatives we can try.
1. Use a very fine mesh sieve
You can use a fine mesh sieve to make your coffee. A word of caution: you might end up drinking a few coffee grounds. But if you are expecting a group of people over, this is your best bet.
Your trusty baking tool is here to save the day! You don’t have to rack your brain for what to use instead of coffee filters.
First, you need to boil water for making the coffee. Next, place your coffee into the bottom of a glass carafe or measuring cup. You just need to know how much you need.
For example, if you are expecting a big group, it helps to know how much coffee for 12 cups.
When your water is ready, pour about a cup over the grounds. Stir it once, and set aside for more or less 5 minutes. This depends on how strong you like your coffee to be.
When your coffee is done brewing, pour it into a mug through a fine mesh sieve. Now the holes of the sieve would still likely be bigger than some of the coffee grounds. So you can expect some coffee grounds to end up in your mouth. Ptooey!
If you want to ensure that as few coffee grounds as possible pass through, you can place a piece of cheesecloth over the sieve.
This makeshift coffee filter lets you make an entire pot. Also, you can control how strong the coffee is and how long the grounds are steeped based on your preferences.
See, you can still make pour over coffee without filter when you are expecting a small group of friends. You just need to know how much coffee is for 8 cups, or 6 cups.
2. Use a cloth table napkin (or similar material)
You can make coffee using a freshly laundered dish towel or cloth napkin. This is a great option for anyone who prefers to live a sustainable lifestyle.
If you own a grind and brew coffee maker, your sieve most likely won't fit. This is where your table napkin or cheesecloth could come in handy.
Can you use a napkin as a coffee filter? Definitely! Here’s how. 👇
Just carefully place the cloth in a pour-over or automatic drip basket. You can secure it to the mouth of your mug with a rubber band. Make sure to let it droop slightly into the cup. This makes sure coffee doesn’t pour over to the sides.
Next, add your ground coffee, and gradually pour about a cup of not-quite-boiling water over the grounds.
But depending on the design of your coffee maker, you might have to trim the cloth you’re using. It would be like your own homemade coffee filter.
Also, make sure the cloth doesn’t smell like your favorite dryer sheets. I would love to use lavender syrup for coffee to make myself a relaxing cup. But I don’t think the lavender-scented tablecloth will make my coffee as tasty. 🤢
3. Use a clean unused sock
You can brew your coffee using a clean unused sock. Yup, when there are no coffee filters around you might have to dig around your wardrobe.
Hey, don’t say: “Ew!” I’m not saying use your adolescent child’s gym socks. ❌ Hear me out.
You just need to carefully put your ground coffee beans in the sock and tie the opening close. It’s going to work like a tea bag.
Or you can simply use it like you would a filter, but with a few variations.
To make coffee, you need to first bring some water to a boil. Attach your clean sock to the brim of your coffee mug. When this is done, fill it with ground coffee.
Next, pour boiling water over the coffee grounds like you would with a pour-over machine. Allow 3 to 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of your sock. When this is done, you can take off the sock and enjoy.
Just like with the tablecloth, make sure your sock is washed without any fabric conditioner or detergent with very strong scents. It could end up ruining your coffee.
It’s not the best coffee filter substitute out there but it does its job as an emergency coffee filter. But maybe not the best look for guests around. 😱
4. Use a paper towel instead
It’s not surprising how you can use paper towels instead of coffee filters when necessary. For starters, they’re both made of paper.
Can I use paper towel as coffee filter? Of course!
Paper towels are no-brainer DIY coffee filters. It’s also much better than a sieve in keeping the coffee grounds from the actual coffee. It’s definitely a better way how to strain coffee without a filter.
You can simply line a pour-over or drip basket with a paper towel. Set it aside while preparing your hot water.
Pour about a cup of hot water over the coffee grounds. After the water has drained through the pour-over, remove it from the mug and discard the paper towel with the coffee grounds.
You almost certainly have paper towels on hand. Except for replacing the towel with a filter, you don't need to change your coffee routine at all.
As a bonus, the fine weave of a paper towel contains even very fine coffee grounds.
The downside is probably that paper towels use glue as a binding agent. This is something that coffee filters don’t use. It might be safe to wipe your mouth with, but it’s a different story when you are using it on something you are drinking.
Not to mention you’d be drinking a lot of it sometimes.
It may also add a chemical or paper taste to your coffee.
Now those are just some of the homemade coffee filters we can use. But if you’re wondering how to brew coffee without a filter, read on. 👀
5. Just do without
Well, if you can’t find any alternative coffee filter or find yourself in the middle of nowhere, you can just make coffee without it.
Just boiling coffee in a pot is enough. This process is famously called “cowboy coffee.”
Cowboy coffee is a traditional drink made on the trail by cowboys. It's made by heating coarse ground coffee with water and then pouring it into a cup once the grounds have settled.
Yup, that’s it. Well, you might find it a bit annoying when coffee grounds end up in your mouth. But there’s a solution for that.
Just as it was shown in the video above, all you need to do is add a little bit of cold water to your pot of coffee after it is done brewing. Yes, it sounds pretty weird but this seems to be the secret to making the grounds settle.
6. French press
A french press uses the immersion method in making coffee. It’s one of the ways how to brew coffee without a filters.
Using a french press lets you make coffee without needing a filter. But you have to know the right kind of grind to use.
You need to use coarsely ground coffee for french press to achieve the best flavor.
A French Press works by steeping coffee grounds in a beaker with hot water. After the coffee has finished brewing a metal mesh filter is pressed to the bottom of the beaker. This separates the coffee grounds from the liquid coffee destined for your mug.
Because the grinds remain in contact with the coffee, the bean extraction continues as long as you don’t separate the coffee.
Since you aren’t using a paper filter when making coffee with your french press, more of the oils from the coffee bean make it into the brew.
The oils are what gives the coffee its flavor and thus contribute to the ability to distinguish one variety from another.
This results in an oily and bold flavor. If you prefer milder coffee, this flavor may be too strong for you.
7. Use a Moka Pot
The Moka pot coffee maker works through inversion. It is one of the interesting ways how to make coffee without a filter.
A part of the pot is filled with water and placed on the stove. When it comes to a boil, the machine is turned upside down. How it works is with boiling water passing with the help of gravity through a filter containing the coffee. This is then collected in the other half of the coffee pot.
Before you start brewing you need to make sure to grind the coffee to a fine grind. It should pretty much be as fine as an espresso grind or just slightly larger.
Next, you should fill the bottom half of the pot with cold filtered water until it reaches the valve.
When the water is in, you should fill the funnel halfway with coffee grounds. Make sure to level with the top, but don't tamp the grinds down as you would with an espresso.
Next, insert the funnel into the pot's bottom section. Screw the top until it is just finger-tight.
When the pot is ready, set it over medium heat. But make sure the gas flame on a gas stove is smaller than the width of the pot.
Wait 5 to 7 minutes for the coffee to brew: the water will bubble up through the coffee and fill the top of the pot. Your coffee should begin to bubble after 3 to 5 minutes.
Now, after about 2 minutes, you'll hear the pot rapidly boiling. Your coffee should be ready when the sound dissipates into the air and you hear a loud gurgling sound. This is when you remove the pot from the heat.
Lift the top of the pot and look inside after you've turned off the heat. The chamber should be brimming with coffee. If not, return the pot to the stove to keep heating it until the coffee is ready.
You’d know when the coffee has risen to the upper chamber of the pot.
8. Turkish coffee
Turkish coffee is made from very finely ground coffee beans. It is pretty distinguishable from other types of coffee because it’s brewed in traditional copper pots known as cezve.
Oooh, talk about fancy!
You might find that Turkish coffee is more aromatic and thicker than other types of coffee.
Turkish coffee has a strong aromatic flavor profile. Since the ground coffee beans are not filtered, some of them remain suspended in the drink. But since the grounds are too fine, you won’t necessarily be bothered by it.
When compared to a regular cup of coffee, the very fine grind contributes to a thicker coffee with a stronger flavor.
9. Cold brew
Cold brew is done by immersing coffee in cold water and leaving it to brew for 12 hours, a few days, or even for 2 weeks.
You can make cold brew in a french press at home. Simply mix your ground coffee in a large French press with cold filtered water.
To make the coffee, you need to allow the coffee to steep for at least 12 hours or overnight.
Remember to stir your cold brew occasionally. If the cold brew is not stirred, the ground coffee beans will steep throughout the entire water-filled cup. Stirring ensures that the cold brew tastes great and is evenly extracted.
Now we’ve been talking about making coffee without a filter but if you want to upgrade your cold brew you need to strain it. Using a cheesecloth ensures a smooth and delicious cup of coffee.
First, fill a large bowl halfway with filtered water, then soak the cheesecloth in it. Then you need to place the cheesecloth over a sieve or strainer and slowly pour the cold brew through it.
Now that we’re done with looking into different coffee filter alternatives, it’s time to look into frequently asked questions about coffee filters.
What happens if you don't use a coffee filter?
Filters are used to remove certain oils known as diterpenes from coffee. According to some research, oils like these can be toxic. Coffee grounds can also clog or overflow the cup.
Diterpenes are a type of chemical compound that is made up of four isoprene units and has the molecular formula C20H32. Plants, animals, and fungi biosynthesize them via the HMG-CoA reductase pathway, with geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate as a primary intermediate.
Unfiltered coffee contains diterpenes, which can raise cholesterol levels, and researchers claim that a cup of unfiltered coffee contains 30 times more diterpenes than a cup of filtered coffee.
What are coffee filters made of?
Paper coffee filters are made from 100 g/m2 filter paper. The filter paper's raw materials (pulp) are coarse long fibers derived from fast-growing trees. There are bleached and unbleached filters available.
Non-toxic, water-based adhesives play an important role in the production of paper towels. The secret to paper towel absorbency is how the sheets of paper stick together!
Coffee filters on the other hand do not have glue. Coffee filters are made from biodegradable cellulose.
Can you reuse coffee filters?
A lot of coffee filters out there can be reused multiple times. But you can only use them again so many brews before they stop being effective.
You can use them 4 to 5 times at most then it’s time to throw them away. Make sure to dump out or compost the grounds, then rinse and dry the filter.
Can I use paper towel as coffee filter?
Yes, you can. You can use it for making a pour over coffee without filters.
It’s the most convenient choice among the coffee filter alternatives I’ve listed above. They’re both made of paper and both are easy to dispose off.
However, paper towels are most likely made with glue as a binding agent. It is likely that the glue will find itself in your coffee.
Making coffee without a filter is totally possible!
We can definitely make coffee without coffee filters. And it doesn’t have to sacrifice the quality of your coffee.
We can use paper towels. But if you’d like to go filter-free forever, you can choose more sustainable alternatives like table cloth and cheesecloths.
You can opt for different methods of making coffee that need no coffee filters.
We can’t always make a grocery run, so it can be really helpful to know how to make coffee without a filter. Do you have more tips that didn’t make it to our list? Let us know in the comments below! 👇