If you are anything like most coffee drinkers, you probably rely on your morning coffee to shake off any early morning jitters and get ready for the busy day ahead. However, waking up only to find that your stock of coffee filters is finished can put you in a tough and highly unpleasant situation.

Fortunately, you can make a highly capable coffee filter substitute from a number of common household items. If you are willing to sacrifice some of the convenience and brewing efficiency associated with the use of normal paper filters then the following substitutes are worth a try.

Coffee Filter Alternatives

1. Reusable Filters

reusable filter

Considered to be more environmentally friendly than paper filters, reusable filters are now included in most of today’s coffee makers. To make their insertion and removal easier and convenient for the user, they are designed with a plastic rim.

Once you are done brewing your coffee, simply pour out the used grinds in the trash and wash the filter to get rid of any remaining residue. It isn’t as convenient as simply dumping out a paper filter but  it’s a worthwhile, eco-friendly substitute.

2. Sieve

sieve filter

If you have a fine mesh sieve lying around, then consider using it to strain your coffee when you run out of filters. All you need to do to is to steep your coffee like you would with french press and then use the sieve to separate the extracted coffee and water from the grinds as you pour it into a cup.

Using this method to brew your coffee actually simplifies the process. However, it is important to mention that some grounds may get past the steel mesh and into your cup of coffee, yielding a muddy cup. You can overcome this by using coarser grounds.

3. Fine Cloth/Butter Muslin

If you cannot get your hands on any of the above coffee filter substitutes, try using a fine cloth or butter muslin. Butter muslin is a cotton cloth that it tightly woven. It is used in making butter, but in dire times, can be used to make coffee as well.

If you don’t make your own butter then you likely won’t have a butter muslin. Consider using any other finely woven piece of cloth that has tiny pores and is clean. For instance a clean drying towel. Note that you might have to cut the fine cloth or butter muslin to size for it to fit in the coffee maker.

4. Cheese Cloth

A cheese cloth is another common kitchen item used in a variety of recipes including wine making, in addition to its primary application in making cheese.

This is a loosely woven cotton cloth that comes in a number of grades. The grades may be anywhere between coarse and extra fine. For the best coffee brewing experience, use the finest grade cheese cloth you can get your hands on; otherwise you might end up with a muddy cup of coffee.

5. Coffee Sock

cloth filter

A coffee sock is specifically designed to be used in brewing coffee. It is another great coffee filter alternative that is also considered to be environmentally friendly. Position a cup or carafe below the sock. Then simply pour your coffee grounds into the sock and then pour hot water over it to extract the coffee.

It is recommended that you boil a new coffee sock for about ten minutes before you use it. After every use, wash the sock thoroughly to remove any residual oils and fine grounds for a perfect brew the next time you use it.

6. Toilet Paper

Though not your go to substitute, toilet paper can be a worthy option. Two ply toilet paper is not only easier to fold into shape, it also allows for a consistent flow of coffee once in place. Be sure to use multiple layers though as toilet paper as a tendency to tear when wet.

7. Paper Towels

You can even use paper towels or napkins as coffee filter substitutes if you are pressed for options. Simply fold them into shape and place them into the coffee maker. Their porous nature ensures that the liquid coffee moves through them and into your cup.

It is however important to note that some people are concerned about the seepage of chemicals used in making paper towels into the cup of coffee being brewed. Furthermore, paper towels may also tear up into small pieces making a mess.

8. Cowboy Coffee

If you don’t have any of the above mentioned coffee filter substitutes on hand, or aren’t willing to use them, consider making cowboy coffee.

To make cowboy coffee simply bring a mixture of coffee grounds and water to boil in a kettle and then leave it to settle. To settle the grounds at the bottom of the kettle before pouring a cup, pour some cold water down the spout. It’s also said that egg shells were/are used in cowboy coffee to remove bitterness and settle coffee grounds too.

This coffee brewing method is great for anyone who doesn’t have an issue with having some solids in their cup of coffee.

9. Instant Coffee

While all the above options are great options in a pinch, having some instant coffee on hand isn’t so bad. It will save you from having to waste time looking for an alternative when a quick caffeine fix is all you need.


If you consider coffee to be a necessity when kick starting your day, a depleted stock of paper filters might push you into an early morning panic. However, this doesn’t need to be the case; you can pick any of the above mentioned substitutes and use it to conveniently make a refreshing cup of coffee if and when necessary.

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Clayton Dylan
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