11 Best Coffee Filter Substitutes

Coffee Filter

For us coffee lovers, it’s essential to have a hot cup of coffee early morning, in between the days, and even in-office meetings. Others would even get another one before going to sleep, which I do not recommend.

No wonder, we all run out of our coffee filters most of the time. And when that happens, it’s a real bummer because you just can’t prepare your coffee without a filter.

What you can do is replace the filter with a table napkin, use a french press, buy a coffee machine with filter-ready, use a strainer, recycle tea bags, coffee stockings, cupcake paper cups, cheesecloth, any cotton cloth, tissue paper, or just sit the coffee.

Substituting Coffee Filter

1. Table napkin

Table napkin

Something I discovered by accident when I ran out of coffee filters at home was the versatility of the table napkin. I usually stack on table napkins and had this grand idea of using them instead.

I was like, why not? And to my surprise, my experiment worked. If you have noticed, it has that same quality material as the coffee filter.

Make sure to double the table napkin and use at least two sheets so it won’t rip easily. It’s an effective and perfect substitute for coffee filters. Make sure to use unopened table napkins so you won’t bring the dust and dirt into your drink.

2. Use a French press

french press

One of the most important necessities I keep at home is a well-functioning french press. When we like to drink a strong cold brew and espresso or we have coarsely ground coffee, the french press does some magic.

You don’t need a filter, just boiling water and coffee grounds. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Then the fun part is to press it to extract all that caffeine goodness.

This is a good thing to have especially if you can’t rely on having a good amount of coffee filter the whole time.

3. Buy a coffee machine with filter-ready

Probably the best choice you can do is to buy a coffee machine that has a built-in washable filter. You’re not only saving money from the constant buying of coffee filters, but you’re also saving the environment by reducing waste.

All you need to do is to clean it prior to and after making coffee. And make sure there’s no old coffee residue when making a new batch.

A lot of coffee machine brands are now selling built-in coffee filters in the market. Also, they’re inexpensive and cost almost the same as regular coffee machines. Always read product reviews before making your purchase.

4. Use a strainer

When your resources are quite slim at this point, head to the kitchen. Find yourself a good old strainer and just take out all the coffee granules or beans from the cup.

First, pour boiling water on the mug of coffee beans and let it sit for 3 minutes. Once it’s already done brewing, you can transfer the brewed coffee into another cup. Strain all the coffee beans. It’s easy and less hassle. Perfect for last-minute substitutions.

5. Recycle tea bags

tea bags

Teabags have the same functionality as coffee filters. If you don’t want to deal with straining the coffee beans, you can take advantage of the tea bags as well.

Rip cut a little bit on top just enough to pour out the dried tea leaves and put them in a clean air-tight jar. Then, replace the tea bags with coffee grounds.

Tie them with the thread that goes with the tea bag to avoid the beans from spilling. Now, you can brew your coffee like how you do with tea.

What I do at home with used tea bags is reusing them again. I mix the used tea leaves with my fertilizers to make my plants happier while I set aside the tea bags. I wash them and reuse them again for future projects. It’s best to store it with dried herbs and spices for cooking.

6. Coffee stockings

It might sound odd or unusual to you, but yes these exist. In most parts of Southeast Asia, they have these so-called coffee stockings or coffee socks.

It’s a reusable cloth that you can wash after brewing your coffee. Then, dry it up to use for the next batch of brewing. It’s worth trying since it lessens the waste I make every day. And it’s easy to maintain. You can order these online or at your nearby Asian stores.

Or you can make your own coffee stockings. If you have unused stockings or thin socks at home, you can make it as a coffee filter.

Cut it according to how big your coffee machine is and customize it. You may wash and reuse it for a long time without buying another set of coffee filters.

7. Cupcake paper cups


If you’re a baker yourself, know that your cupcake paper cups can be of good use other than baking. Yes, that’s right. A paper cup is a perfect coffee filter for emergency purposes.

Just set it up in the coffee machine then start brewing or fill the paper cups with coffee grounds and tie it with a thread. Brew it like how you brew tea and enjoy.

I highly recommend not using used cupcake paper cups. As much as possible, use the new ones to avoid contamination.

8. Cheesecloth

Cheesecloth is another perfect alternative to replace coffee filters.

If you have extra cheesecloths or unused ones, take one, give it a good wash, and dry it. Then, use it as a coffee filter. It’s one of the most effective substitutes.

You can reuse this after brewing again and again. Just make sure you wash it immediately after using it so the cloth won’t stain that much.

9. Any cotton cloth

Cotton clothes have the same purpose as cheesecloths. They decrease food waste and save the environment. This is a perfect project you can do at home.

Cut the cotton cloth into circles and stack it up into your coffee bar. Make sure you store it in a clean box away from dust and dirt. It’s also reusable and washable.

10. Tissue paper

Tissue paper

There are kinds of tissue papers that are thicker. Make sure you use the thicker ones and not the thin ones. Thin tissue papers easily break and might mix in your coffee.

This might not be the most preferred substitute but it actually works. Double or triple the sheet that you’re putting so it won’t make a whole while brewing.

And please, use unopened tissues only. It’s unhygienic to get something from the bathroom and use it for your food. Don’t put your health at risk for a cup of coffee.

11. Just sit the coffee


Back in the old days, coffee filters were not a thing. People used to let their coffee sit and scooped the rest of the coffee beans out and drink it straight up.

When you’re camping outdoors, for example, you can’t bring your coffee machine with you. You might have to wing it whatever you have on hand.

Scooping the coffee grounds is not a lot of work and it actually works.

Another thing you can do is to get a 3-in-1 instant coffee. It’s super easy and less hassle. Perfect for people on the go and when you don’t wanna deal with all the prepping.

You can buy a lot of cheap instant coffees at the grocery stores and even in convenience stores. I advise that you stock up some of it for emergency purposes when you can’t maximize the use of your coffee machines.

Let’s Grab a Coffee Sometimes

Humans as we are, for us to survive, we always find alternatives or substitutes to keep the ball rolling. When something’s missing or lacking, it doesn’t have to end there.

We make use of what’s available and take advantage of our own resources. At times, we let our creativity stir up and make our own resources. That’s the good thing about being involved with DIY projects at home, you get to reuse old stuff.

You’re not only decluttering your home but also decreasing the waste you dispose of every day. As simple as using a coffee filter can be replaced with so many resources available at home.

Little did we know, we are not maximizing the use of what we have. Next time, have some fun, get creative, and strengthen your DIY skills.

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