The taste of your coffee depends largely on its filter. We have put together a detailed guide on how to choose the best coffee filter for yourself!
The average American’s love for coffee is not a secret from anyone. If anything, the preference for coffee is celebrated more in the U.S. than perhaps anywhere else in the world.
Whether it is through cultural references or commercial ventures, this liking to coffee gets mentioned and recognized through various sectors of life. American’s love for coffee is why there’s a Starbucks on every corner!
Not everyone is prone to get their coffee at a large scale beverage chain. For those who prefer not to stand in a line every day, options such as at-home brewers and coffee machines are just a click away. Over a quarter of all American households proudly own a single-serve coffee machine.
The demand for gourmet coffee is also on the rise. More and more coffee enthusiasts now want their daily cup of joe through something more tasteful than a ready-made pod. For such connoisseurs of coffee, finding the best coffee filter is essential to a perfect Java fix.
Different Types of Coffee Filters
The basics of coffee filters will give you an understanding of the core properties of each coffee filter. Consequently, you can form an informed opinion accordingly.
Disposable vs. permanent coffee filters
While learning about the different materials that go into making the most popular coffee filters, it helps to classify them into two very easy to understand groups.
The approach is as simple as it gets, but it is developed with an understanding of your most inherent requirements. You would need to be mindful of various factors such as your budget and convenience.
Using disposable coffee filters would mean that you are taking on repeated costs regularly while shunning the aspect of regular filter cleaning. Whereas, using permanent coffee filters would lead to lower costs but a proper hygiene routine.
Disposable coffee filters are almost always made out of paper, with permanent coffee filters using other materials.
This distinction, as well as the associated pros and cons, would go a long way in helping you make an educated decision while changing coffee filters. So, let’s dive into it!
Check out our article on Paper & Metal Coffee Filters: Which One Is Better For You?
Popular Coffee Filter Types
With these aspects in mind, here are the most popular types of coffee filters, sorted into these two groups.
- Bleached paper filters.
- Unbleached paper filters.
- Metal filters.
- Cloth filters.
The above classification may seem straightforward. It is crucial to understand the fundamental properties of each material. Then you can start learning about the differences within these subsets.
Read this Coffee Sesh article on Coffee Inspector: Pour Over vs Chemex.
Coffee Filter Shapes and Sizes
Another point to keep in mind while looking for the perfect fit in coffee filters is to check how well they fit the equipment that you make your coffee with.
Here, the coffee filter type and shape will be as much in play as the size itself.
When it comes to the shape of coffee filter types, you can most commonly choose from conical filters and flat bottom/basket filters. As the names suggest, the former comes in a shape that’s like an ice cream cone, while the latter bears a striking resemblance to a paper cupcake mold. These filters are usually available in almost all materials. Paper is the most popular one to be used with them.
Below are the most common sizes you can find in conical coffee filters. When any coffee maker or method asks for a specific sized coffee filter, you will know which one to go for.
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Coffee filter sizes
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The number does not denote to it being the best coffee filter by any means. It merely refers to the size, which is the smallest you can often find in conical coffee filters.
Size #1 is best used with small coffee makers that make single-serve brews.
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Used for most coffee makers and helps you make multiple cups at the same time. The recommendation for this size usually depends upon the coffee maker you are using it with.
Yes, we have skipped one size. No, it’s not odd. It’s because the #4 filter comes next in line due to its noticeable difference in size from the closet option.
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This coffee filter is used for large-sized brews of about eight regular cups.
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Keeping in line with skipping a number. Size #6 coffee filter is used for carafes and larger coffee makers for brewing over 10 cups quickly. Mostly used in commercial settings.
Coffee filter shapes
Conical coffee filter size
A conical coffee filter might still refer to its size according to the description above. This is a choice made by different types of coffee filters. In order to keep in line with the standard set by paper filters.
Flat bottom or basket coffee filters size
The size is defined by the number of cups that a filter can make. Larger filters are mostly used in commercial settings.
Coffee Filter Recommendations
It is often recommended by experienced coffee brewers that you should go for conical coffee filters. The more spread out your coffee is, the more uneven the water will run through it.
Using conical filters lets you get the most out of your coffee grounds. Additionally, it allows the flavor to shine through in pour-over or drip coffee.
These are not the only types of shapes you will find while changing coffee filters.
Examples of other less common but increasingly popular shapes include:
- Oblong “sock” filter that is made out of cloth.
- Flat “disc” filter that is created from metal.
Now that you also have some grasp on the different shapes and sizes that you will come across in your search for the best coffee filter, it is time to start comparing different filters head to head.
Let’s initiate with the first group: disposable coffee filters.
Disposable Coffee Filters
As defined above, disposable coffee filters are almost always created using paper. Despite sharing the main material, these coffee filters have two main subgroups: bleached and unbleached filters.
The first one deems to be bleached coffee filters, which are made out of chemically or organically processed paper.
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The term “bleached” comes from the procedure where the paper is processed through chlorine. After being “bleached,” the paper filter loses its natural brown color. Additionally, it loses the slight woody taste that is inherent to unprocessed paper. Bleaching the paper filter results in bright white coffee filters that have no residual taste whatsoever.
Sometimes, this “bleached” effect is achieved by processing the paper through oxygen. This process is chemical-free but provides practically the same results of ridding the paper of its natural color and taste.
Unbleached coffee filters come with the promise of retaining paper’s natural brown color as well its slight taste. As a result, these coffee filters have a distinct shade and light woody scent to them.
When it comes to choosing the best coffee filter between these coffee filter types, you have a few factors to consider.
Here’s our in-depth guide on Coffee Insight: Brown vs White Coffee Filters.
Taste and scent
As mentioned above, bleached coffee filters have no color or taste. Their scent is also almost nonexistent. The bleached coffee filter promises clarity in your coffee’s flavor when using these filters.
The natural color, taste, and scent sported by unbleached coffee filters could vary slightly affect the final flavor of your coffee. To most coffee enthusiasts, this difference is nonexistent to the point where it is barely noticeable. Only those with a super sensitive palate find any problems with the taste of the unbleached paper brew.
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Unbleached coffee filters also have a way to satisfy these coffee aficionados. As an added measure, those who utilize unbleached coffee filters use an elegant trick to wash away any additional hints of flavor from them. This keeps them from changing coffee filters from unbleached to bleached ones.
This is done by running hot water through the filter before you start making your coffee through it. Put your filter around your coffee maker, and wet the coffee filter by pouring hot water over it. If your coffee maker is attached to a container, the water will run down into it. Throw out the used water, and make your coffee through the damp filter instead.
This washes away any hints of flavor retained by the natural state of paper. Those who use this trick swear by its efficacy in providing the same clarity in taste as delivered through bleached filters. This way, unbleached filters maintain their place in the race to being the best coffee filter!
Speaking of taste, check out How to Make Coffee Taste Good Without Creamer.
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Despite the difference in their appearance, both bleached and unbleached coffee filters are widely accessible. They come in different sizes that fit most containers such as mugs and carafes, as well as famous coffee makers.
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They are also available in various forms to help provide a better fit for unique coffee makers. This makes these disposable coffee filters very accessible. Additionally, it lets them be of use even while preparing gourmet coffee in coffee makers such as Chemex and Hario.
Using or changing coffee filters is one of those expenses that you cannot shake off as a coffee enthusiast. It just depends whether you decide to bear this expense sporadically or regularly.
When it comes to bleached and unbleached coffee filters, you are opting for spending regularly. Thankfully, the expense is not as significant as to disrupt your whole budget in the name of gourmet coffee.
One of the most popular coffee filter manufacturers, Melitta, offers different types of coffee filters in bleached and unbleached options. Customers all over the world use them regularly. This has made the company one of the largest providers of coffee filters.
At the time of writing, Melitta offers a 300 pack of #4 unbleached coffee filters for $12.76, or $0.42 each. In contrast, its 120 package of #4 bleached coffee filters goes for $11.95 or $0.99 each. This price point gives you a great idea of what to expect in terms of spending since #4 is undoubtedly the most popular coffee filter among coffee aficionados.
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This provides the crown with unbleached coffee filters in terms of being the best coffee filter for your pocket. But that’s not the only reason why unbleached coffee filters deem to be superior.
Check these 8 Best Electric Coffee Grinders.
Bleached coffee filters may look pretty among almost all coffee filter types. But apart from being heavier in your pocket, they also take a toll on the environment.
The processing of these filters alone has a massive impact on the environment due to industrial pollution. But it doesn’t stop there. Since they contain chlorine, these filters also contribute to environmental pollution once they are discarded.
Unbleached filters do not only save on industrial pollution that comes from bleaching processes, but they are also easily recyclable. The only thing that acts negatively here for the environment is how paper is produced in the first place.
If you still want to go with bleached filters, then opting for the less impactful oxygen-processed ones would be the way to go. But apart from the effects of paper production, they would still affect the environment with the industrial processes that go into the process of bleaching.
Permanent Coffee Filters
Let’s go through the different materials you have at hand in these filters. There are not many choices available, to begin with.
- Metal mesh, single-serve filters
- Metal cone filters
- Metal disk filters
- Cloth bag filters
- Cloth sock filters
Now that we have that out of the way let’s dive in to find more about each of these coffee filters.
Metal mesh— single-serve coffee filters
Most favored by those who are tired of changing coffee filters now and then. Metal mesh filters for single-serve coffee are a very niche product.
The ones made for automated machines only serve you a purpose if you utilize single-serve electronic coffee makers, where they could be used to keep coffee grounds from running into your convenient cup of joe.
Metal mesh filters are made specifically for machines, such as the Keurig single-serve. Additionally, they are sometimes also used for pour-over or drip coffee.
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These filters let you enjoy a richer taste of the coffee. But if you are not using the right kind of blend, preferably higher in arabica beans, then your coffee could taste bitter due to excess oil that’s seeped through this mesh structure. This is one of the biggest reasons why these types of coffee filters often cause coffee enthusiasts to ponder over their decision to buy them.
Some metal mesh coffee filters, like the one by Bartelli, cost almost the same as a 300-pack of unbleached filters. But since most of the filters are made out of stainless steel, they provide a long-lasting promise of durability. This makes this metal material one of the best coffee filter options that you could make use of.
Metal cone filters
Not very different from single-serve metal filters, these types of coffee filters come in different sizes. Most of them are also made out of stainless steel, with almost all models using a metal mesh design. Some of these filters also work with electronic coffee makers and prevent the need for using paper filters now and then.
The most significant difference here is that these metal mesh filters are utilized for larger brews as opposed to just single cups. Most of them come in shapes and sizes to fit commercial and high-end coffee makers such as Chemex and Hario. Metal cone filters are one of the best coffee filter choices for many coffee enthusiasts.
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As mentioned above, using these coffee filter types with your commercial coffee makers for pour-over or drip coffee helps you get an undiluted taste out of your coffee grounds. Additionally, certain coffee beans could also secrete coffee oils into your brew, which would otherwise be held back by material such as paper filters. However, the fact that you don’t have to turn to change coffee filters now and then could be an advantage you wouldn’t want to miss.
The average price for some of the highest-rated and most purchased models on Amazon dances around $20. That’s just a tad bit above paper filters, but with a promise of a longer life.
If you don’t mind a stronger coffee taste with just the grounds being held back from seeping into your cup, these metal filters could be a good fit for you.
Metal disk filters
Apart from metal cone filters, these metal disk filters are all the rage among those who want a specific taste in their coffee, delivered a certain way. Yes, we are referring to Aeropress, the modern way to have gourmet coffee at your convenience.
These metal disk filters cost about $3 each and last longer than paper filters. They are easy to wash and simple to take care of, which makes them a hit between those coffee connoisseurs who want to keep their Aeropress close at all times (okay, maybe most of the time).
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This filter is not for everyone, but it might become the best coffee filter in your opinion if you are an Aeropress aficionado who wants to get the most bang for their buck.
“What’s an Aeropress?” you may ask? Learn about this extraordinary single-serve brewing method here: Brew Guide: Aeropress Coffee.
Cloth bag filters
The mere name of these filters stands out from the crowd. But that is not the only place where these types of coffee filters make their presence known.
Recently, the cold brew method has become quite popular among those who want to get a rich taste out of their coffee, but without the added hassle of drinking coffee grounds with their brew. And all of that without the task of changing coffee filters.
They are shaped more like a small pouch than anything else. These cloth filters are often made from high quality, non-colored cotton. The resulting fabric is bright white and remains flavorless.
You do need to “boil” these filters in hot water before the first usage to shrink them, as well as to make them adhere to the standards of optimal hygiene. You will need to follow this practice every other week as well.
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The resulting cold brew that you get from this practice would have all the qualities that you have come to expect out of this method. The fabric would keep the grounds from slipping into your brew, while also infusing it with maximum flavor that your coffee beans have to offer.
If you are a cold brew aficionado, then this might be the best coffee filter for you. It’s because, at the average price of $20, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. But it still meets all the expectations you have from cold brew coffee.
Learn how to make delicious cold brew coffee at home with our article Brew Guide: Cold Brew Coffee!
Cloth sock filters
Perhaps out of all the coffee filter types mentioned above, the coffee sock cloth filter is the one direct competitor to the ubiquitous paper filters.
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Used in pour-over and drip coffee, the cloth sock filter is slowly gaining traction due to its affordability, ease of use, and attention to environmental impact. It has all the properties of a paper filter in terms of holding back excess oil from coffee beans, keeping coffee grounds from seeping into your brew, and delivering a rich taste without any direct release of bitter notes into the water.
Paper coffee filters provide an immense sense of comfort in terms of upkeep and hygiene. Cloth sock filters demand more than just changing coffee filters now and then.
Cloth sock filters hygiene
They have to be boiled in hot water every other week. Additionally, they need to be washed. Some brewers go as far as to not wash these filters at all to retain the richness of coffee oils. That is something that ultimately depends upon your liking.
The first few times using these sock filters could be quite messy. You wouldn’t be used to the hygiene routine right off the bat. It might take some before you let it grow on you. If you are one to be considerate of the environment and don’t mind washing your filters now and then, then this might be the best coffee filter for making gourmet pour-over and drip coffee.
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Cloth sock filters usage
These coffee sock filters are often made to fit famous coffee makers such as Chemex and Hario. The filters made by CoffeeSock are one of the most popular choices. Mainly because the company is credited with bringing this Costa Rican method of coffee brewing to the U.S. These coffee filters average at about $13. They usually last longer than your usual pack of 300 paper filters that could be purchased at about the same price.
Here’s our definitive guide on using a Chemex: Brew Guide: Chemex Coffee.
The most significant deciding factor is your preference for taste, convenience, or budget.
Paper coffee filters provide you with the convenience of merely changing coffee filters instead of washing them. That is something which isn’t often pocket-friendly. As mentioned above, it is also not good for the environment.
Adopting permanent coffee filters could translate to an additional responsibility in an already busy day. Some of these options could bring an altered taste to the table. Mainly if you are used to brewing your coffee with paper filters.
The sock filter, in our opinion, is probably the strongest contender in terms of providing a taste that maintains the subtlety of your coffee bean flavors without adding the extra richness of coffee oils. It does need some upkeep. It also doesn’t work with all coffee makers, especially those that are automated. If you are looking towards changing coffee filters and switching to a more environmentally friendly method that still gives you superior taste, then choosing the cloth sock option might be the best coffee filter for you.
How to Choose a Coffee Filter
Even with this objective analysis in mind, the decision to choose the perfect fit among all coffee filter types remains yours and yours alone.
- Take a step back
- Analyze your options according to what you want
- You will be able to select a coffee filter that is the perfect fit for you.
If the choice doesn’t turn out to be as ideal as you initially thought it to be – don’t beat yourself up about it. You may always turn to another method without the fear of judgment over something as personal as selecting your coffee filter.
Well, that sure was a lot of information to take in, we understand that! You may not have even known there were coffee filters available other than paper! Take your time and have fun testing out the different coffee filter forms.
Drop a comment down below on your preferred coffee filter and what coffee maker you use!
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