Coffee Insight: Brown vs White Coffee Filters


Have you also found yourself in a heated exchange over which filter is better when making coffee for a friend? Because we have, too many times to count actually!

While there’s usually two types of people when it comes to paper filters, the type of person that does not really care about what chemicals they put in their body (and they look so healthy, too, which is infuriating) and the eco-friendly type of person that advocates for using brown paper filters as if it were a solution to world problems.

This is why we have decided to look into this in-depth (and write an article about it), just so we could finally say “please read here.” Turns out theres a lot more underneath the surface than we had imagined, let’s dive into these coffee filters!

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White Coffee Filters

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White coffee filters are the most widely used because, well, they’re white obviously! They look and feel cleaner, although they aren’t necessarily any cleaner than brown filters.

Although there are several ways to bleach paper, you’re probably only going to find chlorine-bleached filters. What’s the problem with chlorine, you ask?


Chlorine is avoided in the process of coffee making because it neutralizes odor and flavor. But there’s also another aspect to chlorine that we should talk about: is it healthy?

Did you know, chlorine is found everywhere in low concentrations. Produce is soaked in chlorine before being shipped, it is used for our tap water to kill bacteria. It makes its way into our guts, our skin, our hair, and everywhere it is harmful: Our skin dries up because of chlorine and our gut bacteria die if exposed to more chlorine than it can stand.

So, while the amount of chlorine in coffee filters is minimal and won’t really make a difference, you should take into account this information: If possible, you can also find out just how much chlorine is used for the filters that you’re currently using: If they’re impossibly white, you should know that too much chlorine is being used and take into account its effects on your coffee and your body. Too much chlorine is obviously bad for our health!

Oxygen Bleaching

The other common bleaching agent used is sodium percarbonate, marketed as “oxygen bleach” because after it is dissolved in water, a good amount of it will eventually decompose to water and oxygen.

Most products that use this bleaching agent can be spotted just by their name: “Oxyclean”, “Oxywash”, “Oxylife”, and all things Oxy.

The advantage of using coffee filters that used sodium percarbonate instead of chlorine is that, while chlorine is recognized as a toxic substance, sodium percarbonate is not particularly toxic. It is also seen as good for the environment.

There’s no doubt that anybody would rather use coffee filters that have been bleached with this substance rather than with chlorine. The thing is that, if you use coffee filters daily, filters that have been bleached with sodium percarbonate tend to have much higher prices and it might not be viable for you to purchase these filters.

Brown Coffee Filters

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Having said all of that, we do find that brown coffee filters have a slightly more papery taste. Their toxic, harmful, bad-for-the-environment counterparts tend to not have this taste. After all, what’s a little more chlorine in your system? (Don’t take that seriously).

It is also important to notice that brown filters are more resistant to tears and ruptures. They haven’t been processed as much as the chlorine used to bleach the white paper filters. Brown filters rarely ever tear! Read up on the different sizes of filters here so that you don’t experience any wear and tear. We don’t want a ripped coffee filter when we make our morning coffee right?

Seeing Beyond Color of Coffee Filters

Here are some of the more important qualities to look out for when choosing coffee filters.

Strength: This is self-explanatory. When we talk about strength, we’re talking about how much of a beat down the paper can take before rupturing. If a filter is made from low-quality materials, it will be fragile and prone to tears and ruptures.

Compatibility: It is the quality of the paper to withstand other types of stress rather than the raw weight. If the compatibility of the paper is low to heat, for example, it will break easily when exposed to hot water.

Coffee filters might appear strong to the touch or made with thick fiber, but if they break down when exposed to high temperatures, they are completely useless to us for making coffee.

Capacity and Efficiency: These two qualities go hand in hand. When we say efficiency, we mean just how well the filter does its job of not allowing even the finest coffee particles to pass through it: If a filter does not let any particle through, we say it is a very efficient filter. Capacity comes into play now: if a filter doesn’t have the capacity to hold enough of these particles before it becomes clogged and water can’t flow anymore, we have a filter with poor capacity.

See more different types of coffee filters here.

Which Coffee Filter is Better?

You’ve guessed it, it’s all going to depend on what you like best (as cliche as it sounds).

However, you can now make a more informed decision: Brown paper filters are definitely more eco-friendly than white ones. and oxygen bleach is better for the environment than chlorine.

Chlorine is worse for your body than sodium percarbonate, and no bleaching agents is surely a better, healthier option than having to ingest any bleaching agent at all.

And lastly, regarding taste: Chlorine and sodium percarbonate have a certain quality of taste. This lingering taste can survive even after a paper has been rinsed thoroughly and therefore alter the taste of your coffee. Ultimately not that big of a deal and, for some people, desirable. Brown filters don’t have any of these qualities but they do have a certain taste that can be somewhat unpleasant.

So, now that you have all the facts, which one would you rather use and why? Tell us in the comments! If you like to continue reading about other coffee topics go ahead and take a look at the other articles we have. Here’s some popular articles you can give a read if you’re interested though: What is Decaf Coffee and 10 Types of Coffee Beans.

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