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How to Make Coffee Without a Filter

You wake up one morning feeling weak and unsteady, and you know that the only thing that can fix this is good coffee. Then you find yourself scooping coffee grounds, but when you’re ready to brew, there’s no more coffee filter left. Not a single one. So what now?

If you are an early riser, running to the nearest shop is definitely not an option as stores are probably still closed. Aside from that, single-use coffee filters are being discouraged given the state of our environment. Hence, eco-friendly coffee filters are on the rise, and there’s no better time to learn how to make coffee without using disposable filters.

So waking up without a coffee filter left in your cupboard may not be a nightmare after all. To learn more about saving your day, read on as I’ve listed down some hacks on how to make coffee without a filter.

How to Make Coffee Without a Filter – Substitutes You Can Find at Home

You may be surprised to know that these mind-blown coffee filter alternatives are just within reach and can be found right in your own home. The materials found in coffee filters have a lot in common with the usual household items that you probably already have.

Paper Towel/ Napkin

paper napkin used as filter for coffee

This may not be your best option, but in case you are the kind of person who needs coffee right here right now, you can use this common household item in your home.

Paper towel as a coffee filter substitute can actually work as its texture has a lot of similarities with the usual coffee filters, but I generally avoid this type of alternative coffee filter because the result will depend on the quality of your paper towel or napkin.

Cheap paper towels may produce a weird taste because of the raw materials involved in making this product. Additionally, as paper towels come in different qualities, make sure that your paper towel is strong enough to hold the wet coffee grounds and will not fall apart during the brewing process.

Tea Bags as Coffee Filter

use tea bag as coffee filter substitute

As more and more people are enjoying the idea of afternoon tea, tea bags are becoming a regular household item.

You can buy a reusable tea bag or make your own by folding a paper with a similar texture to a coffee bag then tie it with string. To use it as an alternative coffee filter, put the ground coffee in the empty tea bag and steep for five minutes in hot water. Voila! A cup of coffee in your hands.

Pro tip: According to your preference, you can soak the tea bag for longer than five minutes for a richer cup.


Cheesecloth is usually used for making cheese, as its name implies. But it’s not exclusive to cheesemaking, is it?

Just fold and cut in a size that will fit in your filter casket, and you can use it as a regular coffee filter. If you don’t have a cheesecloth, worry not, as the same can be done with a handkerchief.

Cheesecloth and handkerchief are some of the best alternatives as you won’t expect them to fall apart during the brewing process.

Brewing Ideas to Make Coffee Without a Filter

Cowboy Coffee

kettle use for preparing cowboy coffee

This is one of the classic ways to make coffee. You can brew it in a kettle or a casserole, whichever you have available. This brewing technique is popular for mountain hikers or adventurers because it is easy and convenient.

What you will need:

  • Kettle
  • coarsely ground coffee
  • spoon for stirring

How to Make Cowboy Coffee

Bring water to a boil. Be sure to use 3¾ cups more water than you usually use. Then, add coffee grounds and stir a few times. Remove from heat and wait for three to five minutes to let the coffee grounds sit at the bottom of your pot. Then, carefully pour the coffee into your cup.

Most people don’t like the taste of this brewing method because it leaves a dry-tasting coffee and a stronger flavor, but that is why it’s earned its name, “the cowboy coffee.”

Turkish Method

Turkish coffee is a brewing technique from Europe and the Middle east. It was traditionally made in a cezve (pot).

What you will need:

  • Water
  • cezve (or any small steel pot will do)
  • finely ground coffee, sugar(optional)

How to Make Turkish Coffee

Combine the water, finely ground coffee, and sugar(optional). The coffee and water ratio is usually 1:9, which can be adjusted according to your preference. If you’re going to use sugar, combine it first with finely ground coffee, mix it while boiling then wait to bring the mixture to boil over medium heat. It will build a dark foam on top.

After three to five minutes, it is customary to include the foam, so be sure to scoop some foam before pouring it into the cup.

Improvised French Press

No French press? No problem. Isn’t it amazing? You can enjoy French press coffee even without having a French press!

What you will need:

  • coarsely ground coffee

How to Do French Press Without a French Press

Use one tablespoon of ground coffee for every cup of water. Put more ground coffee if you prefer a stronger cup. Put the ground coffee in an empty cup. Then, slowly pour the hot water (not boiling) into the ground coffee. When you have poured all the water, let the coffee stand for four minutes. Finally, slowly pour the coffee into another cup and be careful to stop the grounds from getting into the new cup.

What to Expect From Coffee Made Without a Filter

Unfiltered coffee contained a higher amount of caffeine compared to filtered one. It does have a lot of potential health benefits. For instance, it provides a great boost of energy which helps athletes achieve optimal performance. Unfiltered coffee also contains beneficial compounds like antioxidants and has a certain level of preventive effect against various aging diseases. Though, it is always wise to remember to drink moderately as too much caffeine can cause increased heart rate, anxiety, or insomnia.

Things You Should Never Use as Coffee Filter Alternatives

  1. Toilet paper

Toilet paper is made to dissolve easily when it goes down the drain. While I understand your desperate need for coffee, having a messy cup of coffee with bits of toilet paper is the last thing you want.

  1. Recycled paper

The usual paper we use already contains contaminants during the manufacturing process. These contaminants are doubled in recycled paper and will leach fast into your cup of coffee that may cause a lot of health problems in the future.

  1. Bleached Paper

This kind of paper is full of contaminants. If you use bleached paper for filtering coffee, the chemicals will leach into your coffee while you brew it using hot water. This is bad for your health as bleached paper contains chlorine. You do not want to be drinking coffee with an extra flavor of chlorine.

Final Thoughts

These useful hacks and brewing methods will definitely be a game-changer for your morning routine. Most of the items listed above are probably already in your cupboards, and you are just one step away from getting that caffeine fix.

So next time you wake up and there is no coffee filter available, don’t panic. Remember that waking up without a coffee filter is not yet the end of the world. And yes, desperate times call for desperate measures, but there are coffee filter substitutes that really work.

And what’s even more amazing is that there are also creative ways to brew coffee without a filter. You might surprise yourself when trying these different brewing methods as you find them suitable for your taste. Happy brewing!

Also, check out these tips on how to grind coffee beans with a grinder.


Born in Italy but currently brewing from the UK, Giada is a highly-caffeinated coffee expert with a soft spot for espressos. She worked in cafés for years and has recently fallen in love with the practical Kalita Wave (just don’t tell her Italian moka pot!).

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