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8 Ways To Make Coffee Without A Paper Filter (2022 Edition)

Starting to feel a little sluggish you wander over to the cupboard and disaster strikes…

No coffee filters!

Standing there you start to wonder, can I make coffee without a filter?

You can make coffee without a filter, whether it’s using a tea towel as a substitute or making coffee the old fashioned way and letting the grounds settle in the cup you can have a cup of coffee without a filter.

Even if you’re looking to have less waste and want to stop using paper filters I’ve got you covered, you’ll want to get a reusable filter like this one from Amazon.

Otherwise, read on…

  coffee being made on an open fire without a filter

8 Ways To make Coffee From Grounds Without A Filter

1. Make Stovetop Coffee

There are ways, magical mysterious ways to make coffee on the stove top, without a coffee maker…

Use a saucepan!

This is similar to turkish coffee but without the equipment.

  1. Boil water in a saucepan, or any way you can really, a microwave could work too.
  2. Remove from the heat and add your ground coffee. Any grind you happen to have will be fine, you can adjust how long you leave it.
  3. Stir it a few times and leave it for 4 minutes.
  4. Go for about 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per cup of water.
  5. If a “crust” of coffee has formed on top, gently press down on it with the back of a spoon and leave for a further minute.
  6. If not, the grounds should have settled to the bottom of the pan and you can very gently pour out the coffee into a mug while leaving the grounds behind. Some grounds might make it through but should, in turn, settle at the bottom of the cup

If you have a scale you want a ratio of 15g of coffee to 225ml of water per mug of coffee but the rougher measurements of a cup and two tablespoons still work pretty well.

This is a combination of how you would leave a french press to brew, with a Turkish pot that leaves the fine grounds at the bottom of the cup. A simple yet surprisingly delicious way to make a nice cup of coffee with no filter involved.

2. Use A Paper Towel In Your Coffee Machine

It’s a common question but I’m here to say that yes you can use a paper towel in your coffee machine as a coffee filter, it won’t taste as good but it does work.

It depends what paper towels you have but you want to recreate the thickness of a paper filter, so you want to put in about 2 or 3 and make sure you don’t overfill with coffee grounds so that it can spill over.

As I said it’s not going to make the nicest coffee, you won’t be able to stop buying coffee filters and doing this instead but it does in fact make a cup of coffee mostly free of grounds that you can drink and enjoy.

But be sensible about what paper towels you use, if they use the word “bleach” in them you can go ahead and just not have coffee. Likewise, if they’re any other color than white, or they have blue lines through them, that’s generally a nope from me.

Coffee filters are subject to much stricter food safety regulations compared to a paper towel so again it shouldn’t be a long-term solution. But as a once-off if you’re out of paper filters? You’re probably going to be fine, but full disclaimer please be careful.

  1. Open up the coffee machine, place one paper towel over the filter basket and press down.
  2. Consider dripping a little water in to make the paper towel stay in place if it’s bouncing out.
  3. Place a second paper towel with a 90-degree rotation over the basket and press it down too.
  4. Add ground coffee and make sure not to fill higher than the paper towel.
  5. Brew as normal
  6. If your lid doesn’t close then trim the corners of the paper towel that are sticking up over the basket.

3. Make Coffee With A Sieve Or A Fine Mesh Strainer

Your filter is just a way to separate the grinds from the liquid, no more and no less.

So if you can find a way to do that without a filter then you’ve got a way to make coffee. Now every kitchen has some sort of draining device, usually for making pasta, rice, or noodles, but they won’t all work with coffee.

You’ve got 3 levels to your standard kitchen strainers:

  • Colander – No use, it would let a whole coffee bean through it
  • Sieve – Perhaps OK if you had a really coarse grind but you’d still get a lot of the fines coming through and into your cup of coffee
  • Fine mesh strainer – Might just work, fine enough to catch basically all the grinds while still letting all the liquid through and into your cup, about the same amount of coffee fines in the cup as you’d get with a French press.

Or a tea strainer to make loose leaf tea, that has about the same size of the hole in it as a fine mesh strainer.

Now not every kitchen has a fine mesh strainer, they tend not to be used by a regular just feeding yourself home cooks. But if you do have one it’s perfect, you’re going to brew your coffee with boiling water any way you can and then pour it through the fine mesh strainer.

If you’ve got a sieve you’re welcome to try putting the brewed coffee through as is, but if the holes are too big you’re just going to place a paper towel inside the sieve first! That will catch the grounds even better and leave you with a much cleaner cup of coffee.

  1. Boil water any way you can, in a kettle, in a pot on the stove, in the microwave
  2. Remove from heat and put grounds in the pot at a ratio of two tablespoons per cup, or 15g per 225ml
  3. Stir and let it brew for 4 minutes
  4. Pour your coffee through the fine mesh strainer or the paper towel covered sieve into your mug

4. Use A Sock As A Filter

I’ll be honest, this is not a method I’ve tried myself because I think I’d rather just have hot water than drink coffee that’s been filtered through a sock…

But I was researching across Reddit and this came up surprisingly often as something people had done while they were camping. My only hope is that they used a clean pair of socks!

But I also suspect that it may have been a ploy so that the next user could comment saying:

“Should give the coffee a good kick”

I can only apologize…

As for method, you can use it one of three ways, you can use the sock as a sort of teabag, grounds go in, the whole thing goes in the water and gets left for 4-8 minutes depending on how thick your sock is.

The Sock Tea Bag

  1. Place 2 tablespoons of ground coffee in your sock
  2. Place the sock in boiling water and remove from heat making sure not to submerge the whole sock allowing grounds to escape
  3. Leave for 4-8 minutes depending on how thick the sock is, taste as you go
  4. Remove the sock and drink

Or you use the stovetop method, over a campfire if it’s come to this, to heat up your water, add coffee and brew for 4 minutes. Then pour it through the sock so that it works like a paper filter would.

The Sock Coffee Filter

  1. Heat up water anyway you can to the boil
  2. Remove from heat and add your coffee grounds, 2 tablespoons per cup
  3. Stir and brew for 4 minutes
  4. Carefully our mixture through a sock into your cup

Finally, you can use the sock as a sort of pour-over device, this takes a bit of practise trying to balance everything without burning yourself. Coffee grounds go into the sock which is held over a mug. Water is then poured slowly over the grounds inside the cup which slowly drips down into the mug.

This is the same method you’d use with a cloth coffee filter.

The Sock Pour Over Method

  1. Place your 2 tablespoons per cup of coffee in the sock
  2. Suspend the sock over your mug with the top open
  3. Pour the off-boil water slowly over the grounds allowing them to fully saturate and drip through before adding more water
  4. Repeat until your mug is full

As a final thought, you can actually buy a type of filter which is a coffee sock that you mostly use to make cold brew. Fun fact.

5. Make Cold Brew

Possibly not quite what you were looking for but this is a really effective way to make coffee without a filter. Because the coffee sits for so long in the fridge it’s plenty of time to let all the coffee grounds settle down to the bottom of the jar.

Preferably you want a coarser grind but if you have ground coffee already then just go for it.

There are two different ratios you can use, one if using somewhere between a 1:4 ratio and a 1:8 ratio to make coffee that’s going to be diluted down with water afterward. The low ratio cold coffee can have boiling water poured into it to make a hot coffee too. Use about 1/4 cold brew to ¾ water when you’re making the coffee.

The other ratio is for cold brew you drink straight and for this, you want to use a 1:12 ratio of coffee grounds to water. 1 gram of coffee grounds for every 12 grams of water.

  1. Take a clean jug of some kind, something with a lid like a mason jar or a bottle you can close and easily get grounds into the top of.
  2. Take your coarse ground coffee and add it to the jar, 125-250g of coffee per liter of water for diluted coffee.
  3. Add tap water (or filtered water if you live somewhere with water that doesn’t taste nice) to the ratio you’ve chosen.
  4. Swill the mixture and place it in the fridge for 12-24 hours depending on how strong you want it.
  5. Gently pour it out into another container not letting the grounds rise from the bottom or pour over the lip of the jug

You’ll probably take a few attempts at this one to really get the ratios right so you might want to make a smaller batch at first just to see how it goes. But it’s pretty fun and is really so easy so especially in the summer or you live somewhere hot it can be immensely satisfying.

Not to mention that once you’ve transferred it into another container you can leave it for a couple of weeks and it’s still fine to drink. It tends to last a lot longer than normal hot coffee does.

6. Use A Reusable Filter

If you’re looking to cut down your waste and the problem with a filter is that it goes in the bin after every use then this is the perfect solution. You can get a reusable filter for any type of drip coffee you make or even most types of pour-over coffee.

How do they taste compared to paper filters? Very similar, you still get a really clean cup without the fines in it, a few more passes through compared to with a paper filter but nothing noticeable.

But with a reusable filter you get the coffee oils that normally soak into the paper, these can unlock some new flavors you might have been missing before and give it a bit more mouthfeel. And yes I know mouthfeel is a bit of a strange one but if you try a reusable filter you’ll know what I mean.

No method for this you just… well you just use it like any paper filter. and to clean it you knock out the used grounds into the garbage can and then rinse out the rest under the tap in the sink. A few grounds down the garbage disposal isn’t going to hurt.

7. French Press/ Moka Pot

This is the next step to using a reusable filter in a drip machine or a pour-over because both French Presses and Moka pots have built-in metal filters.

This is ideal if you want to cut down on the waste of using paper filters but also want to avoid using plastics.

If you like the clean cup of coffee you get from a paper filter in a drip machine then I recommend using a Moka Pot. You get delicious espresso-like coffee that you can drink black or works really well as for cappuccinos if you combine it with a milk frother.

But one of the best things about the Moka Pot is how repeatable it is, you fill the water to the same line every time, and you have to use the same amount of coffee each time. So every time you go to make coffee, like with a drip machine, you’re going to get a good coffee.

Plus you heat it up on the stove so there’s no need for a kettle.

Now with a french press, you have a higher level of customizability. The ability to adjust how much coffee to water you use, as well as brew time and even water temperature to tweak and play to get a truly magnificent cup of coffee.

Many of you will have rolled your eyes at that and it’s entirely fair, I know some people want a good cup of coffee that they can just drink. But for those of you who raised an eyebrow and made an “Oooo!” sounds you won’t be disappointed.

A perfect way to enjoy coffee as a hobby without using lots of coffee filters.

8. Make Instant Coffee

Not a top choice if you’re looking for a truly enjoyable coffee drinking experience, but it doesn’t involve putting a coffee filter in the bin after you’ve finished!

You will need a kettle of some kind to boil the water, if you’re in the UK you will be absolutely used to this but instant coffee doesn’t seem to be as big a thing in the USA, I think because the voltage doesn’t work out for kettles being easy.

Half the volts means double the time to boil the kettle, roughly.

But it’s still a quick and easy low effort way to make coffee in the morning and you can get pretty big pots of instant coffee so your physical waste is going to be less than buying coffee beans or grounds too.

Other Items You Can Use As Coffee Filters

We looked at tea towels already but what else can you use as a coffee filter that you might have around the house? Well, there are quite a few options, some work better than others but these are all things that if you’re desperate you can use as a coffee filter.

  • Cheese cloth – This is going to be the most effective but not necessarily something you’re going to have in. Also called a muslin cloth if you’ve made jam or you have an avid baker in the house then they might have one of these tucked away in a drawer somewhere.
  • Tea Towel – Make sure it’s CLEAN, you don’t want whatever dishes you’ve been drying or wet hand taste and smell going into your cup, but an effective way to strain out coffee. A bit wasteful because you’ll have to wash it afterward but it can work. It won’t work in a drip machine but if you stew your coffee in a pot you can filter through this after.
  • Pantyhose – Again quite effective but make sure they are clean and free of holes… I hope you’d know that if it’s got a hole it won’t work but always best to say! Again not very efficient because you likely won’t want to wear these again but it works!
  • Cheap cake liners – A little hit or miss if these will work, because cake liners are supposed to not leak… But if you’ve bought cheap ones that don’t work very well then they may just do the trick here!
  • Reusable tea bags – I put these last because while they are a perfect solution, I have never met anyone with a reusable tea bag in their house… If you are prone to forgetting tea bags however it might be worth getting some. A few teaspoons of fine coffee grounds go in and then you steep just like a teabag, for roughly 2-3 minutes but taste as you go to find your perfect brew.

Final Thoughts

Well I hope you found something in this list that’s going to help you today. But please, please, either buy some coffee filters tomorrow or switch to a paper filter free method of making coffee.

Don’t just lean into using paper towels as your coffee filters, it’s not the long term answer!

Related Reading

Best coffee filters

Bleached vs unbleached coffee filters

Coffee Filter Sizes Explained

Are coffee filters compostable?

Can you use a paper filter with a french press?

How To Make Coffee While Camping (Our 10 Favorite Methods)

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