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Can You Use Paper Filters With A French Press? You Can But Don’t

I love a French press coffee, but what I don’t love is the sludgy siltyness you get at the bottom of the cup, which raises the question, can you use a paper filter with a french press and will this give you a cleaner cup? I thought this was the perfect continuation of the French press series of blog posts I’ve been writing so let’s find out.

You certainly can use a paper filter while you’re using a french press by either cutting one to the circular size and replacing the metal filter, or you can pour it through your regular drip coffee filter. Both ways will clean up your cup and remove the cholesterol-raising oils from the coffee.

But what I’m going to talk about more is a different brewing method you can use with a french press to give you a cleaner cup and why drinking French press coffee isn’t likely to affect your cholesterol.

Since writing this a lot of you have gotten in touch wanting a better solution to a cleaner cup of French Press coffee. Finally I’ve found it… Coffee bags! You can buy French Press brewing bags on Amazon that are the perfect solution to a better filtered french press coffee. Add coffee grounds to the bag and put the bag in your French Press, easy.

French Press brewing bags

The Original French Press Brewing Bags
  • Makes clean up so simple
  • Durable so they don’t burst
  • Pack of 50
  • The claenest cup of French Press coffee you can drink
  • Much easier than cutting out a paper filter

Price & Reviews

Why French Press Coffee Isn’t bad For You

Paper Filter For French Press Coffee

A study was done that found that cafestol, a compound found in coffee oils can raise cholesterol. It was found that people drinking 5 cups of french press a day had a 6-8%increase in cholesterol after 4 weeks.

5 cups a day!

I drink 1-2 cups a day at absolute max, and I think most people get out the french press when guests come over. So will having a cup cause you harm? I don’t think so.

Unless you already have high cholesterol and your doctor has advised you to cut back, that’s a different story and you should always listen to them.

But the reason its french press and not all coffee is the use of the metal filter which lets the oils through, but I’m going to talk about that more in the next section.

The Difference Between Metal Filters and Paper Filters

The difference is that a metal filter lets through much more of the coffee oils than a paper filter does, this results in a coffee that feels thicker because you feel the coffee oils on your tongue the way you do if you eat something buttery.

Now, these oils are strange to get used to especially if you’re used to drip coffee machines that use a paper filter. It can make the coffee taste sludgy because you see the silt at the bottom of the cup and take it to mean that it must have been throughout.

But you have to lean into it!

If you’re using a paper filter with a french press then there isn’t much point using a french press, you might as well buy a drip machine because that thickness is the whole point.

And you just don’t drink the bottom mouthful of your coffee when you have a french press. If, however, you’re getting a third of your cup is full of bits then you have a different problem, likely your grind isn’t coming out consistent giving you too many fines that can escape the plunger, or you’re pushing down too hard forcing the coffee through the filter.

You need a nice even grind across your beans and you need to apply steady pressure while you push down. Or you could try only pushing down halfway and pouring nice and gently into your cup.

Brown Paper vs White Paper

I talked about this in more detail in another article but the difference is white paper filters have been bleached white, brown ones haven’t. And some people find the brown ones have a papery taste so need rinsed before use.

But both work the same, both can be composted, it’s more about personal preference than one being strictly better than the other.

The Two Methods of Using Paper Filters With A French Press

If you still aren’t convinced then there are two different methods you can follow to use a french press paper filter, technically three but the third is useless…

1. Cut it to size

The metal filter is just a disk shaped, so as long as a disk is there to catch all the grounds then you don’t need to worry what material it is, you can just draw around the metal one on to your paper filter and cut it to size.

Too big and it won’t plunge, too small and it’ll let the beans around the sides so you need to be quite careful with it. And in all honesty it’s quite hard to get just right, and to get consistent so this is a method that will work but not one you want to be dealing with every day.

2. Pour Through A Paper Filter After

This involves making your French press as normal and then instead of pouring it into the cup you add in an extra step and pour it through a filter into some sort of big enough container and then into your cup.

You can pour straight through a filter into your cup but it can quickly end up half in your cup and half all over your worktop.

3. French Press Specific paper filters (not recommended)

You can buy filters that are the shape of your French press, you put them in first then put the grounds in, add water on top, and fold the top of the filter down. Then make as normal and hey presto you’ve got an easy clean up filter you can use with a french press…

In theory.

In reality you have a torn filter that’s still letting out grounds, and cleaning up that’s fractionally easier but you still have to clean the whole thing anyway, it just removes the need to use a spoon to scrape out the grounds at the bottom.

You can check them out here on Amazon if you’re interested but they don’t do anything for me in terms of making the coffee making process easier or cleaner.

How To Make A Silt Free Coffee In A French Press Without A Paper Filter

I think I’ve talked about this in every one of my French press articles so far but it’s so good it has to be shared each time in case someone hasn’t seen it.

If you’ve been following along skip on to the FAQs, if not this is the James Hoffman Perfect French Press method from his YouTube Channel. Check out the video below to learn how to do it yourself.


How long do French press filters last?

Your standard metal filter should last as long as the French Press does, which is decades if you clean it and store it properly.

But if you’ve left it in the cupboard dirty and it’s gone either moldy or rusty then it’s probably time to get yourself a new one.

Does a French press need a filter?

Yes, you can’t use a french press without some sort of filter, you could use one without a plunger as long as you poured it through a filter after but this is the same as just making coffee in a jar and if it hasn’t been pressed I don’t think you can call it French press coffee.

How often should you clean a French press?

After every single use, yup, I know it seems like it sucks but you’ll get into a good process and be cleaning up your french press in less than 30 seconds. I wrote an article about French presses being dishwasher safe here.

Can you reuse grounds in a French press?

Absolutely not, unless you want to drink a very weak very disappointing cup of coffee you can’t use coffee a second time in any instance. As I talked about here.

Final Thoughts

To me a paper filter with a french press is pointless, it completely changes the taste of it and while the new taste isn’t worse, it’s just not a french press coffee, if I wanted french press made with a paper filter I’d just use my drip machine instead.

And I know it’s different than using an immersion method of brewing coffee with a paper filter, but to me, a paper filter in French press is like going paddling with wet suit shoes on, it’s the same but yet so different and less enjoyable.

Related Reading

What Is The Difference Between Espresso Beans and Coffee Beans? (The Foundation Of Your Brew)
How To Make Tea In A French Press – Easily Brew Perfection
How Long Should You Brew a French Press? Find Out The Optimal Time
How Much Coffee Per Cup In A French Press – Brew Ratio Explained
How Long Can Coffee Sit Out?
8 Ways To Make Coffee Without A Filter (2021 Edition)
How to Use a French Press to Make Coffee (and How Not To)

  1. Hi-thanks for the article, some useful information. I do need to watch my cholesterol unfortunately…am borderline high. Have a newly bought French press which I want to use, but am now nervous about the cafestol situation. What would be the simplest, easiest, fastest, least costly way to use my French press and filter out the bad oils? I see your alternatives listed, and have some plain white paper filters. So, if that is the easiest and most cost efficient way-then may be the route for me? Most likely using it after pressing, and when pouring it to drink. Let me know your thoughts, and if you have further suggestions with what I have currently. Please post your reply/comment here, rather than email. Much appreciated!

    • I would check with my doctor about how it will affect your personal health.

    • Hi JJ!

      Yes I think you’re easiest route will be too make your coffee as normal in your french press then pour it through a paper filter into your cup. The problem is going to be how you get the paper filter to stand up because it doesn’t filter straight through like a sieve, it sits in the paper filter while it drips through.

      So you can experiment yourself to get some sort of set up or you could use a coffee filter cone like this one. It’s made for making pour over coffee so you might be better off just using that method? It’s up to you but yes make your coffee then pour it through a paper coffee filter.

      Good luck!


      • Try a conical filter in a funnel of appropriate size and decant into an insulated carafe. That way your second cup is also hot a little later on.

  2. Thank you for this post! I have just ordered the full length paper filters because my wife found the cholesterol article. I used a paper filter while I was waiting and it REALLY is not close in taste. I pour my press coffee right into a thermos when done, so the James Hoffman technique works perfect. I can save the ordered filters for when company comes over!

  3. Good article. I drink like a full french press every morning, two big mugs full, but I just wrap a small paper filter around the screen part, no need to cut it to size or buy specific filters or anything. Then if it rips or something the grounds still get pressed by the screen. You just gotta press it maybe a little slower and harder, but the difference is negligible. You still get a little of the thickness regardless of the way you filter it too, so it’s not like it’s completely killing the vibe of pressed coffee, just dialing it back to be a little healthier.

  4. I use an Aeropress for my morning cup. But we have a big Bodum for when company comes over, like it used to, before the world turned upside down. Sigh.

    Anyway: I found a circle-cutting tool at a dollar store that lets me make two perfectly-sized, perfectly-round filters out of a single #6 paper cone filter. It works for us for occasional use; it’ll work for anyone who uses a French press every day. It’s easy to place the paper in the right place if the screen is a bit wet. Make it just a tiny bit bigger than the space it’s meant to span. As others have said: it doesn’t eliminate the French-pressyness entirely, but it mostly does.

    The cutter cost next to nothing; it’s basically a cheap plastic compass with a blade instead of a pencil at the moving end. The blade has to be sharp or it’ll tear instead of cut, and a degree of finesse is involved, but practice makes perfect…. I made a bunch and put them in a ziplock bag that sits inside the Bodum when it’s not in use….

    Q: “Isn’t this a bit wasteful, because of the amount of paper being thrown out?”
    A: “No: you’re using one filter to make two pots of coffee!”

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