by Bryan Albuquerque
Today we are going to talk about a part of the coffee making process that often gets overlooked, and that is filtration, and specifically, your humble coffee filter.
We are often asked questions about coffee filters, now and again, and finally we have decided to write an article dedicated entirely to those objects.
Coffee filters are, in their own way, the unsung heroes of coffee making, helping you to make awesome coffee every single time you brew a cup by doing one important job, which is keeping the the infused coffee/water melange separate from the grinds.
There is actually a surprising amount to talk about, so let’s not tarry, shall we? Use the following table of contents to navigate this article:
Table of Contents
Alright, let’s talk more coffee filters!
Coffee filters come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and materials, but there are mainly 3 types of materials used for coffee filters these days.
Paper filter – Frequently paired with certain types of drip coffee makers, and normally made of disposable paper.
As with other filters, serves the basic purpose of preventing the coffee grounds from getting into the pot or cup of coffee.
The pros are that they are cheap, and they are said to block the most particulates from getting into your coffee, resulting in a smoother cup.
The cons are that some people claim that paper filters have a “taste” that gets into the coffee, but that goes for just about any filter really, regardless of material.
Cloth filter – Made of natural cotton, hemp, or lightweight fabric. Sometimes a few coffee grounds can be seen in the coffee because the holes on cloth filters are bigger than the holes on paper filters.
Cloth filters come to the shape of a cone or a bag and have to be cleaned with water and sometimes a scrub-brush, and, in that way, they are re-usable, which is a pro. The main con is you have to wash it all the time, so it doesn’t stain or get too dirty to use again.
Metal coffee filter – known for the fact that they are highly re-usable, metal coffee filters are often built into some coffee makers, and have a very fine mesh. Although the meshes are fine with these types of filters, it is said that they can’t compare to some paper filters in terms of the fineness of particulates that make it through.
That said, in some ways, they can be considered cleaner than both paper and cloth filters, which they should be, since they are made of metal and you’ll be re-using them most likely every time you brew.
As with any other filter, people could claim that the metal has it’s own flavor that doesn’t add any good flavor to the coffee, but on the other hand, if it’s stainless steel, that’s as clean of a metal as you’re going to get.
In some ways, metal coffee filters are tough to clean, because coffee bits can get caught in the mesh, but it depends on the individual filter.
Alright, now on to a question that is more about the absence of a filter than the presence of one…It is a question that goes back to pioneer days, really.
Many people think that you can’t do this, but it’s possible, and the method itself is often referred to as “stovetop” or “cowboy” coffee, with the idea being that cowboys didn’t use filters when they were on the range, but they still drank lots of coffee, didn’t they?
How can it be done? It’s simple. You simply boil water in a pot or pan, then add your ground coffee. Let the coffee cook for 4-5 minutes. Once the water is infused with the coffee, you can turn the heat off and let it sit.
Once the ground coffee settles on the bottom of the pot, you can then drink the coffee. Just be careful to not to pour any grinds into your cup. The operative word here is “careful”. There’s no filter blocking the ground coffee from the liquid coffee.
Watch this great video on how to make filter-free cowboy / stovetop coffee.
Even though we’re talking here today about filters, it’s also good to know that you can make coffee just fine without one. It just doesn’t occur to some people that you can do that.
As I have mentioned before in my previous article “What Country Drinks The Most Coffee? (Bonus – Awesome Cafés To Boot)”, The first cup of coffee dates back to the 15th century, and ever since it has been one of the worlds greatest inventions.
Now if your a coffee lover like me, then you must also think another one of the worlds greatest inventions has to be the coffee filter, if not we would all be drinking coffee with coffee grounds in the bottom…yuck!
Now legend has it that Melitta would make her husband a cup of coffee every morning, after he had his coffee it was off to work, then Melitta would scrub the bottom of the coffee pot to get the coffee grounds out.
There were a cloth coffee filters being used at the time, but they were quite high priced back and, well, if you weren’t wealthy, you most likely couldn’t afford one.
Melitta had enough of scrubbing though, so she decided to experiment one day! First she got her brass coffee pot and used nails to put a couples holes in the bottom, second she got a piece of paper from her sons notebook and covered the bottom of the coffee pot, third and finally she put the coffee grounds in the coffee pot then poured the boiling water over top and….WA-LAH! The paper coffee filter was created.
Today it is still a family-owned and operated company that still produces this very popular and amazing coffee product. All because she was tired of scrubbing those coffee grounds, Melitta changed the way we make and drink our coffee.
Fill the machine with water
Insert the filter. (If you are using a paper filter, make sure to get one that’s fit your coffee pot. If you are using a reusable filter, make sure to clean it in between brewing.)
Measure out your coffee
Prepare your machine
Brew the coffee
Watch this great video showing how to use a paper coffee filter if you have any reservations.
Now, let’s look at the different types of coffee filters once again and break down their specific benefits.
We mentioned some of the benefits of the different coffee filters off the top, but we ought to reiterate and add to these points because they are so important to a good cup of coffee
Paper filters are sanitary because they are to be used one time only and then thrown away, so no bacteria forms from over usage.
Paper filters get rid of the oily parts that are found in the raw coffee beans, and this removes cholesterol. Easier to clean up because you throw it away when the coffee is finished.
The South Indian coffee filter is a stainless steel filter set you might like to know about.
This coffee filter has four parts to it, 2 cylinder cups (one cup has pierced bottom) the cup with the pierced bottom needs to be stacked on top of the other cup, a pierced pressing disc, and a lid for on top.
You can make a unique tasting and strong cup of coffee. When making cappuccino, latte, or macchiato instead of heating or boiling the milk you steam it.
This South Indian coffee filter has a strong and very fresh decoction that gives out a wonderful smelling aroma.
Permanent coffee filters can be washed and reused.
They are made of gold, metal, or nylon and usually cost anywhere between$ 10-$30, depending on the material they’re made with.
They can be used for years if properly cleaned and maintained. Stronger flavors compared to paper filters which remove some of the flavors.
You can substitute a coffee filter with many things such as:
Wire Mesh Filter
Warning: Paper Towels
Paper towels are absolutely not a good idea to substitute for a coffee filter! The paper towels can tear apart when exposed to high heat. They are also treated with certain chemicals that can change the way your coffee tastes.
Here’s a video showing a product called the “coffee sock”. Worth a look!
Now, on to another important and seldom talked about aspect of coffee filters…
In the world of coffee lovers, there has always been a debate about bleached and unbleached coffee filters.
Some people say bleached coffee filters are the best, and others say unbleached is the best… for a long time I always wondered what the difference between them? Here’s what I learned.
Bleached filters – These coffee filter papers have to go through a process that makes them look white, the difference is that natural coffee filters papers don’t look white at all, they are kind of like those paper bags you would get from the grocery store.
Bleached coffee filters are not good for the environment since the filters have bleach in them they can pollute the environment after they are thrown in the trash.
There are two main products used to bleach coffee filters:
Unbleached filters- These coffee filters do not have that bright white look compared to the bleached coffee filters. Unbleached coffee filters are more natural and much more environmentally friendly.
Unbleached filters don’t undergo that manufacturing process compared to bleached coffee filters, and when these coffee filters decompose the chemicals that still remain are put back into the ground aren’t as harmful as bleached coffee filters.
Warning: Unbleached coffee filters can sometimes make your coffee ends taste a bit like paper, but to prevent this from happening:
Place your filter in your coffee make
Pour a little water into it to wet the entire filter
Get rid of the water you used to wet the filter and brew your coffee.
Just by doing these couple extra steps will really help you prevent the paper taste from being passed to your coffee.
Microns- A standard measurement of length equal to one-millionth of a meter.
Most paper coffee filters come in 10-20 microns. Now your probably wondering what is a micron? Basically, a micron is the pore size of the coffee filter you use.
A size 20-micro filter has bigger pores, so it would allow bigger pieces of coffee ground into your coffee compared to a size 5-micron filter would.
This concludes our epic article on coffee filters. We hope we were able to impart some useful information to you coffee fans out there. If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below, as we’d love to hear from you!
About Bryan Albuquerque
Bryan Albuquerque is a coffee lover and vaping advocate who writes reviews and information about coffee accessories and KYG. A former coffee addict, Bryan traded his morning fix for an electronic cigarette in an effort to quit smoking, and has never looked back. He's dedicated to helping others make the switch to vaping, and believes that it's one of the best decisions anyone can make for their health.
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