The Paper Alternative For When You're Out Of Coffee Filters

We've all been there. Waking up in our pre-coffee haze only to find, much to our chagrin, that we don't have any coffee filters left. After kicking ourselves for not remembering to buy some while we were out yesterday, we have a spark of inspiration. There on our counter is a roll of paper towels. But can you really use a paper towel as a swap out for a coffee filter? Yes, you actually can.

Paper towels or napkins make excellent substitutes for coffee filters. They are porous, so the coffee will drip through without interruption. Paper towels are also finely woven enough to hold even the smallest of coffee grounds. The biggest perk, however, is their convenience. You likely already have some available to use.

Conversely, one of the potential drawbacks of this method is the fact that paper towels can contain traces of glue, bleach, and other chemicals from their manufacturing process. Unbleached, brown paper towels are the best variety for brewing, but you're not exactly buying paper towels with the intent to brew coffee. So, if you're in a pinch, what you have on hand is fine. Plus, there is no evidence to suggest that the minimal exposure to potential chemicals for one coffee brew has any real lasting effects on your health.

How to use a paper towel as a coffee filter

One of the benefits of using paper towels is that they will work as a substitute for any brewing method that requires a coffee filter. Obviously, if you have a French press, percolator, or Moka pot, there is no need for a paper towel. But for a classic drip machine or pour-over, paper towels will work as a complete replacement for the coffee filter. There is no need to change the method to suit the paper towel.

That being said, if not supported properly, the paper towel will break under the weight of the swelling coffee grounds. If you're using a drip machine with a basket, this isn't a problem because the paper towel is supported from underneath. Pour-over can be a little tricky. You'll need something like a pour-over basket or bee house coffee brewer in order to provide the paper towel with the support it needs.

The chemical components in the paper towel could lend a more acidic taste to your coffee, but that is nothing that cannot be remedied with a little milk and sugar, provided you use such things. Overall, it's not an everyday coffee brewing method. It's fine for when you're in a pinch, but you'll definitely remember to pick up your filters after you've brewed with a paper towel.