Best Coffee Filters (Paper, Metal, Etc)
How much impact can your choice of filter have on your coffee? A surprising amount. So you must choose wisely because you don’t want to start your day with a lousy cup of coffee. We’re here to impart that wisdom.
We’ve done the research and crunched the numbers. Trust us when we say that we’ve tracked down the best coffee filters available. Keep reading for our top nine picks.
Cafelissimo Pour Over Brewer
The intelligent, barista-designed device is both a pour-over brewer and a stainless steel mesh filter. This combination allows you to pair the intimate control of pour-over brewing with the richly aromatic coffee you might expect from a French press.
How to Choose the Coffee Filters
When it comes to choosing a coffee filter, the most crucial part is getting the right size and shape for your coffee maker. But from there, you have some decisions to make. Do you prefer metal, cloth, or paper? Do you want a bleached or unbleached one? How important is environmental friendliness or convenience?
Keep reading as we walk you through all the details to guarantee you get amazing coffee.
||Cafelissimo Stainless Steel Pour Over Brewer||
||Melitta Paper Basket Filters||
||Mr. Coffee Filters||
||Goldtone Reusable Basket Filter||
||Yeosen Reusable #4 Cone Filter||
||PureHQ Reusable K Cups||
||Hario V60 Paper Filters||
||Green Barista Hemp Coffee Filters||
Your brewer will dictate the filter shape.
Generally, you use coffee filters in one of two contexts, either for a drip coffee machine or a pour-over coffee maker. Which shape of filter you need depends on your brewing method. Most coffee makers use a basket-shaped filter, but some rely on conical filters instead. You can find out which you need by consulting your owner’s manual. Pour-over brewers all use conical filters.
In recent years, we’ve seen the emergence of a new shape of a coffee filter, the single-serve capsule filter. These are mostly for use in machines that are compatible with K Cups, like Keurigs, but there are also versions based on Nespresso pods. Given the extensive environmental footprint of the non-recyclable K Cups, these are a much-needed addition to the marketplace.
Coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet.
There are also specific cases where you will need a disc filter, which is just a flat circle, but this is less common. Some people will opt to add a paper disc filter to their French press to remove more sediment from their cup. You can also use small disc filters when brewing with an Aeropress:
P.S. If you’re still looking for a suitable coffee machine, we’ve reviewed some great options, including the best grind and brew coffee makers and some top-rated coffee makers with a thermal carafe. If pour-over is more your style, we’ve got you covered with a list of amazing pour over coffee makers.
The material matters.
While your brewing method will select the size and shape of your coffee filter, the filter material is a personal decision. You can opt for paper, metal, or cloth, and each comes with its pros and cons.
Using a paper filter removes most of the coffee oils and sediments from your cup, yielding a light, crisp, and clean cup of coffee.
In the past, paper filters were the norm because the quality of the coffee was lower, so removing more oily flavor compounds made it taste better. And this remains true today. If you prefer to buy less expensive coffee, a paper filter is probably right for you.
These days, it is much more common to find high-quality coffee whose flavors you want to taste, but a paper filter is still your best choice if you like your brew with a light body and bright taste.
If you know you want paper filters, another decision remains: do you want bleached or unbleached?
Bleached paper filters are a bright white color, which is achieved using either chlorine or oxygen. Both methods add processing steps and generate waste, so neither is particularly good for the environment. However, the oxygen bleaching process is a bit better because it uses less damaging chemicals (1).
The advantage of bleached filters is they won’t leave any paper taste in your brewed cup, even if you forget to pre-rinse the filter.
Unbleached filters are identifiable by their natural brown color. While many consumers are concerned that unbleached filters leave a paper taste in the coffee, this is easily avoided by simply rinsing the filter with hot water before brewing, a step that experts recommend you do for the tastiest cup of coffee anyway (2).
Whether bleached or unbleached, paper filters are disposable, single-use products. While this has the advantage of making clean-up easy, the waste it generates is damaging to the environment. Each year, in the USA alone, people dispose of over 200 million paper coffee filters, the equivalent of 11,000 trees worth every day (3).
Metal coffee filters are made from a fine stainless steel mesh that strains out most coffee sediments but allows the coffee’s flavor-packed oils and micro-sediments into your cup. Certain coffee flavors, particularly sweet and fruity ones, are only present in oils and will be eliminated by a paper filter. The result is a richer and more aromatic brew, with a more substantial, mouth-coating body.
Unlike paper filters, metal filters generate no waste, and when cared for properly, they can last a lifetime. Cleaning a metal filter might be slightly more tedious than simply throwing out a piece of paper, but rinsing one only takes a minute or two, and they’re dishwasher safe.
Cloth filters have a long history in coffee brewing but have only recently become popular in North America, and for a good reason. In many ways, cloth filters split the difference between paper and metal. They remove far more sediments than a metal filter, yielding a clean cup, while at the same time maintaining the oils that would be eliminated by a paper filter. The result is a flavorful and aromatic brew with a medium body, making them an excellent means to add richness to a lighter-bodied coffee.
The downside to cloth filters is that they are more challenging to maintain. They aren’t disposable like paper filters, and they lack the durability of metal filters. They need to be thoroughly rinsed after each use and then, ideally, stored in water in the fridge to prevent the growth of mildew (4). With proper care, expect to get around 100 brews from a cloth filter, which still makes it a more environmentally friendly choice than paper filters.
Choosing the right size
Most basket filters are sized for brewing 8 to 12 cups of coffee, which is the standard for most drip coffee makers. For smaller coffee makers, there are also junior baskets, which brew 4 to 6 cups.
Conical filters come in different sizes, the most common of which are #1, #2, #4, and #6.
- #1 filters, made for single cup brewing, either in a single-serve coffee machine or a one-cup pour-over.
- #2 filters are slightly larger and can be used for 2 to 6 cup coffee makers or up to 2-cup pour-overs.
- #4 is the most popular size, being the conical equivalent to the 8 to 12 cup basket in terms of capacity.
- #6 is the largest size and is rarely used. Coffee machines generally aren’t made to accommodate such a large filter, but you can use it for a pour-over of 10+ cups.
When it comes to single-serve filters, there are two standard sizes, both designed to brew a single serving. The most common is the K Cup size and shape. You can also buy refillable filters in the Nespresso capsule style. Like Nespresso machines, these produce espresso rather than coffee.
The 9 Best Coffee Filter Brands in 2021
Now that you know everything to look for in coffee filters, here’s a look at our picks for which coffee filters are best in every category. Whether you want a clean cup, a richly aromatic mug, or a functional filter at a great price, we have the perfect option.
If you want the brewing control of a pour-over coupled with the rich, aromatic, and heavy-bodied coffee you’d expect from a French press, you’re going to love the Cafellissimo Paperless Pour Over Brewer. Conceived by three baristas and a product designer from Portland, Oregon, a recognized coffee hotspot, it yields a brew with that ideal balance.
The Cafellissimo is a 2-in-1 brewer and filter built to make great coffee as easy as possible.
It’s a cone-shaped filter sized for brewing 1 or 2 cups at a time, approximately equivalent to a standard #2 filter. The lower half of the brewer is made up of an ultra-fine double mesh, ensuring no larger sediments end up in your cup, and the 4-inch wide base means it sits comfortably on most mugs. After brewing, It’s easy to rinse by hand or wash in the dishwasher.
A great feature of this brewer is its portability, and it will be beloved by campers, hikers, and road-trippers. It’s super light, at just 3.3 ounces, and unlike glass or ceramic pour-over drippers, it’s durable enough to be crammed in a backpack. Because it’s both a brewer and a filter, there’s very little to carry, and it produces no waste.
Melitta Bentz, the founder, and namesake of German coffee company Melitta, actually invented and patented the first paper coffee filters back in 1908 (5). The company has continued to innovate in the decades since. With so many years in the industry, it’s no surprise that Melitta offers some of the best filters around, and their global reach allows them to do this at a remarkably low price.
The secret is its premium high-quality paper, which is thicker than the industry standard. Paper quality guarantees that your filters will never tear or flop over in the coffee machine. These filters aren’t complicated; they’re just well-designed, well-made filters backed by years of experience.
The 8 to 12 cup size means they’re compatible with most modern coffee makers. They’re available either bleached or unbleached, but we prefer the natural brown version for its lesser environmental footprint and compostability.
If you brew a lot of coffee, as is common in an office setting, for example, it makes sense to seek out paper filters with a rock-bottom price. Unfortunately, the average low-cost filter is made from cheap and flimsy paper, which disintegrates into nothing when saturated with hot water. If you’ve ever lifted a used coffee filter out of the machine only to have the grounds pour out a tear in the bottom or flop over the sides, you’ll know what I mean.
Fortunately, we’ve found you a solution. Rockline offers discount paper basket filters with no such issues. Some reviewers have remarked on their surprisingly high quality and durability. They’re compatible with most 8 to 12 cup brewers, including popular brands like Mr. Coffee, Proctor-Silex, and Black & Decker, and cost well under a penny a filter.
Technivorm is a Dutch company known for their high-end automatic Moccamaster coffee makers. Their brewers are among the very few certified by the Specialty Coffee Association, a rigorous set of standards designed to provide ideal coffee-making conditions. Given the time and effort, they’ve put into crafting the perfect coffee maker, you can rest assured that they’re only going to supply it with top-of-the-line filters.
Their paper cone filters, available in size #1 and #4, are designed to fit their Moccamaster brewers, but, lucky for us, they are compatible with most other cone-filter brewers. They’re made in the Netherlands to a very high standard, bonded without any chemicals or glues, and naturally whitened using oxygen rather than chlorine.
If you love your coffee machine but crave the heavy-bodied and richly aromatic brew of a French press or Moka pot, switching out your paper filters for a reusable metal mesh option might be exactly what you need.
This Goldtone model, designed to fit most 8 to 12 cup coffee makers, is manufactured in the USA using surgical-grade metal woven mesh and BPA-free plastic. It’s perfectly safe from a chemical perspective and durable enough for a lifetime of brewing.
Cleaning and maintenance are incredibly simple. After brewing, just rinse it off under running water or pop it in the dishwasher for a more thorough cleaning. It was even designed with a foldable handle, making it easy to get in and out of your coffee machine.
Not only is a reusable filter like this an excellent choice for the environment, thanks to the elimination of daily paper waste, but it’s also a win for your bank account. So, no more regular purchasing of paper filters. Even better, you’ll never face the horror of waking up to find you’re out of coffee filters.
If your coffee maker requires cone-shaped filters, rather than basket style, or if you prefer a pour-over brew, Yeosen makes a reusable conical filter that we love. It scores points for functionality, durability, and price, plus the environmental advantages of avoiding single-use filters.
The Yeosen cone filter is made entirely of food-grade metal, without any plastic parts. It’s certified BPA-free, lead-free, and DEHP-free. Certifications guarantee that you don’t have to worry about the health implications of these compounds leaching into your coffee, but it makes this all-metal filter nearly impossible to break.
The #4 size is perfect for brewing from 8 to 12 cups of coffee, making it compatible with most popular coffee machine brands, including Ninja, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach, and OXO. And it’s equally at home nestled in a pour-over brewer.
Most importantly, it brews a delicious cup of coffee. The fine mesh filter removes larger sediments while allowing all of the flavorful coffee oils to flow through. After brewing, cleaning is as simple as a quick rinse, or it’s dishwasher safe.
A solution to K Cups’ negative environmental impact is the form of refillable K Cups (6). The ones made by PureHQ are our favorites. These stainless steel and BPA-free plastic pod-shaped filters are designed for any K Cup compatible machine, including the new Keurig 2.0 models. The specially crafted mesh is micro-etched such that it prevents clogs and leaks while optimizing coffee extraction.
Using refillable pods helps the planet, but it’ll also save you money and produce better coffee. PureHQ claims you can save as much as 80% over the cost of buying traditional K Cups, and by using your ground coffee, you can ensure that your coffee is never stale.
Certainly, clean-up is marginally more complicated than simply tossing a used K Cup in the trash. But it takes only a minute or two and comes with a dose of good karma.
Hario is a Japanese company specializing in heat-resistant glassware. Hario means “The King of Glass” in Japanese. Outside of Japan, they’re perhaps best known for their iconic Hario V60 pour-over brewer, a vital tool in the arsenal of many a specialty coffee lover.
The Hario V60 conical filters were crafted to work in conjunction with this brewer, and as such, they were designed and manufactured with the artisanal coffee enthusiast in mind. They are available bleached or unbleached and produce a clean and crisp cup, free from sediment and yet vibrantly flavorful. They also come with a handy tab for opening the filter, a nice touch for those fumbling, pre-caffeinated mornings.
Though produced for the Hario V60, they work with any other pour-over brewer, provided you purchase the correct size. Pour-over brewing can be a difficult technique to master, so be sure to set yourself up for success by opting for these premium filters designed for the task.
Make sure to watch our video guide on brewing with Hario V60:
Cloth coffee filters don’t have a long history in North America, but we’re here to tell you that their time has come. No less a figure than James Hoffmann, former World Barista Champion, has declared them his favorite style of filter.
The reason I love it is this perfect hybrid of clarity and texture.
By filtering out the sediments while leaving in the coffee oils, cloth filters yield a clean yet intensely rich and flavorful coffee.
Green Barista reusable hemp coffee filters, available in #2 and #4 size, are our top pick in the category this year. While cotton has historically been a popular choice for cloth filters, people now recognize hemp as offering several advantages. It requires less water to grow, which is a win for the environment, and it’s more durable than cotton so that each filter will last longer (7).
Using hemp even does away with some of the maintenance and cleaning challenges that make many home coffee brewers unwilling to adopt cloth filters. Unlike cotton, hemp is naturally mildew and bacteria-resistant, so you won’t have to worry about these unappetizing additions to your coffee.
The style of coffee filters you choose can have a significant impact on your coffee, but now that you’ve read this article, you have everything you need to make the best choice.
Our favorite filter for coffee this year is the Cafelissimo Pour-Over Coffee Brewer, an ingenious two-in-one product designed by baristas to make it easy for anyone to brew delicious coffee. This stainless steel filter lasts forever, goes anywhere, and yields a consistently rich and flavorful brew.
Unbleached coffee filters are more expensive, unfortunately, due to demand and marketing. Marketers have learned from experience that consumers will pay more for a product that is better for the environment, and they can’t help but take advantage.
You can use a paper towel as a coffee filter, as long as your paper towels aren’t scented or imbued with cleaning chemicals. The only downside is that they tend to be less sturdy than genuine coffee filters, so they can layer them up well to avoid a mess. If you find yourself without filters, we’ve got a whole list of coffee filter substitutes.
Paper coffee filters are healthier only if you are concerned about your cholesterol levels. Paper filters remove most oils from your coffee, including one called cafestol. Cafestol has been shown to raise cholesterol in some genetically predisposed people, particularly those that drink more than two cups a day (8).
- Nemeth, B. (2017, August 8). The Great Paper Coffee Filters Debate: Bleached vs Unbleached. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2017/08/the-great-paper-coffee-filters-debate-bleached-vs-unbleached/
- Henry, A. (2011, November 3). Rinse Your Coffee Filters for a Cleaner, Better-Tasting Cup of Coffee. Retrieved from https://lifehacker.com/rinse-your-coffee-filters-for-a-cleaner-better-tasting-5855965
- Goldtone Products. (n.d.). Our History. Retrieved from https://goldtoneproducts.com/about/
- James Hoffmann. (2020, June 19). Cloth Filters for Coffee [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr_I3ZVKKb4
- Moses, C. (2018, September 5). Overlooked No More: Melitta Bentz, Who Invented the Coffee Filter. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/obituaries/melitta-bentz-overlooked.html
- Godoy, M. (2015, January 28). Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes at Environmental Absurdity of K-Cups. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/01/28/379395819/coffee-horror-parody-pokes-at-environmental-absurdity-of-k-cups
- Palmer, B. (2011, April 12). Can Hemp Clothing Save the Planet? Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/2011/04/hemp-versus-cotton-which-is-better-for-the-environment.html
- Schaefer, A., McDermott, A. (2017, June 6). Coffee and Cholesterol: Is There a Link? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cholesterol/coffee-link#benefits-of-coffee