What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?
Have you ever wondered what's in your coffee filter? If you enjoy a pour over, or brewed coffee, you probably use them regularly. But did you know that they are actually a pretty recent invention?
Coffee filters were invented by a German housewife, who patented her innovation back in 1908. Since then, they have become a worldwide success. But what are coffee filters made of, really?
Paper, Bamboo, Sock Cloth, Gold - What’s Your Material Of Choice?
Before the invention of the filter, brewing coffee was a messy process, with grounds inevitably ending up in the cup. A housewife from Dresden, Melitta Bentz, realised that a simple filtering process could result in a smoother cup.
Frau Bentz tested many different materials to figure out which would work best. She found that the blotting paper her son used at school was in fact the most effective material. So the first coffee filters were actually pieces of blotting paper cut to fit a metal mug!
Today, coffee filters are usually made from paper. There are however, some alternatives on the market, including ones made from sock cloth, or even gold. If you’re in a pinch, it’s still possible to make an emergency DIY coffee filter using a normal paper towel, as demonstrated in this video.
Most Coffee Filters Are Made From Paper
As you may know, paper is now the most common material for coffee filters, due to their ease of use and low cost. However, because they cannot be reused, their cost adds up over time, making them a more expensive alternative in the long term.
Paper filters absorb some of the oils present in coffee grounds. This can affect the taste of your coffee, making it less greasy, and by some accounts, healthier. They are also hygienic, as they are only used once.
Most people throw their used coffee filters to the trash, ending up in the the landfill. If you don’t want to be one of those people, it’s your choice.
Coffee filters made from paper can easily be composted, but many users don’t make the effort. In fact, there are many things you can do with used coffee grounds, and the paper filters decompose fairly quickly.
The paper used for coffee filters can be either bleached or unbleached. Either chlorine or oxygen can be used to bleach the coffee filters, giving them a "clean" look. Unbleached filters on the other hand retain the natural wood coloring of the paper.
Bleaching however, does not affect the taste of the coffee in any way, and is an unnecessary extra step in the process.
See the process of making paper coffee filters with your own eyes:
Alternatives Include Bamboo And Metal
Some people prefer non-paper coffee filters due to the taste or environmental consciousness. Alternatives include bamboo, nylon, linen, silver or even gold.
Bamboo is used to produce coffee filters that are very similar to paper ones. Because bamboo grows much faster than trees however, it is a more renewable resource. This means that you can get the convenience of reusable filters, but with less burden for the environment.
Of the large manufacturers, Melitta has jumped on the bamboo bandwagon and is selling convenient boxes containing 80 bamboo filters each.
Other alternatives include reusable coffee filters which last a long time. They are often made with metals such as titanium or gold. Although reusable coffee filters seem expensive, they are meant to last for years.
Here is a review of the Osaka metal coffee filter used for a pour over:
When you use metal coffee filters, the essential oils present in coffee grounds will be retained. Some people will like this, others won’t; why don’t you try it yourself?
A cheaper alternative to metal is also available in the form of cloth or fine-mesh nylon. They are environmentally friendly, but can be difficult to clean. Cloth can also impart a unique flavour to your coffee - not necessarily in a good way. Linen was used to filter coffee before Frau Bentz decided it was time to discover a new method.
What Are Coffee Filters Made Of? - Now You Know!
While paper filters are a convenient option, they aren’t necessarily the best choice.
If you don’t want to lose the essential oils present in coffee, try a metal filter such as the Osaka Himeji-Jo Steel Filter. If you are looking for convenience but don’t like the thought of killing so many trees for your coffee, opt for the Melitta Bamboo filters.
Inspired to switch your paper coffee filters for something else? Let me know how it goes!