Can I Use Paper Towels as Coffee Filters? Top Hacks


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Can I Use Paper Towels as Coffee Filters? Top Hacks

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages worldwide, enjoyed by millions daily. Brewing a perfect cup of coffee requires a coffee maker and a best-quality coffee filter. Whether you enjoy a strong espresso or a comforting cup of drip coffee, the brewing process matters. Coffee filters play a significant role in this process, ensuring that your cup of joe is free from coffee grounds and sediments. But what if you find yourself without a coffee filter and only paper towels on hand? Let’s find out if paper towels can come to your caffeine rescue.

However, what if you run out of the Best coffee filters and have only paper towels? Can you use them as a substitute for coffee filters? Let’s find out.

What Coffee Filters Are for:

Before exploring the use of paper towels as coffee filters, it’s essential to understand the purpose of a coffee filter. The primary function of a coffee filter is to separate the coffee grounds from the brewed coffee, ensuring a smooth, grit-free cup—a coffee filter designed to allow water to pass through while retaining the coffee grounds.

Coffee filters serve as barriers between the coffee grounds and the brewed liquid. They trap the fine particles, allowing only the flavorful and aromatic coffee to pass through. This results in a smooth and enjoyable cup of coffee. Traditional coffee filters are made from a special paper that is designed to minimize the passage of coffee grounds.

How do you make a coffee filter out of a paper towel?

paper towels as coffee filters

Making a coffee filter out of a paper towel is a simple process that can do in a few easy steps. Here’s how to do it:

Select a Paper Towel: 

  • Choose a plain, white paper towel without any added scents, lotions, or chemicals. Avoid using printed or colored paper towels as they may contain harmful substances.

Fold the Paper Towel:

  •  Lay the paper towel flat on a clean surface. Fold it in half to create a square or rectangle shape.

Cut to Size: 

  • If the folded paper towel is too large for your coffee maker’s filter basket, trim the edges to fit. Make sure the folded towel fits snugly in the filter basket without overlapping.

Fold Again (Optional): 

  • You can fold the paper towel again to create multiple layers for better filtration. This will help prevent acceptable coffee grounds from passing through.

Wet the Paper Towel: 

  • Wet the paper towel with water before placing it in the filter basket. This step is crucial as it prevents the paper towel from absorbing the coffee’s oils excessively, which could affect the flavor.

Place in the Coffee Maker:

  •  Open the filter basket of your coffee maker and insert the wet paper towel. Make sure it sits flat and covers the entire basket evenly.

Add Coffee Grounds: 

  • Spoon your desired coffee grounds onto the wet paper towel, spreading them evenly across the surface.

Brew Your Coffee: 

  • Close the coffee maker’s filter basket and start the brewing process as usual. The water will pass through the paper towel, carrying the coffee flavors into the pot.

Dispose of the Used Paper Towel: 

  • After brewing your coffee, carefully remove the used paper towel from the filter basket and dispose of it properly.

Can Paper Towels be a Substitute for Coffee Filters?

Can I Use Paper Towels as Coffee Filters? Top Hacks

Using paper towels as a substitute for coffee filters might be tempting, but several factors consider.

  • Absorbency and Filtration:

Coffee filters design to have optimal absorbency while allowing water to flow through at a controlled rate. On the other hand, paper towels may offer a different level of filtration, leading to a slower Coffee brewing Method or even clogging the coffee maker.

  • Paper Towel Material:

The material used in coffee filters is usually different from standard paper towels. Coffee filters are thinner, and their texture is designed.

Being thicker and more absorbent may provide different filtration efficiency.

  • Effects on Flavor and Taste:

Using paper towels as coffee filters may impact the flavor and taste of your coffee. Paper towels might release unwanted chemicals or impart a paper-like taste to your brew, affecting the coffee experience.

Risks and Concerns for paper towels filter:

Using paper towels as coffee filters can pose some risks and concerns. Apart from affecting the taste and quality of your coffee, there is a possibility of the paper towel tearing during the Traditional brewing process, leading to a mess in your coffee maker.

Additionally, if the paper towel contains any ink or chemicals, they may leach into your coffee, causing health concerns.

Will using a paper towel affect the taste of my coffee?

Using a paper towel as a coffee filter can affect the taste of your coffee. The impact on taste will depend on several factors, including the type of paper towel, its material, and any chemicals or additives.

  • Material and Absorbency:

 Paper towels design to be highly absorbent, which means they can soak up not only water but also the oils and flavors present in coffee. This excessive absorption may lead to a loss of some subtle coffee flavors and nuances, resulting in a less flavorful cup.

  • Chemicals and Additives:

 Some paper towels may contain additives, scents, or inks that are not food-safe. When hot water passes through the paper towel during brewing, these chemicals could leach into your coffee, altering its taste and potentially causing health concerns.

  • Filtration Efficiency: 

Coffee filters design to allow water to flow through while retaining coffee grounds and undesirable particles. Standard paper towels may not offer the same level of filtration, allowing some fine coffee particles to pass through, leading to a slightly gritty texture in your coffee.

  • Paper Taste:

 Paper towels are thicker and may have a different texture than regular coffee filters. This could impart a papery taste to your coffee, especially if the paper towel is of lower quality.

Environmental Impact:

Choosing to use paper towels as coffee filters can also have environmental implications. Coffee filters are usually biodegradable and compostable, making them more eco-friendly than paper towels, which may take longer to break down in landfills.

Using Paper Towels as Coffee Filters: Pros and Cons

Pros of Using Paper Towels

  1. Availability: Paper towels are readily available in most households, making them convenient for emergencies.
  2. Improvised Filtering: In a pinch, paper towels can help prevent more enormous coffee grounds from ending up in your cup.
  3. Cost-Effective: Using paper towels as a temporary solution can save money by purchasing coffee filters.

Cons of Using Paper Towels

  1. Uneven Filtration: Paper towels may only effectively trap some coffee grounds, leading to sediment in your coffee.
  2. Alteration of Flavor: Paper towels might absorb some of the coffee oils and flavors, affecting the taste of your brew.
  3. Risk of Tears: Paper towels could tear apart, potentially causing a mess and allowing grounds to escape.

Alternative Coffee Filter Options:

If you’re looking for eco-friendly alternatives to traditional coffee filters, here are some options:

  • Reusable Metal Filters:

Investing in a reusable metal filter for your coffee maker is an excellent way to reduce waste and ensure a sustainable coffee brewing process.

  • Cloth Filters:

Cloth filters, often made from cotton or hemp, offer an eco-friendly alternative to paper filters. They can be washed and reused multiple times.

  • French Press:

Using a French press eliminates the need for paper filters. The metal mesh of the media prevents coffee grounds from ending up in your cup.


While paper towels can be a temporary solution for a missing coffee filter, they are not an ideal replacement. Coffee filters enhance the coffee brewing and ensure a smooth, flavorful cup. To maintain the quality of your coffee and reduce waste, it’s better to stick to traditional coffee filters or explore eco-friendly alternatives.


  • Can I use a paper towel in a pinch if I run out of coffee filters?
    • You can use a paper towel as a temporary substitute, but the results may differ from a regular coffee filter.
  • Are paper towels safe to use in a coffee maker?
    • While it does not recommend, using a single layer of plain, white paper towel in a coffee maker is generally safe. Avoid using towels with ink or other additives.
  • What’s the most environmentally-friendly coffee filter option?
    • Reusable metal and cloth filters are the most eco-friendly options as they reduce waste and use multiple times.
  • Are there any health risks associated with using paper towels as coffee filters?
    • The risks are minimal, but if the paper towel contains harmful chemicals or ink, there could be potential health concerns. It’s best to avoid using paper towels regularly for this purpose.

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