Genius Coffee Filter Substitutes- If you are in a pinch

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Nobody wants to be stuck without a way to make coffee in the morning. If its because you don’t have a filter, don’t let that stop you. I have a list of 12 possible coffee filter substitutes that you can try.

You will need to keep in mind, that some of these aren’t ideal but we are talking about being in complete and utter desperation. I know that if it was between having my coffee or not, I would try anything.

Paper Towel

This coffee filter substitute is probably going to leave a weird taste but if you make your coffee strong enough you might not even notice. The good thing about a paper towel for a filter is that it can hold fine grounds.

Be careful of chemicals because there could be bleach, glue, and other things in the paper towel. I’m sure if you are only using it once in desperation, you will be ok. Just make sure you know what’s in it.

3 paper towel rolls on counter

Tea Bag

A tea bag would make a perfect coffee filter substitute. After all, thats basically its job, except with tea. If you are going to use tea bags, you will need to carefully cut the tea bags open and remove the tea. Then, you can add a single serving of coffee grinds and seal the tea bag back up. I would use some string to carefully tie it or maybe a rubber band. Then you can use the coffee filled tea bag to steep in a cup of hot water.

This is another desperate attempt but it can work.

Cupcake Paper

If you have a disposable cupcake wrapper, it can be used as a coffee filter. Its already designed to resemble a coffee filter so why not. You need to be careful with this one and add the water slowly so it has time to filter through. Just like with the paper towel, you will have the same issue with possible chemicals if the paper is dyed or has been bleached.

stack of cupcake wrappers


Any kind of fine mesh can be used as a coffee filter. I have a fine mesh colander that I use to strain very small things. It would work for a coffee filter in an emergency.


If you aren’t worried about an old t-shirt getting stained by the coffee, you can use it for an emergency filter. Make sure to wet the t-shirt first so that the fabric doesn’t absorb some of the fine particles.

Dish Towel or Cloth Napkin

You can use a clean dish towel or fine cloth to filter your coffee. It will work just fine. Like with the t-shirt you will want to wet it first.

Parchment Paper

Parchment paper can be used as a coffee filter in an emergency situation. It is going to be like the cupcake paper, so be careful and let the water run through a little at a time.


If you have cheesecloth in your kitchen then you could use it as a coffee filter substitute. It would fit right into the coffee maker and you wouldn’t need to make any adjustments to your brew style. It is meant to filter out fine particles so it sounds like a fine replacement to me.

If the weave of the cheesecloth is wide, fold it over a few times.

Re-Useable Filter

It would be environmentally friendly to purchase a re-useable mesh coffee filter. You could have it on hand or use it every day. It could possibly save you money instead of buying filters.

Clean Sock

Take note on this one that I said a clean sock. Nobody wants their coffee to taste like a dirty sock. If your sock is big enough you could use it in your coffee maker. If not, you can place it over your mug and make a single cup.

How funny is it going to be when you get to work and inform your coworkers that you brewed your morning coffee with a sock.


Use the stocking in the same way you would a sock. Usually stockings are stretchy enough to fit over most coffee makers. Be careful though, when you stretch it that it doesn’t open up enough for grounds to go through it.

French Press

If you don’t have a filter and you have a French Press, use it. The way a French Press works, you don’t have to worry about a filter because it has its own mesh filter. In my opinion, once you try this, you may not go back because you will notice more of a full-bodied and robust cup of coffee.

lady with book drinking coffee in bed

No Filter at all

Last ditch effort here, you can use no filter at all. They call this cowboy coffee. You just mix your hot water and grounds together, let the grounds settle and drink. I can’t say that I would try this but it has been done time and time again.

I would just have to hop in the car and drive to my local coffee shop.

If you have any crazy ideas that you have tried to filter your coffee, leave them in the comments. I love to hear what other people have tried for coffee filter substitutes.

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