4 Easy Ways to Make a Coffee Filter From Scratch

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We've all been there.

You open your cabinet to grab a coffee filter and realize you forgot to pick some up at the grocery store. Now what? Well, you're in luck.

In this blog post, I'll walk you through the 4 different methods you can use to make a coffee filter from scratch.

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How to Make Your Own Coffee Filter (4 Methods)

Here are four options for using the pour-over method to brew a cup of coffee directly in a mug. I haven't tested any of these methods in a coffee machine, so I can't recommend trying.

Method 1: Paper Towel

Yes, you can use a paper towel as a coffee filter. This is the most common method. Before you start, you’ll need to gather some supplies:

  • A sheet of paper towel
  • A rubber band or string
  • A coffee mug or mason jar
  • Ground coffee
  • Boiling hot water
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how to brew coffee using paper towel 2
paper towel method

Follow these steps to make your own coffee filter out of paper towel:

  1. Fold your paper towel in half twice so that you have a square or rectangle larger than your mug opening.
  2. Place the paper towel on your mug and secure it with a rubber band or string.
  3. Make a deep indent in the center of the paper towel.
  4. Add ground coffee to the indent.
  5. Slowly pour boiling water over the coffee grounds, saturating them evenly.
  6. Once the coffee is brewed, remove the rubber band or string and lift the coffee filter off the mug.

Pro Tip: It’s common to have a small amount of water seep into the edges of your paper towel. If you’re getting excess drippage, though, you need a deeper indent in the coffee filter.

Method 2: A Clean Dish Towel

The second method for making your own coffee filter is to use a clean dish towel.

In fact, any small towel or piece of cloth will do.

As long as it’s clean and can fit around the lip of your mug or mason jar.

Items you’ll need for this method include:

  • A very clean dish towel or rag
  • A rubber band or string
  • A coffee mug, cup, or mason jar
  • Ground coffee
  • Boiling hot water
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Follow these steps to brew a cup of coffee with a clean dish towel:

  1. Using a rubber band or string, secure a dish towel on top of your mug. Make an indent in the cloth. (See the first image above).
  2. Add your coffee, and slowly pour boiling water over the coffee grounds, saturating them evenly.
  3. Remove the dish towel and rinse immediately to avoid staining.

Method 3: A Fine Mesh Sieve

A fine-mesh sieve makes an excellent replacement for a coffee filter.

If you’re a coffee and baking enthusiast, you probably have one of these in your baking drawer.

If not, don’t worry–you can buy one for about $10 bucks on Amazon.

Unlike a paper towel or a dish towel, a mesh sieve makes a cup of coffee that is closest in flavor to what your coffee machine produces.

A sieve won’t filter out all the coffee particles, so you may end up with coffee mud in the bottom of your mug.

Items you’ll need for this method include:

how to make coffee with a fine mesh sieve 1 1
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Here’s how to use a metal sieve to make a cup of coffee:

  1. Place the sieve into the mouth of your coffee mug, cup, or mason jar.
  2. Add the coffee grounds, and then slowly pour hot water over them.

Note: In the pictures for this step, I’m using a sieve that I bought at an estate sale. So, it’s vintage, and not available online anywhere. But, Amazon does sell a similar sieve. Here’s a link to it.

Method 4: A Sock

Well, it’s come to this. You’re out of coffee filters, you don’t have paper towels, and your dish towels are all dirty.

But fear not because we’ve got a solution for you: using a sock as a coffee filter.

Now, we understand that this might seem like a last resort, but hey, it’s probably just a typical Wednesday morning for the average frat boy.

Items you’ll need for this method include:

  • A clean sock
  • A coffee mug or mason jar
  • Ground coffee
  • Boiling hot water
how to use a sock as a coffee filter 1
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To use a sock as a coffee filter, you can follow these steps:

  1. Take a clean, thin sock and stretch it over the rim of your mug or mason jar. Make sure the sock fits snugly.
  2. Fill the sock with coffee grounds.
  3. Pour boiling water into the sock.
  4. Let the coffee steep for 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the sock, take stock of your life, and take a sip.

Pro Tip: Using a sock as a coffee filter is hilarious, but it’s not a substitute for a DIY paper towel coffee filter and will not produce the same quality as a traditional filter.

Additional Options

If you find yourself without any coffee filters on hand and you don’t want to try one of the methods above, don’t worry!

There are still plenty of ways to brew a delicious cup of coffee without a filter. Here are three options to try:

1. Use A French Press

A French press is one of the best ways to brew coffee without a traditional filter. A French press lets you control the strength and produces a rich, flavorful cup.

Here's how you use a French press:

  1. Measure out your grounds, add hot water, and steep the coffee for 4 minutes.
  2. Then press the plunger down to filter out the grounds and pour your coffee.

This is the french press that I use and love.

french press edited

2. Make Cowboy Coffee

Let’s say you have zero coffee filters and zero coffee-making equipment! All you have are beans and a grinder.

The only choice you have now is to make good ole’ fashioned cowboy coffee.

Here’s how you make cowboy coffee:

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and dump in your coffee grounds.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the coffee & water mixture steep for a few minutes.
  3. Next, pour in a cup of ice-cold water.
  4. Somehow, through the magic of science, the cold water forces all the coffee grounds to the bottom of the pot.
  5. Now you can carefully pour the coffee into a mug, avoiding the sludgy bits at the bottom.

It may not be the fanciest way to make coffee, but it’s quick, easy, and gets the job done. Yeehaw!

3. Use The Metal Filter That Came With Your Machine

Some coffee makers come with a gold-colored metal filter.

These filters are intended to act as a replacement for paper filters.

If you’ve been using a paper filter on top of the gold-tone filter, you can stop.

Unlike paper filters, gold-tone metal coffee filters allow all the coffee oils through, resulting in a better cup of coffee. They’re also better for the planet and your wallet.

Gold tone metal coffee filters

If you’ve misplaced yours, you can buy gold-tone filter replacements for both flat and cone-shaped baskets on Amazon.

If your machine didn’t come with a metal basket, you can upgrade it with one of these as well.

4. Use A Moka Pot

A Moka pot is an excellent alternative to a coffee filter. It’s a stovetop coffee maker that produces a super-rich cup of espresso-like coffee.

It works by passing steam through ground coffee beans.

Plus, it’s small and portable, making it perfect for camping or traveling.

A Bialetti Moka Pot

The brand I like and trust is Bialetti. Their Moka pots are beautiful, well-made, and last forever. Here’s my favorite on Amazon.

Side note–these are not dishwasher safe. It does something weird to the metal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make a coffee filter out of a paper towel?

Yes, you can make a coffee filter out of a paper towel! Simply cut the paper towel into a square or rectangular shape that fits on top of your coffee mug, and secure it with a rubber band or string. Then, brew your coffee as usual.

Do coffee filters make good covid masks?

No, coffee filters do not make good COVID masks! They’re too small and flimsy to provide protection against the virus. Plus, coffee filters aren’t designed to be worn on the face. Stick to using proper masks to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Can I make a coffee filter out of a napkin?

No, you cannot make a coffee filter out of a napkin. While it may seem like a good idea, napkins are made of thin paper, same as toilet paper, which will quickly dissolve in hot water.


Closing note: each method listed above uses the pour-over method. But there’s actually an easier way to go about each of these methods.

Mix your coffee grounds and hot water together in a mason jar or similar container first.

Then, filter that mixture directly into your coffee mug through any DIY coffee filters listed above.

This method creates less mess and is a more controlled brewing process overall.

Overall, these four DIY coffee filter substitutes are great options if you don’t have any coffee filters on hand.

Try them out and see which one works best for you!

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