Can You Use a Paper Towel as a Coffee Filter?

When you really want coffee but have no coffee filters, you might look at an empty paper towel roll and wonder if it can help. In such a scenario, the humble paper towel can come to your rescue. But can you really use a paper towel as a coffee filter? In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of this ingenious coffee hack.

Why Would You Consider Using a Paper Towel?

Convenience and Accessibility

One of the primary reasons you might contemplate using a paper towel as a coffee filter is the sheer convenience it offers. Paper towels are a staple in most households, and they’re incredibly accessible. If you run out of coffee filters and don’t have time to dash to the store, a paper towel can be your savior.

Emergency Situations

Imagine you’re on a camping trip, miles away from civilization, and you suddenly realize that you’ve forgotten to pack coffee filters. In such emergencies, improvisation becomes the name of the game. A paper towel can save the day, allowing you to enjoy your campfire coffee without hassle.

How to Use a Paper Towel as a Coffee Filter

Method 1: The Folded Paper Towel Filter

1.  Start by using a standard paper towel.

2. Fold it into a square or rectangular shape, depending on the size you need for your coffee maker.

3. Place the folded paper towel in your coffee maker’s filter basket.

4. Add your coffee grounds as you normally would.

5. Brew your coffee as you usually do.

Method 2: The Paper Towel Coffee Bag

1. Create a makeshift coffee filter bag by folding a single layer of paper towel and securing the edges with staples or clips.

2. Fill this pouch with your desired amount of coffee grounds.

3. Place the pouch in your coffee maker’s filter basket.

4. Brew your coffee as you usually would.

The Pros and Cons of Using a Paper Towel as a Coffee Filter


1. Cost-Effective: Paper towels are affordable and widely available, making them a budget-friendly option in a pinch.

2. Convenience: As mentioned earlier, their accessibility and versatility make paper towels a practical choice when you run out of coffee filters.

3. Eco-Friendly Options: Some paper towels are eco-friendly and biodegradable, so using them can be a sustainable choice.


1. Filter Quality: While paper towels can get the job done, they may not filter your coffee as effectively as dedicated coffee filters. You might find a few coffee grounds in your cup.

2. Taste: Some coffee aficionados report a slight difference in taste when using paper towels. The flavor may not be identical to what you’re accustomed to with traditional filters.

3. Messy Cleanup: The aftermath of using paper towels as filters can be messier compared to traditional filters. Be prepared for a bit of cleanup.

Precautions and Considerations

While using a paper towel as a coffee filter is a viable alternative, there are a few precautions and considerations to keep in mind:

* Pot for plain, unbleached paper towels without added fragrances or lotions. You don’t want any additional scents or chemicals altering the flavor of your coffee.

* Ensure that the paper towel is securely in place to prevent coffee grounds from seeping into your cup.

* Experiment with the number of coffee grounds you use to achieve your preferred coffee strength and flavor.

How Does It Compare to Traditional Coffee Filters?

Traditional coffee filters are designed specifically for coffee brewing. They offer uniform filtration and minimal interference with the coffee’s flavor profile. While using a paper towel as a filter can work in a pinch, it may not deliver the same consistent results. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, you might notice a difference in taste.

Experimentation and DIY coffee-making

If you’re an adventurous coffee enthusiast who enjoys experimenting with different brewing methods, using a paper towel as a coffee filter can be a fun and unique experience. It’s an opportunity to get creative with your coffee-making process and explore how various factors impact the final cup.


In a coffee emergency or when you find yourself without traditional coffee filters, using a paper towel can be a practical solution. While it may not replace dedicated coffee filters entirely, it can certainly save the day when you’re in a bind. Just remember to use plain, unbleached paper towels, secure them properly, and be prepared for a slightly different coffee experience.


1.  Is using a paper towel safe for brewing coffee?

Using plain, unbleached paper towels is generally safe for brewing coffee. However, ensure they are securely in place to prevent grounds from ending up in your cup.

2.  What types of paper towels work best for this purpose?

Plain, unbleached paper towels without added fragrances or lotions are ideal for use as coffee filters.

3.  Can I reuse a paper towel coffee filter?

While it’s possible, reusing a paper towel filter may affect the quality of your coffee, and it can be messier. It’s recommended to use a fresh one each time.

4.  Does using a paper towel affect the taste of coffee?

Some coffee drinkers report a slightly different taste when using paper towels, so the flavor may not be identical to what you’re used to.

5.  Can I use other household items as coffee filters?

Yes, in a pinch, you can use items like a clean cloth, a sieve, or even a fine-mesh strainer as makeshift coffee filters. Experiment to find what works best for you.

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