Can You Use a Paper Towel as a Coffee Filter?

If you ever find yourself needing a coffee fix but you are out of filters, we have some options for you. Scroll on to learn more!

Paper towel filter

Ever been in desperate need of coffee, only to realize you don't have any coffee filters on hand? Most people would just head out and buy some more, but did you know that you can actually use a paper towel as a makeshift coffee filter? It's true! In a pinch, paper towels are an effective way to make your morning cup of joe. Let's explore how it works.

How It Works

Making a cup of coffee with a paper towel is surprisingly easy. All you need is ground coffee, boiling water, and of course, the paper towel. Start by folding the towel in half and then in half again so that it forms a square. Place this folded square over the top of your mug or carafe. Secure it with an elastic band or some tape if necessary.

Next, spoon the ground coffee into the center of the folded paper towel until it forms a mound. Pour boiling water slowly over the mound until it reaches just below the top layer of the paper towel. Wait for about 30 seconds to let all of the grounds soak up the water before pouring more water over them. The slower you pour, and less vigorously you stir, the better your filtered cup will be!

When all of the water has been poured through, gently remove and discard the paper towel from your mug or carafe—careful not to splash yourself! If there are any stubborn bits left behind on your paper towel filter, try pouring more hot water over them to help dislodge them from its fibers. And voila! You now have yourself a delicious cup of homemade brewed coffee courtesy of your trusty paper-towel filter!

Coffee filter

Techniques For Using Paper Towels as Filter

  1. The classic method: Fold a paper towel into quarters and place it over your mug. Secure it with a rubber band or binder clip, and pour the coffee slowly through the filter.
  2. The cone method: Take two paper towels and fold each into a triangle. Overlap the two triangles to form a cone and place it over your coffee mug. Secure with a binder clip or tape, and pour the coffee through the filter.
  3. The double-layer method: Fold a single paper towel in half, then in half again. Repeat with another paper towel. Stack the two folded towels on top of each other and place them over your mug. Secure with a rubber band or binder clip, and pour the coffee through.
  4. The basket method: Take a small basket, such as an egg basket, and line the bottom with one or two paper towels. Pour the coffee over the towels and let it drip through into your mug.
  5. The accordion method: Fold a single paper towel in half, then in half again. Fold it back and forth in an accordion pattern until it forms a small, thick strip. Place the strip over your mug and pour the coffee through.
  6. The teabag method: Take a paper towel and fold it into a pouch, leaving one end open. Fill the pouch with coffee grounds and fold the open end closed. Place the pouch in hot water and let it steep for a few minutes, like a tea bag. Remove the pouch and enjoy your coffee.

Drawbacks To Using Paper Towels As Filters

  1. Limited capacity: Paper towels are not designed to hold large amounts of liquid, so they may not be able to accommodate a full pot of coffee. You may need to use several paper towels or change them frequently during the brewing process.
  2. Slow filtration: Because paper towels are not as porous as traditional coffee filters, the brewing process may take longer and your coffee may not be as hot as you would like.
  3. Flavor transfer: Some paper towels are made with chemicals or fragrances that can affect the flavor of your coffee. If you're sensitive to these substances, you may want to avoid using paper towels as a filter.
  4. Environmental concerns: Disposable paper towels create waste and contribute to deforestation. If you're concerned about the environmental impact of your coffee habit, you may want to consider reusable filters or other sustainable alternatives.
  5. Cost: While paper towels are inexpensive, using them as a coffee filter regularly can add up over time. If you're looking for a cost-effective solution, reusable filters may be a better option.
Coffee grounds

Tips and Tricks

Choose unbleached paper towels: Unbleached paper towels are free of dyes and fragrances, so they won't affect the flavor of your coffee.

Use multiple layers: For a stronger filter, use two or more layers of paper towel. This will improve filtration and help prevent grounds from slipping through.

Clean up quickly: When you're done brewing, remove the paper towel filter and discard it right away. This will help prevent a mess and reduce cleanup time.

Experiment with different methods: Try different folding techniques to find the one that works best for you. You may also want to experiment with different sizes of paper towels or mugs to get the perfect fit.

Try other materials: If you don't have paper towels, try using cheesecloth or a cotton cloth instead. This can provide an even finer filter and help reduce sediment in your coffee.

If you want to know everything about paper towels such as are they biodegradable and is it ok to flush paper towels check out our additional resources.


So there you have it—all you need to know about using a paper towel as an effective makeshift filter for making coffee in a pinch! While they may not be quite as good at filtering out small particles as regular store-bought filters are, they'll do just fine in an emergency situation (or when running low on supplies). So keep this trick in mind next time you find yourself without any filters—it could end up saving your day (and taste buds)! Happy brewing!

If you need a holder for your paper towels check out the options below: