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What to do When You Have No Filters for the Coffee Maker

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Updated August 29, 2022

Even if you have the best coffee maker, you need the right supplies to make the perfect brew. That said, if you’ve run out of coffee filters, you can still start your morning with a pot of coffee. While your brewing process might change, you can use a coffee filter alternative or different ground beans. So, if you want hot coffee but don’t know what to do when you have no filters for the coffee maker, we can help.


  • You can still brew coffee if you’ve run out of coffee filters.
  • You can use paper towels, a kitchen strainer, or a kitchen rag as a substitute for traditional filters.
  • You can use an alternative brewing process such as instant coffee or coffee concentrates.

What to Use in a Coffee Machine Without a Paper Coffee Filter

If you want a cup of coffee but don’t have a traditional paper filter, you might think you’re out of luck since most coffee makers use filters. While some alternatives won’t let you use your drip coffee maker, you still have options for a potent brew. For most methods, you’ll still need hot water and freshly ground coffee for the best results.

For more coffee maker tips and tricks, check out our guides covering how to use a single coffee maker, how to clean the coffee maker filter basket, and what is a vacuum coffee maker.

Insider Tip

Do not use paper towels as a permanent coffee filter. Companies treat them with bleach, so they are not a healthy choice as a regular coffee filter.

If you don’t have a coffee filter, you have two options to fill your coffee cup. For the first option, you need to think outside of the box and use a makeshift filter. Your other option is to use an alternative brewing method to your normal process. So, read on and see which is best for you.

Read this guide for the most efficient placement if you’re not sure where to place a coffee maker in the kitchen. Alternatively, if you’re still deciding on which machine to get, check out our mashup of the Keurig vs Nespresso coffee makers.

Coffee Filter Substitutes

While there are many other tools you might use, below are the most common filter replacements. That said, you may adjust your choice based on the size of your coffee maker. Read our guide on what size Moka pot to get, so you’re never without fantastic coffee.

Paper Towels

While manufacturers treat paper towels with bleach, you can use one as a coffee filter, but only in a pinch. We do not recommend using a paper towel more than once.

Reusable Metal Filters

Your steel strainer will work as a coffee filter. For example, place some coarsely-ground beans in a metal strainer and pour boiling water through the grounds and into a coffee cup.

Alternative Coffee Brewing Method

If you don’t have the tools listed above, you can change your choice of brewing method. While your brew will taste different, you don’t have to use a homemade coffee filter.

Instant Coffee

We get it, instant coffee isn’t ideal for taste. That said, having instant brew around is never a bad idea, especially if you’re out of filters.

Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy coffee is essential, but it works. Simply place your coffee grounds in a boiling pot of water. Use a steep time of two minutes and remove the coffee from the heat. You can strain the brew, but it will have a rich, dark taste if you strain it or not.

Concentrated Coffee

The coffee concentrate is a convenient way to enjoy coffee in a pinch. You can make a cold brew coffee or add the concentrate to hot water for a warm mug.


Remember to strain your cowboy coffee pot because coffee sediment will ruin the taste and might stick to your teeth.


Can you make coffee without electricity?

You can certainly make coffee without electricity, but you still need a heat source. You can make delicious coffee with an open flame or a furnace. That said, you’ll want a source of filtered water.

Can you eat coffee grounds?

While you can eat coffee grounds, we do not recommend it. While some appreciate the ground coffee experience, most find loose coffee gritty and bitter, like sand. In addition, consuming tablespoons of coffee grounds will not accurately represent the taste of brewed coffee.

How your filter choice affects coffee taste?

Your coffee filter affects the taste of your freshly brewed pot of coffee. For example, a metal filter basket makes a dark-tasting, heavier cup of coffee. Paper filters, however, will remove many coffee oils that some coffee drinkers crave.

STAT: According to a survey from the journal Nutrients, 66% of Americans regulate their caffeine intake. (source)

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