Are Bleached Coffee Filters Safe?

Bleached filters are commonly used to brew coffee, but are bleached coffee filters safe? This article explores the safety of these filters.

Are bleached coffee filters safe?
Bleached coffee filters are fine to use

A fresh, white paper filter in a filter basket full of ground coffee is an image that many people recognize and associate immediately with coffee, even though several brewing methods exist. 

But studies show some of the products we use every day have the potential to harm us through chemical residues; that image of the white paper stuffed with ground coffee may not be as innocent or comforting for some people.

The big question that many coffee lovers need to know is: are bleached coffee filters safe? Fortunately, the evidence suggests that they are.

But of course, the answer goes a little deeper than that. Read on to find out why bleached coffee filters are fine to use, but also why you might prefer to use a different style.

Are Bleached Coffee Filters Safe? Bleach In Your Coffee

Top view of Chemex with white filter containing ground coffee.
Bleached filters contain a small amount of bleach

The biggest fear that coffee lovers have when it comes to using bleached filters is the possibility that some of the bleaching agents, whether chlorine or other chemicals, would inevitably end up in the coffee they’re brewing, and therefore into their bodies. The good news is the amount of bleach used to make white paper filters is tiny, to begin with, and that it evaporates quickly as the paper dries before being packaged. Therefore, bleached coffee filters are safe to use.

Why You Might Decide Against Bleached Coffee Filters

reusable red plastic coffee pod with a black pod, white spoon, and ground coffee on a white background
Permanent filters minimize the amount of waste

Even though there’s no danger from drinking coffee brewed through a bleached coffee filter, there are potential reasons you might want to choose a different style. For one, many coffee lovers insist that they can tell the difference in flavor between coffee brewed with bleached filters and those brewed with unbleached paper filters or metal/permanent filters. 

I’ve never found that to be the case–the bleaching process doesn’t leave anything behind on the paper filter to make it taste different. For most brewing processes, the contact between water, bean, and filter doesn’t last long enough for the type of filter to impact the flavor of the coffee.

However, there are reasons to opt for a metal or other permanent filter instead of any style of paper filter. The biggest reason is that a permanent or metal filter minimizes the amount of waste you create brewing coffee. While you can compost paper filters, the paper takes a good while longer to break down than just coffee grounds, which means you’ll have a pile of bits of coffee filter mixed in with your compost. 

By opting for the permanent filter, you can easily empty the basket into a bucket or another receptacle to move it out to your compost pile–or you can empty the basket directly into the trash if you’re not composting your grounds.

It’s also a more sustainable option overall; while the bleaching process doesn’t leave behind any dangerous traces in the paper, the process of making lots and lots of paper filters for consumers does have an environmental impact overall. While the filters are cheap, the manufacturing process means cutting down trees. Studies have also pointed to the bleaching of various paper products as contributors to water pollution

The shift to oxygen-based bleaching methods has somewhat helped the problem, but chlorine bleaching is still cheaper. If you’re concerned about groundwater contamination, it’s worth making a switch to a filter that will last you for years and which has a lower impact on the environment. 

Author

  • Savannah is a coffee lover who took her appreciation of the brew to the next level starting in college, becoming a barista before combining her love of writing with her affection for a good brew. She has written for several publications including Cracked.com and TopTenz, and also works as a ghostwriter.