Unbleached Vs. Bleached Coffee Filters: What’s Best?

When it comes to choosing between unbleached vs. bleached coffee filters, the environment and the cost of filters will likely influence your choice.

Unbleached vs. bleached coffee filters
Unbleached vs. Bleached Coffee Filters

Those who are not that into coffee may be wondering why on earth anyone would even care about debating over unbleached coffee filters vs. bleached filters. However, coffee aficionados tend to have strong opinions on all things related to coffee, including filters. This is because filters do actually influence the outcome of a brew.

The environment is also another factor to consider. When choosing between unbleached coffee filters vs. bleached ones, I go with the former because I like to live as green as possible. There is also the question of the safety of bleached coffee filters, which we’ll examine further within the article.

Why Do Coffee Filters Matter?

The filter you choose will have a significant impact on the coffee brew you’ll end up with when you are drinking pour-over coffee. The filters affect many aspects, such as the mouthfeel, aroma, acidity, and bitterness of the coffee.

Since paper filters are tightly woven and super absorbent, they filter out a lot of the coffee oils and sediment, leaving you with a clear, thin, and milder brew. On the other hand, metal filters are not absorbent and allow some of the coffee oils and sediments to land up in your brew. The result is a brew with a thicker mouthfeel and a bold, rich flavor.

What you prefer depends on your personal preference. 

A Short Overview Of Unbleached Vs. Bleached Coffee Filters

Apart from metal, cloth, and paper filters, you also choose unbleached vs. bleached paper filters. The main difference between these two filters is that bleached coffee filters have been whitened through one of two processes.

The first process involves using chlorine, which is the chemical used to keep swimming pools clean. Although there were some concerns regarding the safety of these filters in the past, they have been proven safe. They don’t impart any chemicals or unwanted flavors to your coffee.

White round coffee filters
Bleached coffee filters are whitened through one of two processes

The second way that coffee filters are whitened is through a process called oxygen bleaching. This process is more environmentally friendly than bleaching with chlorine. In general, oxygen-bleached filters are regarded as of a higher quality than their chlorine-bleached counterparts.

As far as the environment goes, unbleached paper filters are by far the safest option. Apart from the fact that they undergo less processing, they are also free of chemicals and break down faster than bleached filters. 

Are Bleached Coffee Filters Safe?

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.

If you like this post, you might be interested in our guide on bamboo filters vs. paper coffee filters.

What Do The Unbleached & Bleached Coffee Filters Have In Common?

Unbleached and bleached filters are made from the same kind of paper. Bleached filters are just more processed.

The coffee you get from these two types of filters will be similar. Although some say that unbleached filters impart a more woody and papery taste to the brew, this issue can easily be rectified by rinsing these filters before use.

What’s Better About Unbleached Coffee Filters?

Unbleached filters are more environmentally friendly than bleached filters. If you rinse them properly, you won’t end up with unwanted wooded or papery flavors in your coffee.

What’s Better About Bleached Coffee Filters?

Bleached coffee filters are more readily available than unbleached filters, and they’re also cheaper. Plus, they don’t add any unwanted flavors to your brew. To be safe, however, you should still rinse bleached filters before brewing.

Who Should Go For Unbleached Coffee Filters?

Coffee lovers who are just as passionate about the environment as their coffee will prefer unbleached coffee filters. Also, although research shows that little to no chlorine lands up in your coffee when using bleached filters, it’s still nice to know that the unbleached filters you’re using are free of chemicals.

Who Should Go For Bleached Coffee Filters?

If you’re concerned about your coffee possibly having a papery taste, going with bleached filters is the safer option. You can opt for oxygen-bleached filters if you want a filter that’s safe for the environment.

Why Choose A Reusable Filter

Stainless steel coffee filter
Metal or other reusable coffee filters minimize the amount of waste created when brewing coffee

There are reasons to opt for a metal or other reusable 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. If you like this article, read our guide to Bunn coffee filters.

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.


  • Niki B

    Born and bred in South Africa, Niki B now does her writing from the distant shores of South Korea. A self-proclaimed coffee addict by day, and a writer by night, she gladly shares her knowledge with fellow coffee lovers.