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
Filters influence the outcome of the brew

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 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. If you’re still not sure which to choose, here’s some more info.

Why Do Coffee Filters Matter?

Especially when the pour-over method has become widely popular among coffee lovers, the question of which filters to use is a pertinent one. The filter you choose will have a significant impact on the coffee brew you’ll end up with. They affect many aspects, such as the mouthfeel, aroma, acidity, and bitterness of 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.

A Short Overview Of Unbleached And Bleached Coffee Filters

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

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.

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. 

What Do The Unbleached Vs. 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.

Comparison Between Unbleached And Bleached Coffee Filters

                           Unbleached Coffee Filters

                           Bleached Coffee Filters

Unbleached filters are slightly better for the environment.

The whitening process, especially when chlorine is used, is not good for the environment.

Unbleached filters tend to leave behind a papery taste in your brew if not rinsed properly.

It’s best to also rinse your bleached filters. However, there’s less of a chance of having a papery taste in your brew with bleached filters.

Unbleached filters have a brown color.

Bleached filters are white.

You’ll pay more for unbleached filters since there’s a lower demand for them.

Since bleached filters are the most popular filters, they are also cheaper.

What’s Better About Unbleached Coffee Filters?

A close view of an unbleached coffee filter in a coffee maker.
Unbleached coffee filters are environment friendly

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.


  • 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.