What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?

The answer to “What are coffee filters made of?” is simple. There are three options, with each filter delivering a different type of brew.

What are coffee filters made of?
The type of filter used influences the coffee taste

In the coffee world, a filter isn't just a filter. This is because the filter you use when making your daily brew actually influences how the coffee tastes.

Multiple elements, such as the body, flavor, and acidity levels of your coffee brews are all impacted by the material of the coffee filter. So, what are coffee filters made of? Read on to find out what types of brews you can expect from the different filters.

What Are Coffee Filters Made Of?

Well, the primary filter materials are paper, metal, and cloth. I've listed out the pros and cons of each material to help you decide which type of coffee filter you'd want to use for your cup of joe.

Paper Filters

Chemex with filtered ground coffee
Paper filters are the most popular among the three types

Of all three filter types, paper filters are undoubtedly the most popular and are found in many houses and most coffee shops in the U.S. The reason for this is two-fold. First, up to a few decades ago, many coffee drinkers in the country preferred their coffee thinner and lighter in color.

Since paper filters are tightly woven and highly absorbent, they soak up most of the micro-grounds and oils present in coffee. The result is a clear, bright, and light brew. Although coffee-drinking trends have changed over the last few decades, with coffee drinkers increasingly preferring more flavorful brews, the popularity of paper filters seems to have stuck.

The second reason why paper filters are so popular is that they don't need to be cleaned. You simply chuck the entire filter, with the grounds inside, in the trash can. However, this means that paper filters produce waste.

Plus, you constantly need to buy new ones. When it comes to the environment, unbleached paper filters are the best option. They are free of chemicals and break down much faster than their bleached counterparts.

Pros

  • Provides clean and bright cups of coffee.
  • No cleaning is needed, and they are easy to dispose of.

Cons

  • Depending on your taste, the coffee may lack flavor and intensity.
  • Of all three filter types, paper filters produce the most waste.
  • Unbleached filters may leave a papery taste in your brew if not rinsed properly.

Cloth Filters

A cheesecloth in a small glass bowl
Cloth filters are not commonly used as coffee filters

Cloth filters are probably the least common option among coffee filters. I find this strange since these filters provide an attractive middle ground between paper and metal filters. This is because while these filters' finely woven cloth material successfully filters out the coffee grounds, most of the oils are allowed through into the brew.

The reason for this is that cloth is not as absorbent as paper. The result is an aromatic and richly flavored brew that is simultaneously bright and clear. In addition, because of coffee oils in the brew, you also receive a pleasant medium mouthfeel.

As is the case with metal filters, these filters have to be washed well after brewing. Because of the cloth material, you will need to rinse the filter thoroughly to eliminate the oils and fine grounds that have become trapped.

Even if you clean these filters well, however, you can only use them for a few months, after which it's best to replace them. This is because the cloth will absorb flavors from the grounds you've used over time, which can cause off-flavors in your new brews.

Pros

  • Provides aromatic yet clean cups of coffee with a medium body
  • Since they last for several months, they cause minimal waste

Cons

  • They are more cumbersome to clean than metal filters
  • They have to be replaced intermittently

Metal Filters

Metal filters are typically made from perforated stainless steel or aluminum. However, you can also opt for gold-plated metal filters, which are very durable.

Since metal filters are not finely woven nor absorbent, they allow more micro-sediments and oils through into your brew. However, this is not an altogether bad thing.

Coffee oils are responsible for most of the aromas and flavors in coffee. Therefore, coffee brews made with metal filters provide more flavorful and intense cups of coffee.

Also, the presence of micro-grounds in a brew makes for a fuller mouthfeel. What's more, these grounds trick your taste buds into tasting less of the acid undertones in the brew.

When it comes to the health risks versus health benefits associated with consuming coffee oils, there are contradictory views. This is because coffee oils contain many different compounds, such as diterpenes, hydrocinnamic acids, and polyphenols.

While diterpenes have been associated with increased bad cholesterol levels, the other two compounds, for instance, are potent antioxidants that provide many health benefits. In the end, the answer probably lies in moderate consumption.

Pros

  • You get flavorful coffee brews with a full mouthfeel
  • Metal filters can last you a lifetime

Cons

  • You need to clean a metal filter after each brew
  • Not ideal for those who don't like a layer of sediment at the bottom of your mug
  • They can be expensive

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