When I first learned that there are three major types of coffee filters and that some brewing methods could use more than one, I was a bit overwhelmed. I felt like a third grader in a convenience store trying to decide which candy to buy. There were too many choices for my uninformed brain.
If only there had been a quick summary of the coffee filter types.
A Quick Summary of Coffee Filter Types
There are some key differences in how paper, metal, and cloth filters impact your final mug of coffee. Though no type is better than the other, each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your personal taste preferences.
The filter type most people are familiar with is paper. The very thin pores of paper allow very little to no sediment to get through into your mug and the material soaks up most of the oils. If you like a clean cup without the creamy oils floating on the top of your coffee, paper is the way to go.
Paper filters come in all shapes and sizes, but they arenâ€™t complicated. Thick filters result in low-body cups of coffee, while thin filters allow slightly more. With a lower body, coffees brewed through paper filters often have a clearer acidity and refined flavor.
Brewing methods that can use paper include the Auto Drip, Hario V60, Chemex, Kalita Wave, and Aeropress.
Metal filters come in many thicknesses also, but perform quite differently than paper filters. The metal mesh is never as fine, which means a bit of sediment often gets through the filter, adding quite a bit more body to the cup. Metal doesnâ€™t absorb oils either, so you can expect a silky layer of coffee oil on the top of the mug.
Youâ€™ll never have to throw away a metal filter (unless you neglect it and it begins to grow) and cleaning them tends to just involve a simple rinse and wipe to remove coffee grounds stuck in the filter. If you like a reusable filter that brews a full bodied cup of coffee with a bold flavor, metal filters are the way to go.
Brewing methods that use metal include the Auto Drip, French Press, Able Kone,Â Aeropress, andÂ Espresso.
Cloth filters are very popular in many places in the world, but havenâ€™t caught on as significantly as paper and metal in the United States. That said, they hold their own against the other two types of filters.
Cloth, like paper filters, keep tiny coffee grounds from making it to the final cup and, like metal filters, allow most of the oils to pass right through. If you love the velvety oils but hate a thick body, cloth filters are worth a shot.
These filters are the most difficult to maintain and require more thorough cleaning after each use and careful storage to avoid them drying out and tearing.
Brewing methods that use cloth filters include the Sock Drip and Siphon.
Now you can wrap your head around the advantages and disadvantages of the three primary coffee filter types. No freakout necessary.
From here itâ€™s up to you. Do you like the crisp brightness of the paper filter, the boldness of the metal filter, or the silky body of the cloth filter? Why not try them all and find out?