If you just run out of coffee filters, don’t panic!
There are plenty of ways to make coffee without using a coffee filter. For instance, you can make coffee without a filter using regular household items like tea bags, paper towels, or cheesecloth.
I’ve had to get creative plenty of times in my decade-plus in the coffee world. And over the years, I’ve developed a few ways of getting around those pesky paper filters.
In this article, I’ll review my favorites in no particular order. Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
1) Cowboy Coffee
First up, cowboy coffee. So named because it was how cowboys would brew their coffee back in the wild west days.
It’s also sometimes called mud coffee, but I think cowboy is a more appealing name.
It’s simpler than it sounds.
Here’s how it works:
- Add a healthy scoop of medium-coarse ground coffee to a pot.
- Fill the pot about ⅔ with water.
- Bring to a boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir the coffee.
- Let sit for 2-3 minutes.
- Pour slowly into a mug and enjoy.
I’ll admit, sometimes grounds get into your mug, but it’s not bad for being filterless!
Remember to give your coffee time to settle toward the bottom before serving. That helps keep too many grounds from getting into your cup.
Cowboy coffee is a great way to brew in a pinch or if you’re camping and forgot to bring filters.
2) Turkish Coffee
Turkish coffee is another stovetop brewing method that doesn’t use a paper filter.
And like cowboy coffee, you don’t need any fancy equipment or knowledge to brew Turkish coffee.
You do, however, need extra-fine coffee grounds. Like finer than espresso.
If you don’t have a grinder that grinds super fine, I might recommend using one of the other methods in this article.
But if you do, here’s how to brew Turkish coffee:
- Bring a half-full pot of water to a boil.
- Remove the pot from the heat.
- Add three heaped teaspoons of coffee and replace the pot on the stove.
- As soon as the coffee starts to boil, remove it from the heat.
- Scrape off the foam with a spoon.
- Repeat steps 4-5 once more.
- Let the pot sit for 30 seconds before pouring to let the grounds settle.
It really is that simple.
My advice, add a spoonful of sugar to the coffee before you boil it the first time. I’ve found that the sugar mixes into the coffee well and evens out the taste.
Also, Turkish coffee is pretty intense. It’s certainly not to everyone’s liking. Don’t be discouraged if you think it tastes too strong.
3) Use A Paper Towel
Using a paper towel as a coffee filter might sound a little crazy, but coffee machines will almost always use a paper filter.
So, why should a paper towel be any different?
I’ll admit that they don’t work as well as actual coffee filters. But in a pinch, paper towels do just fine.
Here’s what to do:
- Cut a few paper towels down to around a coffee filter size.
- Layer 3-4 paper towels in the brewer.
- Brew your coffee normally.
Paper towels can be used instead of many kinds of filters. From baskets to pour-overs, paper towels can save the day.
I will say that I’ve had some great success when using paper towels instead of AeroPress filters. It seems the circles are easier to make than most other filters.
But you can even make basket filters with paper towels, it just takes some creativity.
4) Try Instant Coffee Powder
Okay, I realize this isn’t technically brewing without a filter. However, it can save the day when you run out of paper filters and don’t want to run a science experiment.
Instant coffee powder has saved my mornings plenty of times over the years.
Often enough that I always have some on hand, just in case.
The truth is that instant coffee doesn’t stack up to the real thing. Usually, instant coffee is oily, slightly sour, and astringent. Adding a splash of cream is an easy fix, though.
But you should know that many of the brewing alternatives in this list won’t taste quite as good as the real thing, either. At least with instant coffee, you know exactly what you’re getting.
Plus, instant coffee is great for when you run out of filters on a busy morning when you’re already running late.
Instant coffee works like this:
- Boil some water.
- Add 1 scoop of instant coffee per cup of hot water.
- Fill your pot or mug with hot water.
- Stir until fully dissolved.
That’s it. Seriously.
5) Brew With A Dish Towel Or Cheesecloth
Brewing with a dish towel is my preferred method for brewing filterless pour-overs.
It’s easier to work with a dish towel in a pour-over like a Hario V60 or Chemex than it is with a paper towel. Just be sure you use a clean dish towel, but hopefully, that doesn’t need saying.
Here’s what to do:
- Place your dish towel or cheesecloth in your brewer and shape it into the filter
- Add your coffee and brew normally
Keep in mind that you might need to adjust your parameters based on the dish towel. Sometimes dish towels brew really slowly, and other times they brew way too fast. It just depends on the towel.
For best results, I like to use thinner towels and finer grinds.
It takes some trial and error to get perfect, but I hope you get more filters before you become an expert.
6) Make Cold Brew
Another way to make coffee without using a filter is to make a cold brew. And yes, cold brew takes some planning and overnight to taste great, but it’s easy to brew without a filter!
All you need is a French Press, mason jar, or any sealable container.
- Fill a container with 1 part coarse ground coffee to 2 parts room temperature water.
- Cover and place in the fridge.
- Wait a minimum of 8 hours, preferably 12-18 hours.
- Use a colander or wire strainer to separate the coffee from the grounds.
- Serve and enjoy.
Yes, cold brew takes some patience. And yes, it’s not a quick fix for the morning you ran out of filters. But it still makes a great cup of coffee!
I like to make a batch of cold brew about once a week during the warmer months to have on hand when I want a quick iced coffee.
7) Use A Tea Bag
You might be thinking, “Couldn’t I just steep coffee like I steep tea?”
Actually, you can. I don’t prefer doing this because it takes a long time and the water temperature isn’t ideal. But it is possible.
To do this, you’ll need a reusable tea bag.
Follow these steps:
- Fill a tea bag with 1-2 scoops of medium-ground coffee.
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
- Place the tea bag in a mug and fill it with hot water.
- Wait 7-8 minutes and start drinking.
I would recommend keeping the tea bag in the hot water while you start drinking until the coffee tastes best.
The problem with this method is that coffee needs hot water to brew the best. Letting the water cool while the coffee steeps mean your coffee won’t extract quickly and will be cold by the time it tastes great.
One option is to place the tea bag in the boiling water while it’s still on the stove for 2-3 minutes before you serve it.
In all honesty, making coffee without a filter just takes some ingenuity.
I’ve personally tried all seven of these methods to varying degrees of success. But I was able to drink coffee on all occasions!
The next time you find yourself in a pinch, try one of these methods out, and you’ll be enjoying your morning brew in no time!