THE COFFEE FILTER: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
A LITTLE HISTORY ABOUT THE COFFEE FILTER
Before we talk more about the coffee filter, first a little bit of history. There’s a reason why the filter exists as we know it today. In 1908, the filter was invented by a German housewife, Melitta Bentz. She wanted to remove the bitter taste caused by boiling loose grounds. She wasn’t exactly happy with that result. At that time, they mostly used metal filters and cotton filters.
She solved this problem by making small holes in the bottom of a small container, in the container she put a sheet from her son’s notebook in it. Then she realized that the paper filtered the grounds and let through the liquids. She was blown away by the taste afterward. This is something we might take for granted today. Think about it, go 100 years back, what would you do to make a great cup-like today?
She patented her invention and now we’re here, providing you with a blog post about the subject.
The key takeaway here is, more than 100 years ago, they’ve used metal filters and cotton filters that didn’t do a great job. We have to thank the Germans for this invention of the paper coffee filter.
CHOOSING BETWEEN BLEACHED AND UNBLEACHED FILTERS
Have you ever wondered about the different filters: bleached or unbleached? What’s better? As with everything, you’ll have people that prefer bleached ones, and other people that don’t prefer bleached ones. We at Golden Sin will give you some pros and cons of each type.
Bleached filters, as the word describes, are filters that have been edited, they have undergone a process. Because of this, they have a white color. When you think about the paper when you were in school, paper isn’t traditionally white. Nowadays, it’s a trend that you buy stuff in paper bags, brown paper bags because they are durable and provide a better alternative for the environment.
There are some products involved in this bleaching process: Chlorine and Oxygen. We’ve all gone to a swimming pool in our life, the water is full of chlorine. It keeps the water and filters clean. Oxygen is a stronger bleacher.
The downside to using bleached filters is that they aren’t environment-friendly. People these days can throw their bags away and they don’t degrade, break down in nature.
These filters are the brownier ones, they don’t look very white. They can degrade better or break down better in nature and are more friendly for the environment. They aren’t processed with oxygen or chlorine.
When using the unbleached filters, it’s known that you’ll have an aftertaste, ruining a bit of your coffee experience. You can do the following to prevent that from happening:
- Wet the entire filter and put it in your coffee maker
- Make sure to get rid of the excess water before brewing
This will mostly solve the problem of the aftertaste. Remember, using a filter is to give you extra control during the brewing process. Like gooseneck kettles or a scale, a coffee filter gives you extra control, resulting in more great cups of coffee.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING COFFEE FILTERS
Budget is always on top of our things to consider list. Investing in coffee gear is always a good thing to consider. Yes, you don’t need exactly a filter to brew coffee as most machines come with permafilters that don’t need paper ones. The added value that a paper filter justifies the surplus in taste, period!
We’ve already said that bleached filters have undergone processes to get rid of the brown color. You’d think that they’re more expensive than their unbleached counterparts, but the opposite is true.
We at Golden Sin give the advice that you must consider buying filters if possible unbleached ones. Focus on your coffee needs but please don’t undermine your coffee taste and experience. No one deserves that. Quality over quantity if it’s possible!
Budget is mostly correlated to quality. Remember, good experiences are worth the price. Pay the extra cents per filter if needed. Consider the thickness of your filter and review it with the brewing method you’ll be using. The thicker the better it does the job of filtering. When going for thin grounds, you’ll need thicker filters, like espresso. Quality over quantity as we’ve said before.
#3. Metal filters
As said before in our history chapter, in the early 1900s, they already used a sort of metal filter. We’re 100 years later and still, this can be true. Metal filters can seem to be a durable solution and will be ideal for most brewing methods. Also think about your needs, very important.
In Europe, there’s a common saying: multiple ways lead to Rome! This is also true for coffee. Remember, we’re talking about experiences here. We at Golden Sin try to give you our opinion on the matter and that’s it. For us something is great, for you, it might just be ‘good’. When we have the choice, we will choose a paper filter.
#4. Best coffee
As we’ve said before, it’s dangerous to say this is the best coffee experience or answer to a given question. It’s never the same, for anyone. If we brew 2 cups from the same batch, you might say this is great and your partner will say otherwise.
If you respect the environment and contribute to a better world, you might consider using unbleached filters. Paying the extra price is something you can consider. It’s a few cents per filter so we don’t think this is anything you can’t handle.
#6. Convenient in usage
A coffee filter must be easy to use. I get it, you’re thinking, what can go wrong with a coffee filter? Paper ones are easy to use, you grab one, wet it, and put it in. After the brewing, you just grab it and throw it in the bin. Using a metal filter can also be convenient, but sometimes a tough job also. The longer you use it, the more it loses its function: filter. That’s why I like the paper ones.
#7. Convenient in cleaning
Cleaning after each brew is a process we all must undergo. With a paper filter, take it and throw it in the bin. With metal filters, the cleaning is a bit more challenging and you must always be aware that not all metal filters are dishwasher safe. I like the old school thing, wash it by hand. A paper one over a metal one for me! It saves me both time and improves my coffee experience. Just think: if you invest in a metal filter, just use it enough.
Filters come in different shapes, you have conical filters, baskets, and disks.
a. Conical filters
Conical filters are probably the most popular or known filters in households. They have the shape of a cone. You have multiple versions. The most known is the one with the small point at the top and the other is not from round to round but has 2 sides that come together. These filters are suited for pour-over brewing.
Generally, they’re great to achieve great extraction of the grounds and allow high quality of grounds saturation.
Baskets are suited for most coffee makers and sizes. You can recognize it like a cupcake or flat-bottom filter. It has a wide opening at the top and also a lower bottom. They’re suited for brewing large batches of coffee.
While these can give us great cups of coffee, the quality might not be the same as their conical counterparts. The spread is higher because of the larger bottom and thus increasing the risk of uneven extraction.
The disks aren’t as known as the first 2 shapes of filters. They’re mostly used for the AeroPress and French Press and not as big as the other filters. They’re not suited for most brewing methods, so consider this before buying them. If you prefer flexibility, this might not be the one to pick.
The capacity is also something to consider. Do you drink a lot of coffee? Are you happy with a large batch at 1 time? You must know that there are multiple sizes. Mostly, you’ll have these sizes:
|Filter Size||Suited for|
|1||Single-serve coffee makers|
|2||4-6 cup automatic coffee maker|
|4||8-12 cup automatic coffee maker|
|6||> 10 cup automatic coffee maker|
|Basket||The standard for filter baskets with a flat bottom|
Most coffee makers can brew at least 4 cups. Think about the fact that if you want to brew less than 6 cups with a basket coffee filter, you’ll need a junior size because it can be challenging.
The table above is clear but we also say 2 and 4 are most used in households. 6 and baskets are more used in larger households and professional contexts. However, with the increasing number of people who live alone, size 1 can also become more popular. There’s a time and place for everything right?
#10. Suitable for brewing method of your choice?
Last but not least, you must align the chosen filter with your preferred choice of brewing method. You can’t expect to have a great espresso with a thin filter or brew a nice pour-over with a basket filter.
Go and try out different filters. Consider everything. Trial and error. We think you can start with the paper filters and if you want to try a metal one, please be our guest and try. There’s no way we will say x or y is better. Remember, brewing coffee is a way of living and we try to live our life to the fullest right?
DO YOU NEED A FILTER TO BREW A GREAT CUP OF COFFEE?
No. You can easily make coffee without a filter. When you’re running out of filters to use, there are a few alternatives you can try.
Do you remember the western movie: the though cowboys? You can brew cowboy coffee without a filter. You need the following: water, coffee, a kettle, and a heat source. The important thing here is that you don’t filter the coffee but it’s important to give it the time to sink.
It’s important to let the water cool down after heating up, to a temperature just below the boiling point (around 95°C or 203° F). If you don’t do this, coffee will taste more bitter.
After this, mix the grounded coffee with the water until everything is mixed up well.
From the moment the coffee is simmering, take the kettle off the fire, put the lid on it, and let it be for 2 minutes.
Stir the coffee and let it be for another 2 minutes.
Remove the lid and let the fresh air get into the kettle. This is key for letting the coffee sink because you don’t filter it.
If you don’t like paper filters or cowboy coffee, you can go for a metal one. Remember, there’s always a great solution for everyone. If you can brew fine coffee without a filter, we won’t argue or advise against using a metal filter. These things are great, try one by all means. Just consider it’s unlikely that it replaces the paper filters because it’s known for letting more grounds through in your cup, ruining the great tastes.
Did you know that socks are a great solution? Of course, use a clean sock. Just put the grounds into the sock and pour hot water through a sock, holding it over a cup or mug.
Take a towel or paper towel and scissors to make a conical filter. This requires a bit of work. You can sew this with a needle and thread if you like.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DO YOU NEED A FILTER TO BREW COFFEE?
No. You can easily make coffee without a filter. When you’re running out of filters to use, there are a few alternatives you can try, like a sock, (paper) towel, cowboy coffee, a metal filter… When the need is high, you can always come up with a great solution. A filter gives you extra control over the brewing process, just like a gooseneck kettle.
ARE PAPER FILTERS AS GOOD AS METAL FILTERS?
That’s a discussion that will last for ages. We just say that when the coffee filter is patented in 1908 by Melitta Bentz. In those days they already used some kind of metal filters. Metal filters are known to let through more grounds, resulting in a more bitter coffee experience. It can be a great cup but mostly, a paper filter will lead you to a better result. We at Golden Sin prefer the paper ones.
ARE BLEACHED COFFEE FILTERS BETTER THAN UNBLEACHED COFFEE FILTERS?
Not per se, the unbleached filter might leave a more paperlike taste after using them. You can easily prevent this by wetting the filter before brewing your batch of coffee. Bleached coffee filters are processed with chemicals and do more damage to the environment but are cheaper. They both do their job well, each has its pros and cons.
DO COFFEE FILTERS AFFECT THE TASTE?
Yes, they affect the coffee taste. It all depends on what type of filter you’re using. Also, unbleached filters can leave a more paper taste, this can be solved by wetting the filter before brewing your batch of coffee. You won’t do wrong to pay a bit more per filter. If you use a basket filter for pour-over brewing, you won’t have the same result as you would have with a conical filter. The thickness of the filter is decisive for the taste. Overall, invest in your equipment, quality over quantity!
When choosing a filter, please don’t hang in the decision between a paper filter and a metal filter. Always pick a paper filter. Unbleached filters don’t have a particular edge over the bleached ones in quality. Environmental reasons or price might be the main consideration here. There’s no ideal filter for every brewing method. Cone filters are more suited for Pour Over brewing, disk filters are only suited for AeroPress and French press.
Essentially, you don’t need a filter, to begin with, it gives you more control in your brewing process. For us, filters are an important part of brewing great coffee and we prefer paper ones. Try different filters for different occasions and test them yourself! Be your judge!
Enjoy your coffee!