Don’t Compromise! How to Find The Best Paper Coffee Filters

Finding a proper coffee filter seems like a pretty trivial task. However, it’s a bit more complicated than you’d think. Here’s my hard-earned advice.

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Asser Christensen

Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism

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Back in the days finding the best paper filter for your drip coffee pot was easy.

You’d go down to to the local supermarket and get a package of 100 pieces for something like 98 cents. It was easy to shop for because you only had few options.

Today most things pertaining to coffee are a lot more complicated, and filters are no different.

As a coffee geek, I’m not trying to make things complicated on purpose… Promise 🥺

However, you have to realize that the filtering method and material has a pretty significant impact on the flavor.

Example: A brewing method like the Chemex only tastes the way it does because its proprietary filters are extraordinarily thick and don’t allow many coffee oils to enter the cup.

If you want to know every single thing there is to know about filters, then read on!

Bleached vs. Unbleached Coffee filters

The first thing that comes to mind when people start thinking about buying a package of coffee filters is whether you should go for the white or brown version.

For many years the knee-jerk reaction from everybody just a little bit conscious about the environment has been that the white ones are “bad,” while the brown ones are more “natural.”

However, the debate isn’t black and white. 

My Current Favorite Filter for the Hario V60

Learn More

CAFEC 100-Pack Cone-shaped V60...

Oxygene Bleached is better

It’s true that chlorine, in general, is unhealthy for humans and the environment. However, this has been clear since the 80’s and 90’s and for that reason most paper today is bleached using so-called oxygen bleaching.

Reputable brands like the ones mentioned below will not use chlorine, and you can buy them with no worries or bad conscience.

  • Hario
  • Kalita
  • Chemex
  • Melitta

If in doubt, take a look at the packaging. The manufacturer should state which bleaching method has been used, but in fact, most companies rely on oxygen bleaching in this day and age.

Why so many people still carry around this idea about chlorine in 2018, I’m not really sure.

From left to right: Melitta, old V60, new (bad) V60 with tab. On the top Kalita Wave 155 filters aka basket or flat bottomed filter.

Taste: Brown vs. White Coffee Filters

Brown coffee filters, in general, give off a noticeable papery taste to coffee. This has always been my experience, and most of my colleagues in the coffee industry agree.

A white, bleached quality filter, on the other hand, leaves no discernible taste if pre-rinsed.

I always recommend that you first wet the filter with water from the tap and afterward rinse it off with hot water, and discard the water.

💡 PRO TIP: The last step also pre-heats your filter cone, which is something you’d want to do anyway.

Some people claim that you can skip this rinsing step with filters from Japanese brands such as Kalita and Kono, but I don’t see any reasons not to do it when it’s relatively easy.

To recap:

  • Always get a bleached filter
  • Always rinse before brewing.

Types of Coffee Filters

Hario V60

The cone-shaped filter has become synonymous with Hario V60 in the Western world. However, the company Kono has made similar filters for decades. As cone-shaped drippers like the Origami, V60, Kinto and so on, have become more popular, so has this shape.

Today brands like Kono, Mola, and Abaca make better filters than Hario, so even though you use a V60 you should try and experiment with filters from other manufacturers.

A special note on Hario filters

Hario’s filters used to be great, but in recent years the quality has dropped, which is something that is common knowledge among the more hardcore coffee geeks out there.

According to my sources, Hario began to use filters made in the Netherlands a few years back due to an increasing demand worldwide.

The Dutch-made filters are a lot worse than the original ones from Japan. They have a completely different composition compared to the original which makes them drain one to two minutes slower.

The new Hario filters can be recognized by having a tab.

Another way to distinguish the old and the new model is that the new ones don’t have the FSC logo on the outside, while the original ones do.

Back in the days, the two different suppliers had different serial numbers as well, but today they have the same serial number even though they are clearly different products.

If you want to be sure to get the proper filters then go for the smaller 40-package or look for the FSC logo or go for one of the new Japanese filter brands such as Cafec.


This is the classic shape that the German company Melitta invented more than a hundred years ago. You’ll see filters shaped this way in many supermarkets. Because this shape is widespread, it’s also easy to get subpar quality. The Melitta brand is usually pretty good, but if you’re able to get some that are produced in Japan, they seem to be better.


This flatbottomed filter has sometimes been described as being wave-shaped. The Japanese brand Kalita produce two different sizes of this type of filter that are great regarding quality and flavor.

Blue Bottle Coffee recently made a proprietary coffee dripper, and their Japanese manufactured filters have the same shape.

Coffee filter materials

In recent years we have seen some innovations among the filter papers. Here’s what the different things mean.

  • Bamboo filters are the most notable mention. Filters made out of this wood are supposed to create a more smooth coffee. However, it seems that this is mostly marketing hype.
  • Pulp. Most paper is made from trees so it shouldn’t be a surprise that coffee filters are made of it, too. This material usually comes from coniferous trees such as spruce and fir.
  • Virgin pulp: This name implies that no recycled papers have been used. Most environmentally friendly, consumers would think that recycling is good, but with paper, it can mean reduced strength and more bacteria. Because you’re ingesting coffee fewer bacteria is a good idea. (Source)
  • Abaca: This is also called Manila hemp even though technically it’s a part of the banana family. It’s a robust plant that grows in the Philippines that has been used to create textile and extra durable paper for bank notes and such. Now some coffee brands have started to experiment with this material.

Coffee Filter Sizes: 2 vs. 4?

When it comes to the Melitta style filter, the sizes are usually called 2, 4 and 6.

4 is the standard size that’s very typical of traditional drip coffee machines. If you’re shopping for filters, chances are good this one will fit your device. Even if it’s a bit too large, you can usually fold it, so it conforms to your machine. Number 2 matches smaller manual coffee makers. When in doubt always go for number 4.

Verdict: The best Coffee Filter

As I mentioned in the introduction, coffee filters can be a bit more complicated today than they used to be.

As a rule of thumb, you should always go for oxygen-bleached filters from reputable brands. The coffee filter is almost as important as the water you use.

If you’re happy with your brewing time and flavor, there’s no reason to change. I like to buy big batches of coffee filters because it’s so annoying to wake up and realize that you don’t have any filters available.

Check out my current favorite filter from the Japanese brand Cafec


Are paper filters better for coffee?

Paper filters are normally a lot finer, so they trap a greater amount of the coffee oils and granules. Coffee made with paper filters will in general be lighter and brighter in both color and taste. In my opinion, paper filtered coffee is the most delicious type.

How many times can you use a paper coffee filter?

There’s nothing wrong with reusing coffee filters several times if you can clean them properly. However, after use they tend to be fragile and might end up breaking. For that reason, I don’t recommend using them more than once.

What can I use if I have no coffee filters?

Paper towels can work, and some people also suggest using an old sock or t-shirt. My preferred method would probably be to use a tea strainer, since it’s safe to use with hot water.

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Asser Christensen

Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site.
I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra.
My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.