Paper vs. Metal Coffee Filters: Five Questions to Help You Choose

December 04, 2013

Coffee isn’t so much finicky as it is responsive. Nearly anything that comes into contact with coffee on its way from bean to cup has an effect on it, so it should come as no surprise that the coffee filter you choose – one of the last things that touches your coffee before your lips do – makes a difference in how your coffee tastes. When choosing between paper and metal coffee filters, taste is only one of the things you should consider. These five questions can help you make the decision.

Able Brewing Disk Fine Aeropress FilterDo They Make One for My Brewer?

The whole steel vs. paper filter debate is a moot point if there’s no option to fit your brewer of choice. Able makes the Kone for the Chemex and the Disk for the Aeropress. There are various other metal options for other filter brewers as well. Whether you choose paper coffee filters or a metal option, though, you’ll get the best extraction if you use a filter that’s the right shape and size for your brewer.

Which Is More Environmentally Friendly?

Metal coffee filters don't contribute to deforestation or add to the waste stream.

How Much Do I Want to Spend?

Permanent coffee filters will cost you more up front, but save you money in the long run. Paper filters cost less per pack, but you have to keep buying them.

V60 Coffee Filters HarioWhich Is the Healthier Option?

The science is up for debate. Paper filters reduce the amount of cafestol, a coffee oil that's been implicated in raising cholesterol levels, that makes it into your cup. Because of that, some medical experts feel that paper coffee filters are a healthier option than metal filters. On the other hand, bleached paper filters may leach dioxin, a hazardous chemical used in bleaching, into your coffee. If you're worried about cholesterol levels, unbleached paper filters may be your best option.

Do I Like Full Body or Bright Flavor?

Paper coffee filters don’t just reduce the amount of sediment (fines) in your coffee. They also absorb a lot of the coffee oils that contribute to the flavor and body of your coffee. Paper-filtered coffee is brighter in flavor and lighter in body. When you use a metal coffee filter, your coffee will have richer flavor, fuller body and more fines in the cup.

Three last things to consider:

  • You'll never run out of coffee filters with a metal coffee filter.
  • It's much easier to clean up when you use a paper coffee filter.
  • Paper filters may make your coffee taste like... well, paper. Rinsing them in hot water can help.

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