Everything You Need to Know About Coffee Filters and Pour-Over Drippers

Coffee filters are a surprisingly complex subject. Even though paper filters may seem simple enough, they come in lots of shapes and sizes. There are also many types of devices that hold the filters – from coffee drippers to coffee machines – made from materials like porcelain, plastic or copper.

Coffee filters are a surprisingly complex subject. Even though paper filters may seem simple enough, they come in lots of shapes and sizes. There are also many types of devices that hold the filters – from coffee drippers to coffee machines – made from materials like porcelain, plastic or copper.

In this article you will learn all about the fabulous world of coffee filters and drippers. If you came here because you want a quick answer to the question of which paper filter you should use for your coffee maker, then you will also find your answer in this article.

A Quick Overview of Coffee Filters


This article is about both classic coffee filters and different kinds of coffee filter holders. I will also talk about reusable filters and how filters work with the Chemex. Feel free to have a look at the index below and jump to the part of the article that looks most interesting to you. First, though, here are answers to a few common questions, along with links to other articles or products you might be looking for.

What Is the Best Porcelain Pour-Over Dripper? The best porcelain manual dripper for pour-over coffee is the Hario V60. You can buy it here on Amazon. When using the V60, be sure to only use filters from Hario – they are high-quality and sized correctly. When it comes to both the filters and the dripper, I would recommend the larger 02 size. It will give you more flexibility and allow you to make more coffee at a time. The tapered, pointed shape of the Hario dripper will also give you better extraction than you would get with models from Melitta or Tchibo.

When buying a Hario dripper, do not get the version that says “Made in Netherlands.” These are made from poorer-quality materials. Here’s a link to the filters I recommend for this holder. You can also find a complete guide to using pour-over drippers on my blog.

What About Drip Coffee Machines? First of all, you can check out my complete article on drip coffee machines to learn about all the different kinds of coffee machines on the market.

If you are wondering what filter size you should use:

Most coffee machines use “size 4” filters. The filters will usually say “size 4” somewhere on the packaging, and often describe what machine kinds and sizes are compatible.

What About Other Coffee-Making Techniques That Use Filters? In this article, I will talk about lots of classic ways to make coffee, as well as some hip, modern methods. This includes gadgets like the Chemex, AeroPress and manual pour-over drippers. Spoiler Alert: I’m a big fan of all manual filtering methods. In recent years, though, many coffee machines have made great strides in improving the quality of their materials and the coffee they make. However, they still have a lingering but somewhat undeserved bad reputation.

Table of Contents

Paper Coffee Filters: An Overview

Paper Coffee Filter Size Quality Preparation Method Cost
Melitta Size 4 fits most coffee machines Tear easily; not 100-percent taste neutral Coffee machine or Melitta pour-overAround $4.50 for 100 filters
Hario01 = Small
02= Large
ExcellentHario V60 pour-overAround $5.75 for 100 filters
ChemexFor 1 to 3 cups and for 6 to 10 cupsWorld-classChemex coffee carafesAround $13 for 100 filters
AeroPressOne sizeExcellentAeroPressAround $5 for 350 filters

The above table can give you a general idea of what kind of filters to use for different methods. Let’s take a closer look at the coffee makers that actually hold these filters.

Manual Pour-Over Drippers


When I do research for an article like this one, I ask myself what people have in mind if they search for a term like “coffee filter.” Many people might envision a classic paper filter, but others might think of porcelain or copper coffee filters.

However, it would be more correct to call these latter ones “coffee filter holders” because they themselves don’t actually filter anything. However, the phrase “coffee filter holder” is a bit long and doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. Therefore, for the rest of the article I will be a bit less precise and sometimes refer to these coffee filter holders as “coffee filters” or simply “filters.” Yes, I realize that that’s a long, complicated explanation of why and how I’m trying to simplify a term, but I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.

Porcelain Coffee Drippers


I can recall from my barista days how sharp a broken piece of porcelain can be. There’s a good reason people who work in restaurants tell you to never push down the trash with your hands. Nevertheless, I am lucky and have never broken a porcelain coffee dripper myself.

coffee filter porcelain

Porcelain coffee drippers are great because they still look brand new even after years of use. They can go in the dishwasher, and they have that “old yet somehow modern” flair.

At least mine have that look. I have a large, white Hario V60 (02) and a small, red Hario V60 (01). If you had to chose between the two sizes, I recommend the larger size. That’s because it still does an excellent job making small batches of coffee while giving you maximum flexibility if you want to make more the next time.

Of course, you will need to put paper filters inside the coffee drippers when you use them. You also need to place the dripper on top of a carafe or a pot to catch the brewed coffee. If you scroll down until you come to the second picture, you will see me holding one of those pots. I like that one, but there are also cheaper models that don’t have a wooden handle.

If you want to go the other way and invest a bit more money, you can go all-in and get a coffee brewing “stand.” It is a simple device that holds the coffee dripper and has a space for you to set a pot or mug underneath. I didn’t have a coffee stand at home until I ordered one from a recent Kickstarter campaign. You can check out the “Ultimate Coffee Brew Stand” here.

coffee brew stand

If that particular stand isn’t your style, there are several others on the market, such as the Hario V60 olive wood stand. It’s a simple stand made from olive wood, but it’s relatively expensive on Amazon. Hario also makes a plastic one, but who wants plastic if you can have wood or brushed stainless steel?

I have so far neglected to mention all the other brands of porcelain pour-over drippers, but that’s because I personally only have Hario coffee drippers in my own kitchen. Still, many people love drippers made by Cilio, Kita, Melitta and other brands.

Copper Coffee Drippers


Copper is relatively expensive, so why would you want to use it in a coffee dripper? I would like to say that copper is simply the best material if you want to extract flavor and aromas – but that’s just not true. Porcelain and copper can both do the job equally well. The advantage of copper, though, is that it looks awesome. Plus, if you accidentally drop it, it won’t break. This also makes it ideal to take along on camping trips. For me, I like copper much better than a plastic.

coffee filter copper

What’s more, copper is also antibacterial, although that might not really matter because you are already heating the water to more than 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit). Still, an advantage is an advantage, and copper has several more.

  • Copper looks really good.
  • It’s durable.
  • It won’t break if you drop it.
  • It’s easy to clean.

A few disadvantages also come to mind, though:

  • It’s expensive.
  • You definitely can’t put it in the dishwasher – it will tarnish.

I use my copper coffee dripper almost every day. It just looks great. If you throw in a Hario Buono water kettle and the obligatory barista beard, you can unlock Hipster Beast Mode!

Seriously, though, a friend gave me the water kettle on a long-term loan (a deal that we are still negotiating to this day). Although I can’t claim to need the coffee dripper or the water kettle, they are both certainly nice to have. Manual pour-over coffee drippers are attractive because the gear doesn’t cost much, but you can still make outstanding coffee. I don’t have these things because they are necessarily better than other brands and models, but rather because they look great in my apartment and in photos.

coffee filter hario

If you buy this gear, it will be because of its design. There are better options out there if you are looking for more bang for your buck. If the Hario V60 copper pour-over dripper is still calling out to you, though, then by all means get one. It is pricey but great.

Plastic Coffee Drippers


There are tons of plastic coffee drippers out there. Unfortunately, I can’t give them much of an endorsement. I think they are ugly, and I don’t like the idea of my coffee coming into contact with plastic. I will make an exception for the AeroPress, though.

Based solely on the way they feel in your hand, I would advise against using plastic coffee drippers. For me, making coffee always includes an aesthetic aspect. If you want to manually brew your coffee with a pour-over dripper, then at least you are halfway there on the path to good coffee. However, don’t make a wrong turn by buying a plastic dripper. Porcelain and copper drippers are simply lovely, and you should go with one of them instead.

You can also rest easier knowing that you will not have to worry about microplastics in your coffee. That last comment isn’t actually based on scientific evidence, but rather just personal humor. However, when it comes to coffee, which many of us enjoy at least once a day, I would avoid using artificial products, especially when there are better alternatives. That is certainly the case with pour-over coffee drippers. Unfortunately, avoiding artificial products is not possible when it comes to the brewing units in super-automatic espresso machines.

Hario also has a V60 pour-over “kit” that includes a coffee dripper made of hard plastic. It is sold as a kind of beginner’s kit for pour-over coffee. There is a good chance that most people who buy the kit will quickly decide that the plastic dripper is junk and replace it with a better one (which they should have just gotten from the get-go). It is also proof that, even though I love the brand, not every product that Hario makes is good.

The brand Alfi also makes coffee drippers, but they remind me more of a beer bong than a device for making coffee.

Glass Coffee Drippers


There are also glass coffee drippers, including ones made by Hario. They don’t have quite as many advantages as porcelain drippers, though. In my opinion, glass pour-over drippers don’t look as nice, and they don’t withstand high temperatures as well as porcelain.

You also don’t get that nostalgic element with glass drippers. However, the upside is that the some glass drippers can be quite cheap, even if the Hario Glass Coffee Dripper is pretty expensive.

Stainless-Steel Coffee Drippers


Naturally, you can also go with a stainless-steel coffee dripper, which are heavier than copper drippers. One well-known option is the “Kalita Wave,” but the only filters that fit it are special Kalita Wave filters. These filters are comparable in price to Hario filters, but personally I prefer the shape of the Hario V60.

The Hario V60 Coffee Dripper is also available in stainless steel, but I don’t care much for it. I would recommend buying a porcelain dripper or, if you feel like giving yourself a treat, a copper one.

Cotton Coffee Filters


Fabric coffee filters are back. Cotton filters were more common several decades ago, but they waned a bit in popularity. So don’t call their current popularity a comeback – they have been here for years. They work similarly to a dripper with a paper filter, but the main difference is obviously that cotton filters are reusable. They are also ideal for traveling or camping because they are durable and light.

I use a glass carafe with my filters. In this case, I’m a real brand loyalist because it is another Hario product: the Woodneck Drip Pot.

coffee filter fabric

Coffee Filters to Use With a Chemex


As you can see, the Chemex pot and filters sit prominently on my kitchen shelf.

coffee filter chemex

It might seem weird to keep the box, but Chemex stuff is packed so artfully that I have a tough time throwing away the packaging.

I think that Chemex is nice because it not only makes good coffee, but also has cool packaging.

If you get a Chemex, you are doing at least one thing right with your life. It’s one of the most beautiful coffee makers in the world. You can check out the eight-cup version here on Amazon.

A Chemex coffee maker is a coffee gadget that I don’t want to do without. That’s not only because of its looks, but also because of its clean coffee taste. However, porcelain pour-over drippers are a bit easier to clean because they are separate from the coffee pot. You can also clean them in a dishwasher.

A hundred Chemex filters will cost you about $13. Later, we will do a bit of math to calculate whether it’s worth getting a reusable filter. You will be paying about 13 cents per filter for these paper ones. Of course, the more often you make coffee, the more filters you will need.

Coffee Filters to Use With an AeroPress


The AeroPress uses small, round filters. You can read more about the AeroPress in this article. You can get a surprisingly inexpensive pack of 350 microfilters from Amazon, or you can opt for a reusable stainless-steel filter.

Coffee Filters to Use With a Coffee Machine


For many people, drip coffee machines have become synonymous with bad coffee. A good deal of that bad reputation is because many people use low-quality, pre-ground coffee with these machines. If you use stale, crummy coffee, then you shouldn’t expect good results.

Coffeemaker vs. Manual Filter

However, even if you use fresh coffee, you might have problems with your coffee machine. If your coffee is freshly ground and recently roasted, it will release some CO2. If the filter is packed really full, then the released CO2 can cause the filter to overflow. That’s a problem, but it absolutely should not deter you from using fresh coffee!

Advantages of Drip Coffee Machines

  • You can make large quantities of coffee at once.
  • They are easy to clean.
  • Nostalgia, at least for me: The sound reminds me of my childhood.

Disadvantages of Drip Coffee Machines

  • They often heat the water too hot.
  • I can’t stand warming plates.

If you use a drip coffee machine, the following points are especially important:

  • Use truly good, fresh, whole-bean coffee.
  • Grind your coffee yourself.
  • Don’t use coffee that is too fruity (if you have fruity coffee, use a pour-over dripper).
  • Remember to descale your machine; Otherwise, it will quickly sound like Darth Vader.
  • Don’t let the filter sit in the machine or it will get moldy.
  • Don’t use the warming plate. Insulated thermal carafes are allowed, though.

Do you have questions about your coffee machine? Is the coffee not dripping out correctly? Does it overflow or flow too slowly? Do you just want some advice about what machine to buy? Then check out my complete article that reviews different coffee machines. It also has information about how coffee machines work.

Classic Melitta Paper Filters

Now let’s talk about paper coffee filters. There are many brands, including Hario, Chemex and Kalia. However, I have to admit that I don’t have as much experience with the good, old Melitta filters.

A quick glance at Wikipedia surprised me because I learned that people originally used Melitta filters when using pour-over coffee drippers. Of course, that was in 1908, when electric coffee machines didn’t exist, so manual drippers were the only game in town. Melitta filters get their name from Melitta Bentz, the woman who invented the paper coffee filter. You will find her name in basically any article about coffee filters – now including this one.

These days, the company Melitta also produces coffee machines. I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship to the brand Melitta. They make good super-automatic espresso machines, including ones that I’ve reviewed very positively. However, their industrially roasted coffee is truly nasty. Shoppers in Germany might have seen their coffee for sale in supermarkets – it’s usually got some kind of “prize,” like a DVD, taped to it in an attempt to convince you to buy it.

However, we are talking about Melitta paper filters. In the U.S., the company divides their filters into three categories:

  1. Cone Filters
  2. Basket Filters
  3. Filters for Keurig-Style Brewers

You can see them all on the Melitta website. We won’t be talking about the third category because we all know what I think about K-cups. (If you find yourself drinking K-cup coffee, something has drastically gone wrong with your life. It’s time to reevaluate your life choices.)

Sizes of Melitta Coffee Filters


Choosing the right filter size can be a bit stressful. Similarly, it’s also why I use a vacuum cleaner without a bag: too many competing numbers and standards and sizes. However, at least for the U.S. market, Melitta filters are categorized rather straightforwardly. They have the number “1,” “2,” “4” or “6.” Size 4 will fit most standard coffeemakers. The packaging also indicates what machines the filters can be used in.

Size 4 is the filter size that will work for most standard coffee machines that make between 8 and 12 cups.

Coffee Filters to Use With a Hario Pour-Over Dripper


The Hario porcelain dripper is called the “V60.” The “V” refers to its conical shape, and the “60” refers to the 60-degree angle of inclination that the filter uses.

When it comes to size and filters, it’s nice and easy. There are two coffee dripper sizes: “01” and “02.” The 01 uses the smaller filters, and the 02 uses the larger ones. In my opinion, the Hario paper filters are significantly more taste-neutral than conventional coffee filters.

Whether you have a 01 or 02 coffee dripper, you can buy packs of filters on Amazon. Just select the right size of dripper, as well as the number of filters you want.

Careful! There’s a version of the Hario that’s slightly different. If the description includes the phrase “Made in Netherlands,” you should steer clear of it. I didn’t care for this version, and neither did my mom. You should get the original Japanese one.

coffee filter paper hario

The special thing about Hario coffee drippers is that they come to a point at the bottom. This gives you especially good extraction.

Reusable Coffee Filters


There are reusable filters for pour-over drippers, coffee machines and even the AeroPress. These filters are made from different materials – you can even get a gold coffee filter! The advantages of using a reusable filter are pretty clear: They are cheaper in the long term, and there is no extra waste besides coffee grounds. You will still need to determine how environmentally friendly any given product is, though.

It is definitely worth it to look into getting a reusable filter. Personally, I don’t have extensive experience with reusable filters, but I plan on using and testing more soon.

I have, however, been doing a long-term test of the Moccamaster coffee machine. I got a reusable gold-plated filter for that machine, and I’m very excited to see and taste the results. You can get a gold-plated filter for around $20 on Amazon.

There are also reusable stainless-steel filters for the AeroPress. A positively-reviewed three-pack of filters can be yours for less than $10. They are on my list of gear to test and review.

reusable filter chemex v60 harioOne thing that I hadn’t noticed until recently is that there are also reusable stainless-steel filters that work with the Chemex or the Hario V60 pour-over drippers. The stainless-steel ones can get pricey, though, so you should shop around.There are some options for about $20, but many others go for $50 or $60. In any case, a reusable filter can be particularly useful with a Chemex or Hario pour-over dripper. Their paper filters are already more expensive than standard paper filters, so you might be able to save some money over the long term .

For example, a pack of 100 Chemex paper filters costs about $13, which works out to 13 cents per filter. If you make coffee every day with your Chemex for a full year, you will be looking at about $50 per year in filter costs alone.

Coffee Filters – Summary


How do I get the best possible cup of coffee? Good question. As you have seen, there are many kinds of drippers and paper filters, depending on how you want to make your coffee. I think that each method has its own appeal, although I personally prefer using manual pour-over methods, as opposed to using a coffee machine.

Still, there are some good coffee machines, such as the Moccamaster or the Chemex Ottomatic, which manage to almost recreate a manual technique. Regardless of the method you use, it is important to moisten the coffee filter and rinse it out before using it. You can find more information and a guide for each technique in the full article about each respective method.

You shouldn’t use conventional coffee filters more than once because they get clogged with fine coffee grounds. However, as I have mentioned, there are some filters that are specifically designed to be reused.

People often ask me whether filtered coffee or French press coffee is better. That’s a question of taste, and it also depends a lot on the kind of coffee you use. I really like both methods. If you are interested in French presses, check out my complete guide to French presses.

In any case, filtered coffee is significantly clearer and has less body. Many people think it’s more palatable or drinkable, but I’m not so sure about that.

There are also different grades and qualities of paper filters, and you will have to pay more for the good stuff. Paper filters are biodegradable and compostable, so please don’t toss them out with the rest of the trash. Coffee itself is also wonderfully biodegradable and can foment organic growth. Anyone who has left a filter in their coffee maker for a few days can likely attest to that!

copper

Speaking of filters, I will admit that I probably went a bit overboard with the Instagram filters on the above picture. However, if you are in the mood for more “over-filtered” pictures, follow me on Instagram.

4 Comments

    Please, are both the Hario V60 and the Chemex paper filters free of epichlorohydrin? I’ve bought three Chemex systems and could never get as full a flavor as I do with my Roma stainless steel moka pot. Recent stories online say that studies show that non-paper filtered coffee like French press or coffee made in a moka pot increases the risk of heart disease due to it raising cholesterol. Do you have an opinion on this?

    Reply

    Moin moin,

    Ich trinke gerne drip-coffee (nomade). Habe letzthin mal genauer hingesehen und mache mir sorgen das da plastik im filter ist.

    Du weisst schon, diese 10-15 pack drip coffee dinger. jeder pack hat eine art ausklappbare portion kafffee inem filter die man auf eine tasse stellt/stuelpt (?) und dann giest man nach und nach das heisse wasser rein. Der filter ist eindeutig nicht nur aus papier gemacht, sondern hat eine art textil-plastik-filter struktur aehnlich einem polyester t-shirt

    schwer das zu googlen, weisst du was ich meine?

    Liebe gruesse,
    Joey

    Reply
    Arne

    Hallo Joey,

    danke für deinen Kommentar. Puh, wenn wir das richtig verstehen, was du meinst, dann hätten wir da auch unsere Bedenken. Setze lieber auf eine Kombi aus Handmühle und French Press. Liebe Grüße Team Coffeeness

    Reply

    I find your site very interesting, you mention so many various type of Filter and machines. I do have however a question that I am hopping you maybe able to help. I live in Berlin and have recently purchased a Melita machine which uses 102 filters, I have tried several stores but none stock them. my question is can use a number 4 folded over one side more?

    Thank again for a great site.

    David Shaw

    Reply

I look forward to your comment