You've Been Using Coffee Filters Wrong

by Lily Feinn

In the morning, when you're making that strong Sumatra pour-over, do you ever notice that the paper filter always seems just a bit big for the machine? Well, I'm going to let you in on a little secret — there is actually a right way to use a coffee filter, and most of us have no idea what it is. I chalked up "Why doesn't my coffee filter ever fit correctly?" to being one of the great mysteries of life. I had no hope of figuring it out, until Rebecca Shapiro from the Huffington Post , so nicely pointed out that we are all being unobservant dum-dums.

I had assumed, like most people, that I was simply buying the wrong-sized coffee filter for my machine. While I make coffee several times a day, I never meditated too deeply on why it was always poking over the edge, requiring me to crumple it down to make it "fit" in its plastic container. Indeed, I never thought to look at the packaging beyond a casual glance at the labelled filter size.

As it turns out, my filters were the correct size all along, and I just wasn't making coffee correctly. Ever notice the little textured crimped edges on the filter? I had assumed that was just some fancy design to make it stay flat, or an unnecessary complication, but they actually have a very important purpose. You are supposed to fold over the little crimped edges that run along the bottom and up the side before putting in the coffee grounds. The fold offers added support so that the filter doesn't burst under the pressure of brewing when the hot water is added. And everyone who owns a good bra knows, extra support can be key! Yep. Mind blown.

There are even directions for how to fold the edges printed right on the box!

I never read directions on things that I think should be self-explanatory. I sometimes get myself in trouble by trying to assemble the simplest of Ikea furniture. But this should be different, right? My mom has made coffee the same way her entire life, always stuffing the unwieldy filter in the machine without folding the edges. She taught me how to make coffee when I was 12, and I've been doing it the same way without question. That is, like, almost 70 combined years of doing it wrong! And this technique really does make a big difference, so maybe we should think of it as one of the great coffee miracles of engineering! Just look at the contrast:


Notice the filter sticking out of its container as if to say "You are doing this wrong!"


The filter fits satisfyingly snug. Same filter — a world of difference!

From now on I'm going to read the directions on everything. Next up: my shampoo bottle.

Images: pixabay, Lily Feinn