The humble coffee filter doesn’t make headlines, but it’s an unsung hero of your morning routine. And there are some real benefits to paper filters, namely that they can deliver a finer, lighter tasting cup than their metal counterparts. But, since paper filters come either bleached or unbleached, the best paper coffee filter for you will come down to what you value more: taste versus environmental impact. Ahead you'll find a few things to consider on your quest for the perfect cup of joe.
Bleached Vs. Unbleached Coffee Filters
Unbleached coffee filters are more eco-friendly because they require fewer steps to manufacture and don’t get exposed to as many harsh chemicals in the process. However, some people report that they can taste a difference between bleached and unbleached filters since the unbleached ones infuse a subtle paper taste. You can avoid this by rinsing them before use, but if your goal is a quick, hassle-free cup, a bleached filter is better for you.
Despite the rather severe sounding name, bleached filters are perfectly safe if you look for ones that are oxygen bleached (or anything advertised as “chlorine-free”). There are fewer chemicals used in the oxygen bleaching process (compared to chlorine bleaching). The good news is you don’t always have to buy brand-name for good paper filters, although it’s worth paying a little extra to secure oxygen-bleached filters if that’s your preference.
With that in mind, these are the best paper coffee filters for getting light, clear, flavorful cups every morning from almost every type (and size) of machine. And for when you're in the mood for a bolder cup (or you run out of paper filters), I've also included a reusable mesh filter below.
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1. These Cult-Favorite Japanese Cone Filters With Bleached & Unbleached Options
Backed by more than 8,000 Amazon reviews, these unbleached paper filters come from Hario, a trusted name in pour-over coffee. You can choose from three different sizes to fit your brewing setup (01, 02, and 03). A small tab on the side makes it easier to lift the wet paper filter out after a brewing cycle although you can also purchase an untabbed version if you prefer. "They are thick, but still very functional. It's not a fast pour like you may get with more porosity filters, but it's a reasonable pour. I was once a barista, I know my coffee and filters," one reviewer explained. If you prefer white, bleached filters, you can also pick them from this brand either tabbed or untabbed — and know that they're oxygen bleached.
- Available packs: 4 (40 count, 100 count bags, 100 count box, 100 count 2-pack)
2. These Natural Unbleached Basket Filters For A Full-Sized Coffee Maker
These thick unbleached paper coffee filters are sized to sift out strong oils and grounds in large coffee makers (8-12 cups). They're thicker than many store brands so the sides won't collapse after being saturated with water during a brewing cycle. "Easy to separate, no flavor at all, allowed the flavor of the coffee to shine through perfectly, no detectable residue of coffee grounds in the coffee," an Amazon shopper remarked. One reviewer especially liked the practicality on being able to stock up on a daily necessity that often slips through the cracks: "I always forget to add coffee filters to my grocery order. Now I have enough for over a year!"
- Available packs: 2 (200 count, 500 count)
3. And Some Bleached Basket Filters That Are Chlorine-Free
For people who prefer bleached coffee filters, Melitta gets high praise for their chlorine-free process that doesn't impart any taste. "Very high quality. Much better than store brand filters," one shopper praised, adding that the "thicker paper makes for easier removal after coffee is done." (Also praiseworthy, according to reviews: The ability to order a near-lifetime supply of 1,200.) If you need a different shape, Melitta's large bleached cone paper coffee filter is chlorine-free and has handy markings to measure grounds.
- Available packs: 2 (600 count, 1,200 count)
Also Nice: A Permanent Coffee Filter (That’s BPA Free) If You Like To Have Options
Since the choice between paper coffee filters versus permanent is a matter of taste (light versus bold flavors), you may want to have a reusable coffee filter on hand for days you want to retain more of your coffee's natural oils for a full-bodied cup. "True to its description," one reviewer attested, "helps improve the flavor of the coffee. The GoldTone filter is made from stainless steel mesh that doesn't impart any metallic taste, is rust-proof, rinses cleanly between pots, and is dishwasher-safe so you can just toss it in whenever you run a cycle. Here's a permanent basket coffee filter for those who need that shape.
- Available options: 3 (1 filter, 2 filters, 1 coffee filter + 12 water filters)