BLOG // // 5.3.2020

Filtering coffee – differences of paper, metal, nylon and cloth

Filters are manufactured in plenty of shapes, sizes and materials. Does the filter really have an effect on your coffee? And what else should be taken into account when choosing the filter?   

Characteristics of different filters

Supposedly most common coffee filtering method is paper. In my latest blog, I wrote about the difference between bleached and unbleached papers. Now I am going to take a closer look to the differences between paper, cloth, metal and nylon. 
Let’s see what are the main characteristics of the most popular coffee filters. In this test I used V-shaped filters made of paper (bleached and unbleached), cloth (cotton and linen), metal and nylon.

Comparison 

Bleached paper: balanced cup 

bleached filter paper
Bleached filter paper after the test. Level coffee bed after brewing.
  • There is always the filter paper to be disposed in addition to the coffee grounds. 
  • Ecology depends on the level of biodegradability as well as the possible bleaching method.
  • A separate filter funnel is needed in addition to filter itself.  
  • Always dishes to do.
  • Most expensive filter as you need to keep on buying material.    
  • When using paper filters the brew seemed to create small bubbles when dripping down to the decanter. This did no happen with the other filter types. 

Cupping results: 

  • TDS 1,39-1,41 %. 
  • Mainly full and clean flavor, some white papers might bring a small off-taste, also the special features have a huge effect on the extraction process.  
  • Nice and distinctive aroma. 

What is TDS and how to measure strenght of coffee?

Unbleached paper: quite balanced cup 

unbleached filter paper
Unbleached filter paper after the test. Nice and level coffee bed after brewing.
  • There is always the filter paper to be disposed in addition to the coffee grounds
  • Ecology depends on the level of biodegradability.
  • A separate filter funnel is needed in addition to filter itself.  
  • Always dishes to do.
  • Most expensive filter as you need to keep on buying material.    
  • When using unbleached filter paper, the brew seemed to drip down a little slower. However this was expected as the brown papers tempt to have small particles in the pores of the paper. That slows down the dripping process and enhances the extraction. 

How to measure extraction of coffee?

Cupping results: 

  • TDS 1,39-1,41 %.
  • Mainly full flavor, a bit stuffy and musty and a slight off-taste.   
  • Nice and distinctive aroma.  

Linen (cloth): unpleasant cup 

cotton cloth for filter coffee
Cotton cloth after the test. Minor "high and dry" effect can be seen in the coffee bed.
  • No trash in addition to the coffee grounds. 
  • A separate filter funnel is needed in addition to filter itself.  
  • Always dishes to do. 
  • The more you use it the cheaper it gets. 

Cupping results: 

  • TDS 1,38 %. 
  • Very strong off-taste, sharp and dirty flavor.  
  • Dull aroma. 

Cotton (cloth): unpleasant cup 

linen filter for filter coffee
Linen filter after the test. Results of minor channeling can be seen in the coffee bed.
  • No trash in addition to the coffee grounds.
  • A separate filter funnel is needed in addition to filter itself.  
  • Always dishes to do.
  • The more you use it the cheaper it gets.

Cupping results:

  • TDS 1.40 % . 
  • Strong off-taste, dirty and watery flavor.  
  • Dull aroma.  

Metal: quite unpleasant cup 

metal filter for filter coffee
Metal filter after the test.
  • No trash in addition to the coffee grounds. 
  • No need for a separate filter funnel. 
  • Always dishes to do. 
  • The more you use it the cheaper it gets.  

Cupping results:

  • TDS 1,3 7%. 
  • Sharp flavor, some nice acidity.  
  • Neutral aroma.

Nylon: quite pleasant cup 

nylon filter for filter coffee
Nylon filter after the test. Minor channeling can be seen in the coffee bed.
  • No trash in addition to the coffee grounds.
  • No need for a separate filter funnel.
  • Always dishes to do (filter).
  • The more you use it the cheaper it gets.  

Cupping results: 

  • TDS 1,42 %. 
  • Clear, almost sharp flavor, pleasant acidity.   
  • Nice aroma. 
different cloth filters
Different cloth filters.

So how to choose the filter for your coffee? 

Flavor first: bleached paper. Hands down!   
Strength first: nylon and cotton, some bleached paper filters, too.    
Ecology first: not a single use tool and less material needed -> cloth, metal and nylon (and as nylon is plastic, you might want to consider cloth first and then metal).    
Easiness first: less tools needed, less washing, less shopping -> metal and nylon.    
Cost level first: the more you brew, the more you save -> cloth, metal and nylon.

P.S. for the coffee nerds out there  
Did you know that there are already three different filter papers for Hario V60? Mr. James Hoffmann posted a short video about the differences between those. Go ahead and see what he found out! In my opinion there is a huge difference when you have almost 36% added to the brew time just by using a different filter paper brand.