The Facts About Filters

We decided to do a little coffee filter tête-à-tête with our Coffee Education team to find if a filter affects the final outcome in a cup of coffee. Spoiler alert: It does.

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We are huge fans of filtered pour over coffee around here – and we’re big on experimentation, too. So we decided to do a little coffee filter tête-à-tête with our Coffee Education team to find if a filter affects the final outcome in a cup of coffee. Spoiler alert: It does.

First, a bit about our experiment – one of our main objectives here was to find out how much the filter alone affects the taste of the brew. To do this, we knew we needed to isolate the filter from the brew method.

For our first experiment, we poured water through the filters to see what the paper tasted like. Then, we poured water through a second time to find what was being imparted into your coffee after you rinse your filters.

Barista tip: you should always rinse your filter before you brew! This rinses out the paper taste and dust and warms up your brewer.

Our second experiment was to taste coffee poured and brewed through each filter. So we brewed all the coffees the same way through each filter to taste the difference.

Paper vs Paper vs Sock

Chemex Filter

The Chemex filter itself was the cleanest and the most neutral. The Chemex cup of coffee had a thinner texture, brought out the floral notes, and a bit of dryness in mouthfeel.

Melitta Oxygen Bleached

The Oxygen Bleached Melitta filter had little residual paper taste when rinsed. This cup was a bit heavier with a fuller texture, and no notable paper flavor.

Melitta Unbleached Natural

The natural Melitta filter imparted a notable woody sweetness after the first and second rinse. This filter imparted a papery flavor to the coffee, with a very noticeable dryness.

Hario V60

The Hario V60 filter was grassy at first taste, but rinsed clean on the second pass. The V60 coffee was bright and very crisp with high citrus notes.

Sock Cloth Filter

The Sock cloth filter imparted the strongest flavor, and let us tell you, it wasn’t pretty.  The coffee had a noticeable finish that was a bit like a wet wool coat. Somebody said it reminded him of “a thrift store in Eugene, Oregon.”

Our Recommendation

Choose an oxygen bleached filter, like the Melitta white, Chemex or Hario V60. If you insist on using a natural, rinse the hell out of it. Toss the sock.

Other Findings

We were surprised how much of a difference the Hario V60 filter made – the paper is a high quality paper made in Japan. It is a lighter weight, with more texture and the result was floral and bright, with a lighter body than the Melitta and bringing out more citrus notes in the coffee than any of the others.

Paper vs Stainless Steel

Able Kone

The Able Kone is actually a brewer, not a filter. It’s essentially a stainless steel cone with small holes in it.

It is designed to fit neatly inside a Chemex, but you can brew it into anything that supports it. The difference in taste between a Chemex paper filter and the Able Kone is a big one.

The Chemex is one of the heaviest paper filters, resulting in a very clean cup, while the Kone’s brew produces a much thicker, chewier cup of coffee with more fines (tiny coffee particles), oils and sediment. It’s actually a brew with the mouthfeel and texture similar to the French Press.

Able Disk

Able also makes stainless steel reusable disks for the AeroPress, called The Disk. It comes with two options, Standard and Fine, which have have different sized holes and levels of durability. The Standard Disk brews a fuller body cup of coffee with a bit more fines and can take a bit of a beating – this one should last for years of brewing and is three times as thick as the Fine Disk. The Fine Disk brews a sweet clean cup of coffee with very little fines – it is much more delicate and should be handled with care.

Again, here you’ll find a big difference when brewing paper versus stainless steel. The paper collects much of the fines and oils that you taste when brewed through a metal disk or cone, so your cup will be less nuanced.  If you prefer a cleaner cup, stick with the paper. For a fuller-bodied cup, or if you’re looking to go paper-free, try the Disk.

As always, we’re here to help! For more brewing information, check out our brew guides. If you have any questions about this or anything else, contact us.

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