Coffee filter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ground coffee being poured into a paper filter inserted in a Chemex filter holder and caraffe

A coffee filter is a filter used for various coffee brewing methods including but not limited to drip coffee filtering. Filters made of paper (disposable), cloth (reusable), or plastic, metal or porcelain (permanent) are used. Paper and cloth filters require the use of some kind of filter holder, whereas filters made out of other materials may present an integral part of the holder or not, depending on construction. The filter allows the liquid coffee to flow through, but traps the coffee grounds.

Paper filters remove oily components called diterpenes (like cafestol and kahweol); these organic compounds, present in unfiltered coffee, have anti-inflammatory properties.[1] Metal, nylon or porcelain mesh filters do not remove these components.[2] Several studies indicate that the mild consumption of paper-filtered coffee may reduce the risk for coronary heart diseases.[3]


In 1782, Johann Georg Krünitz described a then-new method to extract coffee utilizing blotting paper in a (tinned) metal filter cone.[4][5][6][7]

On 8 July 1908, the first paper coffee filter was invented by German entrepreneur Melitta Bentz. She wanted to remove the bitter taste caused by overbrewing.[8] She patented her invention and formed a company, Melitta, to sell the coffee filters (a format and size later named "1"[nb 1]), hiring her husband and two sons to assist her as the first employees.[6][9] In Germany, Melitta holds a trademark on the term "Filtertüte" (English: filter bag) for the conical fan- or boat-shaped paper filter introduced in 1936,[10] that's why other manufacturers use terms like coffee filter, paper filter, etc.

The Flemish coffee company Rombouts was founded in Antwerp in 1896. In 1958, the company launched its first one cup coffee filter for the Brussels World Exhibition, allowing a cup of coffee to be made using the perfect amount of roasted and ground coffee. In 1964, the company began marketing the concept and enjoyed much success in the horeca and retail sectors. In 1966, Rombouts was appointed a "Certified Royal Warrant Holder of Belgium".[11][12]

Disposable paper filters[edit]

Used coffee filter
Micro photo of a paper filter

Coffee filters of paper are made from about 100 g/m2 filter paper. The raw materials (pulp) for the filter paper are coarse long fiber, often from fast-growing trees, i.e Melitta uses up to 60% of bambus in their filters since 1998.[13] Both bleached and unbleached filters are made.[14]

Typically, coffee filters are made up of filaments approximately 20 micrometres wide, which allow particles through that are less than approximately 10 to 15 micrometres.[15][16]

Some baristas claim that paper filters exhibit a "paperish" taste and recommend to wash out the filter with a flush of hot water before filling the ground coffee into the filter.

Since paper filters filter out some components the resulting coffee is said to taste somewhat fruitier compared to permanent filters.

For a filter to be compatible with a filter holder (in the case of drip coffee preparation also called a dripper) or coffee maker, the filter needs to be a specific shape and size.

Filter shapes and sizes[edit]

Cone-, fan- or boat-shaped filters[edit]

Fan- or boat-shaped coffee filter, made of unbleached paper
Melitta filter systems and derivatives[edit]

In 1932,[17] Melitta originally introduced the so called Schnellfilter (English: quick filter), a cone-shaped filter holder with circular bottom with either 4 or 8 holes suitable for use with squarish sheets of filter paper, which still had to be pressed into shape through a metal cone.[6] These quick filter holders were manufactured of porcelain or metal, available in sizes "100", "101", "102", and "103". This system was available up to 1939.[18]

In 1936,[13] Melitta introduced the Filtertüte (English: filter bag) in various sizes. The cone-shaped filter holders were refined to get a slot-shaped bottom (originally with 4 holes) more suitable for the filter bags, now looking more fan- or boat-shaped. Over the years the system was expanded to eventually consist of filter bag sizes "100" (for 1–2 cups à 16[19]18 litre[clarification needed][20][21][19]), "101" (for 2–3[20] or 2–4 cups[21][19][22]), "102" (for 3–6,[20] 4–6[23] or 4–8 cups[21][19]), "103" (for 6–15,[20] 8–15 cups[21][19][24] or 10–15[25]), "104" (for 15–25[21][19] or 15–30 cups[20]), "105" (for 25–50[21][19][26] or 30–60 cups[20]), "106" (for 50–80[21][19] or 60–100 cups[27]), "112" (for 2 cups, with pot mount[28][29][30]) and "123"[31] (for 6–10 cups[32]). The system also included special types like tea filters "401" (1–6 cups,[33] compatible with "101"[31][19]) and "402" (for 3–9 cups,[34] compatible with "102"[35]) and the miniature filter "801" (for 1–2 or 1–3[36] small cups for children, or 1 normal cup[36]). Brigitta once marketted a fan- or boat-shaped filter size "502".[37][38] A disadvantage of the system was that one had to pour water continuously or several times while the proper amount of necessary water could only be guessed.

Therefore, in 1965[13] Melitta developed a new fan- or boat-shaped filter system with corresponding "1×" nomenclature: In this system the filters are sized big enough so that the whole amount of water (except for the water needed for blooming) can be poured in one go. Consequently, the filter sizes "1×2", "1×4", "1×6" and "1×10"[39] result in 2, 4,[40] 6, and 10 cups of coffee when filling the filter once. Since these filters only differ in height and have otherwise the exact same geometry, bottom width (about 49 mm) and angle (about 54°), the filter bags are interchangeable between filter holders of different sizes.

Both systems are still in use today in principle, but the sizes "103", "104", "105", "106", "112", "123", "401", "402", ("502",) "801" and "1×10" are no longer manufactured.

Common in the US are fan- or boat-shaped filters "#0" (similar to "100"), "#1" (similar to "101"),[nb 1] "#2" (similar to "102"),[nb 2] "#4" (similar to "1×4"),[nb 3] and "#6" (similar to "1×6"),[nb 4][nb 5] with "#2", "#4" and "#6" being particularly popular, as well as basket-shaped filters in an 8–12 cup home size and larger restaurant sizes.

Hario filter system[edit]

The Hario "vector 60" V60 is a cone-shaped brewer (with 60° angle), with ribs along the wall (to prevent the paper sticking and allowing air through) and a single large hole (to allow water to pass through unrestricted).[41] Hario began designing brewers in 1980, but the V60 was not released until 2004.[41][42] The brewer received the Japanese Good Design Award in 2007[43] and is used by many of the winners in the World Brewers Cup. The design was adapted to create the Hario W60, a brewer with a flat-bottomed mesh filter, in partnership with 2013 World Barista Champion Pete Licata, to "address the concern baristas have with 'flat bed' brewing".[44] The Hario Switch combines steeping with drip filtering.

Hario has cone-shaped paper filter bag sizes "01" (for 1 cup), "02" (for 1–4 cups) and "03" (for 1–6 cups).[45][42]

Other filter shapes[edit]

A basket-type coffee filter, here made of bleached paper

Other Melitta filter sizes include the pyramid filters "202s", "203", "206(G)", "220(G)", "240(G)" and "270(G)", round filter disks "1" (94 mm), "1a" (60 mm), "2" and "2b", and "50",[46] circle filter rings (for percolators) "3 12 in." (89 mm),[47] "164mm", "190mm", "203mm", "235mm", "240mm", "244mm", "256mm", "260mm", "290mm", "330mm", "400mm" and "440mm", basket filters "(A)250/90" and "(A)250/110", roll filters "2004" as well as wrap filters.[48][49] While some of them are still available today, most of them have fallen out of use for long.

A squarish pyramid filter Filtra "602" was available as well.[50]

Chemex filter system[edit]

The six conical filter holder sizes for the Chemex coffee maker (originally introduced in 1941) and the Funnex utilize two different sizes of paper filters. A half-moon shaped filter paper (bleached: FP-2, unbleached: FP-2N) is used for the 3-cup holders (CM-1, CM-1C, CM-1GH) and the Funnex (CM-FNX), which must be folded before use. The larger holders for 5 (CM-2), 6 (CM-6A, CM-6GH), 8 (CM-3, CM-8A, CM-8GH), 10 (CM-10A, CM-10GH) and 13 cups (CM-4) can alternatively use prefolded square sheets (bleached: FS-100, unbleached: FSU-100), prefolded circle filters (bleached: FC-100) or unfolded circle filters (bleached: FP-1). The paper is 20–30% thicker than regular paper filters.

Other filter parameters and properties[edit]

Other important coffee filter paper parameters are strength, compatibility, efficiency and capacity.

If a coffee filter is not strong enough, it will tear or rupture, allowing coffee grains through to the coffee pot. Compatibility describes a filter medium's resistance to degradation by heat and chemical attack; a filter that is not compatible with the liquid passing through it is likely to break down, losing strength (structural failure). Efficiency is the retention of particles in a target (size) category. The efficiency is dictated by the particles or substances to be removed. A large-mesh filter may be efficient at retaining large particles but inefficient at retaining small particles. Capacity is the ability to "hold" previously removed particles while allowing further flow. A very efficient filter may show poor capacity, causing increased resistance to flow or other problems as it plugging up prematurely and increasing resistance or flow problems. A balance between particle capture and flow requirements must be met while ensuring integrity.

Reusable cloth filters[edit]

Flannel filter placed on a metal support in 1868.

Cloth (for example out of cotton, hemp or fustian), reusable, has been used to filter coffee for a very long time.[4][51][52] Like paper, it strains out the coffee grounds, but the typical cloth filter allows more of the oil to come through than typical paper filters.[53] An example of a cloth filter is the bolsita for Costa Ricarian chorreador coffee makers.

Permanent filters[edit]

Vietnamese Phin metal filter
Indian permanent metal filter

Permanent filters can be divided into two groups:

The first type integrates the filter sieve with the holding mechanism into one part.

The second type of permanent filters are inserts to be used with a separate filter holder. For this, they are resembling the shape of disposable paper or reusable cloth filters otherwise used with those filter holders.

Permanent metal filters are also used to prepare filtered coffee, including Vietnamese iced coffee and Indian filter coffee. The "French press" (also referred to as cafetière) uses a metal filter. Other types of permanent filters are made of plastic, porous ceramics, or porcelain (like the special porcelain filter sieves of Büttner system coffee makers or the double-layered finely cross-slitted strainer made from through-glazed porcelain of Karlsbad-style coffee makers).

Filter holders[edit]

Filter holders are made out of plastic, metal (stainless steel, aluminium, emaille), ceramics, porcelain or glas. Most of them are designed to be used with disposable paper and reusable cloth filter inserts, but there is also an after-market of permanent filter inserts made out of plastic, metal or ceramics which can be used in filter holders originally designed for paper or cloth filters. Another type of permanent filters combines the actual filter sieve with its holding mechanism into one integral part.

Filter holders for cone-, fan- or boat-shaped (paper) filters can be distinguished by features of their mechanical construction, some of which also have a significant influence on how (easy) to clean the filter holder:

  • filter geometry (Melitta- or Hario-style filter shape and angle, etc.)
  • filter size (depending on filter geometry and system for a different number of cups and/or different pouring styles)
  • rib structure (straight (Melitta, Hario), interrupted (Seltmann Weiden [de] or Beem), or origami design), direction (straight down (Melitta), spiral (Hario, Seltmann Weiden, Beem)), spacing (narrow, sparse) and location (whole inner surface of filter cone, only at lower half of filter cone); bottom structure (with or without ribs)
  • number of draining holes (1, 2, 3, 4, or 8) and diameter (one large hole as for Hario-, or one or more small holes as for Melitta-style filters)
  • material (porcelain, ceramics, stainless steel, aluminium, plastic) and color
  • mount (standard plate mount for pots or cups, affixable pot mount (like Melitta 112), ring mount for a coffee stand or tripod, long cylinder outlet to fit Thermos bottles (like Fröfilt K or Alfi Aroma Plus filters, or the Friesland filter adapter), single-cup filter mount)
  • type of handle (none, style of handle, number of grips)
  • special features like stopper valves (as for Melitta 401/402 tea filter holders, the Melitta Amano, the Clever Dripper, or the Hario Switch), cup-viewing windows (as for Zero Japan Bee House filters[54] or Melitta filter holders since 2018), anti-dribbling "tripod" plate design, design for simultaneous pouring into one or two cups (as for Melitta filter holders since 2018), double-walled design for better thermal insulation (as for Melitta Oslo Form 23 filters,[55] KPM Café Berlin LAB filters #2/#4,[56][57] the Seltmann Weiden No Limits Barista filter #2,[58][59] the Melitta 111th Anniversary Set filter 102,[60][61] the Chemex Funnex, the Brewista Tornado Duo filters, or the Etkin 8-cup and 2-cup drippers), or a collapsible design for easier storage
  • accessories like a water spreader or cover lid or top-plate to help water distribution and reduce the temperature decline during pouring, a saucer to catch coffee droplets after use, a mounting stand, or coffee chilling stones.

Metal and porcelain filter holders store more heat than glas or plastic filters and therefore should be pre-heated to avoid too large temperature drops during pouring.

See also[edit]


Melitta porcelain filter holder "102" with too large paper filter bag "1×4"[nb 2]
  1. ^ a b Fan- or boat-shaped filters of size #1 (Melitta 101) must not be confused with paper filter sizes Melitta 1 for round filter disks or Hario 01 for cone-shaped filters.
  2. ^ a b Fan- or boat-shaped filters of size #2 (Melitta 102) must not be confused with the fan- or boat-shaped paper filter size Melitta 1×2, cone-shaped filter size Hario 02, or with Melitta 2 round filter disks. Melitta 102 has a different geometry and is significantly larger than Melitta 1×2, almost as large as Melitta 1×4. The size #2 Ritzenhoff & Breker "Rio 101" porcelain filter holder incorrectly associates this with size 101.
  3. ^ Fan- or boat-shaped filters of size #4 (Melitta 1×4) must not be confused with the much larger fan- or boat-shaped filter size Melitta 104. Still, the size #4 Ritzenhoff & Breker "Rio 104" porcelain filter holder incorrectly associates this with size 104.
  4. ^ Fan- or boat-shaped filters of size #6 (Melitta 1×6) must not be confused with the much larger fan- or boat-shaped filter size Melitta 106.
  5. ^ Another reason for this easier nomenclature becoming more popular is because Melitta has trademarked the names of their filter bag sizes at least in Germany.


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Further reading[edit]

  • Bersten, Ian; Bersten, Helen (1993). Coffee floats, tea sinks. Through History and Technology to a Complete Understanding (1 ed.). Sydney / Roseville, Australia: Helian Books. ISBN 0-646-09180-8. (284+4 pages)
  • Gagné, Jonathan [at Wikidata] (2020). "5. Filters". In Zimmer, Jean (ed.). The Physics of Filter Coffee (1 ed.). Scott Rao. pp. 105–125. ISBN 978-0-578-24608-6. [1] (xvi+249+3 pages)