Filters, the Unsung Hero
We want to shine a light on just how important filters are to making coffee. This may seem like a tangential topic, but it's crucial for learning why certain brew methods taste different than others. Think of a French Press. How does that taste differently from a Chemex or a V60? From paper to cloth to metal, filters play a huge role in how someone experiences a cup of coffee. Let's talk about it.
Metal FiltersWe want to kick things off with metal filters. It may seem like an odd place to start, but it's for good reason. Usually people who use metal filters often don't understand why coffee from a specialty shop such as ours tastes so much different. The obvious use case is someone who uses a French Press daily. We think of French Presses much like the gateway drug into the specialty coffee world. It's cheap, easily to master but ultimately leaves you wanting more. The main complaint whether articulated or not is the oily taste and gritty finish. When you finish a cup of coffee, having sediment at the bottom is not a pleasant experience.
Advantages: Metal filters have one enormous leg up on the competition. They are super user-friendly and reusable. Buy it once and never have to worry about it again. Lots of people don't even wash these. By the way, The Well recommends washing your metal filters!
Disadvantages: Metal filters create such a muddled, hazy cup that it's hard to distinguish the finer details of a coffee. Most subtle tasting notes are completely lost due to the fats and oils in the coffee smothering the taste.
Paper FiltersPaper is without a doubt the most commonly used filter, and for good reason. Paper filters come in all shapes and sizes for various brew methods ranging from coffee makers, pour-overs and even hybrids such as AeroPresses. These create the most consistent and dependable cup of coffee when used correctly. Read that again: when used correctly. Believe it or not, there are two common mistakes people make when using a paper filter:
- A lot of people reuse paper filters. We at The Well do NOT recommend this. Ew. Paper coffee filters are affordable so there’s no need to reuse them.
- Additionally, many people also don't pre-wet the filters. As you may have read in our brew guides, it's incredibly important to do this. Otherwise you end up with a papery, sweet glue-like taste in your cup. You can easily get rid of this by discarding your wet paper water.
Advantages: Paper filters hands down make the most consistent clarity in a cup of coffee. It lets the coffee shine while trapping fat and oil within the filter. They are very easy to find and can be bought in bulk. When used they make for a quick clean up too.
Disadvantages: Paper filters are not reusable. We know people do it, but they aren't intended to be.
Cloth FiltersCloth filters are unique because they act and function like a paper filter, but are reusable like a metal filter. They aren't very common, but certain brew methods (such as the Woodneck or Siphon) use them. You likely won't come into contact with these very often.
Advantages: Cloth filters get the best of both worlds from Paper and Metal filters. Reusable and creates decent clarity of the cup, while not quite as clear as paper filters.
Disadvantages: Cloth filters are a pain to upkeep versus the toss and go method of paper filters. It can also be difficult to find replacements and they can be costly.
Other FiltersThe categories above aren't all-inclusive. There are some niche and unique coffee filters out there that don't specifically fall into the categories above, but they are very uncommon. An example of this is the ceramic filter slab used to cork the bottom of a Yama Cold Brewing Tower. It becomes eroded over time and must be replaced occasionally.
ConclusionCoffee filters are extremely important to having a good coffee experience. Unwanted sediment or oils in your coffee make for an unenjoyable cup. Likewise, running out of paper filters only to realize you can't make yourself any coffee that day is also not a good time. Much like anything else in life, find a balance in what you choose to utilize. For us here at The Well, we're a paper filter dominant company. We want our coffees to be shown as clearly as possible to display the farmer's amazing crop.
Don't filter us out,