I admit that I prefer the taste of drip coffee brewed through a paper filter, but hate the waste. Although I compost both the grounds and the filter, trees still fell to produce the filter in the first place. Every brewing method brings to the cup a slightly (sometimes greatly) different flavor profile. I’m not always enthusiastic about the results a gold filter produces with some coffees.
I decided to try a reusable cloth coffee filter, and I’ve been extremely pleased with the results.
I have read that cloth filters allow some of the coffee oils through; not as much as gold filters (or from coffee made in a French press) and not as little as some paper filters. As with paper, there is little or no sediment with a cloth filter, depending on the fineness of the weave of the cloth. In general, cloth filters are said to result in a cup that is less astringent and with better mouthfeel.
As far as types of cloth, the choice is most often cotton versus hemp. Frankly, the tightness of the weave would probably be the factor most related to the final coffee outcome, although I’m sure some people will advocate for one or the other based on some other intrinsic quality of the fiber. In my opinion, if you’re going to go green by purchasing a cloth filter , you may as go all way and get hemp. Cotton, if not grown organically, is grown with a ton of environmentally-harmful chemicals. While I have seen unbleached organic cotton coffee filters, they are not as common as hemp filters. Hemp for fiber is typically grown organically or with a minimum of chemicals, so is probably the “greener” choice.
Therefore, I went with a hemp filter by Mr. Naturals. Compared to locally available cloth filters, I found this filter to be very thick and sturdy — it doesn’t sag in the filter basket. The weave is fine enough that brew time is not accelerated. Although it’s a #4 cone for my drip machine, I’ve used it in my #2 size pour-over cone and it brews at the same pace as a paper filter, and the fit is actually perfectly adequate. I agree with others on the end product: a slightly lusher mouthfeel than paper and only a little bit of very fine sediment. At least with this filter and the coffees I have been recently drinking, I couldn’t detect a significant flavor difference due to the presence of more oils. Your mileage may vary.
In addition to being far less wasteful, the other big advantage of cloth filters is that you don’t get the “paper” taste that some people get with paper filters. I will admit that I tend not to taste paper, so this isn’t an issue for me, but I know it is for many coffee aficionados. I certainly did not taste “cloth” with the hemp filter. But one of my biggest reservations in trying a cloth filter to begin with is that it seemed to me that it would be hard to clean, and eventually you’d taste old coffee oils or just general funk.
Here’s how to clean a cloth filter:
After each use, rinse thoroughly in very hot water, give it a rub or light brushing with a toothbrush, and store in container of water in the refrigerator to prevent mold or bacterial growth between uses. If it’s used daily or more often, you can just wring it out, pop it in a Ziploc bag, and toss it in the fridge. I’m pretty lazy, so that’s what I do. I confess that I have also just wrung it out and let it dry and so far I’ve had no issues. Once a week, soak the filter in Oxyclean Free (no perfumes) and boiling water, rinse it, and store it in the fridge again. Some users boil it again in clean water after the Oxyclean treatment. Frankly, it seems easiest to have at least two filters so you aren’t left in a lurch if one is getting an Oxyclean bath.