Life Hack Investigator Jonathan Forani finds not all household alternatives are created equal when you’re in need of a caffeine fix and don’t have filters.
Coffee snobs like me know instant coffee isn’t a last resort — it’s not an option. I don’t even have any on my shelf.
So when you run out of coffee filters on a groggy morning, what is an un-caffeinated coffee lover to do? The easy answer is to go to the store, but without a sunrise kick of caffeine, leaving the apartment is a tall order.
Luckily, coffee snobs the world over have also experienced this and have shared their filter alternatives on a number of life hack websites. I tried three of the suggestions to find the best route to caffeine glory.
For these hacks, we used a No. 2 size pour-over dripper for more precise brewing than a machine.
Test 1: Socks
The sock-as-filter solution is a good one, if it doesn’t disgust you.
The test: Just don’t use the ones on your feet. Using scissors, cut a clean sock into a shape that best resembles a coffee filter or that fits the dripper. I used the toe part of a loafer sock and discarded the rest.
The result: If you use a smaller sock, it may require smaller careful pours as the sock likely won’t cover the entire area of the dripper. Disposal is easy as the sock contains the grinds like a small pocket. If this option doesn’t disgust you, it’s a good one.
The rating: 7/10
Test 2: Toilet paper
Toilet paper was not a great option. After five minutes barely more than a tablespoon of coffee sat in the mug as at least half a cup of hot water still sat in the dripper.
The test: Unfurl a few sheets of toilet paper and fold it onto the dripper so that there are no gaps at the bottom and the paper is thick enough to not break as soon as you pour hot water onto it.
The result: After five minutes barely more than a tablespoon of coffee sat in my mug as at least half a cup of hot water still sat in the dripper. Once saturated, the toilet paper began dripping water over the sides of the dripper and onto the table. A reassuring toiletry purchase, but not a great coffee filter alternative.
The rating: 1/10
Test 3: Paper towel
Paper towel was by far the best emergency coffee filter alternative. The sturdy material didn’t break and still let the hot water move through at close to normal coffee-filter speeds.
The test: Fold a sheet of paper towel into the dripper in the shape of a coffee filter. One large sheet is probably enough.
The result: The sturdy material didn’t break and still let the hot water move through at close to normal coffee-filter speeds. A few small grinds in the mug are excused. Quick, easy caffeine fix accomplished.
The rating: 9/10
Paper towel provides a sturdy material and a large enough surface area to fit the dripper without too many folds. Your method of drip coffee filtering may also affect your choice of alternative. A sock might not be advisable in a traditional brewing machine. You can always invest in a French press or try your hand at Turkish or Greek coffee, in which the grinds remain in the bottom of the mug, for days like this.
Jonathan Forani is a Toronto-based freelance journalist in search of ways to make everything a little easier. Still looking for a life hack to six-pack abs.