Filtering coffee, old school or too cool?

by Ghostbird Coffee on August 27, 2021

Besides using paper filters, did you know there was such a thing as cloth and metal filters?

No all coffees are brewed in the same way, but more than that, not all filters work the same way either! As most of us who brew coffee at home are aware of, coffee is typically brewed with a filter paper but did you know that there are such things as cloth filter and metal filter? In the context of Malaysia, we have been drinking coffee in filter coffee format too! Which we will cover a little bit in the blog. Back to the topic at hand - we hope that you will be able to understand what the differences are and how it can affect your brew if any when you change this one simple variable. 

So, what will we be covering?


The three main filters, they are the paper filter papers, Cloth filters and the Metal filters.

Filter Papers

Filter papers are what one would typically think of when one is looking to brew their coffees at home, with the market flooded with the idea and understanding that it is one of the best ways to do so is not exactly wrong either. As it is one of the cheaper, cleaner and efficient ways of brewing coffee today, it is no surprise that you will be able to find it in supermarket aisles, specialty coffee shops on retail, and the various coffee companies and knock offs that you may be able to find online today. 

Within the spectrum of filter papers alone, did you know that there are so many variables to it. There are two main filter paper types in the market, they are

  1. Bleached
  2. Unbleached

The main differences between the two would be barely any as this is because, before today’s advancement of technology, the unbleached paper would be a better option simply because it would be the most environmentally friendly alternative because of the use of chemicals to make the brown woody colour white. 

Despite that being true for unbleached filter papers, it can be seen that bleached filter papers are now the industry standard as it in itself is so mass produced that it is a cheaper and most consistent alternative between the two.

FIlter papers too in itself have different thickness which will affect your brew, being that the chemex filter papers are the thickest in itself, which will result in a cleaner, some would say brighter and juicier cup of coffee. Then after comes the V60 and kalita filter papers as it is a more balanced type of paper which filters out just the right amount of oils, however in the market you will be able to find companies who produce V60 and Kalita filters of variable thickness which will offer a variety of brews for the same coffee and apparatus. Lastly, we find the Aeropress filters, it is produced much like the V60 and Kalita papers but the main difference is it is made to withstand the pressures of the brewer. Typically it is seen that it would not tear easily but due to the method of the brew, you will still see and notice a lot of oils that do pass through.


Cloth Filters

Cloth filters are a unique brew utensils as well, which is actually something very common in the context of Malaysian Kopitiam scene. Cloth filters are easily able to produce an even more balanced cup of coffee as compared to a filter paper. This is because it is able to replicate an immersion brew - depending on your technique, it will result in a balanced cup of coffee as your grounds will be fully saturated for a brief moment in time for the coffee to then be fully extracted into your cup. As the cloth filter is a soft material it is able to catch most dissolved solids, at the result of your brew will be (as mentioned above) a balanced cup of coffee. 

Despite it being a balanced cup of coffee, it is also one of the more troublesome utensils to use as it will typically stain after each use. If not treated well, the material will develop mould and you will then need to replace it often. One tip you can use to prolong the life of your cloth is to keep it in a container filled with water and you can just submerge your cloth filter until the next use.

As mentioned in our first paragraph, this is unique to our culture in Malaysia simply because we are able to find this brew method at our local morning kopitiam or our favourite mamak spots in the evening. As this technique is made popular in Japan and due to our nation's rich history with the Japanese occupation, it’s culture may or may not have been embedded in our own as well.


Metal Filters

Metal filters or one of the more uncommon types of filters simply because it does not necessarily produce a clean cup, however this filter tool is able to produce bolder cups of coffee! As metal filters have standard size holes for the coffee liquid to pass through, it would also mean that with the dissolved solids from your ground coffee will be able to pass through the holes of the filter. If you were to not mind the sediments within your brew,then this is a perfect option for you. 

With its sturdy build, not only will you be able to utilise this filter for a longer duration, you can also use it for many other uses, one is able to filter out cold brewed coffee, use it at home in the kitchen to filter out stocks for broths or anything else that can be filtered out by using the same utensil. This is simply because of its material, you will be able to clean it easily for your next use. Best part is, it is one of the more cost effective options as it is a one time purchase item. 

In conclusion, metal filters are a cheaper alternative with a bolder cup of coffee, which can be used in more ways than one!



At the end of the day, it is purely a personal preference, despite the industry primarily using filter papers to make their coffees, it doesnt mean the other variants are not as good as. One is able to fully utilise the respective filters to do so many other things as well.