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Are White or Brown Coffee Filters Better?

Are bleached or unbleached filters better for your health, your coffee and the environment? Find out why it’s important to use quality paper coffee filters.

A Short Tour Through History Of Coffee Filters

In the early 1900s, Melissa Bentz wanted to easily brew a clean cup of coffee. A German housewife, she had grown tired of picking grounds out of her bitter coffee. So, Bentz tried a new way of making coffee. She folded a piece of blotting paper so that it would hold grounds, and poured water over it, thus creating the first pour-over (not to mention the first coffee filter).

Today, pour-overs continue to be a favorite method of making coffee for many, and the same question Bentz faced continues to be debated: What is the best way to filter out coffee grounds? Among paper coffee filters, are bleached (white) or unbleached (brown) ones better? Here is a look at the differences between bleached and unbleached coffee filters.

Bleached Coffee Filters are Safe and Don’t Affect Taste

Bleached coffee filters are perfectly safe to use, and they don’t affect a brew’s taste. Only a minuscule amount of bleach is used, and it’s not enough to leech into your coffee. If you’ve been using bleached filters for decades and love them, there’s no need to switch right now.

It is important to use a quality filter, however, and knowing how a company bleaches their filters can help you determine how good their filters are. There are two types of bleaches used: chlorine and oxygen. Oxygen bleaching is regarded as the more natural of the two, and it’s usually a mark of a higher quality bleached filter.

Unbleached Filters are Environmentally Friendly, Should Be Rinsed Before Use

Unbleached filters don’t brew a better cup of coffee, but they are more environmentally friendly. They are less processed than bleached filters, as is evidenced by unbleached filters’ brown color. Paper is naturally brown and only turns white with bleach. (Almost all the paper you use has been bleached.) Because they’re less processed, they are a better option for the environment.

When using an unbleached filter, it’s important to wet the filter before brewing your coffee:

  1. Place the filter in your pour over
  2. Pour a little water so that the entire filter is wet
  3. Dump the water you used to wet the filter
  4. Brew your pour-over like normal

This will ensure that the unbleached filter doesn’t introduce a papery taste into your coffee. It’s also a good idea to do this with bleached filters, although it’s not quite as important as with unbleached ones.

It’s important to wet an unbleached filter before brewing your coffee.

 

Choose a Quality Bleached or Unbleached Filter

Whether bleached or unbleached filters are a better choice will depend, mainly, on environmental considerations. You won’t affect your coffee’s flavor either way.

It is important to purchase a quality paper filter, though. Regardless of whether it is white or brown, a filter should be the appropriate size and thick. Buying filters that are too thin will affect the brewing process, as they will let water through at a faster rate. Don’t go with cheaply made filters to save a few cents. Instead, purchase a quality filter that will brew your coffee correctly. As far as your coffee’s flavor goes, this is far more important than deciding between bleached, white filters or unbleached, brown ones.

What filters do you use? Have you found a distinct difference when you switch between white and brown filters? Let us know in the comments.

Author Scott

Scott is a professional writer for Driftaway Coffee. He worked as a barista for eight years, but today prefers to enjoy his beverages from the other side of the counter. When not drinking Driftaway Coffee, Scott usually has a mug of his own roasted coffee nearby.

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  • Bo Mathis

    I just switched from brown to white filters and noticed a difference where the white filters produced a stronger coffee. The filters are generic grocery store brands, so the comparison is unscientific.

    Which is better? Well, I have reduced the amount of coffee using the white filters (which compensated for the strong taste) and the jury is still out as which filters are preferred in this household.

  • Randolph32

    Geez, don’t reduce the amount of coffee you’re using, enjoy the increased flavour and body from the White filters…