Coffee filters affect the flavor of your coffee more than you might realize.

Most coffee drinkers in the United States prefer filtered coffee. But how many people do you know, who spend a lot of time choosing the best gourmet coffee, grind it to perfection, and then brew their coffee in whatever paper coffee filter was on sale at the grocery store?

I have a batch of disposable paper, Melitta filters in my cupboard and go through them one at a time. I wondered how the coffee filters work, and more about why we use them.

History of Paper Coffee Filters

I never knew that the Melitta name started from coffee filters. Melitta Bentz was a German housewife trying to make better coffee. She created the first paper coffee filter in July 8, 1908, seeking to make her coffee less bitter than coffee brewed by boiling loose grounds or by brewed with linen as was typical at that time. She also wanted a filter that could remove the grounds, resulting in a more enjoyable cup of coffee. She tried various papers and finally found that her son’s blotter paper used for school worked best.

How Paper Filters Work

Coffee filters of paper are made from thin crêped paper, which allows the coffee to flow freely between the filter and the filtration funnel. The filter uses coarse, long wood fibers, usually from fast growing trees. You can buy them bleached or unbleached.

Making a coffee filter requires the right strength, so that it does not tear when soaking wet. It must also resist heat and chemicals that would break down the fibers, causing it to lose strength or to flavor the coffee. The filter also must allow the brewed coffee through at a consistent rate, while removing particles of even a very small size.

Besides filtering out the coffee grounds, the paper coffee filter also filters oils and chemicals from the coffee to keep the brew from being so bitter. However, some people feel that the paper filter removes too much of the flavor, and so would prefer a perforated, permanent metal coffee filter.

Chemicals in Paper Coffee Filters

The bleach and other chemicals used to produce paper coffee filters are a concern for many. You can buy unbleached coffee filters, but since about two-thirds of consumers prefer the appearance of the white coffee filters, filter manufacturers have developed safer bleaching techniques that do not require bleach.

Paper Filters and Cholesterol Benefits

There have been studies showing that drinking unfiltered coffee increases cholesterol levels. Because paper filters do a better job of removing more of the coffee oils in the filtering process than metal filters, many people who would otherwise prefer a permanent metal filter return to the paper coffee filter for this reason alone.

Using A Permanent Coffee Filter such as Gold Tone

One alternative to paper coffee filters would be a permanent filter. They come in various styles, and are easy to clean in a dishwasher. I’d suggest going with the gold plated or gold toned filters, instead of plain nylon or stainless steel, for reasons of taste.

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