Lots of people use lots of filters for drip- or filter-brewed coffee. Some use paper and others use these durable filters. The performance to me is the same but many people argue that. They do have their pros and cons as said this website. So paper filters are easy to use and bad for the environment and long lasting filters last longer and are more environmental friendly... The site has somewhat decent amount of information, but not a lot of information.

What are the significant differences between long-lasting filters and paper filters for drip or filter coffee?

  • 1
    There are many materials used for re-usable filters; are you interested in a particular type, or any/all? The article you link mentions the plastic/nylon mesh, metal mesh, and perforated metal types; there's also fabric/cloth types and others...
    – hoc_age
    Feb 25, 2015 at 2:48
  • Is this question meant for drip coffee makers? If so you should add the drip-brew tag.
    – Justin C
    Feb 25, 2015 at 19:24
  • Along with the tag, you might mention it in the body of the question. A lot of times people skim right past the tags when they're reading.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 25, 2015 at 20:43

4 Answers 4


tl;dr: Permanent filters win on cost over time. Paper filters win on performance, clean-up, and health. Flavour is personal preference. Composting paper filters and spent grounds alleviates most of the environmental benefit of permanent filter. My conclusion: paper filters, discarded into a compost pile, win hands down.

Use of permanent versus one-time-use filters is a perennial question, with both concrete and personal-preference arguments. In addition to the link in the original post, there are a few other online articles with comparisons, such as:

From those and my personal experience, I extracted an overview and conclusions, below. Unfortunately I've written a lot of text here, but there's a lot of facets. I've focused basically on paper versus metal mesh, as the most common types; I maintain the conclusions are similar regardless of material.

Material. There are several materials used for permanent filters, including the following:

  • metal mesh (stainless steel or "gold tone");
  • nylon (or other plastic) mesh;
  • perforated metal (thin metal sheet with holes);
  • fabric (e.g., flannel, muslin, hemp).

All of these surely have different properties, but properties that I focus on here are common to most.

One-time-use filters are predominantly paper, but could also be bamboo, natural fibre, or other material. See also this question for a comparison of brown versus white paper filters.

Performance. Paper filters are a finer filter; a permanent filter will permit some larger particles through to the cup. I find that a pot brewed with a permanent mesh filter will have a fine silt of coffee grounds at the bottom. For this same reason, some recommend to use a coarser grind for permanent filters.

Paper filters are also claimed to filter out some compounds (e.g., diterpenes such as cafestol, which may increase blood cholesterol levels). Coffee brewed by other (non-paper-filter) methods have a higher concentration of cafestol in the resulting beverage. See article [2] for more health claims of paper filters. On the other hand [3] says that paper filters filter out some good things, such as antioxidants, but I haven't seen that claim anywhere else.

Flavour. Link number [4] claims better taste on paper filter than permanent filter (I happen to agree). Permanent filters should also allow more oils to pass through, which will certainly have an impact on flavour; this is probably personal preference. The grit that passes through will also have a bittering effect over time, but probably not significant if you're drinking right away. Some (e.g., [1]) say nylon/plastic mesh will retain off-flavours over time.

Cost. Varies greatly, but one can find permanent filters that are said to last for "years" for a few quid ($/€/£) up to 20-30 quid. Though dependent on usage and other factors, you'll have reasonable expectation of saving money over time by using a permanent filter.

Clean-up. Clearly, the spent grounds from re-usable filters must be cleaned out; paper filters and their spent grounds can be pitched wholesale. See another question about how often and how much to clean a permanent filter. On the other hand, [3] claims that permanent filters are cleaner, but I don't agree.

Waste / environmental issues. I couldn't find any data on how much energy is used to produce a paper filter versus a reusable filter, but many uses would certainly be necessary to break even! As far as waste volume though, you'll make up the difference with paper filters pretty quickly (but composting the paper instead alleviates this!). Cleaning permanent filters additionally requires water and detergent. Though, you may wish to rinse your paper filters, so water use is debatable. Ultimately, reusable filters will eventually wear out and need to be replaced.

My Conclusion. For my money, personally, I prefer the paper filter:

  • Better flavour and texture (less bitter, less grit);
  • Convenience (easier to use and keep clean);
  • I compost the whole thing (paper filter, grounds and all), so the environmental impact is basically on the production end, which I'm okay with.
  • Marginal health concerns (cafestol/cholesterol; avoiding plastic whenever possible).
  • I agree with everything you wrote, but there is one health related item you left off. Unfiltered coffee contains a small amount of cholesterol. Paper filter absorb most of this bad LDL cholesterol while mesh filters do not. This is why some say the mesh filters create better taste, they do not trap the oils, but in the case of cholesterol those are oils you want trapped, whether you have a cholesterol problem or not.
    – Justin C
    Mar 1, 2015 at 15:07
  • 2
    @JustinC I think I understand now: The article you linked from 1991 talks about "a factor" (i.e., an as-yet-unidentified compound) that has a cholesterol-raising effect. A later paper (1997) identifies these factors as "diterpene lipids cafestol and kahweol". Both say that paper filters filter-out these substances, but neither says that there is any actual dietary cholesterol in coffee. I added those links to the above linked cholesterol answer. Agreed?
    – hoc_age
    Mar 2, 2015 at 16:20
  • 1
    definitely, nice research. You already had my +1 though
    – Justin C
    Mar 2, 2015 at 19:00
  • 1
    @JustinC One other thing about flavor: paper filters catch the crema, mesh filters do not. Some people prefer it, but I find that it actually detracts from the flavor of the coffee if I am not specifically drinking espresso. I prefer standard drip coffee filtered through paper for that reason. Apr 21, 2015 at 16:51
  • 1
    @JustinC Ingesting cholesterol has not been shown to change levels of cholesterol in one's body, as far as I know. That said, ingesting large amounts of refined sugar DOES increase levels of cholesterol in the body. Jan 28, 2017 at 1:52

I love good strong coffee. To lose flavor is a deal breaker. I tried the gold mesh filter and it is un-acceptable to me. I went back to paper. I was told that because of the screen mesh bottom the permanent filter (like the one I had) has, the hot water doesn't stay with the coffee long enough. It passes right through. Whereas the paper holds it longer, keeps it hotter, and fully brews the coffee to a better taste. The taste is very important to me.

  • Sounds like your major point is time in contact with grounds in a non-paper filter isn't long enough for full extraction. It certainly is true that time in contact with the grounds is a big factor, and I think this is a good point not mentioned elsewhere. To keep your answer to-the point (as we prefer around here -- see the help center for more), I edited your answer accordingly to fit our format better. Welcome to Coffee!
    – hoc_age
    Jan 4, 2016 at 3:00

The discussion refers to hemp/muslin filters but the pros/cons do not include any experiences with these filters. Just a short note for reference:

In terms of taste, hemp/muslin filters outperform paper and metal/gold filters.

In terms of cleaning up, these are not the most practical, perhaps worse than mesh filters because they need to be rinsed after each use, and on top of that cleaned every now and then with something that is not toxic (I use PBW Cleaning Agent, because I cannot get hold of Oxyclean Free locally, and then rinse it afterwards).

They are not permanent either, but must be replaced; not sure about the costs. They are hard to get in Europe (although they could be made DIY).

Paper filters are second choice for me. When I use these, I first rinse them, too. I used mesh filters of various kinds in the past.

  • Thanks for the answer. DYI is probably stands for "do it yourself". But what does PWB stands for? I couldn't put my finger on it. Please be definitive for everybody to easily understand. :)
    – MTSan
    Mar 22, 2016 at 21:58
  • DYI is indeed DIY, do it yourself; PBW (PWB is another typo) is really the name of the cleaning agent, but I edited and added what I would have used had I been able to find it in the UK, namely Oxyclean Free. I edited my answer accordingly Mar 24, 2016 at 22:30

It seems everybody tends to see only the bad side of cafestol such as elevated cholesterol but no-one mentions it being a strong anti-carcinogenic.

Health wise, I prefer the permanent one as cholesterol is something that can be controlled and monitored easily but sadly can't say the same about cancer.

In regards of flavour, both paper and permanent have different but enjoyable characteristics. I find it optimal to use paper for a week and permanent the next week making my daily cups less boring.



Update 27/01/2017

More references for hoc_age:


Cafestol is a naturally occurring effective compound with growth-inhibiting properties in head and neck cancer cells. Moreover, it leads to a significant inhibition of colony formation.


By analyzing the effects of the consumption of coffee by rats, Ferk et al. (2014) noticed that coffee consumption prevents DNA damage and that this protective effect is stronger when the coffee is prepared using a metal filter, which releases more caffeine, cafestol and kahweol (Fig. 1).

I admit the exact word "strongly" is not mentioned but if you read those studies, you will see what i mean.

  • I don't see where this article says cafestol is strongly anti-carcinogenic; maybe no one mentions this because it is not the case. ;-) Other articles such as this from Harvard Medical say that it "could have some anticancer effects", and other suggest that it overcomes specific resistance; this is far from "strong". Do you have a better reference, or would you soften your claim to "could have some anticancer effects" or something like that.
    – hoc_age
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:00

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