The fact that you have the inclination to spend your precious time reading an article about Aeropress filters of all things, says something very important about you. It says you have made that all important transition from the convenience of cheap instant coffee (shudder!) to the art of real coffee brewing.
I mean think about it. Right now you could be watching Youtube or Netflix, you could be immersed in a gripping book, you could be scrolling through the never-ending world of social media. But instead you are researching the incredibly niche topic of which Aeropress filter produces the cleanest, richest, most flavourful tasting coffee. In the most positive sense of the word you are a coffee geek.
Your journey so far has probably looked something like this. Maybe you had a coffee at a friends house, but it was unlike any other coffee you had had before. And it opened your eyes to the world of specialty coffee. And you started dipping your toes into this unexplored ocean. Maybe you got a burr coffee grinder, maybe you bought a pour over or Moka Pot. And you came to love not simply the taste but the very process of brewing coffee.
And then you stumbled onto this giant syringe-looking brewer called an Aeropress and discovered it has an almost cult following. You read the reviews, watched the videos and finally decided to give it a shot. And you came to love the Aeropress, and got a sense of its almost unlimited versatility and potential. And so the next step was asking the incredibly worthwhile questions; Would better Aeropress filters result in even better brews? Would Aeropress metal filters fit the coffee I am trying to brew? Which Aeropress filter is best?
The Purpose of Aeropress Filters
The purpose of a coffee filter is fairly straightforward. Basically, a coffee bean is made up of both soluble (30%) and insoluble (70%) compounds. When hot water is added to the ground coffee, the soluble part of the coffee bean dissolves, releasing both the more and less pleasant tasting notes into the liquid. This is the process that we call extraction in the coffee world. A good extraction is one that ‘extracts’ the maximum amount of nice tasting notes and minimum amount of sour or bitter tasting notes.
From there the coffee filter separates the liquid from the used coffee grounds. That is basically the sum of its purpose. The paper or stainless steel coffee filter, traps the grounds and coffee particles so that they don’t make it into your cup. And the choice of what kind of coffee filter you opt for determines what does and doesn’t get into the cup. Without coffee filters, every cup of joe would basically end up like a cupping coffee if you have ever tried one, where taste is okay but the bottom half of the cup is basically sludge that you wouldn’t want to drink.
There are three main types of coffee filters that are commonly used; metal, cloth, and paper. As, to my knowledge there are no cloth filters currently available for Aeropress, we will think exclusively about the difference between paper and metal filters.
Aeropress Paper vs Metal Filters
In conducting this comparison there are a number of criteria we will consider. And from the get go it is important to note that, as is often the case, it does come down to personal preference. There are Aeropress fanatics who swear by paper filters and there are fans who are die-hard metal coffee filter evangelists. Neither is wrong, it is simply a case of subjective difference.
Obviously the single most important factor in choosing a coffee filter is how is it going to positively or negatively impact the flavor of the brew? And the difference in taste between disposable and reusable coffee filters (metal) is in large part determined by coffee oils and what is called porosity.
A paper filter restricts the coffee oils from making it into the cup. As a result coffee brewed using paper Aeropress coffee filters tends to be lighter and cleaner with a more tea-like texture. This often helps highlight fruity or floral notes in the coffee beans and is overall a more nuanced and weaker coffee taste that is more about specific flavour notes than that hit of caffeine. It has a far lighter mouthfeel and tends to be less bitter which some prefer and others don’t. It depends of course on which Aeropress recipe and method you opt for, but coffee made with paper filters tends to resemble a V60 or other pour over extraction.
Permanent coffee filters (metal), contrariwise, tend to have larger holes and allow both the coffee oils and fines to make it into the cup. This makes for a richer and deeper mouthfeel and a stronger flavour as much flavour is contained within the coffee oils. Coffee made with stainless steel Aeropress filters have more body and a stronger flavour than paper filters. So if you like that hit of caffeine and that classic bitter coffee taste, then metal or Aeropress reusable filters are probably the best option for you. Again it depends on your chosen method, but Aeropress coffee made through a metal coffee filter often resembles coffee from a Moka Pot or French press that is heavier and richer and almost earthy.
As well as the presence or absence of coffee oils, the taste of Aeropress coffee is determined by the porosity of the filter used. Porosity is basically a technical term for the size and consistency of the holes (pores) in the given Aeropress filter. So obviously metal filters have bigger and usually visible holes while paper filters have a lot smaller pores that allow the liquid to pass through while restricting the fines and oils. To get a visual but highly technical rundown on the role of porosity in coffee filters see this excellent article here.
The side effect that it is worth being aware of is that the sizes of the holes in the given filter will impact the desirable grind size. So because metal filters have bigger pores, the extraction will be faster and so to compensate you often need a finer grind setting. And on the flipside of course, paper filters, depending on their thickness and porosity, will have a slower extraction and so can often deal with a slightly more coarse grind setting.
The next criterion to consider is the age old debate regarding sediment in coffee. So if you have ever had a French Press coffee then chances are that at the bottom of the cup you discover a smaller or greater amount of what was effectively coffee sludge. That is what is called sediment or coffee grit and is again impacted by the choice of coffee filter material.
The stereotype is that metal filters allow sediment into the cup while paper filters restrict it. However, this stereotype is beginning to change as the metal disks are being re-thought and re-engineered. So a number of the more advanced metal filters at least claim to allow very little or even no sediment into the final cup.
An increasing concern in the world of specialty coffee is this whole idea of sustainability. Basically it revolves around the question, what are the environmental impacts that our coffee drinking habits have on our planet? As is becoming increasingly clear, there are many things we choose to do, especially in Western countries, that are impacting negatively upon the environment in a way both in our time and for the generations to follow.
And the coffee industry has and continues to play a part in this. So for the environmentally conscious coffee drinker, you may prefer a permanent coffee filter for their reusability. The fact that a few hundred more paper filters might not make it into your local landfill might make the decision a no brainer for you.
Are Coffee Filters Compostable?
While metal Aeropress filters last a lot longer, this doesn’t mean every coffee drinker who opts for paper filters is destroying our planet one filter at a time. Actually, Aeropress paper filters tend to be completely compostable and biodegradable. This is certainly the case with the standard paper filters that come in packs of 350 with your Aeropress
So, if you have a preference for paper filters then if possible do your bit for our planet by composting them after use along with your coffee grinds.
A related topic that simply does come into the choice is convenience. The simple reality is that as human beings we have a proclivity towards laziness and anything that makes life easier for us tends to go down a hit. And so especially if you make your coffee in the morning rush, then every factor that could even save you a few seconds is often worth it.
The great thing about disposable Aeropress filters is that they simply are convenient. You brew your coffee, push out the puck and the filter into the compost bin, give your Aeropress a quick rinse and you are away laughing. This is part of what many users love about the Aeropress in general.
With an Aeropress metal filter however, the process is at least a little more involved. Especially if you invest in a high quality stainless steel coffee filter for the Aeropress, then it is important that you look after it by cleaning and drying it after every use. So in the area of convenience, paper filters do take the win.
Another factor that similarly plays a part is cost. The cost up front and the long term cost. While the standard Aeropress paper filters are a dime a dozen, the price of the more high-end paper and metal filters is far more considerable. In fact it can almost seem ridiculous how much some of these filters cost when you consider the thickness and diameter of the metal disk.
However, a high quality stainless steel coffee filter may last you for years, especially if you take good care of it. Paper filters, by contrast, are a cost that is going to keep coming up. So paper filters are cheaper up front but more expensive in the long run, while metal filters are more expensive up front but cheaper long term.
Another topic that is being increasingly discussed in related to both coffee in general and coffee filters in specific is the health factor. For more on the health benefits of coffee see our article here. In relation to paper and metal Aeropress filters the discussion revolves around what are known as diterpenes. Cafestol and Dahweol are diterpene molecules that are found in coffee and that hinder your body’s ability to regulate cholesterol levels.
Paper filters remove virtually all of the diterpenes from the coffee while metal filters allow them through. So if you do have health complications or issues with cholesterol then this may be a factor to consider.
So which Aeropress Filter Should I Buy?
So now that we have conducted our comparison which one comes out on top? And as cliche as it is, I have to conclude that it depends on what you are looking for. My personal preference has always been for the cleaner and lighter taste that paper filters produce but I know many other coffee lovers who adore the heavier and richer taste that comes with Aeropress metal filters, and I can forgive them for that.
And, as is often the case, perhaps it is not a matter of either/or. Both have pros and cons and an increasing number of Aeropress die-hards now tend to experiment with both. The magic of the Aeropres is its versatility as a coffee brewer, and having both metal and paper filters only increases that flexibility. Both types can produce delicious coffee simply with different flavour notes accented. So if money is not an issue and you want the best, then you may as well buy both.
Compared with other brewers, the number of different recipes and techniques that can be used with the Aeropress is enormousJames Hoffman
Best Aeropress Paper Filters
So if by this point you are convinced that you are a paper filter type of guy or gal, then what are your options? And there are not as many as you might have thought!
Standard Paper Aeropress Filters
Your first and easiest option is the standard paper disk coffee filters that come with your Aeropress when you initially buy it. These come in packs of 350 and overall they are okay, they get the job done. They fit the Aeropress well, they are available from virtually any cafe, coffee roaster, or coffee supplier that deals in specialty coffee, and they can provide good results. For the first year or so that we owned our Aeropress this was all I used and they produced some stunning cups of coffee. Especially if you are starting out they are a safe option that can produce good results.
AESIR Aeropress Filters
Next up is the brainchild of Canadian Aeropress guru Eldric Kuzma. Kuzma of Aubade Coffee in Vancouver was preparing for the 2016 Canadian Aeropress Championship when he began to question the lack of options for different paper filters for Aeropress. Knowing from the world of pour over the impact that paper quality, thickness, and porosity has on the flavour and clarity of the brew, he decided to design one himself, ergo the AESIR Aeropress filter.
After extensive testing, Kuzma opted for filters that are made out of premium paper from Finland that are noticeably thicker than a standard Aeropress filter with a far smaller pore size. The result is a far cleaner and brighter cup with even greater flavour clarity. The smaller pore size helps reduce both channelling and clogging and these filters simply feel premium in every sense of the word.
Since switching to these a few months ago I can honestly say I haven’t looked back. They come in a small cardboard box containing 100 filters and simply are superb and gaining growing notoriety in the Aeropress world. If you want the premium paper filters for Aeropress, AESIR is the way to go.
Tips for Using Paper Aeropress Coffee Filters
If you do come down on the paper filter side and especially if you use a standard Aeropress paper filter, then here are a few tips on how to optimise your filter’s potential.
Always rinse your coffee filter prior to use – This will be a familiar lesson if you have dabbled in the world of pour over, but it is vital that you always rinse paper filters prior to use. In an Aeropress, the way you do this will depend on whether you are doing the inverted or traditional method, but basically you put the paper filter into the cap and then pour hot water through it. This removes the paper residue and reduces that papery or cardboardy taste. If you screw your cap into the brewing chamber before pouring the hot water over it, this can also pre-heat the Aeropress.
You can reuse standard paper filters – I am not sure if I would actually recommend this, but if you are particularly environmentally-aware, then you can reuse the paper filters that come with the Aeropress. It is as simple as after brewing, rinse out the filter and then put it back into the cap to dry for next time. This does work (although I would reuse a given filter no more than 2-3 times) but does require effort.
Experiment with using more than one Aeropress filter – The final and perhaps most significant tip is that you can actually use more than one paper filter at a time. By using two or even three paper filters in a single brew you somewhat replicate the effect of the thicker AESIR filter papers; the added thickness and porosity makes for a cleaner and brighter cup. I did this basically from the get-go and consistently found that it produced better results. The negative, however, is that it does mean that you chomp through your filters at a faster rate.
Best Aeropress Metal Filters
If you have decided that a metal filter is the way to go, then I am happy to tell you that you have a number of options some of which are absolutely superb.
In many ways the standard option for Aeropress metal filters is the Able Disk. If you order it, the Able disk comes in an aesthetically pleasing package and is highly recommended by the majority of users. It is a metal disk rather than mesh, fits well into the Aeropress cap and is made of high quality stainless steel. Some users have commented that one downside is that when using the Disk, you might not always get a coffee puck which can be a disappointment although certainly not a deal breaker.
The Company produces two different disks; the Standard or Original which is thicker and more robust, or the Fine which is about 2/3rds thinner with far smaller holes (pores). The Standard is really your classic metal disk, while the fine seeks to produce a far cleaner cup of coffee with significantly less sediment in the cup. It is also worth noting that the Fine should be treated more carefully as it can be bent or damaged far easier than the standard. You can also buy a pack which includes both disks.
AMEUUS Aeropress Metal Filter
The Ameuus Aeropress Filters were designed on a simple principle; to allow the coffee oils to make it into the cup while keeping even the smallest coffee grounds from doing the same. As with the Able Disk there are two different sized filters, a finer and a thicker which can be purchased individually or in a pack together.
The two different sized metal disks are named the o1 10K and the o2. The o1 is the thicker filter with an average pore size of 100 microns. To put that in perspective that is around 10,000 holes per Aeropress filter! The o2 is even more impressive and has an average pore size of 30 microns which would put it in the vicinity of 50,000 holes per disk coffee filter! These are some seriously engineered Aeropress filters!
The filters were the result of a kickstarter project in 2018 to reimagine how an Aeropress metal filter could operate. Really the goal is all the positives of traditional metal filters without the prevailing negative of sediment. They are made of food-grade stainless steel and provided they are well cared for should last for years. That being said, they are incredibly fine and so could crease easily.
The other thing to note is that if you buy the pack with both filters you also get a drying rack and a carry case for the filters which are nice perks. But overall these are some serious permanent coffee filters.
Kohi Labs Metal Fabric Filter
Another innovative approach to Aeropress reusable filters was engineered by Kohi Labs. As with the Ameuus, the rationale behind these coffee filters is to allow coffee oils while eliminating all grit or sediment. And the unique way that Kohi labs attempt this is through a stainless steel fabric filter. So unlike the Able and Ameuss, the Kohi Labs Aeropress filter is, at least in theory, almost indestructible. You can bend it or roll it (not that it is necessarily a good idea) and it won’t break.
Again this was the result of a kickstarter project, and comes in a cool looking pouch with the kohi labs logo laser printed onto the mesh filter. To give you an idea of the popularity of this idea, the kickstarter project was successfully funded four times over! In terms of taste, it produces very sweet tasting coffee with good body. It can be cleaned relatively easily as long as you are gentle. As with all metal filters, you will notice that it is very easy to push down with this filter.
So the IMS (Industria Materiali Stampati) offering is the final ‘premium’ metal filter we will consider. IMS is actually a Italian company that is known for making precision shower screens for espresso machines. And so naturally, they decided to take all that experience and knowledge and funnel it into the world of Aeropress. The ULTRAFINE Aeropress filter disk was released by ISM in the second Italian Aeropress Championship.
In terms of specifications it is made from inox wire woven membrane that is almost cloth like in texture and has an outer protective inox ring to safeguard the mesh. This coffee filter produces a super sweet cup that as expected is remarkably clean. As with most of the others on this list there are a range of different filters they offer that span from 150 microns to an impressive 35 microns. But again a good offering!
Tips for Aeropress Reusable Filters
Use the Inverted Method – regardless of how small the pores are, metal filters simply do extract faster than paper filters. As a result, if you use the traditional method with the Aeropress the right way up, you will find that even during the bloom a fair bit of coffee will drip through into the cup which is less than ideal. Consequently, it is usually recommended that if you opt for a metal disk filter, you use the inverted method where no coffee can drip through until you are ready to press.
Clean them well and regularly – The simple reality with metal filters is that their long term effectiveness will be in large part determined by how well you care for them. You should wash the permanent coffee filter after every use and then leave it to dry. There are a couple of ways to wash them. You can carefully wash them in hot water or a common method, especially for the mesh filters, is after using it, flip the mesh, put it back in the cap and then press water through it twice. Provided you always extract with the mesh facing one way and then wash it with it facing the other way, this is a reliable method to follow.
Aeropress Filters in Summary
While we haven’t reviewed every Aeropress coffee filter out there, we have sought to compare the very best of each category to give you a comprehensive Aeropress filter guide. As a result of the established popularity of Aeropress coffee, there has been a range of Aeropress accessories flooding the market in the last few years. And the world of Aeropress filters is no different.
What is right for you is something you will have to decide for yourself. Our only recommendation would be that you need to know what tastes best for you. Despite what some coffee snobs say, coffee is ultimately a subjective experience and the goal is not perfect extraction so much as it is a drink and process that you enjoy.
Feel free to leave any comment or questions below.