Approaching sustainability over a pour-over: Reusable DIY filter 

For most of us, the first logical move in our effort to ‘go green’ is switching to more sustainable and compostable products. As a less harmful option compared to using polluting ones it is a step forward, still, it is buying products and using resources that could be avoided in the first place. Not to mention that most of the items we use do not go to composting or recycling.

The next-best solution would be finding a reusable replacement for a single use item. Due to us being so influenced by modern day single-use society, by all advertisement and consumerism this can sometimes feel like a “weird” idea at first. In most cases, this is as simple as going back to what people use to do/use before we introduced a single-use version. 

Ultimately, when possible we can look into completely eradicating the need for the particular product (habit). I think of it as an exciting concept, with a lot of possible benefits. Other than being utterly more sustainable, for us and the environment, minimalism and simplifying help us regain a conscious approach towards our routines and habits. 

One of the habits I am currently omitting only occasionally is my coffee ritual. After having tried all the delicious, inherently waste-free ways to brew coffee, I am still a pour over-lover. In alignment with my waste reduction efforts, I decided to stop buying paper coffee filters. At the same time, I bumped into a post on reusable coffee filters on Remodelista web. Excited about that product idea, I wondered come the use of fabric coffee filters had not become the standard practice already. And I realized that it was before until we all fell victims to the disposable society mindset. All these times that I’d been having coffees, I did not think about this consciously.  

After my first consumerist urge to go after the fabric filter immediately, my DIY spirit kicked in and I decided I could make one myself.

Only when I started testing the “dripping rate” with different organic hemp and cotton fabrics did I realize how bad my pour over technique was. Thus, I decided to look into those a bit more. As a result, this whole project became even more rewarding. I still need to improve the pouring, but I managed to get satisfying results using my filter. The ultimate test will be taking it to my favorite coffee place (as I never found a place with a tastier pour over) and ask their barista to make my coffee with my filter. I will let you know how it goes :).

Initially, I planned to sew and make a V60 shaped filter. Then, I remembered some folded Chemex filters I’d once bought and I thought that could be a better model to mimic. It would be much easier to make and possibly more practical as it could be used for both V60 and Chemex. Moreover, I would avoid the stitches on the usable filter area.

I’ve tested different organic cotton and hemp fabrics. I went for the hemp one as it gave me the best results when it comes to dripping rate and flavor. In addition, hemp fabric is much more sustainable to produce (compared to cotton), it is more durable than cotton and it is naturally antibacterial.

I wouldn’t be able to say precisely which combination of factors (weight and density) you should go for. I suggest you do your own empirical research, test different fabrics you have available and find one that gives you the most satisfying result.

Step 1  Cut the fabric into 15x15cm squares. 

Step 2  Boil them to remove any impurities or dust, and to ensure it will shrink now rather than when the filter is done.

Step 3  Once you have decided on the fabric you can stop at this step. However, I suggest doing at least some kind of edging at the seams. Otherwise, the fabric might unravel.

Step 4  Cut in a desired shape (optional). I decided to cut and shape my filters before edging (one in a round shape and one in a flower shape). I did this by folding it in 4 and marking the quarter of the circle by hand. Use a round shape dish or plate for more precision.

Step 5  Edge with a sewing machine or by hand.

Step 7  Boil the filter again to get rid of any leftover impurities.

all photos by Mili