Rinse Your Filter to Remove Paper Taste

If you’re making coffee using a pour over method like the large Beehouse dripper or the Clever Coffee Dripper, you’ll need to use a standard #4 filter. Any kind of #4 will do. I highly recommend using Melitta flavor-enhancing filters. They’re called flavor-enhancing because these filters have micro-perforations in them (tiny holes that you can visibly see) that allow the coffee oils that would normally get stuck in a filter to make it into your cup. It’s like getting the benefits of using a French press without the sediment.

This is the Beehouse dripper:


This is the Clever Coffee Dripper:


You may not realize it, but the paper filters we use when brewing coffee in a drip brewer or pour over dripper have a taste. A pretty disgusting taste, actually, like chewing on newspaper. Paper filters have soluble solids in them which are extracted during the brew process and this papery taste makes it into your cup. I know what you’re thinking: instead of natural brown, just use white filters. Don’t. White filters are regular filters that were bleached. Avoid anything that’s been treated with a bunch of chemicals.

The hack

Try this experiment. If you use a pour over dripper or a regular drip brew coffeemaker, try brewing without coffee. For a dripper, put the filter in and set the dripper on top of your mug and pour hot water over the filter to get it wet. For a drip brew coffeemaker, just put a filter in without coffee and brew with a little water. Pour the brewed water into a white mug. Do you see a tinge of yellow? Now taste it. Wait until the water cools and taste it again. You should notice a distinct papery taste. Now, if you were to dump out the water, leave the same filter in place and brew again, you shouldn’t see the yellow tinge or taste anything papery. We’re so used to the paper filter taste that we don’t even notice it in our coffee anymore. If the filter taste was removed, we’d get that much closer to attaining the perfect cup of coffee.

The best way to remove the paper taste is to follow the process I just described. If using a drip brew machine, place your filter in the coffeemaker and don’t add any coffee grounds yet. Add some water to the machine and start the brew cycle. Use a very small amount of water, just about half a cup to a cup should do. The goal is to get some very hot water running through the filter to remove the soluble solids. Dump the water out of the carafe after it cycles, grind your coffee and add to the wet filter and brew like normal.

If you’re brewing with a manual pour over dripper like the Beehouse or the Clever Coffee Dripper, just add a paper filter inside the dripper, place it on top of your mug and in a circular motion, pour a little hot water over the filter so it gets wet. It doesn’t take much and the quality of the pour matters much more than the quantity of water used. Cold water doesn’t work very well because the filter’s soluble solids (fibers, etc.), much like ground coffee beans, have a quicker extraction time the hotter the water is. That’s why French press brewing with hot water takes only 4 minutes and cold brewing takes 12-24 hours. Use near boiling water to rinse the filter and remove soluble solids quickly.

I regularly use a coffee dripper when making coffee and when I pour hot water onto the filter, I can clearly see that, no matter what filter I ever use, the water that drips into my mug has a yellow tinge and tastes very papery. Sometimes I forget to rinse the filter, especially if I’m half asleep. When I make a second cup, I taste a big difference when rinsing the filter. Try this yourself. Make a cup of coffee the usual way. Then, do the rinse I described earlier and make note of the yellow tinge in the water. Take a small sip (gag!) and make note of what you taste. This is what cuppers, professional coffee tasters, do. They taste the good and the bad so they have experience and descriptors to use when saying why a coffee tastes good or bad.

Kill two steps with one filter

In the last section, we discussed the importance of preheating your mug for better tasting coffee. Rinsing your coffee filter ties in as you can both rinse your filter and preheat your mug at the same time. The rinsed water is what would stay in your mug, keeping it hot, until the real brew with the rinsed filter is ready. Dump out the tinged papery water and pour in your fresh brew. You’re welcome.

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