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I often get asked about the differences between paper and metal filters for the AeroPress. The AeroPress is one of my favorite coffee makers, and over the years, I’ve experimented extensively with both filter types trying to determine which is best. I know which one I prefer, but that might not necessarily be the right answer for you.
When you first get your hands on the AeroPress, you are given a pack of 350 paper filters. These are great, but many people opt to use reusable metal filters as a more sustainable and cost-effective option. Honestly, both have their pros and cons in terms of the body, clarity, and flavor they produce.
In this blog post, I’ll overview the key differences between paper and metal filters to help you decide which is better suited for your personal taste preferences.
I’m not going to get overly technical or wordy. But by the end, you should have a clear sense of the filtration, grind size, brew process, and flavor profile differences between the two filter types to help make an informed decision for your AeroPress coffee brewing ritual.
Let’s dive in!
✔ Quick Answer
Paper AeroPress Filters – The Pros
As someone who has brewed thousands of cups with the AeroPress, I often prefer paper filters for their ability to produce a cleaner, brighter cup of coffee.
Paper filters completely catch all of the fine coffee sediment that makes it through the press. This leaves behind a lighter-bodied black coffee with slightly more acidic, fruity-tasting notes.
I also like that paper filters allow you to halt the flow for a makeshift espresso shot. You can press down on the filter cap to the desired resistance and extract rich, syrupy AeroPress espresso coffee, almost like a true espresso machine just with less pressure.
Finally, paper filters are cheap and readily available at most grocery stores. I probably go through 5-10 paper filters per week.
While the cost is next to nothing compared to an AeroPress metal filter, you only have to pay up once for a filter that will last years, although admittedly, the initial cost can be pretty high.
Now let’s clear up some myths about the paper coffee filter.
Common Myths About Using Paper Filters
You’ll often hear claims that paper doesn’t catch all the fine grounds or oils. I used to believe this myself until I started examining the sludge left behind in used AeroPress paper filters. It’s clear they catch plenty of microscopic grounds and oils.
Another myth is that modern bleached paper filters could potentially leech harmful chemicals into your morning coffee.
This may have been true decades ago, but today most quality paper filters meet rigorous safety standards. The bleaching agent is oxygen rather than chlorine. Reputable brands also clearly advertise being oxygen-bleached.
Of course, others argue that missing those oils is exactly why metal is a superior choice when it comes to filters. So which filter type truly makes for the “best” cup of AeroPress coffee?
Let’s look at some of metal’s advantages.
Metal AeroPress Filters – The Advantages
While paper filters do tend to produce a cleaner cup, I can’t deny that metal filters have some clear benefits when it comes to flavor.
Metal filters allow more coffee oils and microscopic sediment to pass into your cup. This can lend a richer, fuller body and mouthfeel compared to paper – almost like a French press. The texture is smooth and creamy.
Metal is also much more sustainable and cost-effective long term since you can reuse the same filter indefinitely.
Some people moan about the upfront cost, but in most cases, they will often pay for themselves after just a month or two of use.
However, metal filters also come with a few drawbacks.
Things to Know About Metal Filters
The most important thing with metal filters is that they require a much finer coffee grind. Too coarse, and you’ll have major over-extraction and a sludgy cup.
Speaking of over-extraction, it happens more easily with metal since there’s less flow restriction. You have to brew the AeroPress a bit differently and be careful not to press down the plunger onto the ground coffee too fast.
Finally, keeping your metal filter clean takes more effort, and honestly, sometimes it can be a pain in the ass – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve accidentally shot my steel filter into the trash.
Also, it’s worth noting that oils and tiny coffee particles build up over time if you’re not diligent about scrubbing it out.
So, while metal filters unlock more flavor potential, they also demand a bit more work and technique to brew AeroPress coffee properly.
Now let’s directly compare some key differences between metal and paper filters.
Key Differences Between The Two AeroPress Filters
When using the AeroPress, apart from the type of coffee you use and the steep time, the most impactful factor in your final cup of coffee is which filter type you decide to use.
The table below breaks down the key differences when choosing between the AeroPess paper filter or metal filters.
|AeroPress||Paper Filter||Metal Filter|
|Filtration & Flavor||Catches more oils and super fine coffee particulate, leading to an ultra-clean cup. Tastes fruity and bright.||Allows more oils and sediment, resulting in a fuller body and mouthfeel, similar to a French press. Richer flavor.|
|Grind Size||Tends to work better with a medium to fine grind size.||Requires a finer grind, close to espresso fine, to avoid grainy over-extraction.|
|Brew Process||Provides flow restriction, allowing for slow pressing and mimicking an espresso machine.||Drains fast without flow restriction, increasing the risk of over-extraction if pressed too hard or fast.|
|Environmental Impact||Single-use, contributing to waste.||Reusable, potentially more eco-friendly.|
|Cost Over Time||Require regular replacement, ongoing costs.||Higher initial cost but more cost-effective over time due to reusability.|
|Maintenance||No cleaning required, disposable.||Requires cleaning after each use.|
|Portability & Ease of Use||Convenient for travel, no cleaning needed.||Less convenient for travel due to the need for careful handling and cleaning.|
As you can see, each filter has strengths and weaknesses and can affect the AeroPress coffee maker differently.
When it comes to AeroPress filters, neither paper nor metal is necessarily “better” – they each shine in different areas and have unique effects on the final brew.
Paper produces a clean, bright cup that highlights fruity notes, while the AeroPress metal filter pumps up the body and gives a rich, heavy mouthfeel. Paper is also beginner-friendly, but with a bit of practice, you’ll find that the metal alternative unlocks more flavor for the experienced brewer.
Much of this filter comparison also comes down to personal preferences around waste, convenience, and sustainability. If you go through a lot of filters and cost is a factor, paper makes sense economically. But if you prioritize eco-friendly solutions, the reusable metal filter pays for itself over time.
At the end of the day, my advice is to try both filter types yourself before deciding which one suits your tastes.
The good news is that high-quality AeroPress original paper filters are widely available either directly from the AeroPress store or those offered by third-party sellers such as those offered by AESIR Filters, and your typical stainless steel filters generally retail between $15-20.
If you want more information on metal and paper AeroPress filter options, make sure you read our best filters for AeroPress recommendations.
It doesn’t take much investment to reap the rewards of dramatically better coffee from this amazing and versatile pocket-sized coffee brewer. Now get experimenting!