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Are Coffee Filters Compostable? How to Tell

Melitta pour over brewingComposting is a great habit to take up. It’s easy, helps combat climate change, and creates nutrient-rich soil that will help your garden flourish come springtime. If you’re a coffee lover like us, you might be concerned with the amount of waste your coffee habit generates. Paper filters are integral to many brewing methods, and using a metal filter instead doesn’t produce the same cup of coffee. If you feel guilty about using paper filters because of the environmental impact, composting is the perfect solution because paper filters are compostable.

If you’ve been wondering if coffee filters are compostable, this article is for you. We’ll break down everything you need to know about composting coffee filters, including how to tell which filters are good for your compost pile and which should belong in the trash.

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Which types of coffee filters are good for composting?

Chemex coffee bloom

Paper filters are the most common kind of coffee filter by far, and they’re also the perfect candidates for composting. Automatic drip machines and pour-overs usually use paper filters, and those two brewing methods alone cover a sizable chunk of the coffee-drinking population. If you usually brew your coffee using a paper filter, you should consider composting as the paper filters and grounds are a great start for a healthy compost pile.

Some paper filters are bleached, but that doesn’t change their compostability. Bleached filters have a few pros and cons compared to unbleached filters, but most are still suitable for composting.

The one exception is a rare type of paper filter that has a rigid ring around the top to help it maintain its shape throughout the brewing process. We don’t see these filters much anymore, but it’s probably best not to compost it if you have one. Most companies that produce this style of filter use synthetic materials to create the support ring. Depending on what they use specifically, it might make the filter slow to decompose and, therefore, not ideal for composting.

If you’re unsure if your filter has a support ring, then don’t worry – it doesn’t. They’re very uncommon and hard to mistake for an ordinary filter.

What about the grounds?

Coffee Grounds on Coffee Filter
Image Credit By: Tyler Nix, unsplash

Coffee grounds are also great for composting since they add significant amounts of nitrogen, a key component of healthy soil. Some people worry that coffee’s high acidity could make their soil too acidic to grow some types of plants. We will defer to a gardening expert, but our understanding is that much of the acidity is lost during the brewing process. After a brew, the leftover grounds have a much lower acidity than they did previously.

Additionally, some common plants – notably tomato plants – thrive in slightly acidic soil. Anecdotally, we haven’t noticed any adverse effects from including coffee grounds in our compost pile.

Since we started composting, our coffee cleanup phase has never been easier. We keep a small composting bin in the kitchen and transport it outside to our main bin one or two times per week. We highly recommend this method since it cuts down on the amount of effort required and increases the likelihood of maintaining the habit.

RELATED READ: 17 Brilliant Uses for Used Coffee Grounds

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One final point

Research has shown that drinking unfiltered coffee – as prepared in a French press, for example – is more likely to cause high cholesterol and heart problems than drinking coffee brewed with a paper filter. This poses a serious dilemma for environmentally conscious coffee drinkers concerned about drinking unfiltered coffee. Composting is, in our opinion, the best solution since it allows you to enjoy paper-filtered coffee without stressing about contributing to climate change.

The additional gardening benefits are a nice side effect for coffee drinkers with a green thumb. We noticed an obvious increase in our garden’s health once we started composting in general and another boost when we started adding coffee grounds to the mix. Composting is simple, responsible, and rewarding – especially if you drink coffee every day.


Featured Image Credit By: StockSnap, pixabay

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Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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