A Brief History of Cloth Filters

The first ever filter used to separate coffee from water was made up of cloth. This cloth filter was somewhat in the shape of a sock. Traditionally, people would pour hot water over ground coffee which was filtered using a cloth. It became popular due to the fact it would instantly separate fine coffee particles without much effort and produce a great cup of coffee.

Traditional cloth filters were thought to be the most affordable way to brew great coffee. It was easy to find them in many places. Nevertheless, they could also be made at home and used for other household needs. Cloth filters were commonly known as cheesecloth, fine mesh bags, cotton fabrics, linen cloth or muslin cloth. The cloth filters used to brew coffee had a simple design: a cloth piece wrapped around a wire with or without a grip. The grip was made up of metal or wood to make the process look more attractive.

Then Came Chorreador

There are numerous stories about the origin of cloth filters. Most people believe it was inspired by Chorreador, a device that became famous in Costa Rica.

In Costa Rica, Cafe Chorreado is prepared using a brewing device consisting of two main parts - the chorreador stand and a bolsita (little bag) - a fabric filter held in place with a wire. The fabric acts almost like a filter, supported by a support system. These support systems could be as simple as a wire handle or as intricate as a wooden or metal stand. The cloth is made from 100% cotton. It is a perfect material for keeping ground coffee inside the cloth while also allowing the coffee beans to release their oils and flavours to make a good cup of coffee. Because cotton is a natural material, it will not alter the taste of your coffee.

Using cloth for brewing coffee was invented in Costa Rica, and now it is a widely used practice. The use of a cloth to brew coffee is more common in Latin America, Europe, and Asia than in the States.

Fabiola and Heyner say that "Although Costa Ricans have adopted electric coffee makers and popular devices like the Hario V60, the chorreador is still used in many homes. People still like it because it's so traditional."

The use of a chorreador (or cloth filter) to brew coffee also seems to be popular among coffeehouses and brewers who appreciate reducing their carbon footprint.

A cloth filter is a great substitute for something disposable and yet allows your cup to be brewed with clarity and balance to enhance your coffee's taste.

Although cloth filters might seem a bit unusual nowadays, they are a very old and successful invention. They were first invented several centuries ago and have been used continuously in Costa Rica to make delicious cups of coffee. The reason that they fell out of favor was due to the advent of paper filters. Cloth filters took a backseat when paper filters were introduced as they were thought to be more convenient. Using a cloth filter, we can make a delicious cup of coffee while not adding the amount of trash and deforestation that occurs as a side effect. While some may consider the impact insignificant, every bit matters.


~Adhi Savla from Wobh

A Brief History of Cloth Filters