Are permanent coffee filters better than paper ones for use on a boat? What are the pros and cons?

Permanent Coffee Filters?

I’ve long thought that a “permanent” coffee filter would be a good idea on a boat.  We had a few friends that used them, and they always seemed like a neat idea:

  • Anything that’s designed to be re-used just seems more environmentally friendly.
  • Buy it once, rather than finding filters in out-of-the-way locations.
  • Less trash — each one is small, but yes, they do add to the trash management issue.
  • One less thing to store, since you can leave it in the coffee maker.

However, after using one for almost two weeks in a condo that we rented, I quickly concluded that I wouldn’t want one on a boat for three reasons:

  • It’s a pain to get all the coffee grounds out.  Quite a lot stick inside, and you have to wipe them out with a rag (more laundry) or a paper towel (more trash).  Some always stick inside, and it takes water to get them out — more water than I’m willing to use on what seems like a simple thing.
  • And when you’ve rinsed those grounds out, where do they go?  Typically, they end up going down the drain . . . and that can cause clogs or slow drains as they mix with grease and soap.
  • And if you don’t scrub the filter out with soap and a little brush, coffee oils will build up on the tiny mesh and then your coffee will taste funny.  It’ll taste funny, too, if you don’t totally rinse the soap out . . . and that takes more water than you’d think as the mesh really likes to hold soap.

I was really surprised at the amount of water and time (and an extra paper towel!) that it took to clean up the permanent filter.  The extra paper towel negated any trash savings or “less environmental impact” that I thought the permanent filter would have.  And I hate having little bits of food go down the drain — the less that goes down, the less chance of clogs.

So I’m retracting my earlier comment that using paper or permanent filters is just a matter of personal preference . . . . I’m now thinking that paper are really the way to go if you have a coffee maker that uses filters.  And for those systems where a paper filter is optional, my guess is that they’ll save in clean up time and water usage, too.

I'd like to know about...

Explore more

Want weekly tidbits of cruising information? Sign up for The Boat Galley's free weekly newsletter. You'll get the newest articles and podcasts as well as a few relevant older articles that you may have missed.

Do you find The Boat Galley useful? You can support the site when you buy from Amazon by using the links on this site or clicking below. No extra cost for you!

  • Peter Robertson
    Posted at 25 January 2013 Reply

    Thanks for the honesty! As a boater and a bit of a coffee nut the same conclusion was reached by us. We tossed the screen in favor of the brown paper filters, better taste and less coffee oil in your stomach that can upset it for some people, Whenever possible we do save the grinds for the flowerbeds at home.
    Peter Robertson
    M/V St. Somewhere
    California Delta

  • Jim and Barbara Shell
    Posted at 25 January 2013 Reply

    Barbara and I agree with not using permanent coffee filters when we cruise. We make coffee by pouring boiling water into a Melita cone through a paper filter into a vacuum pot. We use a gold plated gold filter when we intend to make a second pot immediately after the first pot. We start the process by placing the permanent filter inside the paper filter with the desired ground coffee and pouring the boiling water through. After the first pot is used, we add about 1/2 the original amount of coffee grounds to the filter and pour more boiling water through. The permanent filter prevents the paper filter from clogging. It is not the greatest coffee in the second run, but it is good enough. The permanent filters are really a pain to clean.

  • MaryJo Boyle
    Posted at 25 January 2013 Reply

    I totally agree about the permanent filters!

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 25 January 2013 Reply

    Differences are what make the world go ’round!

  • Paul Wyand
    Posted at 27 January 2013 Reply

    I have mixed feelings about the permanent filters. Do you know what brand you used? I had one that came with a coffee maker (krups I believe) that was awful, and as you described hard to clean. I also had a Swiss Gold and it was much better and could just be rinsed off (as long as you did it immediately after the brew cycle) but not bad even if you did not. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to making my coffee as I use a digital thermometer to measure the temp (I prefer a touch over 200 degrees for good fresh ground beans) and pour over into a vacuum carafe.

    I also think the paper can help to mellow out a mediocre coffee bean, as they absorb some of the oils and if it is not absolutely fresh and fresh ground that is a good thing, but otherwise it is taking away flavor.

  • Michael
    Posted at 07 February 2013 Reply

    I just recentyly started using a paper filter inside the basket of my retro 6 cup percolator. Clean up is a breeze and I avoid all the issues Carol mentioned in her article.

  • Karen
    Posted at 14 February 2013 Reply

    I’ve been pondering this for a couple of weeks now, and have tried out a solution I’d like to suggest. Once upon a time, when I was just 16, I had a job at a steak house. One of my grunt jobs as a newbie was to clean the coffee pots. Strangely enough, they instructed me to use a combination of ice, salt, and lemon juice. Put the ingredients in the glass pot and swirl it around for a while. Then dump and give it a rinse. All done! I decided to see if it would work on my permanent filter. I didn’t use ice (too precious on a boat to use for this), just lemon juice and salt in a little bowl. I dumped the grounds, swished the filter in a bucket of water, and then scrubbed with the lemon and salt. It worked as well as soap did and rinsed easier with no residual taste. My guess is the acid from the lemon cuts the oil and the salt acts as an abrasive. Maybe some of you can give it a try and let me know if it works for you? Best Wishes!

  • Tami
    Posted at 15 September 2013 Reply

    French press. Yer done.

  • Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious)
    Posted at 15 September 2013 Reply

    I agree with Carolyn’s points. I have the same cleaning issues with French presses. A percolator and Melitta wrap-around paper filters is the best I’ve found for the boat.

  • Al Felker
    Posted at 15 September 2013 Reply

    Paper for us as well.

  • seadaddler
    Posted at 15 September 2013 Reply

    I agree too much to clean and too much water to clean so we rather use paper filters and just throw out with trash and not much room in trash.

  • Chris
    Posted at 22 January 2014 Reply

    Also useful as a shower sump catchment to keep debris from fouling the sump pump check valve.

  • John Ahern
    Posted at 02 August 2014 Reply

    I just always lean off the back off the boat and clean 99% of my filter within 30 seconds, then do a final rinse in sink……

  • Kim Veitch Davidson
    Posted at 02 August 2014 Reply

    Totally agree.

  • Colin Mombourquette
    Posted at 02 August 2014 Reply

    Yes, they are more work than paper filters

  • Kris Steyn
    Posted at 03 August 2014 Reply

    one of the cruising round the world guides said that washing the coffee grinds down the sink soaks up any oily stuff and keeps the drains clear.
    Cant remember where I read it – I use a french press and flush the grinds down OK

  • BJ Vanderveer
    Posted at 03 August 2014 Reply

    Tried this and french press and went back to paper drip perc. Grind our own beans though, like our french roast

  • Hugh
    Posted at 28 July 2016 Reply

    We use an Aeropress for our coffee with a paper filter. there is a permanent filters for Aeropress but the small disc of paper is easy to use,and store.

Post A Comment