Are Coffee Filters Compostable?

Composting is one way of dealing with organic waste. Not only is composting good for plants and soil, but it reduces the amount of trash in landfills and helps fight climate change.

64% of Americans drink coffee daily, which means there is a significant amount of coffee-related waste created every day. But, are coffee filters compostable? Let’s find out!

Do Coffee Filters Biodegrade?

Yes, coffee filters are compostable and biodegradable. Regardless of whether your coffee filter is brown, white, or any other color in between, as long as it’s made of paper, it will biodegrade.

The reason for this is that paper biodegrades well, as long as it is kept moist in the compost pile.

Worms will work hard to break down the paper filters, and it’s a great way to add bulk to your compost bin!

Does the Filter Type Make a Difference?

As mentioned above, paper-based coffee filters will biodegrade the best and therefore are the best for composting.

However, not every paper filter is made the same!

Bleached Paper Filters

Bleached paper filters are currently the most common type of coffee filter that is used.

These start brown and become the familiar white color that is universally associated with coffee filters through a bleaching process using chlorine or other chemicals.

Bleached coffee filters are safe to use and compost; however, they take longer to break down than their counterparts.

Thanks to increased EPA regulations in 1990, you can rest assured with the knowledge that composting white paper filters will not introduce any harmful substances to your garden.

Unbleached Paper Filters

Unbleached paper coffee filters are easy to identify because they come in their natural brown color.

They’re generally considered better for your health and more environmentally friendly than bleached filters because they don’t require as much processing.

It’s believed that because brown, unbleached coffee filters are more natural than their white counterparts, they are better suited for composting as they break down faster.

Bamboo Paper Filters

Bamboo paper coffee filters are made from a combination of bamboo pulp and natural, unbleached paper pulp.

Filters made with bamboo biodegrade better and are considered more sustainable than paper ones.

Fewer chemicals are used during the creation of bamboo filters, so they are better for composting by design.

It’s important to note that single-use bamboo paper filters are compostable, but reusable bamboo filters are not.

What is the Best Filter for Composting?

While coffee filters can and will biodegrade during the composting process, bamboo paper filters are the best for composting. Its natural composition allows for better, faster decomposition.

The second best filter for composting is unbleached, brown coffee filters. They decompose faster because they aren’t exposed to a chemical process to whiten them.

They also attract worms and microorganisms that help expedite the process of breaking the filter down to give nutrients to your soil.

How Long Do Filters Take to Decompose?

In general, coffee filters do not take long to decompose and act similarly to food waste. Coffee filters degrade quickly, especially in warm, moist environments.

Remember, keeping your compost pile moist is an important part of breaking down organic waste.

There are numerous factors to consider when trying to figure out how long it will take filters to decompose, including the material they’re made from and how and where you’ll compost them.

Another thing to consider is what time of the year it is. Compost will decompose faster in the summer than in the winter.

In general, though, you can expect your coffee filters somewhere between six to eight months to decompose completely.

You can help expedite the process by regularly turning your compost every two weeks with a pitchfork.

If you opt to use a compost bin and do not regularly turn the contents, it will take longer for the coffee filters to decompose.

Is a Compost Bin or Compost Heap Better for Coffee Filters?

Both compost bins and heaps are equally beneficial for the environment.

Your coffee filters will break down and turn into nutrients for your soil regardless of which method you choose.

Coffee filters fall under the “green” or food waste category of composting.

The job of green waste is to turn into nitrogen for your compost. Nitrogen is an essential component that helps microorganisms break compounds down into waste.

While both methods are efficient, because coffee filters are considered a green type of waste, compost bins are an excellent choice to stop pests from making a mess.

If a compost heap is more your style, choose a dry, shaded area that is near a water source to ensure it gets the right balance of moisture.

Is It Safe to Compost Coffee Grounds with the Filter?

Yes, it is safe for coffee grounds to be composted with its filter. Coffee is plant-based matter, and aside from being great for your soil, it also breaks down very easily.

Remember those microorganisms we talked about that break compounds down and turn your waste into nutrients for your soil? Like us, those microorganisms love coffee!

Coffee grounds encourage the growth of these microorganisms, which in turn, literally helps your garden grow.

How to Compost Coffee Filters

You could dump your coffee filters and grounds on top of your compost heap or bin, but that wouldn’t be the most efficient way to do it.

After all, you’ll want to keep your compost as smell-free as possible and help it decompose faster so that you can make quick use of it.

However, because coffee filters and grounds are considered green waste, you can use too much at once.

Therefore, you need to plan how to manage your compost to make the best use of it. Follow the five steps listed below to get the best results.

Step 1: Shred Your Coffee Filters

You can shred your coffee filters to get them to biodegrade faster. Shredding or tearing them into smaller pieces, rather than keeping them intact, will expedite the decomposition process.

This will keep your heap or bin from smelling bad because the filter pieces can absorb odors and increase the area your compost can be spread over.

You do not have to separate the coffee grounds from the coffee filter since they will both get composted together anyway.

Step 2: Plan to Include Other Organic Materials

Your coffee grounds and filters will provide your compost heap and eventually your garden with vital minerals.

Adding other organic materials to the compost with your filters and grounds will create a nitrogen-rich environment that feeds microorganisms.

Food waste, like leftover vegetables, fruit peels, or even lawn clippings are all excellent materials to mix with your coffee filter compost.

Because coffee grounds are acidic, they can emit an odor during the decomposition process. You can add hydrated white lime to the compost system to prevent this.

The hydrated white lime reacts with the acid from the grounds as the organic material decomposes and neutralizes the pH level, creating optimal composting conditions.

Step 3: Compost in Layers

To make sure that your compost decomposes efficiently, it’s essential to compost in layers.

You’ll want to alternate between greens and browns and make sure to keep your compost moist.

Alternating the layers of different types of organic material provides both carbon and nitrogen for your compost.

For fastest decomposition, a ratio of 25:1 or 30:1 (carbon:nitrogen) is recommended.

Too much carbon can hinder the degrading process, while too much nitrogen can cause an unpleasant odor.

As such, many opt to have an excess of green waste over brown to maintain a useful amount of nitrogen in their compost.

Step 4: Maintain Moisture

Coffee filters dry easily, and if moisture levels fall under 30%, the process of decomposition slows significantly.

Because microorganisms require a wet environment to perform, it’s essential to keep your compost pile moist.

The ideal moisture level for your compost is between 40% to 60%. You can check this by inserting a yardstick into your compost and seeing how damp it is when it comes out.

Your compost should have a similar moisture level to a partially dried sponge.

If you find that your compost is too dry, you can water it down lightly with a hose or watering can.

Adding more green waste, like fruit, can also help resolve any moisture issues that your compost heap might have.

Alternatively, if you find that your compost pile is too wet, you can fix it by adding more brown materials like straw or sawdust.

Step 5: Turn Your Compost Heap

Unless you have a static compost bin, turning your compost heap regularly will help it break down faster.

Turning it with a pitchfork or shovel will help evenly distribute the moisture through the soil. Turn your compost heap once every two weeks for the best results.


Coffee filters and grounds are indeed compostable and can be treated as a type of food waste.

They can also be a beneficial addition to your compost heap by encouraging the release of nitrogen and the growth of microorganisms that help your compost thrive.

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