Are Cone Filters Better than Flat Filters?

Anyone who is interested in coffee will be able to tell you that filter coffee can vary drastically depending on how it is brewed. If you change the brewing method, temperature, or grind size, the end product will vary drastically.

The same is true for filters. In fact, an experiment conducted by the Specialty Coffee Association in 2017 showed that the shape of the filter is one of the factors that influences coffee extraction the most in filter coffee brewing. This is super interesting, as filter shape isn’t something we tend to consider so much when brewing.

So which is the better shape? The cone filter or the flat filter?

Flat Filter vs. Cone Filter for Extraction

The cone filter is favored by many professional and home baristas, especially for manual pour-over brewing. This is because the narrow cone shape directs the coffee into a central location. This means that the water passes more evenly through all of the coffee grounds.

On the other hand, with flat filters, or basket filters, the coffee bed is spread over a greater surface area. This means that the all of coffee grounds usually don’t have as much contact with the water during brewing, and less Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) are extracted.

So, less properties are extracted from the coffee bean when brewing with a flat filter. Does this mean that the cone filter is superior? Not necessarily.

Chemex coffee makers use cone filters
Chemex coffee makers use cone filters

Is More Extraction Better?

Regular brewers will be able to tell you that a higher extraction rate isn’t always the goal with coffee brewing.

For example, dark roasted coffee extracts much easier than a light roast. Because of this, we need to adjust all brewing factors to extract slightly less when brewing with a dark roasted bean. This means a lower temperature and a courser grind. It also means that a flat filter is perhaps more appropriate for a darker roasted coffee, as it helps us to avoid over-extraction.

Does a cone filter always mean more extraction?

Though the general rule is that cone filters extract more TDS than flat filters, there are always exceptions. Regular readers on this website will know that we named the Kalita Wave our favorite pour-over coffee maker. The Wave is actually a flat bottomed brewer, with a twist. The innovative wave filter design concentrates the coffee and the water flow towards the centre of the brewer. This, in combination with with the flat bottomed, three holed brewer results in a supremely smooth and well extracted coffee.

Brewing in Bulk

Another reason that a flat coffee filter might be preferable to a cone filter is if you are brewing in bulk. When you brew a large quantity of filter coffee, a cone filter doesn’t work because there isn’t enough space for the ground coffee. This is why industrial filter coffee machines will always use a basket filter, not a cone filter.

A flat, basket filter
A flat, basket filter

Filter Price

Another factor to consider is the cost. Basket filters are usually cheaper than cone filters. If saving the pennies is your primary concern, go for flat filters over cone filters.

So Which is the Right Filter for You?

So, now that you know the difference between cone and flat filters, which one is the right choice for you?

Who Should Brew with a Cone Filter?

  • If you are a coffee enthusiast and you brew your cups individually, manual brewers with cone filters are probably the right choice for you.
  • If you are partial to a light or medium roasted coffee, the cone filter is a better choice as it helps us to extract more TDS from the coffee bean.

What Type of Person is the Flat Filter Right for?

  • If you have a large family and you drink a lot of coffee, an automatic drip machine with a basket filter is probably going to suit you better.
  • A flat filter is the superior choice as well if you like your coffee beans strong and dark!

So, now you know why the exact same coffee and grind taste completely different when brewed in an automatic drip coffee maker, compared to a manual pour-over dripper.

Regardless of which filter you decide you prefer, hopefully you’ve learned something new about coffee filter shapes today, which is what’s important after all!

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Josh Spink

Joshua is an Irish opera singer and writer. His specialist topics are coffee, food, wellness and culture. His love for coffee comes from growing up in his parent’s coffee shop and working as a barista for several years in the specialty coffee scene in Dublin. As an opera singer, Joshua is a frequent traveller and is passionate about discovering new coffee shops in every new place he visits. Joshua is fascinated by the health benefits of coffee drinking and is an advocate of moderate coffee consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle. Apart from drinking and writing about coffee, Joshua enjoys cooking, all forms of exercise, reading and languages.