Some substitutes for a coffee filter include strong paper towels or cheesecloth. However, it is important to shape and fold the paper towels or cheesecloth so that it fits inside the coffee maker.
The inventor of the first coffee filter was Melitta Bentz from Germany. After experimenting with different types of materials, she discovered that blotter paper worked to filter coffee. She got patents for coffee paper and the coffee filter in 1908. In this same year, Bentz and her husband formed the Melitta Bentz Company and began selling coffee filters.
Cheesecloth is a woven cotton cloth used in the making of cheese. Its function is to strain the whey from the cheese curds. Another possible substitute for a coffee filter is a butter muslin, which is a cotton cloth used to shape and drain butter.