One of the best and most popular ways of making coffee is the filter drip method.  Most commonly, the filter used is disposable and is made of paper.  Sometimes, however, reusable metal, often gold-plated, filters are used instead.  Both methods of filtering coffee work to brew good tasting coffee.  However, the use of a metal filter poses certain health risks.
Many people are unaware that coffee beans contain cafestol, a substance that significantly increases levels of cholesterol by inhibiting the body’s ability to process cholesterol.  Paper filters remove this substance from the brewed coffee.  But metal filters do not remove this substance.
Because caffeine provides significant protection to the heart, the harm done by increased cholesterol in metal filtered coffee is “balanced out” by the caffeine in coffee and, therefore, the use of metal filters to make caffeinated coffee does not increase the incidence of heart pathologies.  However, it was proven decades ago in large-scale longitudinal studies that the long-term use of metal filters creates a risk of cardiovascular pathologies if the coffee is decaffeinated.

Braun Gold Coffee Filter

However, you should be aware that, if you use metal filters, even to make caffeinated coffee, you won’t reap the tremendous heart benefits of caffeine that filter drip coffee brewed with paper filters delivers.  The simple fact is, you are better off without the cholesterol that coffee supplies when it isn’t brewed with a paper filter.  So, for the health of your heart, we strongly recommend paper filters instead of metal filters.
(Note that French-press coffee makers do not filter your coffee through paper filters and, therefore, the coffee they make works against the body’s ability to process cholesterol in the same way as coffee made from metal filters!)



22 Responses

  1. Your article is wrong. Cholesterol is only found in animals and is not found in any plant. Coffee or any other plant based food does not contain cholesterol.

      1. Coffee does not contain cholesterol. It contains cafestol, which has been found to inhibit the body’s ability to process cholesterol. A simple Google search for “coffee cholesterol” brings up several reliable sources.

    1. My take on the article is that brewing coffee produces the chemical cafestol and this chemical effects how your body stores cholesterol. Pretty much doing the opposite of a staten drug. It would be sad for an individual who must have a daily dose of French Press coffee have their doctor put them on or increase their cholesterol meds. I always use paper and always pre rinse the paper with hot water and my blood numbers are normal.

      1. Well, nobody really has to drink French press coffee, and I don’t think too many doctors would want to increase cholesterol medications to off-set French press coffee. However, your comment is basically correct.

  2. OK. This question is a bit confusing. It turns out that many textbooks have this matter wrong. Some plants do contain cholesterol, but the amount they contain is small. However, as I now point out, other ingredients in coffee dramatically increase cholesterol levels.

  3. Cholesterol is fuel for the brain. As long as you maintain low levels of systemic inflammation caused by oxidation and gluten, the absence of the inhibitory effect of the C-reactive protein allows the endothelial system to function properly and remove arterial plaque. LPPLA-2 is a better marker for cardiovascular disease, anyway. I’ll stick with high cholesterol and unoxidized saturated fat and avoid paper filters and low fat foods. I like being able to think and have energy.

      1. They don’t. I think you might have misunderstood or misread my post. Paper absorbs coffee oils that contribute to the flavor. These oils also contain cholesterol and lipids that give you energy. Metal filters allow the oils to stay in tact rather than remove them. Have you tried bulletproof coffee yet? Lots of good info on that site debunking the cholesterol and saturated fat myths propagated by Ancel Keys and the USDA.

          1. I’ve read the research and the data has been misinterpreted from a causation standpoint for decades. Cholesterol is not a direct contributor to arterial plaque, but endothelial dysfunction and systemic inflammation is. Lp-PLA2 is a better marker for cardiovascular disease than LDL cholesterol. There is empirical data that proves low LDL does not decrease your risk of CVD.

          2. I think ChemE84 and Shane have the latest science correct on this one. A lot has changed in our knowledge in the last few years. Look to grains and especially sugar as the real culprits in the rise of dangerous levels of blood cholesterol. Coffee does not contain cholesterol, but it has an effect on the body which mobilizes fats (which are already in the body) into the bloodstream.

  4. What if you use a metal filter WITH a paper filter? I am trying to avoid plastic.
    I also have really high cholesterol, so I have been warned not to use a metal filter.

  5. I have been drinking coffee since I was three ( this may sound rediculious but it’s true). That’s 43 years of drinking coffee on a daily basis. I don’t have high cholesterol. I eat a very healthy diet and stay active. Not everyone is effected adversity by cafestol.

  6. Hi Alan and Bonnie,
    Was sipping a cup of java this AM and reading your book! Coffee newbie here with a few questions. So I did not start drinking coffee until I was about 52. Was going thru menopause and I was very tired. It was amazing, like the sun coming up in my soul! However, I did not use it skillfully. I am just over 100lbs and I can tell you without a DNA test that I am a slow metabolizer. A small amount will make me fly. I wasn’t drinking that much, maybe at the end, 3-4 6 oz cups of kuerig brewed per day. I ended up at 3 or 4 cups because I was having peaks and troughs. After about 9 mos, I experienced really profound adrenal fatigue. So I quit cold turkey. Very bad idea (as I now know). I had severe withdrawal sx ( I will never do that again) including depression.
    But now at 56, I am attempting to get back in the coffee swim more skillfully. Bought a Primula Pour Over Coffee Dripper. Just doing a single cup per day. Adjusting the “dose” as I go. Started out with 1tbsp + 1tsp of coarsely ground Arabica. Too strong. Up all night. 1 tbsp still too strong. Down to 2 1/2 tsp. That seems o.k. Actually had slight headache withdrawal from simply reducing. Apparently have a very sensitive system. This time is better. I am getting a steadier boost that takes me through my day.
    Here are my questions:
    1. The Primula is a stainless steel filter, but it is lined with a mesh inner filter. It says “no paper filter needed.” What are your thoughts on that? Coffee still a touch acidic. I make a 6 oz cup and add 2 oz of water after the fact to reduce the acid. (medium dark roast) What are your thoughts on this double lined filter?
    2. Trying to calculate how much caffeine I am actually getting. I know it varies. Can’t really find measures tied to volume (tbsp and tsp) as opposed to weight. If the normal 2 tbsp, 6 oz cup is approx 150 and I’m using less than half of that measure, I should be getting a little less than 75mg per cup, no?
    3. I am intrigued by your descriptions of the benefits of caffeine pills vs coffee as a delivery system and may experiment with that. Will give me more dose control. I will definitely need a pill cutter!
    I like the taste of coffee and think that there are probably more beneficial compounds in it. Nature is a much more skilled chemist than man. But I like the pill idea… Do you have any recommendations as far as pills go? Vivarin vs NoDoz? Wonder if there are any without a bunch of yucky fillers?
    Thanks for reading and for getting this info out there. I am determined to do this smarter this time and reap the benefits, while avoiding the pitfalls.

    1. Wonderful that you have finally discovered a few of caffeine’s amazing benefits.
      The most important thing about using caffeine successfully is finding out what it will to you and for you. Everyone is different! Some people can’t sleep if they have 100mg of caffeine in the morning; other people sleep well if they have 200mg just before going to bed! As far as withdrawal, the same sort of variations occur. Most people don’t experience any withdrawal from stopping caffeine suddenly. Other people experience some slight discomfort. And a few get bad headaches, feel depressed, etc. You just have to see what it does to you!

  7. Forgot to mention, when I was drinking the Keurig, I did not use K-cups. Had my own basket and ground my own coffee. Don’t remember how much I was using. Whatever it was, it was too much!

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