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How To Strain Yogurt with Paper Coffee Filters

Preview: Learn how to use paper coffee filters and a dollar-store plastic colander to strain the whey from regular yogurt and turn it into Greek yogurt.

Some people say using cheesecloth to strain yogurt is not that much trouble. I disagree. Yep! I’ll admit to loving shortcuts and even a bit of laziness when it comes to kitchen clean-up. I would rather spend time at the cutting board or the stove.

You too can save time and money by using paper coffee filters to strain yogurt transforming it into Greek yogurt. No messy cheesecloth or expensive equipment required!

A Cheap Way To Strain Yogurt Without Using Cheesecloth--story board of how to do it.

Why I don’t strain yogurt with cheesecloth:

You have to…

  1. Scrape it (Although you don’t always have to do this. But if you do, well…WHAT A MESS!)
  2. Rinse it
  3. Wash it
  4. Dry it
  5. Fold it
  6. Store it
  7. Own several pieces if you make a lot of yogurt (1 1/2 gallons) at once as I do.

No, thank you. I prefer a disposable solution or a dishwasher for the task.

My go-to system of straining has always been a high-quality bouillon strainer, but my favorite one is pricey. Typically, it works great until you make a batch of thin yogurt that flows right through it (sad face).

Recently,  a reader named Doreen left this comment detailing her method of straining yogurt:

“I wanted to say I found a great way to strain. Although I bought a fine-mesh sieve, for some reason it stopped working as well- maybe dishwasher damaged it, not sure. Instead, I bought some institutional-size coffee filters and placed them inside a standard-sized colander. It will strain all 2 quarts in your recipe. Then I put the colander inside a mixing bowl and top it with the same lid that I incubated my casserole dish of yogurt. Finally, I put the whole straining set up in the fridge and leave it for a few hours. When it is thick enough it pulls right away from the filter. The whey is perfectly clear so there is no loss of yogurt. Thank you again for homemade goodness!”


Thank you for writing, Doreen. Obviously, you are a genius! You changed my yogurt-making process for the better.

yogurt course

What I didn’t realize about using coffee filters to make Greek yogurt:

To those of you who have already written to me suggesting coffee filters:  I assumed you were talking about the little ones I use every morning to make coffee. It goes without saying that it would take me forever to strain a gallon of yogurt with that size filter.

Being a woman of action, the very day I read about Doreen’s method, I went looking for large paper filters. My local restaurant supply stocks 13 x 5-inch filters designed for a 1-1/2 gallon coffee brewer. Purchase them here if you like.

In addition to the coffee filters, you will need a colander. The dollar-store variety works just fine. In fact, you can even use the basket part of your lettuce spinner if you like.

clear whey strained from yogurt with a coffee filter
Clear whey strained from yogurt with a coffee filter

Want to know the best part about using coffee filters?

  1. No solids are lost (see picture above).
  2. Paper filters are disposable.
  3. It’s inexpensive. For example, my cost was $1 plus tax for the orange colander and less than 3 cents per filter. I use 2 filters to make a double layer for ease of handling yogurt.
  4. Strained yogurt easily separates from the paper filter for quick clean-up.
  5. A cheap colander or a colander-substitute works fine to hold the paper filter.
  6. Strain 2 quarts of yogurt at a time (using 13 x 5-inch size filter).
thick, unstirred yogurt after being filtered of excess whey
This is the thick Greek yogurt (unstirred) of my dreams.

p.s. I do not place my yogurt in the fridge when straining out the whey. Contrary to what Doreen does, I leave it on the counter.

In my experience, yogurt strains faster at room temperature. Besides, who has room in their fridge for the whole set up. If you do, go ahead.

The yogurt is acidic enough to sit safely on the counter for several hours. In my mind, it makes the most sense to strain immediately after incubating.

yogurt course

More ideas for straining yogurt

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at

Hope to see you again soon!


Tuesday 11th of May 2021

Very useful information 😊😊


Sunday 7th of March 2021

I have used paper towels to line a strainer and they work great. It is good to know that I don't have to leave it in the oven at bread proof temp. for 8 hours. I have left it in overnight and it tastes mild and good, but I will try the 6 hour idea. I was also glad to learn I don't need 1/2 cup of starter for a half gallon of milk. I will use less next time. Thanks for all your pointers!


Saturday 25th of April 2020

Great blog on homemade yogurt. Nice to know I'm among such cultured people. :)

I liked the idea of coffee filters, but thought, "If I'm making a gallon or so at a time, I really don't want to strain more than I have to." With all the recommendations for straining only two quarts at a time, that sounded like too much of a strain! So I found my colander had an 11-inch diameter, too big for the smaller filters - so I found these 3-gallon size and I can strain a whole gallon's worth in one go.


Sunday 31st of May 2020

Hi Patrick,

Me again. I ordered those huge coffee filters. Now I'm straining yogurt by the gallon. Those things are the BEST. The filters fit inside the plastic basket that came with my lettuce spinner.

I also have a new Kitchen Aid with the heavy glass bowl. It holds a gallon of milk and I can put it in the microwave. Fewer dirty dishes.

Just wanted to thank you again for the suggestion. From one cultured person to another. :-).


Saturday 25th of April 2020

Hi Patrick,

Your comment made me smile. I'm going to remember that line about cultured people.

I have commercial filters but they aren't quite that big. That's fabulous. I am ordering those now. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing.


Saturday 21st of December 2019

Hi, I'm making my first batch of skyr. As I read the draining techniques, and given your propensity for time saving short cuts, I was wondering if you ever used a salad spinner to extract the whey? I'm thinking one could spin the coffee filter or bag to speed up the process.



Saturday 21st of December 2019

Well George, it seems like an ingenious idea. Not sure it would work with the coffee filter but it might work with the bag since you can close it up. I'll try it next week and report back.


Sunday 18th of November 2018

My friend suggested I use Chux which are a washing up cloth. They work really well and can be rewashed multiple times. I don’t know if they are called that in other countries? CHUX® Biodegradable Superwipes® are made from 100% natural and reneweable viscose cellulose fibres. Viscose cellulose, is a naturally super absorbent fibre, with one Superwipes® absorbing up to 10 times its own weight in liquid.


Sunday 18th of November 2018

Hmmm. This is very interesting. In America, when you say "Chux," we think of bed pads. And they are super absorbent. But the idea is that no moisture will leak through onto the bed. So this clearly is something different. Maybe same brand/company, but a different product? I'm skeptical of anything that absorbs 10 times it's own weight. I want the whey to strain right through. I have discovered a new product that works fantastic and I would assume, last for years although I haven't had it very long. Planning to blog about it soon. Thanks so much for writing Sherrill. I learned something new today.