(More than one person has found this blog post by searching, “Can I use dryer sheets instead of cheesecloth?” No, you cannot. Especially if you’re wanting to strain food. I can’t believe I actually had to say that….)
Anyway. This post contains affiliate links. To read more about my affiliations, please see my Disclosure Statement.
In my almond milk post, I discussed the fact that I was looking for alternatives to cheesecloth, because cheesecloth sucks. Here were my problems:
- It was a pain to cut into the sizes I needed.
- I had trouble getting the almond meal out of it (it tended to stick in the small holes).
- I don’t have a washer and dryer, so reusing it becomes somewhat of a pain. The next batch has to wait until after laundry day and I do my laundry at our friends’ house, so it’s kind of a pain to keep this around until laundry day.
- Even when I did wash it, parts of it came out torn and/or completely stretched out.
- It’s too expensive to just keep buying.
Overall, cheesecloth is a bigger pain than it’s worth. So the last few times I’ve done the almond milk thing, I’ve experimented with alternatives to the cheesecloth. The winner: a reusable filter that came with our old coffee pot. It’s never been used because we took it out and forgot about it. Since the coffee pot died a few weeks ago, it never will be used. So I figured I’d have a go at filtering almond milk with it. And it works great! (This post has been updated. The coffee filter was fine, but I found an even better solution. I’m leaving this here for those of you who might prefer it.)
- Incredibly easy to wash
- Filters ALL of the almond meal out
- Slower than cheesecloth (took about 20 minutes, compared to five and I had to constantly keep stirring. Letting it drip out on its own mean it took an hour or more)
- Can’t fit more than about a cup of almond milk in it, so you have to dump it in very slowly
- Have to scrape the almond meal out of the filter and into a bowl before putting more almond milk into it
- Can’t squeeze remaining milk out of almond meal, so I have to transfer the meal to something else
I know the cons list sounds bad. But I just hated the cheesecloth so much that I’m willing to put up with it. I did try two other methods before settling on this one. I tried using a strainer without the cheesecloth. That worked…OK, I suppose. If I’m ever in a crunch and need almond milk and I only have a strainer, it will work. But so much almond meal gets through. Unless you can find a super-fine strainer, I wouldn’t use this method. I just hate grit in my beverages.
How about disposable filters?
I tried using regular paper coffee filters. It went horribly. First, it takes forever. It took me nearly two hours to strain eight cups of almond milk. No. Just no.
Second, you can’t completely fill up the coffee filter, because it starts to cave in on itself. So you only get about 1/4 cup strained at a time. You also have to constantly stir it because the almond meal clogs the filter (which I have to do with my reusable filter, but it’s not quite that bad–if I didn’t stir, I’m pretty sure it would filter…just more slowly).
Third, once you use the disposable filter, that’s it. You can’t use it again, so you just have to throw it out. I went through nearly 40 disposable coffee filters for only one batch of milk. The only thing I liked about this method is being able to squeeze the remaining milk out of the almond meal. Not worth it.
What to keep in mind
If you decide to go with a reusable filter, I recommend something with a large bottom that can sit up on its own. That way you don’t have to hold the filter as you pour. That’s the flaw in my coffee filter‘s design. The bottom is a little thin, so if I don’t hold on to it, it will fall right over. Just set it in the strainer (you still have to use a strainer–mostly to support the filter) and pour. Easy.
Another alternative that I have recently discovered is the Nut Milk Bag (yeah, yeah). But, as with the cheesecloth, you have to wash it. This is something I would REALLY like to have for squeezing the liquid out of the meal, but it will probably wait until Zach and I have our own washer and dryer.
So two things have happened since I wrote this post.
- We got a washer and dryer.
- I ordered a Nut Milk Bag.
Conclusion: The Nut Milk Bag is amazing. (Also, you can now buy a bigger one.)
How it works:
- Blend the nuts as usual.
- Put the bag in a bowl and dump the milk into the bag.
- Carefully pick up the bag, letting it hover over the bowl. You can hold it if you have to, but I hung mine from the cabinets and let it drain while I cleaned up.
- Once you’re done cleaning, give the bag a few gentle squeezes to get all of the milk out and then you can prepare your almond flour.
That’s it. It’s so much easier than anything I have ever used.
With the coffee filter, it took me about an hour to separate all of the meal. With the cheesecloth, I may as well not have used anything because there was too much meal in the milk once I was done. With the nut bag, it takes about 5 minutes and none of the meal got through. This thing is amazing and well worth the money.
Bonus: You can throw it in the washer and reuse it. I put it in with my towels. I know this was something I didn’t like about the cheesecloth, but that was because it completely fell apart when I put it in the washer. If you have a top loader with the giant thing in the middle, it will destroy your cheesecloth. The nut milk bag is very durable and super easy to wash. Win!