Can I use a coffee filter to remove sediment from my wine?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I have heard that you can use an unbleached coffee filter instead of decanting to filter out the sediment. Any thoughts? Obviously you would only do this at home without guests.

—Mark G., Midland Park, N.J.

Dear Mark,

I open plenty of bottles of wine, and a good share of them are older wines with sediment. I never worry about the sediment—a steady hand and a clean decanter are all I need to separate the wine I’m serving from the gunk at the bottom. If possible, I set my bottles upright for a day or so before serving to make sure that most of the sediment settles to the bottom, but even in a pinch, I just don’t sweat the sediment, and at most, maybe 2 or 3 ounces of sediment-heavy wine are left over in the bottom of the bottle.

Some of my friends, especially those who collect Port, are much more worried about sediment. Let’s be clear—the stuff that makes up sediment (dead yeast cells, bits of grapes, phenolic molecules) is harmless and not contaminants. But some folks just don’t like the way sediment can muddy a wine with an unpleasant grittiness. I get that.

My friends who go to more extremes to remove sediment will employ, yes, unbleached coffee filters, or several layers of cheesecloth. Some of the sediment may still pass through this extra filtering, but my friends feel that they’re saving another ounce or two of drinkable wine.

—Dr. Vinny

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