Is it OK to filter wine sediment out with a coffee filter?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Is it detrimental to a wine to filter sediment through a coffee filter into a carafe?

—Greg M., Tampa, Fla.

Dear Greg,

I get a lot of questions about coffee filters!

With the exception of some unfiltered wines, sediment typically doesn’t appear until a wine is about 10 years old. It's a mix of grape sediment, dead yeast cells and harmless tartrates that bind and fall out of the wine over time. There is no reason to worry about sediment—it’s harmless to drink and doesn’t cause any off flavors, but it can be unpleasant and gritty in your mouth.

The old-school method for dealing with sediment involves planning. Pull the older bottle of wine from your cellar a few days or even a week before you want to drink it, and set it upright so that most of the sediment slides down to the bottom of the bottle. Then decant the wine slowly, looking through the neck of the bottle with the help of a candle or flashlight until you start to see sediment and then stop, leaving the sludgy wine back in the bottle.

This method works pretty well, but it does mean you’ll be donating some wine to the sediment gods, and it's obviously not an option when you decide to open a bottle on impulse.

Even though there are some funnels with metal screens that are marketed for wine, they're more useful for bits of cork than for sediment. I know plenty of people that use coffee filters, but I've also heard that sediment can be small enough to pass through a coffee filter or cheesecloth, yet still feel gritty in your glass. But it is a way to save more wine.

Coffee filters won't impair or damage your wine, or change the texture, but I’d recommend using unbleached filters, and don’t use anything that has come in contact with coffee, which would definitely alter the flavor (a coffee filter in a clean funnel should work). And no, coffee filters can’t filter out sulfites.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

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