Optimal tuberculosis testing usually involves sputum centrifugation followed by broth culture. However, centrifuges are biohazardous and scarce in the resource-limited settings where most tuberculosis occurs. To optimize tuberculosis testing for these settings, centrifugation of 111 decontaminated sputum samples was compared with syringe-aspiration through polycarbonate membrane-filters that were then cultured in broth. To reduce the workload of repeated microscopic screening of broth cultures for tuberculosis growth, the colorimetric redox indicator 2,3-diphenyl-5-(2-thienyl) tetrazolium chloride was added to the broth, which enabled naked-eye detection of culture positivity. This combination of filtration and colorimetric growth-detection gave similar results to sputum centrifugation followed by culture microscopy regarding mean colony counts (43 versus 48; P = 0.6), contamination rates (0.9% versus 1.8%; P = 0.3), and sensitivity (94% versus 95%; P = 0.7), suggesting equivalency of the two methods. By obviating centrifugation and repeated microscopic screening of cultures, this approach may constitute a more appropriate technology for rapid and sensitive tuberculosis diagnosis in basic laboratories.