South Indian filter coffee is a traditional Indian style coffee that is made using a special filter. A coffee decoction is brewed which is mixed with hot milk and sugar to create a perfect cuppa. Learn to make filter coffee in true South Indian style and serve it in a tumbler in style.
About This Recipe
I am mostly a tea person and start my day with a large cup of green tea. Post breakfast, I need a cup of strong Masala Chai and then a large mug of green tea again in the evening. This has been my routine for years. But, if I want to sip on something warm and comforting during the day, it’s always a cup of hot coffee.
I have a coffee machine at home, so I make cappuccino sometimes or brew hot black coffee using my French Press, Mocha Pot, or a South Indian Coffee Filter. Of all the above methods to make coffee, South Indian Filter Coffee is my most favorite.
Also known as degree coffee, or filter kapi, this South Indian filter coffee is perfectly strong, flavorful, sweet, and frothy. It is served in all South Indian-style restaurants and Darshinies (Roadside South Indian Eateries) and if you visit a South Indian friend, there is no way you can leave without being served a tumbler of homemade filter coffee.
The method to make this coffee is very similar to the French Press but you need a different filter to brew it. Ground coffee is added to the filter and a decoction is brewed. This coffee decoction is mixed with milk and sugar and a delicious kapi is made.
Traditionally, this aromatic coffee is served in a small tumbler and a dabara (container/cup) that is used to cool and mix it. Pouring the coffee between the tumbler and the dabara creates the classic frothy layer over it, which makes it even more divine.
South Indian Coffee Filter – The coffee filter to make this South Indian style filter coffee is very unique. It can be found in most utensil shops in India. It is also easily available online or at any Indian grocery store near you.
This filter comes in 4 parts. The lower compartment is where the decoction (brewed coffee) collects. The upper compartment has perforations on it and fits on top of the lower compartment. There is an umbrella or plunger to press the ground coffee and finally the lid to cover the filter.
This filter comes in various sizes and materials. I use a small brass coffee filter (250 ml) which is good for making 2 cups of coffee at a time. But you can use a larger filter and brew more decoction.
The traditional filters were made of brass and were huge in size to support the coffee demands of the large families. You can also go for a steel filter which is cheaper and easy to maintain.
Tumbler and Dabara – Filter coffee is traditionally served in a tumbler that sits on a dabara (bowl-like container). These two things come as a set and can be made up of brass or steel.
The ready coffee is poured from the tumbler to the davara and vice versa from a distance and this process creates a frothy layer on top of the coffee which makes it very unique.
If you don’t have this set, feel free to serve the coffee in regular coffee mugs.
Ground Coffee – To make the best South Indian Filter Coffee, try to source the ground coffee from an Indian grocery store. They sell special brands of ground coffee that give a very traditional South Indian taste. My favorite brands are Cothas or Kalmane coffee.
There are some coffee shops in India that grind fresh coffee for you. If you have access to that, go for it. There is nothing like freshly ground coffee.
Note – Keep in mind that instant coffee powder will not work in this recipe.
Some coffee powders come with added chicory. Chicory is a flowering plant that has a tough hairy stem, edible leaves, and light purple-colored flowers. The roots of this plant are dried and ground to make a powder. It gives the coffee a slightly woody and nutty taste. Chicory blend coffee is much economical than pure ground coffee. It also has less caffeine as compared to 100% coffee and so it’s healthier.
I have come across many coffee purists for whom chicory is a big no. But, then, it’s all an individual choice. I suggest, you try both the options and see what suits you the best.
Note – Try to get finely ground coffee powder. If the coffee is ground coarsely, you will get a thin decoction.
The coffee powder should not be too old. Check the date before buying it. 30 -60 days of shelf life is what we are looking at.
Milk – Traditionally, this coffee is made using full fat (whole) cow’s milk but you can use skim or low-fat milk to make it healthier. You can also choose to skip dairy milk and use plant-based options like coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk to make it vegan.
The milk should be boiling hot to make frothy coffee.
Sugar – Adjust the quantity according to your taste. You can also make it sugarless or use sugar-free substitutes like stevia or monk fruit.
Jaggery can also be added to sweeten the coffee. Filter Coffee made with jaggery is actually very popular in Karnataka, especially in Malnad, and is popularly known as Bellada Coffee.
How To Make Filter Coffee
Set Up The Filter
Start by cleaning the coffee filter nicely. The pores in the upper compartment should not be blocked with previous coffee.
Fix the upper compartment of the filter over the lower compartment.
Make The Decoction
Add coffee powder to the top compartment of the filter and spread it evenly using your fingers or a spoon.
- 4 tablespoon for strong coffee
- 3 tablespoon for medium
- 2 tablespoon for light
Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar over the coffee. This step adds a slight caramelization.
Press the coffee powder gently with the plunger (umbrella-shaped attachment). Do not press too hard otherwise the coffee powder with fall from the pores to the lower compartment.
Top with ¾ cup warm water (not boiling hot) until the filter is almost full.
Cover with the lid and keep the filter on the counter to let the coffee percolate.
It will take 3-4 hours for the coffee to percolate nicely and create a thick decoction. You can use the decoction after 15-20 minutes also but it will not be very thick.
Make The Filter Coffee
Add 2 tablespoon decoction to a tumbler.
Top with boiling hot milk.
Add sugar to your taste and mix by pulling the coffee between the davara and tumbler a few times. You can skip the pulling process and just mix the sugar using a spoon. Serve immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
It can be good for your health as it is loaded with antioxidants but there are some rules to follow if you drink coffee every day.
Don’t overload your coffee with sugar, it can be really bad for your health. Either skip the sugar or use healthy alternatives such as jaggery to add a little sweetness to it. Flavor it with a little cinnamon, it adds to coffee’s nutritional benefits.
Don’t consume more than a cup of coffee in a day. Too much coffee can reduce its overall health benefits because anything in excess is not good!
Choose a good ground coffee, if possible an organic one, which is free of pesticides and other chemicals.
You will have to keep two things in mind to make a nice and thick coffee decoction.
The coffee should be finely ground.
The time of filtering should be more (3-4 hours).
No, filter coffee tastes the best when served fresh and hot. However, you can make a big batch of decoction and refrigerate it for upto 3-4 days. Use it as required.
Most South Indian households serve this divine coffee as their first beverage in the morning. You can serve some homemade snacks along with it.
Enjoy it along with your South Indian breakfast of Idli, Dosa, Uttapam, Paniyaram, Upma, or Pongal with a delicious South Indian Chutney such as Coconut Chutney, Tomato Onion Chutney, Peanut Chutney, etc.
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Filter Coffee Recipe
- 4 tablespoons coffee powder (or 3 tablespoon for medium or 2 tablespoon for light coffee.)
- ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar (plus more to sweeten the coffee as per your taste.)
- ¾ cup warm water
- 2 cups boiling hot milk
Set Up The Filter
- Start by cleaning the coffee filter nicely. The pores in the upper compartment should not be blocked with previous coffee.
- Fix the upper compartment of the filter over the lower compartment.
Make The Decoction
- Add coffee powder to the top compartment of the filter and spread it evenly using your fingers or a spoon.
- Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of granulated sugar over the coffee. This step adds a slight caramelization.
- Press the coffee powder gently with the plunger (umbrella-shaped attachment). Do not press too hard otherwise the coffee powder with fall from the pores to the lower compartment.
- Top with warm water (not boiling hot) until the filter is almost full. Cover with the lid and keep the filter on the counter to let the coffee percolate.
- It will take 3-4 hours for the coffee to percolate nicely and create a thick decoction. You can use the decoction after 15-20 minutes also but it will not be very thick.
Make The Filter Coffee
- Add 2 tablespoon decoction to a tumbler.
- Top with boiling hot milk.
- Add sugar to your taste and mix by pulling the coffee between the davara and tumbler a few times. You can skip the pulling process and just mix the sugar using a spoon. Serve immediately.