South Indian filter coffee is a traditional Indian-style coffee made using a special filter. A coffee decoction is brewed, which is mixed with hot milk and sugar to create a perfect cuppa. Here is how to make South Indian filter coffee in an authentic South Indian traditional way (vegetarian, gluten-free).
Try my Chocolate Chip Frappe, Beaten Coffee, Dalgona Coffee, Nutella Coffee, Gingerbread Latte, or Vietnamese Coffee if you are a coffee lover.
About South Indian Filter Coffee
South Indian Filter Coffee is a coffee drink very popular in the Southern states of India like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala.
If you know South Indians, they cannot do without a good filter coffee first thing in the morning.
Also known as degree coffee, filter kapi, Mylapore filter coffee, Madras filter coffee, Madras kaapi, Mysore filter coffee, or Kumbakonam degree coffee, it is a drip coffee brewed using a special filter.
It is also called meter coffee, as serving requires pulling the coffee between two utensils from a distance. Earlier, the servers would pull it from approximately a 1-meter distance, hence the name.
I am primarily 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 coffee-making methods, South Indian Filter Kaapi is my favorite.
This South Indian filter kapi is strong, flavorful, sweet, and frothy. It is served in all South Indian-style restaurants and Darshinies (Roadside South Indian Eateries). If you visit a South Indian friend, there is no way you can leave without being served a tumbler of homemade kaapi.
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 a brass or stainless coffee filter, and a strong 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 kapi between the tumbler and the dabara creates the classic frothy layer over it. This process makes an excellent coffee that is irresistible.
This filter coffee recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free and can be easily made vegan. You can also use a bigger filter and double or triple the recipe.
South Indian Coffee Filter – The coffee filter to make this South Indian style filter coffee is unique. It can be found in most utensil shops in India. It is also available online or at any Indian grocery store near you.
Depending on your home use, you can buy a small or large brass or a stainless steel coffee filter.
This filter comes in 4 parts. The lower container is where the decoction (brewed coffee) collects.
The upper cup has perforations and fits on top of the lower container.
There is an umbrella or plunger to press the ground coffee and a lid to cover the filter.
This filter comes in various sizes and materials. I use a small brass coffee filter (8.5 fl oz, 250 ml) for making 3 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 to support the demands of large families. You can also go for a steel filter which is cheaper and easy to maintain.
Tumbler and Dabara – Filter kapi 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 kapi, making it unique.
If you don’t have this set, please serve the coffee in regular coffee mugs.
Ground Coffee – To make the best South Indian Filter Coffee, source ground coffee from an Indian grocery store.
They sell special brands of coffee grounds that give a very traditional South Indian taste. My favorite brands are Cothas and Kalmane coffee.
Some specialty coffee shops in India grind coffee beans for you. If you have access to that, go for it.
You can consider investing in a coffee grinder if you drink coffee regularly. There is nothing like freshly ground coffee.
Note – Remember that instant coffee powder will not work in this recipe.
Note – Try to get finely ground coffee powder. If the coffee is ground coarsely, you will get a thin decoction.
Some filter coffee powder comes with added chicory.
Chicory is a flowering plant with 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 more economical than pure ground coffee. It also has less caffeine than 100% coffee, so it’s healthier.
I have come across many coffee purists for whom chicory root is a big no. But, then, it’s all an individual choice. I suggest you try both options and see what suits you the best.
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 skip dairy milk and use plant-based options like coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk to make it vegan.
The milk should be scalding (boiling) to make frothy coffee.
Sugar – Adjust the quantity according to your taste. You can make it sugarless or use sugar-free substitutes like stevia or monk fruit.
Jaggery can also be added to sweeten the coffee.
Filter Kapi made with jaggery is very popular in Karnataka, especially in Malnad, and is known as Bellada Coffee.
How To Make South Indian Filter Coffee
Set Up The Filter
Start by cleaning an 8.5 fl oz (250 ml) filter nicely. The pores in the upper cup should not be blocked with previous coffee.
Fix the upper cup of the filter over the lower container.
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 falls from the pores to the lower container.
Top with ¾ cup warm water (not boiling water) 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 strong decoction. You can also use the decoction after 15-20 minutes, but it will not be very thick.
Discard the leftover coffee, or use it to make another batch.
Make The Filter Coffee
Add 2 tablespoon of decoction to a tumbler.
Top with boiling milk.
Add sugar to your taste to the tumbler.
How To Drink South Indian Filter Coffee
Typically filter coffee is served in a brass or stainless steel tumbler and dabarah (container/cup) to cool the coffee.
Using your fingers carefully, lift the tumbler by the rim, as the coffee will now be piping hot.
Pour the hot coffee into the davara from the tumbler from a little distance. This process cools down the coffee and forms a nice froth on top.
Now pour the coffee from the container back into the tumbler, again from a bit of height.
Repeat this process a few times until the coffee has reached the perfect sipping temperature. Serve it in the tumbler setting on the davarah.
Note – If uncomfortable, skip the pulling process and mix the sugar using a spoon.
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 daily.
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 sweetness. Flavor it with some cinnamon; it adds to coffee’s nutritional benefits.
Don’t consume more than 2 cups 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 must remember two things 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 up to 3-4 days. Use it as required.
No, it would be best if you did not drink it on an empty stomach, as it may lead to acidity and digestion issues. Eat a cookie or any snack before consuming it.
Yes, you can use the same coffee powder twice to make the second decoction. But consider that the second decoction will be milder when reusing the coffee powder, so increase its quantity while making the coffee.
Do not throw away the leftover coffee powder. It is an excellent fertilizer for your garden. You can also mix it with some honey to exfoliate your skin.
Add ground coffee to a pan and top with hot water. Cover and keep aside for 2 minutes. Remove the cover and stir the mixture. Cover again and rest for 10 minutes. Now strain the mixture using a fine tea strainer and discard the leftover coffee. Your coffee decoction without the filter is ready.
You can also use a paper filter or an espresso machine to brew the coffee.
Pro Tips By Neha
DO NOT use instant coffee powder to brew filter coffee.
For the best result, keep a close watch on water temperature, brewing time, brewing process, grind size, etc.
It is best to brew the decoction the previous night and make the coffee in the morning.
You can make a big batch of decoction and refrigerate for 3-4 days and use it as and when required.
Adjust the amount of coffee decoction and milk, depending on how strong coffee you want.
You can use jaggery instead of sugar as a healthy alternative.
If using colder decoction, heat it until warm. Do not boil; otherwise, it will turn bitter. Then mix with hot milk and serve.
Although iced filter coffee is not traditional, you can add some ice cubes and make yourself an iced cold coffee.
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 your South Indian breakfast of Idli, Dosa, Uttapam, Paniyaram, Upma, or Pongal with delicious South Indian Chutney such as Coconut Chutney, Tomato Onion Chutney, Peanut Chutney, etc.
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How To Make South indian Filter Coffee
- 4 tablespoons finely ground 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 an 8.5 fl oz (250 ml) filter nicely. The pores in the upper cup should not be blocked with previous coffee.
- Fix the upper cup of the filter over the lower container.
Make The Decoction
- Add coffee powder to the upper cup 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 falls from the pores to the lower container.
- Top with warm water (not boiling hot water) 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.
- Discard the leftover coffee, or use it to make another batch.
Make The Filter Coffee
- Add 2 tablespoon decoction to a tumbler.
- Top with boiling hot milk.
- Add sugar to your taste to the tumbler.
How To Drink South Indian Filter Coffee
- Typically filter coffee is served in a brass or stainless steel tumbler and dabarah (container, cup) to cool the coffee.
- Using your fingers carefully, lift the tumbler by the rim, as the coffee will now be piping hot.
- Pour the hot coffee into the davara from the tumbler from a little distance. This process cools down the coffee and forms a nice froth on top.
- Now pour the coffee from the container back into the tumbler, again from a bit of height.
- Repeat this process a few times until the coffee has reached the perfect sipping temperature. Serve it in the tumbler setting on the davarah.
- Note – If uncomfortable, skip the pulling process and mix the sugar using a spoon.
Love this recipe. Very easy to understand and follow.