How to make the perfect 'filter kaapi' like a true south Indian

Indian filter coffee
South Indian Filter coffee served in a traditional brass glass and davara set. Photo: iStock/subodhsathe

South Indian filter kaapi is a unique and cherished coffee preparation that combines the robust flavours of coffee and chicory with the richness of boiled milk. Its meticulous brewing process and traditional serving method make it a distinctive and beloved beverage in South India and beyond. It is renowned for its strong flavour, aromatic profile, and unique brewing method.

Making the best filter kaapi involves attention to detail and adherence to traditional methods. Here are the detailed steps to make the best filter kaapi like a true south Indian:

Ingredients and equipment
High-quality coffee beans (preferably a blend of coffee and chicory)
Traditional South Indian coffee filter
Full-fat milk
Sugar (optional)
Stainless steel tumbler and davara (optional for serving)

1. Prepare the coffee grounds
Use freshly roasted and ground coffee beans. Ideally, use a blend of 80-90% coffee and 10-20% chicory. The grind should be medium-fine.

2. Set up the filter
Place 2-3 tablespoons of coffee grounds into the upper compartment of the coffee filter.

Lightly tamp the coffee grounds using the plunger that comes with the filter. Do not press too hard as it can hinder water flow.

Indian filter coffee
Filter press for making south Indian filter coffee. Photo: iStock/Kruthi R

3. Brew the coffee decoction
Boil water and let it cool slightly (to around 90-95°C or 194-203°F).

Pour the hot water into the upper compartment of the filter, filling it to about three-quarters full.

Place the lid on the filter and allow the coffee to drip slowly into the lower compartment. This process can take about 10-15 minutes.

4. Prepare the milk
While the coffee is brewing, boil full-fat milk in a separate pan.

You can aerate the milk by pouring it back and forth between two vessels or using a frothing wand.

5. Mix coffee and milk
Pour 1-2 tablespoons of the thick coffee decoction into a cup. Adjust according to the desired strength of your coffee.

Add the hot, boiled milk to the cup containing the decoction. The typical ratio is about 3/4 cup of milk to the decoction, but adjust to your taste preference.

For an authentic experience, serve the coffee in a stainless steel tumbler and davara.

Indian filter coffee
South Indian traditional steaming filter coffee in a traditional brass glass and davara set. Photo: iStock/danika arora

6. Add sugar (optional) and serve
Add sugar to taste and stir well. Traditional South Indian filter coffee is usually sweetened, but you can adjust the amount of sugar based on your preference. Placed the glass in a davara and serve.

7. Froth the coffee
Pour the coffee back and forth between two cups or between a cup and a davara (a wide, flat-bottomed bowl) to create a frothy top.

Consume the coffee while it is hot and fresh.

By following these steps, you can enjoy a rich, aromatic cup of South Indian filter kaapi that captures the essence of traditional brewing methods.

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