South Indian Filter Coffee

Filter coffee is a hot beverage made with ground coffee using a coffee filter. This type of coffee is particularly popular in South India and enjoyed with idli, vada and dosa.
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Make a piping hot cup of South Indian Filter Coffee at home with this easy step by step recipe. It’s best enjoyed with idli, dosa or medu vada!

tumbler filled with frothy coffee

I am a chai lover, my mornings always start with a cup of masala chai. In fact if I don’t have one in the morning, then according to Sarvesh I am super cranky the whole day! But I also love coffee, after my morning chai, I almost always want coffee as my next caffeine intake of the day.

I grew up making “fitti hui coffee” which is so similar to dalgona coffee that became crazy popular in 2020. Basically you whip the coffee with sugar and then mix it with milk, I will share the recipe of that sometime as well. Other than that traditional fitti hui coffee, I also grew up also enjoying filter coffee when we visited south India.

We traveled a lot to South India when I was little, in fact I went to Chennai every year for a medical check up when I was younger and there me and my dad always had idli with filter coffee for our breakfast. That idli and coffee was truly the best. I miss those days and also it’s been so long since I have visited Chennai, maybe next time when we are in India!

My love for filter coffee started back then and it only grew with time. We eat south Indian food at least once a week (usually twice though!) and I always make filter coffee to go with it. And if we are eating out at a south Indian restaurant, then I am definitely ordering it.

What Is Filter Coffee

Filter coffee is a hot drink made with ground coffee powder which is passed through a filter to make the coffee decoction. It’s them mixed with milk and sugar (optional) and served. It’s popular in South India and is also referred to as “filter kaapi”.

It’s like French press in a way but it uses a special filter.

South Indian Coffee Filter

To make filter coffee, you need a south Indian coffee filter. It’s usually a steel filter which has a lower chamber and an upper chamber. The upper vessel has perforations in it through which the coffee percolates and collects in the lower vessel. There’s also a lid and a small pressing disc which is T shaped.

You can buy this filter online or at Indian grocery stores. They come in different sizes, I have a small one which makes enough decoction for 2 to 3 cups.

Coffee Powder Choice

There are many coffee brands to choose from when it comes to South Indian Filter Coffee. I like using Cothas brand which I find at local Indian grocery store. Everyone has their own favorite so use the one you like.

I am not a coffee snob but I know people are so picky about their coffee so definitely use a brand you love. Some people also like to mix two or three brands to get their favorite coffee powder.

Also, the ground coffee used in filter coffee is different from instant coffee so you can’t just mix it in milk like instant coffee.

Ingredients

You only need 3 ingredients to make this south Indian filter coffee!

ingredients for filter coffee arranged on a board

Ground Coffee: this is different than instant coffee. You can use any brand you like, I use Cothas brand.

Milk: again I like using whole milk but you can use low fat milk or any milk of choice.

Sugar: is optional and can be adjusted to taste.

Coffee & Milk Ratio

When it comes to coffee or chai, everyone has their own way of making it and everyone has a ratio that they prefer. I am sharing the ratio I like but you should make it the way you like. I prefer strong coffee, so for every serving, I use 1/2 cup of coffee decoction and 1/3 cup milk. You can do half n half or you can also totally reverse of this ratio for a more milky coffee.

The coffee decoction can also be modified to preference. Start with less amount of ground coffee for a lighter coffee and more for a strong coffee.

Step by Step Instructions

1- To the coffee filter add, 2 tablespoons of coffee in the upper compartment (one with perforations). You can use less coffee for a light coffee. With 2 tablespoons you get a strong coffee which I like.

2- Spread the coffee with a spoon or your hands and then press the coffee with the disc.

3- Add boiling water and fill until it’s almost filled to the top.

4- Cover with the lid and let the coffee percolate into the lower lower vessel for 20 to 30 minutes. This time may be more if your filter is bigger.

step by step picture collage of making filter coffee at home

5- After 20 minutes or so open the lid, all the water would have percolated in the lower chamber by now.

6- And what you have is a strong coffee decoction.

7- To make one single serving of coffee- add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of hot coffee decoction to your cup again this depends on how strong coffee you prefer. I add 1/2 cup. I am using classic dabra here.

8- Stir in sugar to taste, or skip sugar if you don’t want like sugar in your coffee.

step by step picture collage of making filter coffee at home

9- Add in hot milk, this could be 1/3 to 1/2 cup depending on how much milk you like. I add 1/3 cup since I like strong coffee with less milk.

10- Now, to make it frothy and dissolve the sugar, pour the coffee from the tumbler into the dabra.

11- And again from the dabra into tumbler. Pour from a height so that you get nice froth. Repeat this couple of times until it’s frothy.

12- Make more servings similarly. It would make 2 or 3 depending on how much coffee you use. Serve hot.

step by step picture collage of making filter coffee at home

Tips & Notes

  • You can adjust the amount of sugar to taste. Or you can even skip sugar.
  • If you want to make a vegan version, I would suggest using oat milk. I have tried this recipe with oat milk and it comes out pretty good. Just heat up oat milk in a pan, don’t boil it and follow the same steps.
  • Use 1 tablespoon coffee for a lighter coffee. The ratio that I use does make a strong coffee decoction.
  • If you don’t have a dabra, just use a simple coffee cup and use an electric frother/foamer to make it frothy. I often do it!
  • This isn’t traditionally used, but sometimes I like adding pinch of cinnamon powder too here. I love cinnamon in my coffee so it works out well for me.
coffee being poured from tumbler into a round bowl

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South Indian Filter Coffee

tumbler filled with frothy coffee
Manali
Filter coffee is a hot beverage made with ground coffee using a coffee filter. This type of coffee is particularly popular in South India and enjoyed with idli, vada and dosa.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 mins
Resting Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Beverage
Cuisine Indian
Servings 3
Calories 18 kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ground coffee for coffee decoction, I use Cothas brands
  • hot water

For single serving

  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup coffee decoction adjust to how strong you like your coffee
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup cup milk use milk of choice, adjust to how much milk you prefer
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste

Instructions
 

  • To the coffee filter add, 2 tablespoons of ground coffee in the upper compartment (one with perforations). You can use less coffee for a light coffee. With 2 tablespoons you get a strong coffee which I like.
    Spread the coffee with a spoon or your hands and then press the coffee with the disc.
  • Add boiling water and fill until it's almost filled to the top. Cover with the lid and let the coffee percolate into the lower lower vessel for 20 to 30 minutes. This time may be more if your filter is bigger.
  • After 20 minutes or so open the lid, all the water would have percolated in the lower chamber by now. And what you have is a strong coffee decoction.
  • To make one single serving of coffee- add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of hot coffee decoction to your cup again this depends on how strong coffee you prefer. I add 1/2 cup. I am using classic dabra here.
  • Stir in sugar to taste, or skip sugar if you don't want like sugar in your coffee.
  • Add in hot milk, this could be 1/3 to 1/2 cup depending on how much milk you like. I add 1/3 cup since I like strong coffee with less milk.
  • Now, to make it frothy and dissolve the sugar, pour the coffee from the tumbler into the dabra. And again from the dabra into tumbler. Pour from a height so that you get nice froth. Repeat this couple of times until it's frothy.
  • Make more servings similarly. It would make 2 or 3 depending on how much coffee you use. Serve hot.

Notes

  • You can adjust the amount of sugar to taste. Or you can even skip sugar.
  • If you want to make a vegan version, I would suggest using oat milk. I have tried this recipe with oat milk and it comes out pretty good. Just heat up oat milk in a pan, don’t boil it and follow the same steps.
  • Use 1 tablespoon coffee for a lighter coffee. The ratio that I use does make a strong coffee decoction.
  • If you don’t have a dabra, just use a simple coffee cup and use an electric frother/foamer to make it frothy. I often do it!
  • This isn’t traditionally used, but sometimes I like adding pinch of cinnamon powder too here. I love cinnamon in my coffee so it works out well for me.

Nutrition

Calories: 18kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 12mgPotassium: 37mgSugar: 3gVitamin A: 27IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
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