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Filter Kaapi – A South Indian Love Affair

Sipping filter coffee out of a small steel bowl is a sacred ritual for many south Indians. The traditional filter method extracts the essential oil and flavors from the coffee making it a truly satisfying experience.

A warm cup of foamy South Indian Filter Coffee

A ‘knock you out at the first drop’ thick black coffee added to hot frothy milk and enjoyed with little or no sugar – did I say I am ready to take on the day. The bubbles are today’s to do list and yes I can handle them all in one sip. Yes … I am South Indian and Coffee is my super power!

The other day I met a lovely lady who made me nostalgic about my time back in Bangalore. Filter coffee tops the list of the myriad things that I miss from South India. The heat, dust and the horrendous traffic makes the sights and flavors of the land extra sweet. You duck into the welcoming shade of the Kumbakonam degree coffee shop, take a deep breath and watch them pour the milk back and forth between two cups held a yard apart. What you feel right then and there is ‘NIRVANA’.

This is the reason, many in India do not need to sit in a secluded comfortable position to meditate … we are bread to find peace in the simplest of things.

Pouring Milk over the thick dark decoction to make filter coffee

Coffee For All Shapes And Sizes

There was Anu aunty’s coffee that my kids loved. Anu’s brew is something I got addicted to. Lil guy in diapers would walk into her living room and ask for a cup. Please, no horrified parenting gasp here – he was always served kid-friendly version of filter coffee – sweetened milk with a drop of decoction. Anu  and I, on the other hand, had our fill of caffeine.

So what is this decoction? It is nothing other than the slow percolated coffee. The coffee is a mix of fine ground Arabica and Robusta beans mixed with 0 to 40 % chicory. Chicory absorbs more moisture and helps extracts more flavor from coffee. The resulting coffee is darker and more flavorful with less caffeine than you would expect.

Getting ready to make filter Coffee

Chicory, You Say?

Many would consider Chicory in coffee as an adulterant. But it is embraced by most filter coffee lovers. Some find filter coffee without chicory to be too bitter while others argue that it takes away from the pure coffee experience.

Will it taste good without chicory? It is just a matter of taste. Many Coorg coffee brands contain 100% pure coffee and are an excellent choice to make filter coffee. All I can say for sure is this – given a choice I would prefer to make my coffee in the filter than in the drip machine.

Here is Why

The standard coffee filters are made with paper (or synthetic material). The coffee percolator uses way too much water and resulting in a quick drip, and often times the essential oils are trapped in the coffee filter. If you have a metal filter do a side by side comparison. Or may be I am biased – because the science of taste is just a matter of taste!

Coffee & I

I was not raised on filter coffee. You see my ancestors had grown coffee for a few generations. For them the preferred way of drinking it was black, with a touch of spices and some vellam (jaggery/raw cane sugar). Sometimes they add ghee (Bulletproof coffee anyone? ), and claim that it is good for the gut, has healing properties etc. .

But this is an entirely different journey, for another time. This one is about “Kumbakonam Degree Cofee”, “Degree Coffee” , Filter Kappi , Madras … You see these signs every so often along the highways and byways of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. If the signs don’t arouse your curiosity the aroma of the coffee will.

Pour hot water over the pressed down coffee powder to make filter Coffee decoction

So here is how it is made –using a steel filter. It looks like two cups that fit perfectly one top of the other. The top on has small perforations on the base (filter). Kind of like a mini version of your pasta pot. The coffee grounds goes into the top bowl. You set the small press on top to pack it in and pour hot (boiling) water over the press. Close the lid and let it seep !

If you don’t have a filter – go get one – beg, borrow , steal, or head over to your nearest Indian store or shop Amazon. I have to add a disclaimer here – the first 3 are not recommended methods and I do not own stocks in Amazon (at least I don’t think so), or am in any way associated with filter makers.

Now that is out of the way here are a few tips ..

Coffee percolates quickly – you get a very thin decoction. Your coffee may be ground too coarsely or you have too little coffee in the upper chamber. Pour the decoction over the coffee grounds and let is seep again.

Coffee is not dripping through – wait , be patient. But if it does not drip after say 15 minutes may be the filter is plugged. Then and only then remove the press and the grounds a gentle mix.

  • Keep the decoction covered.
  • The same coffee ground can be filtered multiple times, though I would not recommend more than 2.
  • Mix the decoction with HOT milk.
  • Do not reheat the decoction or the mixed coffee.
A warm cup of foamy South Indian Filter Coffee

Filter Coffee

By Syama
Filter coffee is the freshly brewed coffee served with hot milk. A thick aromatic decoction is made with coffee/chicory mix and served with hot foamy milk. Sweeten to you taste and sip warm.
5 from 1 vote
Course other
Cuisine Indian


For Decoction

  • 3 Tbsp Coffee Powder Notes
  • ½ C Hot water

For Coffee

  • 1 C Milk Full fat
  • Sugar as needed


  • Set the filter with the containers stacked. Add coffee powder to the filter. Place the press on top and press down to lightly pack the powder in. Pour the hot water over the press. Cover with lid and let the coffee percolate.
  • Bring the milk to a boil on stove top. Add sugar (optional) to the serving cup. Pour 1 to 2 tbsp decoction over it and top of with milk. Adjust the milk, decoction, and sugar to your taste.
  • Take another cup and pour the drink back and forth between 2 cups. This mixes the ingredients and aerates the coffee creating the foam. Serve!


The  coffee  powder  used  is  usually a mix   of  ground  arabic  and  robusta  beans (equal parts) and 10 to 40 % of  chicory.  See  blog  for  more. 

Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.

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South Indian Filter Coffee - Aromatic percolated coffee served with hot frothy milk
Recipe Rating


Friday 10th of December 2021

Wonderfully explained filter coffee recipe and it is easy to follow too. Thanks for sharing.