India is one of the many countries that love coffee, and it has a signature coffee drink that people may be unfamiliar with. Knowing how to make filter coffee South Indian style can impress friends and guests, and give you a whole new variation on a beverage you love.
Learning how to make filter coffee South Indian style is easy to start, but difficult to perfect. The methods of pouring are a bit different than a traditional pour-over or french press. In this post, you’ll learn the history of the South Indian filter coffee and the technique for making it. We’ll also help debunk some myths that may be keeping you from experimenting with this delicious coffee style. Keep reading if you’re ready to open up to a new world of coffee!
What is South Indian Filter Coffee?
South Indian filter coffee is a traditional drink made using a coffee powder (a mixture of coffee grounds and chicory) that is brewed in a special filter.
The filter is made of two parts: a tumbler and a place for grounds to sit. Boiling water is poured over the top of the filter; then, the tumbler at the bottom is removed and boiling milk and sugar are mixed into the coffee. The concoction is traditionally tossed back and forth from a tumbler and a dabbarah to cool, aerate, and mix the coffee.
South Indian filter coffee has a strong and sweet flavor that distinguishes it from coffee from other regions.
Coffee in South India has an incredible history. India has been growing coffee since the 1600s when the crop was brought over. The South Indian phonetic rendering of “coffee” is “kaapi,” which is what the drink is also known as. For the kaapi drink, medium-roast Arabica or Robusta beans are commonly used. Chicory still makes its way into South Indian coffee because a mixture of coffee grounds and chicory was originally cheaper to produce and trade.
The Coffee Powder
To make the coffee powder that is the signature of kappi, the medium roast beans are finely ground and mixed with some chicory. New Orleans and French coffee often mix chicory with their coffee as well. In France, a confection called “ricore” is sold as a mixture of 60% chicory and only 40% coffee!
The chicory root has a bitter and savory flavor to it, depending on its wildness or cultivation. Wild chicory root is typically more bitter than cultivated chicory root. When added to the coffee grounds, chicory root gives the coffee a more complete and bitter flavor.
Chicory, which has a number of health benefits, does change the coffee flavor slightly, especially when the milk counteracts the bitterness and brings out sweeter notes. However, its main uses are to reduce coffee’s cost and to extend the lifespan of ground coffee. Chicory even tastes a bit like coffee itself, and has gained some popularity as an ingredient for making supposedly-healthier coffee. Just like traditional coffee beans, chicory roots can be ground and brewed.
If you want to know how to make filter coffee South Indian style and do so authentically, you’ll need coffee grounds with chicory in them. If you do not want to invest in a product that will only be used for South Indian style coffee, then you can also substitute the chicory coffee with a nice dark roast.
1. Boiling the Water and the Milk
Begin by boiling water. The target temperature you’re shooting for is around 200 to 205 degrees. To achieve the best brewing temperature, bring the water to a boil (212 degrees) and let cool for a few seconds before the pour.
After you boil the water, set the kettle aside and put some milk on the burner. Let the coffee percolate while the milk is coming to a boil.
The milk can be boiled in another kettle if you have one; otherwise, a saucepan will do the trick.Use a small saucepan or a small pot to reduce the amount of milk that contacts the pan. This will prevent burning and over-scalding the milk.
2. Brewing the Coffee
Coffee brewing is a complex chemical process that varies greatly depending on the size of the grounds you use. To make filter coffee South Indian style, you can use any medium to dark roast beans. While typical coffee powder for filter coffee contains some chicory, chicory is usually not included in the recipe for its flavor properties alone. The chicory makes the coffee mixture cheaper and helps it last longer. Avoiding chicory will slightly change the taste of the product, but not drastically.
To truly craft this filtered coffee, you’ll need one special product: a South Indian style filter. It is one of the many great gifts for coffee lovers!
The South Indian style filter has four pieces. Remove the lid of the filter and the tamper inside of it. Then, add your coffee grounds. A few spoonfuls of grounds should do the trick. Use the spoon and maneuver the filter to get the grounds somewhat level.
Press the tamper down on the grounds slightly. The tamper is similar to the press used for making espresso. You want to gently push the grounds down, but not smash them so much that the water can’t get between them! Leave a little breathing room.
Pour the hot water gently over the top of the grounds. The grounds will brew and drip into the bottom part of the filter which is the tumbler cup.
While you don’t technically need to use the chicory, it also serves to make the brew stronger. You can counteract the lack of chicory by allowing the coffee to brew a little longer in the tumbler.
The South Indian style of filter coffee may introduce you to your next coffee maker that fits your lifestyle.
3. Mixing the Milk and Sugar
After the coffee is brewed, you’ll need to cool it down and mix it with milk and sugar.
For every spoonful of coffee grounds, blend with a spoonful of sugar and half a cup of milk. The ratios of milk and sugar to coffee grounds is certainly more of an art than a science, and it will depend on your personal tastes.
Once the milk and sugar are stirred in, pour the mixture back and forth quickly between the tumbler cup and a small bowl called a dabbarah. Pouring the coffee quickly will aerate it, introducing a lighter flavor to the brew.
Variations on the Traditional Drink
Coffee has a number of health benefits, but whole milk can add a lot of calories and fats to our diet. While traditional South Indian style filter coffee uses whole milk, you can try using a soy or an almond to cut calories and fat. The soy will have a similar taste to the whole milk, while the almond will have a more complex nutty flavor.
Consider icing the beverage after you’ve made it as a fun take on summer coffee. If you choose to make iced South Indian style filter coffee, add slightly more grounds to the original brew. Another spoonful will help the coffee maintain its bold flavor after you chill it. Ice tends to water down rich coffee, so making it stronger will reduce the overall loss of flavor.
If you have the traditional coffee powder that mixes coffee grounds and chicory, you can make traditional South Indian coffee and use it like you’d use an espresso in other coffee drinks. Skip the combination of milk and sugar, and make a cappuccino or latte with the coffee. The options are endless!