Coffee is arguably the most popular drink and needs no introduction. People around the world enjoy it in different forms. In India, the South Indian 'Kaapi' is extremely popular and most South Indians cannot start their day without a strong cup of filter coffee.
It has been a staple in South Indian households long before the rise of café culture and is known by different names such as Mysore filter coffee, Madras kaapi, or Kumbakonam coffee. What sets Kaapi apart is not just the ingredients, but the proportions and brewing process that make it truly unique.
While Indian spiced tea, or chai, is widely popular, South Indian filter coffee is second to none. In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the traditional filter pot, the use of chicory, pulling techniques, and more, to help you understand and appreciate the art of brewing authentic South Indian filter coffee. So let's dive in and unlock the secrets to brewing this exquisite cup of Kaapi!
Unveiling the Best Aspects of Kaapi
- Strong and Intense Flavor: South Indian filter coffee is known for its bold and intense flavor, resulting from the unique brewing process that involves extracting a strong decoction from coffee powder. The decoction is then mixed with hot milk, creating a robust and flavorful cup of coffee that is cherished by coffee connoisseurs.
- Unique Brewing Process: The traditional brewing process of South Indian filter coffee involves is distinct and different from other brewing methods, and contributes to the unique taste and aroma of Kaapi.
- Use of Chicory: Chicory, a root of the endive plant, is commonly added to South Indian filter coffee to enhance its flavor and aroma. It adds a slightly bitter and earthy note to the coffee, giving it a characteristic taste that sets it apart from other types of coffee.
- Traditional Serving Style: South Indian filter coffee is typically served in a steel tumbler and davara (bowl), which adds to its authentic charm. The hot milk and decoction are mixed in the tumbler and then poured into the davara from a height, creating a frothy layer on top. The unique serving style adds to the overall experience of enjoying a cup of Kaapi.
- Cultural Significance: Kaapi is not just a beverage, but also has a cultural significance in the region. It has been a part of South Indian households for generations and is deeply ingrained in the daily routine and lifestyle of the people. It is often shared as a sign of hospitality and is considered an essential part of social gatherings and festivals.
Traditionally, South Indian filter coffee is brewed using a special steel filter pot called known as a "coffee filter" or "coffee percolator". It has two main parts (or compartments) - one for adding coffee powder and hot water, and the other for collecting the decoction. The freshly brewed decoction is then mixed with hot milk and served in a steel tumbler and davara (bowl), adding to its distinct charm and flavor. The resulting coffee is known for its bold and intense flavor, with a perfect balance of coffee and milk, often served with a hint of sweetness.
As a coffee aficionado, I, like many South Indians, start my day with a strong cup of Kaapi. It's a cherished part of our daily routine and is enjoyed throughout the day, in all seasons. Whether it's paired with breakfast in the morning or sipped alongside a favorite evening snack, Kaapi holds a special place in our hearts and taste buds.
Traditional coffee filter pot
Traditionally, kaapi is made in a brass or steel filter pot. It has two compartments that sit on one another. Coffee powder and hot water are added to the top compartment and the brewed coffee decoction is collected in the bottom compartment.
This traditional filter follows a pour-over style of filtration and is probably the easiest to use. It does not need filter paper. A plunger is placed on the coffee powder and is pressed gently. Hot water seeps through the coffee and the concentrated liquid called coffee decoction can be collected.
Authentic South Indian coffee is made by freshly brewing coffee decoction - the concentrated liquid collected when hot water is passed through coffee powder. Making decoction is the first step in making coffee. Scroll down to see the detailed instruction on how to make it.
What is Chicory
Chicory is extremely popular in Indian coffee and is added in small amounts when grinding the coffee beans. It imparts a malty taste and a deeper color to the coffee.
Chicory is the root of a plant native to Asia and Europe. It is roasted, ground, and mixed with coffee powder. It is believed that chicory was added to coffee because of its medicinal benefits and to reduce caffeine intake. The addition of chicory is also thought to be due to the shortage of coffee in the 17th century.
Several shops in South India freshly roast and grind coffee beans and mix them with roasted and ground chicory as per your preference. There is no fixed percentage of chicory that is added to Indian coffee powders and hugely depends on personal preference, with the most common being the addition of 10% chicory.
Coffee Powder: There are several brands of Indian coffee powders that can be bought from any Indian grocery store.
Other ingredients: Hot water, whole milk, and sugar.
How to make South Indian Coffee
Step 1: Assemble the top and bottom compartments of the coffee filter pot. Add the coffee powder to the top compartment. Put the disc (plunger) on top of the coffee powder and press gently.
Step 2: Take water in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Carefully pour boiling water on the disc in a thin stream.
Step 3: Cover the lid of the filter pot and the decoction will brew and drip slowly to the lower compartment. This will take 10-15 minutes.
Step 4: The water will drip from the top compartment and the decoction is collected in the lower compartment of the filter pot.
Step 5: Take milk in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat.
Step 6: Take two tumblers (or cups) and add one teaspoon of sugar to each tumbler. Add the required amount of decoction (3-4 tablespoons depending on preference). For a lighter coffee, add less decoction, and for a strong coffee, add more. Pour hot milk into the tumbler in a thin stream. Pull the coffee a few times to make it frothy before serving.
Pulling the coffee
Filter coffee is traditionally served in a small steel glass with a bowl (called davara) under it. The coffee is "pulled" back and forth between the tumbler and bowl. This makes the coffee frothy and also helps the sugar to dissolve.
To pull the coffee, pour it from the tumbler/glass to the davara/bowl in a slow stream. Then, pour it back from the davara into the tumbler. Repeat the process of pouring it back and forth 5-6 times until there is a foamy head on the top.
When placing the disc (plunger) in the filter pot, do not apply a lot of pressure. Place the disc and press gently to flatten the powder. If you press too hard, the decoction will take a long time to steep.
Do not heat the decoction over direct heat as it changes the taste and makes the coffee bitter. To reheat any leftover decoction, place it in a tumbler and put it in hot water for a few minutes.
Filter kaapi is the perfect pair with these breakfast dishes:
2. Adai dosa.
3. Rava idli.
5. Masala dosa.
6. Sabudana khichdi.
8. Ragi rotti.
Serve your evening kaapi with these snacks:
1. Mangalore buns.
2. Plantain chips.
3. Vegetable puffs.
4. Egg puffs.
5. Dahi vada.
6. Onion pakora.
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Traditionally, regular whole milk is used; however, plant-based milk like soy milk and oat milk can also be used. If you use vegan milk, do not boil it. Just heat the milk gently and add it to the decoction.
No. While both use a pour-over filtration technique, the filter pot and coffee powder used are different. Also, milk and sugar are added to the filter kaapi.
Kattan kaapi is a diluted brew of coffee and is widely popular in the Kerala region. It does not have milk or sugar and is served black. Kattan is very similar to Americano, albeit made with Indian coffee powder.
Filter Coffee / Authentic South Indian Kaapi
- 3 tablespoon coffee powder
- ¾-1 cup water (depending on the size of the filter pot)
- 1½ cups whole milk
- 2 teaspoon sugar (adjust as per taste)
Making the decoction:
- Assemble the top and bottom compartments of the coffee filter pot. Add the coffee powder to the top compartment.
- Put the disc (plunger) on top of the coffee powder and press gently.
- Meanwhile, take water in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Carefully pour boiling water on the disc in a thin stream.
- Cover the lid of the filter pot and the decoction brew and drip slowly to the lower compartment. This will take 10-15 minutes.
- The water will drip from the top compartment and the decoction is collected in the lower compartment of the filter pot.
- Take milk in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat.
- Take two tumblers (or cups) and add one teaspoon of sugar to each tumbler.
- Add the required amount of decoction (3-4 tablespoons depending on preference). For a lighter coffee, add less decoction and for a strong coffee, add more.
- Pour hot milk to the tumbler in a thin stream.
- Pull the coffee a few times to make it frothy by pouring it back and forth in the tumbler and davara (bowl).
- Serve hot immediately.
Love this recipe!
Thank you so much, Lauren.