Authentic South Indian Coffee Recipe

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South Indian coffee is the most delicious form of coffee on this planet! You think I am being hyperbolic, but I’m not kidding. And I’ve drunk them all… Turkish coffee, espresso, latte, dalgona coffee, cappuccino, Bulletproof, drip coffee, French press, cold brew, and on and on… You name it and I’ve drunk it. I even own an espresso machine, and still, nothing holds a candle to authentic South Indian coffee recipes. It is delicious, creamy, and easy to make!

South Indian Coffee recipe
South Indian Coffee recipe

There is a reason why there is a coffee or tea stand on every street corner in Chennai. South Indian coffee is served in a small cup with lots of frothy milk and plenty of sugar. As soon as you taste this ‘heaven in a cup’, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Today, I’m going to show you how to make a South Indian filter coffee recipe, also called madras kaapi or filter kaapi.

What is South Indian Filter Coffee?

South Indian filter coffee is made with a mixture of ground coffee and roasted chicory root. The chicory root imparts a smooth flavor and creates a soft coffee which balances out the bitter and sharp overtones. The ground coffee mix is put into a stainless steel coffee press, like a French press, that allows hot water to pull every little polyphenol and ounce of flavor out of the coffee over a very slow percolation. The resulting coffee concentrate is called decoction, which is then poured into boiled and sweetened milk to make a sweet milk coffee with no rival.

South Indian coffee press for making decoction

Once the decoction is added to the milk, the real magic happens. The hot coffee is poured back and forth between a stainless steel cup, called a tumbler or kuvallai, and a stainless steel bowl, called a vata or davarah. This process is called stretching. I loved watching my Baba stretch coffee as a little kid. The pouring motion is made over a long arcing distance, in the hands of a skilled Kaapi maker. The pouring cools and mixes the coffee and aerates it with room air rather than steam, like in espresso drinks. This aeration gives South Indian coffee recipes a unique flavor and sensory experience.

Stretching South Indian Coffee

You’ll need a few things to get started:

Ingredients and Equipment Needed

South Indian Coffee Press

This is a small gadget easily available in Indian shops to make coffee decoction. There are two tumblers, one with perforations in the bottom that essentially acts as a coffee filter and drains into the bottom tumbler. There is also a lid and an umbrella to press coffee grounds. If you don’t have this device, then a French press can do a reasonable job.

South Indian Coffee Press (Decoction Maker)

Coffee

Coffee grounds/coffee powder/instant coffee: To make an authentic tasting south Indian filter coffee, you’ll need ground coffee beans with 10-20% chicory in it. You can also use regular coffee, but it will have a sharper taste. Alternatively, you can make another version of Indian coffee with instant coffee granules.

Saucepan

This is used to boil milk.

Tumbler or Kavallai

Use the tumbler to stretch your coffee and to drink from. A normal coffee mug can also be used here.

Tumbler or Kavallai

Vata or Davarah

This is the stainless steel bowl that you pour into from your tumbler. A normal coffee mug can also be used here.

Vata or Davarah

Milk

You need whole milk. You can experiment with cashew milk, soy milk or almond milk too, but do not boil them, just heat them.

Sugar

White sugar, brown sugar, or jaggery to taste

Water

Boiling hot water to make the decoction.

Cooking Instructions for South Indian Coffee

There is not much to cook, the technique matters most. So, let’s take a look at this delicious recipe.

Making the Decoction

Heat a cup of water until it starts to boil.

Now place filter coffee in the upper compartment of the Indian coffee press. Use the following measurements, depending upon your strength preferences:

  • 2 tsp – light coffee
  • 3 tsp – medium strong
  • 6 tsp – for strong coffee ( I like a stronger coffee concentrate)
Add groudn coffee to top section of coffee press

Slightly press the powder with the pressing disk to make it less porous. If the pressing disc has holes in it, leave it down on top of the coffee. This will slow the percolation and make a tastier coffee.

Tamp down coffee with umbrella press

Now add 3/4 cup of boiling hot water on top and cover it with the lid. It takes almost 20-30 minutes ideally for the coffee to drip down into a decoction.

Pour boiling water over umbrella

Boil the Milk

In a separate saucepan, boil one cup milk on medium heat until it is thick and has a creamy texture. If you are using nut milk, do not boil.

Boil the milk

Now add 1-2 tsp sugar or more to the hot milk. The amount of sweetness depends on you, but south Indian coffee is typically very sweet.

Mix the Coffee

Add enough of the coffee decoction to your tumbler to get a pale brown to medium-brown color once the milk is added. You may need to adjust later, so error on the side of less decoction.

Pour the boiled sweet milk into a kavallai/tumbler with coffee decoction.

Add in sweetened milk

Stretching the Coffee

The tumbler should be sitting inside the vata/davarah. Now take the tumbler and pour the coffee back and forth between the kavallai and the vata. Try to stretch the coffee as far as you can between the two vessels without spilling it. The coffee will begin to foam and increase in volume. Use two coffee mugs if you do not have a tumbler and davarah.

indian coffee recipe
Stretch the Coffee – Pour it back and forth between the tumbler and vata

Once you’re satisfied with the temperature and frothiness, drink and enjoy.

Making This South Indian Coffee Recipe With Instant Coffee

Heat milk in a saucepan until it is thick and creamy.

Add sugar to the milk and stir until sugar dissolves

Ad sugar to boiling milk

Take 1-1.5 tsp of instant coffee granules and mix it with 1 tbsp of hot water

Add hot water to instant coffee granules

Once the instant coffee is fully dissolved, add this coffee concentrate directly to the milk.

Add instant coffee concentrate to milk

Now it is time to froth your coffee in South Indian Style.

Pour your coffee mixture into the tumbler and then pour it back and forth between the tumbler and the vata

Frothed coffee

When the coffee has a thick foam on top and the temperature is just right, pour it all into the steel tumbler, and it is ready to serve. 

Serving

Serve this Indian coffee recipe after a full meal like Sambar, dal fry, dosa, fish curry or Puli Kuzhambu, or as an accompaniment to parippu vada, ulli vada, or medu vada. You can also serve it to your guests with other options like tea and nariyal barfi.

Authentic South Indian Coffee Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Ravi Kumar and Qintarah Khan Course: DrinksCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy
Servings

1

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes

This Indian coffee recipe, also called Indian filter coffee, or filter kaapi, is a delicious combination of coffee and sweetened milk. It is made with a concentrated coffee percolation called decoction that is poured into milk and then cooled and frothed through a pouring method called ‘stretching’.

Ingredients

  • Filter Coffee Ingredients
  • 2-6 tsp of South Indian filter coffee powder (adjust according to desired strength – I like it stronger)

  • 1-2 tsp sugar (adjust according to taste)

  • 1 cup of whole milk

  • 3/4 cup of hot water for decoction

  • Instant Coffee Ingredients
  • 1-1.5 tsp instant coffee powder

  • 1 tbsp of hot water

  • 1-2 tsp of sugar

  • 1 cup of whole milk

Directions

  • Indian Filter Coffee Directions
  • In a traditional coffee filter, add coffee powder to the upper compartment above the sieve.
  • Press it slightly with the pressing disk, and leave the pressing disc down on the coffee.
  • Now pour a cup of boiling hot water above it and close the lid.
  • Keep the lid closed while the coffee to slowly percolates. After 20 or 30 minutes, your decoction should be ready.
  • In a separate pan, boil a cup of milk until it is thick and creamy.
  • Add sugar into the boiling milk and stir until dissolved.
  • Now add the decoction into the tumbler
  • Pour the milk from the saucepan into the tumbler (kavallai) which is set in the vata (stainless steel bowl).
  • Add extra decoction if necessary to achieve your desired strength. You are aiming for a medium brown colored liquid.
  • Now take the tumbler and pour the coffee back and forth between the tumbler and the vata. Try to stretch the coffee as far as you can between the two vessels without spilling it.
  • Pour this foamy coffee into the tumbler and enjoy! Your creamy cup of coffee is ready in South Indian style. 
  • Instant Coffee Directions
  • Boil a cup of milk in a saucepan until it is thick and creamy.
  • Add sugar to the milk and stir
  • Take 1-1.5 tsp of instant coffee granules and mix it with 1 tbsp of hot water
  • Once the instant coffee is fully dissolved, add this coffee concentrate directly to the milk.
  • Pour your coffee mixture into the tumbler and then pour it back and forth between the tumbler and the vata.
  • When the coffee has a thick foam on top and the temperature is just right, pour it all into the steel tumbler, and it is ready to serve. 

Recipe Video

Notes

  • Serve your coffee hot in traditional steel tumblers, and have it first thing in the morning or with breakfast. For coffee lovers, though, anytime is coffee time. 

Indian Coffee FAQs

How is Indian coffee different?

Indian coffee is made by percolating hot water slowly through firmly packed coffee and roasted chicory. This imparts a strong but soft flavor to the coffee concentrate, which is call ‘decoction’. The decoction is added to boiled sweetened milk. This mixture is then poured back and forth between two cups to create an aerated and frothy drink with amazing flavor.

Why does Indian coffee taste different?

Indian Coffee tastes softer and bolder due to roasted chicory that is added to it. The preparation technique, called ‘stretching’, froths the coffee with air rather than steam, which imparts a unique flavor and texture.

What is Indian style coffee called?

‘Kaapi’ is the colloquial term for Indian coffee. This is a term commonly used in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Andra Pradesh.

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Hi! I’m Ravi Kumar.

I am a husband, father of 4, board certified neurosurgeon, and a lover of South Indian Food!

I created PaattisKitchen.com to memorialize the most delicious foods on earth. South Indian food is easy to make and hard to mess up. So pull up your sleeves, and come with me as we explore the vibrant spices, colors, aromas, and flavors of South Indian culinary tradition.

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