Authentic South Indian Coffee Recipe
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!
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.
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.
You’ll need a few things to get started:
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.
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.
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.
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.
You need whole milk. You can experiment with cashew milk, soy milk or almond milk too, but do not boil them, just heat them.
White sugar, brown sugar, or jaggery to taste
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Indian Coffee FAQs
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.
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.
‘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.