How To Make Filter Coffee?15 Snack Pairings For A Coffee Break
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Filter coffee, also known as "filter kaapi" in South India, is a traditional Indian coffee beverage known for its strong flavour. It is particularly popular in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. It is a strong part of India’s culinary heritage and has an emotional, sentimental and nostalgic connection with people across India and not just its southern states. What sets it apart is the unique technique used to prepare it. 

Filter coffee is brewed coffee made using a special coffee filter that consists of two cylindrical compartments. It is typically prepared with a blend of dark roasted coffee beans and chicory, which gives it a distinctive, slightly bitter flavour and a rich, aromatic profile. Milk and sugar are usually added to make this delicious beverage.

To make this coffee, you will need a metal filter consisting of two cylindrical compartments; the upper compartment has tiny perforations, and the lower one collects the brewed coffee decoction. You also have Tumbler and Dabarah. The tumbler is a traditional metal cup and the dabarah is a wider metal saucer. Together, they are used for mixing and aerating the coffee.

To make a good, strong cup of filter coffee, you will need 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee powder, a cup of water, a cup of milk and some sugar that can be added as per taste. Place the upper compartment of the coffee filter on top of the lower compartment. Add the coffee powder to the upper compartment. Then boil a cup of water and pour the boiling water over the coffee powder in the upper compartment. Place the lid on top and let the water slowly drip through the coffee powder into the lower compartment. 

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This should take about 10–15 minutes. While the decoction is brewing, heat 1 cup of milk until it is hot but not boiling. Once the coffee decoction is ready, pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the decoction into a traditional tumbler. Add the hot milk to the tumbler—more decoction for stronger coffee, more milk for milder coffee. Then add the sugar.

One of the most interesting and fun steps while making the filter coffee is pouring the prepared coffee back and forth between the tumbler and the dabarah to mix well and create a frothy layer on top. This step is traditional and enhances the texture and taste of the coffee, so don’t miss it. Then serve the filter coffee hot in the same tumbler, which you can now place inside the dabarah. The traditional method involves sipping the coffee from the tumbler while it rests in the dabarah, which helps to cool the coffee slightly.

Tips To Make The Perfect Filter Coffee

Buy a good-quality coffee blend, preferably with chicory, to get the authentic taste of filter coffee. It needs to be at a rolling boil before pouring over the coffee powder. Allow the decoction to drip slowly so that it extracts the deepest flavours. It’s also important to prepare a fresh decoction each time, which makes a great difference to the taste.

Nibbles That Work Best With Filter Coffee

Filter coffee is usually enjoyed with a variety of snacks and light meals. The coffee’s bold and aromatic nature allows it to pair well with a variety of foods. From traditional South Indian fare, snacks, sweets, or even contemporary modern baked goodies, there are a bunch of options that will complement your cup of filter coffee. 

Traditional South Indian Accompaniments

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Especially for breakfast, nothing comes close to filter coffee served with hot idlis, vada and dosa.

Idli: Soft, fluffy, pillowy, and light, the idlis are an ideal match for the strong, bold flavour of filter coffee. Idlis come with coconut chutney and sambar, which also complement the coffee well.

Dosa: Thin, crisp, golden-brown dosas are another excellent pairing. Made with fermented rice and lentils, the dosas can be plain or stuffed with potato masala (masala dosa). 

Vada: Crispy on the outside and soft inside, the vadas offer a delightful contrast in texture and are delicious with filter coffee.

Upma: A savoury dish made from semolina (rava), upma is often cooked with vegetables, nuts, and spices. Its mildly spiced flavour and soft texture pair wonderfully with the robustness of filter coffee.

Snacks And Sweets

Murukku: These crunchy, spiral-shaped snacks made from rice flour and urad dal flour are seasoned with spices, making them a savoury treat that pairs excellently with coffee.

Banana Chips: Thinly sliced and fried banana chips, often lightly salted or spiced, are great to munch on with coffee.

Mysore Pak: A rich, buttery sweet made from gram flour, ghee, and sugar. Its melt-in-the-mouth texture and sweetness offer a delightful counterpoint to the strong-filter coffee.

Nei Appam: Sweet fritters made from rice and jaggery, flavoured with cardamom and deep-fried. These traditional sweets provide a lovely contrast in flavour and texture.

Sweet Potato Fries

The natural sweetness and slight earthiness of sweet potato fries complement the coffee’s deep flavours. Adding a sprinkle of sea salt enhances the contrast.

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Light Meals

Drinking filter coffee is not restricted to a particular time of the day. Apart from breakfast and evening snack hours, fans drink their share along with side meals as well.

Pongal: It is a comforting dish made from rice and moong dal, flavoured with ghee, black pepper, cumin, and cashews. Both Ven Pongal (savoury) and Sakkarai Pongal (sweet) are traditional favourites that complement the rich flavour of filter coffee.

Pesarattu: These green gram (moong dal) dosas are often served with ginger chutney. The savoury, protein-rich pesarattu complements the strong filter coffee perfectly.

Baked Goodies

Butter Biscuits: Simple, buttery cookies are ideal for dipping into filter coffee. Their rich, buttery flavour enhances the coffee experience.

Rusk: Twice-baked bread slices that are crunchy and perfect for dipping in coffee. They provide a satisfying crunch and absorb the coffee's flavour beautifully. The soggy bits drenched in the coffee are most delicious.

Sponge Cake: A childhood favourite, light and fluffy sponge cakes pair well with the strong, rich flavour of filter coffee. Whether plain or flavoured, both versions go well with filter coffee.

Modern Twists

Over the years, filter coffee has travelled from homes in South India to coffee shops across the globe. In the ever-evolving coffee landscape, as people become more interested in artisanal coffee and traditional coffee brewing methods, filter coffee stands out for its unique taste, cultural significance and preparation methods.

The Indian diaspora has played a significant role in spreading the tradition of filter coffee internationally. Many Indian restaurants and cafés abroad now serve filter coffee, introducing it to new audiences. There are modern and innovative twists, such as cold-brew versions or coffee-based desserts. Apart from traditional snacks, filter coffee is now also served with sandwiches, croissants, sweet and savoury muffins and even scones. 

Filter coffee also pairs excellently with dark chocolate. The bitterness of dark chocolate and its rich, smooth texture complement filter coffee and this combination has inspired many desserts.