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How to Use an Indian Coffee Filter to Make Kaapi

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Last November, the fine folks at Mad Rush Coffee contacted me and ask if I would like an Indian coffee filter to experiment with. Always being up for trying new manual coffee brewing methods (I had never heard of one), I eagerly accepted their offer. A few weeks later, a curious six inch tall, cylindrical, stainless steel brewing contraption arrived in my blog mailbox and I began experimenting with Kaapi and my new Indian coffee filter.

It took almost seven months (after a few major holidays, a family vacation and an extensive kitchen remodel) but I am now ready to discuss Kaapi and the Indian coffee filter.

What is an Indian Coffee Filter?

An Indian coffee filter is a small tubular brewing device with roots in southern India. It brews about 60-70mL of a super concentrated coffee.

The device consists of four parts: a bottom container for collecting the brewed coffee, a top compartment which fits onto the bottom and contains small holes for filtering, a small tamper and a lid for the top of the unit.

It is a unique brewing apparatus that will probably not take the place of some of the more popular manual coffee brewers. It is a fun device to experiment with and a fun one to try and master none-the-less (I have not).

What is Kaapi?

The coffee decoction from an Indian coffee filter is often mixed with scalded milk and a little sugar to create a beverage called Kaapi.

For me, Kaapi is a beverage laced with nostalgia. It brings back memories of the days when I was first starting to drink coffee*. Kaapi is milk forward with sugar added, I am not accustom to taking my coffee this way anymore. The brewed coffee is strong enough that it is not overpowered by the additives. Prepared correctly, Kaapi is frothy, warm and rich with a touch of sugar sweetness. It is like the coffee equivalent to comfort food.

How to use an Indian Coffee Filter (Kaapi Recipe)

Like most brewing methods, there are numerous recipes and techniques for brewing with an Indian coffee filter. I watched several videos and read a few articles on the subject but I kept my recipe pretty close to the original that was provided for me by Mad Rush Coffee.

This recipe produces a highly concentrated decoction of coffee that, when brewed correctly, can be syrupy and sweet. I suppose you could mimic this recipe and approximate the same result with an Aeropress and a metal Aeropress filter (letting the decoction gravity filter instead of using the plunger).

Here is what you will need:

For Making Indian Filter Coffee

  • 25 grams of coffee ground medium fine (I like to use a little finer a typical pour-over grind)
  • 125mL of 205 degree fahrenheit water
  • Indian coffee filter

For Making  Kaapi for Two

  • 250mL of milk
  • sugar to taste (this can be left out of course)
  • 60-70ml of Indian filter coffee

Directions for Indian Filter Coffee

  1. Put your coffee into the top portion (make sure you remove the tamper/water diffuser piece) of the Indian coffee filter and fit it onto the base collection piece.
  2. Some recipes will recommend compacting the bed of grounds but I have found that I have had better results with simply adjusting the grind size for time (you are shooting for a 5to 8 minute brew time) and not compacting the coffee bed much.
  3. Gently shake the Indian coffee filter to level the bed of grounds. Place the tamper on top of the coffee and press down slightly. I have been leaving the tamper on top of the bed of grounds for brewing.
  4. Slowly pour 125 mL of 205 degrees Fahrenheit water on top of the bed of coffee grounds. If you don’t have a thermometer or a variable temperature kettle, water a minute off of boil will work just fine.. If you don’t have a scale, just fill up the Indian coffee filter to the top. Use caution, this device gets really hot while it is brewing.
  5. In 5 to 8 minutes you should have a delicious coffee decoction that can be used to make Kaapi or consumed as is (be careful this little shot can pack a big caffeine punch).
  6. If your brew is falling outside the 5 to 8 minute time window AND you are unhappy with the results, adjust the grind accordingly (coarser to speed up the process and finer to slow it down). You can also play around with compressing the coffee bed with the tamper (this will lengthen brew time).

Directions for Kaapi for Two

  1. While your decoction is filtering, place 250mL of milk into a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil**. You are looking to bring it just to the beginning stages of a boil, do not boil it for an extended period of time.
  2. Turn off the heat and add a small amount of sugar if desired.
  3. Froth the milk. You can use a handheld milk frother, a French press, or whisk it by hand. Be careful not to burn yourself with hot milk.
  4. The traditional milk frothing method: Froth the milk by pouring it back and forth between two bowls. Make sure to get some altitude on your pours to create turbulence for a nice foamy milk mixture. (This method definitely gets some fancy points).
  5. The French Press milk frothing method: Pour the hot milk into your French press and repeatably depress the plunger until your desired milk foam texture is reached. Be careful with filling the French press too full with milk or pumping too vigorously. In both scenarios, hot milk is likely to shoot out of the French press. This method can make an extremely frothy milk which may be too stiff for this style of beverage. Moderate to light frothing would be more appropriate for Kaapi.
  6. Divide your coffee decoction between two glasses and add you foamy milk to the top.
  7. Enjoy your Kaapi. Your ratios of sugar and milk can be adjusted to taste.

Final Thoughts on Indian Filter Coffee

It is fun to try less championed brewing methods like the Indian coffee filter. This is something I will probably only use on unique occasions but I enjoyed learning and experimenting.

The cultural differences in how people prepared coffee across the globe is always something that fascinates me.  The next time I come across a great Monsooned Malabar, I’ll be putting my Indian coffee filter to work.

If you have an experience or tips for using the Indian coffee filter or making Kaapi, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to contact me or leave a comment below. Cheers!

*From a taste perspective, the Kaapi I have been making far surpasses those first bitter gas station brews laden with creamer and sugar but there is still an essence of this experience that Kaapi fondly reminds me of.

**Most espresso drink enthusiast will cringe at the thought of scalding milk by bringing it to a boil. If you do not enjoy the taste of scalded milk, you can certainly bring the milk to a lower temperature.

(Post updated September 21, 2020, Originally posted June 30, 2016)

7 Comments

  1. Missy

    I visited Madras (India) last year in a business trip. I didnt get good black and strong joe anywhere, i was surprised why so. When i asked my Indian friend, he said, In India people drink Chay(tea) instead of coffee and mostly coffee brew with instant coffee powder with milk.
    Then he took me at small cafe, which brews filter Kaapi and to be honest, it was good. Every area has its own taste and brewing method. Try filter kappi once when you visit India.

    • John

      Missy,
      If I ever end up visiting India, I will indeed try to find some Kaapi.

      • Mahesh Puranam

        John, once you visit India and have the south Indian filter coffee, you will find yourself coming back to India for more of that. — from an avid kappi fan a.k.a Mahesh Puranam

        • har

          do you think he is a fool to fly all the way to drink this coffee.you are nuts.they get superior columbian coffee.

          • Subramoniam

            Every coffee has it’s “superiority”. It’s all in the taste. When I visit Waitrose in Abu Dhabi it’s hard for me to get Monsooned Malabar coffee beans because they fly off the shelf. this is not due to Indian crowd as very few of us go there. the taste of Malabar coffee is it’s own so is Columbian or Kenyan or Ethiopian or you name it

  2. Subramoniam

    For a quicker and stronger decoction, I gently pull out the tamper after a minute without disturbing the coffee grounds. Also washing the lower cup with hot water before you place the upper cup “pulls” the water through due to the semi vacuum created due to the heat. Mostly use Monsooned Malabar from Waitrose and recently got Coorg coffee beans while at Bangalore Airport. Heavenly Kaappi

  3. Mallika Chellappa

    My own method, as taught to me by my mother:
    Use about two teaspoons of coffee powder per cup. A really strong brew should yield about five-seven teaspoons of filtrate per cup of coffee, so size your filter appropriately.
    Put the coffee powder in, shake to level and place the tamper lightly over the coffee powder.
    Pour over just boiled water, removing the tamper halfway through, then fill up nearly to the top and cover. Maintain the water at the required temperature and top up when the grounds rise up (the surface will be matte); the grounds should froth and look lighter in colour where you top up, try to get this effect uniformly across the top of the filter. Close your filter and wait. This coffee is the first filtrate and will be splendid. Collect it and use it immediately or refrigerate for later use (always remembering to heat it up in a water bath to the recommended temperature before adding hot milk). You can add just boiled water and collect a second filtrate which will also be good enough for those who do not like very strong coffee.
    Some filters are very slow and work overnight. This may lead to some loss of flavour.

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