Art of Making Indian Filter Coffee

After having tried our hands at different ways of making coffee right from instant coffee to coffee capsules & premixes to artisan coffees using French press, Aeropress, pour over, etc to coffee (espresso, cappuccino, etc) from machines, we found one of the simplest and best ways to get a great cup of coffee is to make the Indian Filter Coffee. Indian filter coffee uses a drip brew process that is similar to how Vietnamese coffee is brewed. It is one of the simplest ways of making freshly brewed coffee and tastes awesome.

A typical Indian coffee filter comes with two cylindrical cups (one with a pierced bottom that sits atop the tumbler cup) and a lid, there's also a disc with a stem (also called a plunger) that is placed over the coffee powder in the upper cup before you pour warm water. Most Indian coffee filters come in stainless steel but many old school restaurants use large brass filters that enhance the flavour. You can opt for a smaller brass filter for home use, but as we have discovered it is high maintenance and requires an extra effort to keep shiny.

Making Traditional Indian Filter Coffee 

There are different techniques of making the Indian filter coffee and coffee powder to water to milk ratio can change depending on one's choice. The steps and measurements that we have written down is the most generic way of making the coffee.

The cup of coffee (coffee decoction + milk) would be of 150 ml which would be the same as a teacup or a traditional davara.

  • Take 1.5 tablespoon (12 gms) of coffee powder and put it in the top container of the filter. (1 tablespoon is 15 ml but with finely ground coffee powder it usually measures 7 to 8 gms) 

       * Don’t over heap the tablespoon 

  • Dab the powder with plunger to form an even layer and then place the plunger over the coffee powder. 
  • Put slightly more than 1/3rd of a teacup (50 to 55 ml) of hot water on top of it.
  • Cover with the lid and let the decoction trickle into the lower container. 

       * Should take 15 to 20 mins for 12 gms of coffee

  • Take the decoction and add 2/3rd of a teacup (100 ml) of boiled frothing milk to get a strong coffee. 

* Increase or decrease the quantity of milk to make the coffee stronger or lighter as per your preference. 

  • Add sugar or jaggery to taste
  • And if you can then pour the mixture back and forth between the cup and another (an art in itself), until the coffee cools down enough to drink and also forms a frothy texture on the top.

    Points to keep in mind

    • Temperature of water - Ideal temperature of the hot water used to brewing the coffee is around 90'C. To achieve this without a thermometer, bring the water to a boil and then let it stand for 10 seconds before pouring onto the coffee powder for brewing.
    • Coffee has to be ground fine for the Traditional Indian Coffee Filter to give best results. Coarse grind doesn’t allow the coffee to be brewed for the right duration thereby resulting in a milder decoction
    • Chicory is usually added to a Indian filter coffee blend between 10% to 30% and this enhances the taste and aroma of the coffee. It also reduces the caffeine intake as compared to a coffee blend which is made out of only coffee.
    • The coffee powder has to be freshly roasted and ground.
    • Don’t reheat the coffee decoction, it results in loss of the coffee aroma and flavour.

    Tips & Tricks

    • In your Traditional Indian Coffee Filter while brewing, if you observe that water from the top section is not completely draining out then follow one or all of these steps to get it right
      • The holes in the filter in the top compartment have not been cleaned properly and hence have some residual left over which is not allowing the decoction to percolate. 

    Remedy - Clean the filter and that should do the trick.

      • When the lid is closed tightly after adding the coffee powder and the hot water, it creates a vacuum which doesn’t allow the air in the bottom container to pass and thereby not allowing the decoction to filter down. 

    Remedy - Either leave a slight gap when the top lid is closed for the air to pass or ensure that the coffee and water combined do not occupy more than half the space of the top container

      • The coffee powder has a very thin grind and is coagulating thereby not allowing the decoction to percolate.

    Remedy - Stir the top container having the coffee and water with a spoon and this should allow the decoction to percolate 

    • Usually full cream milk gives nice thick cup of filter coffee
    • If you don’t like a coffee which has a thick body then add water to the milk. It’s advisable not to increase the quantity of water for making the coffee decoction, this will give a thinner coffee decoction which may not have the best extracts from the coffee powder. 
    • Use weighing scales and/or measuring spoons till you get a hang of it

    Click here for more pointers and tips to making a great cup of coffee.

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