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South Indian Filter Coffee

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A recent question posted here by Geetha about Indian coffee has left me very curious. It appears that although much of India is traditionally a tea drinking culture, there is a strong tradition of coffee drinking in Southern India.

Thus far I've found only this information about the brewing device

Indian Coffee Filter

The description indicates that the "davras" is a two part stainless steel assembly with a mushroom shaped filter in the upper portion. The lower portion is used to collect the brewed coffee. It's unclear to me whether the entire davras sits on a heat source and pushes boiling water up and then down through the filter (as with moka coffee or American stove top and electric percolators) or whether it's simply some sort of drip device. Can any of you shed light on this?

I also found reference to the desired coffee types as "Arabica from the Chikmanglur and Nilgiris mountain ranges and Robusta grown in the lower, more humid areas of Malabar, Salem, Coorg, etc.". India is known for growing some of the world's best Robusta coffee but very little of it makes it to the US market. Suggestions (these came from a variety of sources) also include roasting to a fairly dark level, even with the Robusta beans (which are not typically roasted extremely dark as it increases their bitterness).

Here in the US I can obtain Kappie Royale Robusta, Coelho's Gold Monsooned Malabar AA, Pearl Mountain Peaberry, Mysore "Nuggets" and perhaps one or two other varieties. Is South Indian style coffee best made from a blend, as is often the case with espresso coffee, or do people typically make it from a coffee of a single varietal origin?

To add to the confusion.... some people recommend that for those in the US market wishing to duplicate the characteristics of South Indian drip coffee, it is advised to used roasted chicory mixed with the coffee in a ratio of 30% chicory to 70% coffee. Apparently the chicory-coffee blend has been popular in South India for quiet some time but many discerning Indian coffee drinkers are now advising to just use 100% coffee with no chicory. India produces some very high quality coffee and I can see the wisdom of dispensing with the chicory.

Finally... there is the question of the milk. Is it scalded on the stovetop by boiling or is simply heating it to the simmering point sufficient? I have seen reference to a technique whereby one pours the "decoction" (the concentrated brewed coffee that has collected in the bottom of the davras after dripping through) into a cup or glass and then adding the heated milk with sugar. the mixture is then poured back and forth between two glasses until a certain frothiness is achieved. Is this procedure typical and does it impart a better mouthfeel quality to the milk by introducing air or in your opinion is it really just for show? (not that there's anything wrong with that).

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you cant negotiate on the chicory corruption. somehow, what is basically adulteration turned out to be delicious(and might i add, an acquired taste). it *is* addictive. as someone who has spent precious moments of irretrivable childhood waiting in coffee shops for coffee beans to be roasted and ground(grandmother insisted that we always WATCH as the coffee guy measures the blend...he could mess up and bring ruin upon The Ritual, you know), i can tell you that its all about blends. if i remember right, it was peaberry (there were two varieties in peaberry itself..i forget) and then robusta...and yea, the staggeringly high levels of chicory. dont get me wrong. its truly horrendous and almost obscene, this high chicory content, yet, thats what makes the filter coffee so beloved to the south indians. and the filter system drips the coffee really ..REALLY...slowly. the instant coffee craze didnt have a prayer in south india.

how it works? two compartments. it takes forever to get the 'thick' decoction(read as black coffee so strong that you can cut it with a knife) from the upper deck with tiny holes to the lower one. its such a simple device and i have never been able to figure out what it is that makes filter coffee different. its important that you cover the top compartment..or the aromas escape. maybe the steam from the closed upper compartment that makes the percolated coffe better

the milk. it has to be steaming hot. preferably scalded over the stove with that thin skin of cream over it. no self respecting south indian will have his coffee milk anyother way. simmer the milk? i laugh on your face, sir. the sugar is already present in the lower compartment so that the dripping decoction combines with the sugar. all you need to do is add the milk. the drinking equipment is key. a 'davara' and a 'tumbler'...which is basically a lipped stainless steel cup and a tall, lipped stainless steel tallish cup. you add milk to the sweetened coffee and then..mind you, only those blessed by the coffee fairy can do this right....you pour the coffee from davara to the tumbler and you got to keep increasing the distance between the davara and the tumbler and bring it back again, decreasing the distance now, before the entire liquid has been transferred...all in one movement..then you repeat...tumbler>davara...davara>tumbler. you may think i am pulling your leg, but filter coffee lovers will insist that there is something about this process that makes the coffee special...surely, it doesnt make sense, right? i am guessing that 1.it cools down the really hot liquid quickly. 2. it builds that nice airy foam top that is oh-so-attractive.3. it gives out an aroma that causes coffee lovers to curl their toes and moan..probably increases the appeal and anticipation of The Ritual. hence, this step is crucial.

i have tried to keep the brown stuff away from me all my life because it truly scares me. imagine, if you can, that your entire family is addicted to crack and you see adults, authority figures whom you trust, follow and obey, literally whimpering if they are denied what they call their ambrosia...it was scary. i have always been curious about coffee, but i purposefully forbidden myself to try it. to keep denying myself gives me pleasure. a sense of victory. convoluted? maybe. its like your college mates are all having a ball puffing pot and you resolutely stay 'clean'. yea, kinda pathetic, lame and anal, but hey! it rocks my boat. oddly, NOT having coffee gives me as much pleasure as OD'ing on it gave my family their daily high...

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to keep denying myself gives me pleasure

I think between that and laughing in my face when I mention simmering the milk... you must be one of the happiest folks on earth :biggrin:

Thank you, lalitha, for that wondrous and very personal recounting of the entire process, not to mention the priceless mental picture I have of otherwise staid and repsonsible adults whimpering for their filter coffee "fix" :laugh:

The bits of information I've been able to glean from web sites do imply that the pouring ritual has a distinct effect on the milk texture - makes sense.

As for the filter mechanism, it sounds much likek the little contraption thast is used to make Vietnmese "espresso" coffee. Tiny holes, a filter that screws down onto and compacts the coffee and a very slow dripping process.

Are there Indian restaurants here in the US, perhaps in areas like Edison NJ, that might serve this coffee?

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When I first posed to ask about my interest of finding out about my old home coffee here I was convinced there really was something about my experiencing eG to my innermost level of perfecting things about food habits, I've been inspired by this group not only to look out for similarities in others of my likes and togetherness, but also know tht differences make a lot fun to learn about, therefore I am no longer ashamed of affliction for my home coffee here its these things that make our lives interesting and worthwhile :wub:

I have found in my recent searching that the coffee I took for so granted from home was one of the uniques to be grown to perfection amidst crops of spices of cinnamon pper, and a lot of other spices so it makes for a richness, and also by fortune they p[erfected the method of drying it to perfection in the gorgeous sunshine of south..

It is not sad at all to me that others have not discovered it yet, for it is the next step for others too those deserving coffee lovers here..

I have grown in a house that respects the inputs from scientific studies that almost like the changes of wind changes from like or dislike coffee, and so have we followed the checquered route from so many turns.. But since my mother starting using good coffe starting with the sunrise instant coffee then the ultimate revealing of coffee world to us through the amalgamation coffee groups Coffee Day store which sold the pure roasts done in front of us with our choices of the blends and the required percentages of peaberry and robusta ( may be A too) we have been enjoying the two a day coffee break, insisting that coffee is not good for our health at the same time liking our preference nad enjoying it within our limits of pursuit of health..

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I having looked at your posts am very impressed with the know how here. I would like to say all this has helped reveal the options to take to obtain this taste for sure back.

I am trying to acquire the filterr from the same like that you've mentioned phaelon, thanks

When I visited our friends in chicago they were using melitta coffe beans and coffee filter, they used the MW for heating milk I found it was skim milk they were using.. all these have lead me on to experiment a lot, I am unhappy with my current mixed state. I think I will get to know more when I do get a filter and find out for myself if it is the milk or ist it the beans for sure or is it the contraption, bye until then ha..

Any inputs are welcome too before I go for my trials for "coffee happiness"

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I enjoy drip coffee made with a Melitta cone and paper filter (it is indeed my favorite method of making drip coffee other than vacuum pot) but I don't think it will come close to achieveing the concentrated nature of the decoction that comes from the davras. If you should by chance have a good Vietnamese restaurant nearby, I suggest trying Vietnamese style espresso with sweetened condensed milk (most often served over ice but some drink it hot). I believe it to have the thick and concentrated nature of the South Indian filter coffee and the sweet nature of the condensed milk probably has some resemblance to the milk with added sugar that you're familiar with. I respectfulluy suggest that non-fat or skim milk has no place in coffee drinks. 1% can be tolerable and 2% or whole is better. I prefer to drink better qquality coffee with smaller amounts of milk rather than have drinks with lots of skim milk.

I also take an occasional break from coffee but never for more than a few days as I enjoy it so much and to date no one has advised me of any ill effects (granted I do not usually consume more than two double espresso's or two cups of coffee in any given day).

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  • 1 month later...

:angry::blink: For a long time I've awaited so surely I'm not hooked to coffee or tea for that matter.. It is like an appreciation of all things good for me ..

I got a pack of coffee and the filter from the web site above and brewed it to my ultimate tasting satisfaction but wait I still have not got to the original form of coffee taste I liken to but there is a bright chance I will if I continue to search out in the meantime I'm awhile in coffee heaven.

Thanks phaelon for your encouraging endeavour.

I just used the filter coffee equipment and poured in the hot water on top part of the filter and it percolated through the tablet of coffe beneath the mushroom shaped press, down to another compartment down below separated from the above by a thin wall with tiny holes in it to let the brew drip through or percolate through.. and I let the whole liquid on top to get percolated down and poured a portion of this liquid to my mug and added required sugar and added boiled milk to this and sifted this mixture back and forth on to and back from another container with maximum spillage on the way back and forth so I ended up 3/4 cup full with remaining froth on the other part on top It tastes really good and amazingly very similar to the best restaurant coffee from home.

The type of milk is not a very important factor I am using the 2% and the parmalat skim milk is good too but I haven't used it recently.

Now I still need to get it like my home wig-ch has more developed flavours like the ones acheived through artificial syrups else where.. by exploring or askingsamples from home may be I will get to the ultimate point but then I'll keep experimenting other means to get it done ;)


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Geetha - I'm glad to see that you're making progress! Just don't give the results to any three year olds to drink or they'll end up like Tryska! (on second thought... maybe you should do that because tryska is a very cool person indeed :biggrin: )

What kind of coffee did you use?

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What kind of coffee did you use?

:blink: I :rolleyes: still am looking for the blend right like my home for the coffee, but I have tried the coffee from the web site you have mentioned it is called their blend I forgot what exactly it is called in terms of the type ie robusta or the other one Arabica

I do want to elongate this discussion to find out how can I try out more coffee types both from US and from India.. cause I have just got started now I clearing some groud by getting hold of basics so I indeeed will appreciate any kind of input on coffee varieties around the globe.

I wonder how the parameters of an Indian coffee bean should translate into the standards in the US for instance there are two basic parameters for classification of the beans from India namely the flavour (I thing it is equivalent to syrups being used by say Starbucks for making white chocolate mocha where as this flavour of the beans is original to some of the coffe beans itself in India) and second parameter of classification of the beans is the color they impart to the coffee

Where as here in US the coffe is classified on various different parameters totally different from those in India, and it woul be really a clue for me if I had a knowledge to translate smooth mild ets into flavour and color aspects.

I did make and interesting note that when I drink coffe based in US they are more stimulating to the right brain and when I did in India they did stimulate a lot different experience there was a wholeness to it.. I guess on both sides of the brain and along the center along the forehead and temple too :laugh::hmmm:

I think there is more to it than personal preference do you think there are ways o determining this by the list of parameters.

I have tried a lot brands here but not from any local roasters or small exclusive firms may be that is where the answer lies then. But before I go ahead I do hope you'll pun in a word as to how I can translate those into the parameters I am loooking for namely taste and color( color is usually given by all of the manufacturers it is flavour part I can't fanthom)

Great to hear from you :wub:

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Oops I just forgot to mention the names of the coffe in detail I sis want to do it ..

I have had many of the espresso and columbia coffee from the starbucks packs off the shelves of supermarkets and also Folger

Starbucks is the one I'm still holding on to because there is opportunity of changeing a to a different variety and it is better than the other packaged coffe on the shelves.

I got a package from this web site cafe navilu which is the link you've mentioned it is goot too, for the moment.

I guess that is all I have on at the moment of writine..

I have not used starbucks for Indian filter or devara but I have used the cafe navilu's coffee on the Indian filter which is surprisingly good

I still think that drip coffee filter suits that starbucks rather and there is another taste variation taht I like about that too.

I hope based on these you can guide me on to other places of importance I would like to go further anyday.

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I have been fortunate to have been able to enjoy drinking coffee in many countries around the world, often in street stalls as well as restaurants and private homes. I personally feel that some of the worst coffee's are being served at many chain restaurants in the USA and England. It's gotten better the last 10 years, but still I generally take my coffee and Melitta with me on all trips since I enjoy my morning coffee, that tastes like coffee.

For years I ordered a custom blend of dark roasted coffee's from "Peets Coffee", the originators of the type of dark roasted brought to Starbuck's by their Coffee Roaster, whom is now a the principal of Peets.

In the 1990's I started enjoying the Ice and Hot Filter Dripped Coffee served at various Vietnamese Restaurant's, Deli's and Pho places in Seattle and found that I liked the taste better then my custom blends. It was actually better then the Coffee that was served in Saigon. Tracking down the source I was surprised that all the better places were serving coffee from New Orleans, "Café Du Monde" from the French Market packaged pre-ground in 15 ounce tins. This is a blend of Coffee with Chicory.

I now drink this regularly but making it in a Melita Filter I use 13 ounces of Coffee in a # 6 Melita Filter to make about 2 quarts of Coffee. This takes some time as it drips slowly but it is what I enjoy, when I serve it to anyone else I add lots of hot water.

But bringing this back to the topic of, "South Indian Filter Coffee". during the last 5 years I have introduced this Coffee to many local Seattle area Indian Families who are now enjoying a close approximation of the Coffee they enjoyed at home, with a happy grin on their faces.

Often when anyone visits the New Orleans area they return with different brands of Coffee/Chicory Blends, but for price and consistency the "Café Du Monde" is still the best.

I have been optimistic that since Vietnam is now the second largest Coffee growing country in the World that they would export a Superior Dark Roasted Coffee/Chicory Blend but with over 10/12 Vietnam Coffee's for sale at Asian Grocers none even come close.

One thing I observed in India was that many places served Coffee, but it was generally different at each spot and many seemed to use sweetened condensed milk.


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Hi all,

I was in India for a few months in 2002,and while in Karnataka had several cups of brewed coffee (after a 3 month hiatus!) in a restaurant. The coffee was excellent but what made me laugh was that it had been prepared "bush style". I watched the waiter heat water and freshly ground beans in a pot that was on full blast heat. He probably boiled it for 5 minutes and then mixed a little buffalo milk into it. Delicious!

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  • 2 weeks later...
Geetha - I'm glad to see that you're making progress!  Just don't give the results to any three year olds to drink or they'll end up like Tryska!  (on second thought...  maybe you should do that because tryska is a very cool person indeed  :biggrin:  )

hey now! :hmmm: i'm glad you added that qualifier. Actually i think the coolness (some may call it quirkiness) was brought on by my dad giving me french roast for breakfast when i was in high school. utterly inappropriate, but it tastes really good no matter what time of day.

Wow tryska  :raz: however did you remember it was it so good then :))

I will very certainly make my kids some of that I think they will like it too ;)

Well it was my first exposure i think. ANd it was a one time thing, but i remember the ritual and the smell and the taste of lots of cream and sugar, being very unlike amachi's morning ovaltine. :raz:

Edited by tryska (log)
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  • 2 months later...

:biggrin: phaelon long since I got back with my reports :cool: of coffee trials

I've been just about satisfied with the experience from coffee both at two roasters that I've tried so far, definitely far better from starbucks or any store bought ones so far.

The first one I've already mentioned from the link that you mentioned, second from stumptown.

I have found that my satisfaction is due to both the flavour and freshness in both of them.

Instead of comparing two of them I'd say that they are unique. There is also the consideration that I like to drink both with a lot of milk, 3/4 th and sugar.

I'm sure everyone has their preferences and would find differe4nt opinions from mine if I were to say this is better than the other one. So I would like to comment both the roasters are rather good mm... :wacko::wink:

I don't know what else to say but that there is a different effect to coffee if you use a filter like the one used by south indians to prep your coffee than the other coffee filters and the result is a different cup of coffee essentially. And the quality of the beans matters too, can't be just any beans..

Also it takes you ona journey of flavours far beyond my capacity of description. If I say spicy then I cannot tell you what is spice there .. so I say there is hidden but special flavour. Like a far off wiff of magic ..from afar.. amazing how flavours can be transported from far off to you :wub:

I'mgoing on my journey.. see you all soon there where you find your true coffee flavour

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Nice to hear from you again Geetha. We appreciate the updates. Stumtpown Roasters is indeed very good - they actually have a national reputation despitebeing a regional roaster.

Check with them to see if they have or can make for you a blend that has mostly Indian coffee but in particular try to get one that includes Monsooned Malabar. It has a unique spiciness and a sort of musty fruitiness that is, to me, unique among coffees. It's a bit much by itself but wonderful in blends. The same is true for some of us in egards to Yemeni coffees such as Moka Ismaili, Moka Harrar and Moka Mattari. They have a wild, winey spiciness that is unique and makes them very good in blends.

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Coincidentally, the "Ultimate India" episode of Globe Trekker last night (PBS travel show) featured a very brief segment on South Indian coffee. The pouring ritual, as described so well above, was remarkable to watch; the speed and dexterity of the coffeemaker spoke of highly developed skills.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Coincidentally, the "Ultimate India" episode of Globe Trekker last night (PBS travel show) featured a very brief segment on South Indian coffee.  The pouring ritual, as described so well above, was remarkable to watch; the speed and dexterity of the coffeemaker spoke of highly developed skills.

:wub: Ghostrider I was thinking of an outline of what it was that keeps me attached to coffee from home(method and beans), Icame up with these three pertinent points:

* Beans quality(preferrably from those bounteous hillsof malabar since I sure there is majic there :smile: )

* milk (still continuing to experiment)

* Athi-fying (in tamil English) the process you mention above is truly unique to generate the ultimate outcome interms of flavour in the just right emphasis of all the other elements other than the beans (air water caesin..)

Love to hear from others who ever tried to see what this pouring does to effect the outcome

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Nice to hear from you again Geetha. We appreciate the updates.  Stumtpown Roasters is indeed very good - they actually have a national reputation despitebeing a regional roaster.

The same is true for some of us in egards to Yemeni coffees such as Moka Ismaili, Moka Harrar and Moka Mattari.  They have a wild, winey spiciness that is unique and makes them very good in blends.

I'm going to try them too as you say blends are good. I've one called Morning Joe from my gourmet coffee section of grocery, and what can I say its really good if you have everything right interms of freshness, milk :unsure: (though there is good reason to believe that the milk used at home in India might be homogenized), and the right mood for the right outcome:wink:

So I might be trying some blends in the future

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