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What is Degree Coffee?

    Updated on December 28, 2023

    Coffee is an integral part of many cultures around the world, and its preparation and consumption can vary greatly from one region to another. Two such variations are degree coffee and filter coffee, which are steeped in tradition and have unique characteristics that set them apart. This comparison delves into the nuances of degree coffee, particularly popular in South India, and the more globally recognized filter coffee, examining their taste profiles, preparation methods, caffeine content, and cultural significance.


    The taste of coffee is paramount to enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. Degree coffee, known for its robust flavor, is often made using high-quality Arabica beans, which are favored for their superior taste and aroma. The addition of chicory to the coffee blend is common in South India, imparting a distinct flavor and darker shade to the extracted coffee. Filter coffee, on the other hand, can vary in taste depending on the beans used, the presence of chicory, and the brewing method. The brewing process itself, including the grind size and water temperature, plays a significant role in the flavor extraction from the coffee grounds.

    Preparation Method

    The preparation of degree coffee involves a meticulous process where the first decoction is mixed with high-quality, undiluted milk, often referred to as “degree milk”. This method ensures a strong and concentrated brew. Filter coffee is typically prepared using a drip brewing method, where hot water is passed through coffee grounds contained within a filter, resulting in a different extraction process and flavor profile.

    Caffeine Content

    Caffeine content is a crucial aspect for many coffee drinkers. While the caffeine content in an 8-ounce cup of coffee generally ranges from 80 to 100 milligrams, various factors such as bean type, roast, brewing method, and serving size can affect the final caffeine level. Degree coffee, due to its preparation and the potential inclusion of chicory, may have a different caffeine content compared to standard filter coffee.

    Cultural Significance

    Coffee holds a special place in the cultural fabric of South India, where degree coffee is more than just a beverage; it’s a cherished ritual. The term “degree coffee” itself is derived from the use of pure, undiluted milk, which was historically verified using a lactometer, colloquially referred to as a “degree”. Filter coffee, while enjoyed worldwide, does not have the same cultural connotation but is appreciated for its versatility and adaptability to different tastes and preferences.


    1. What is the difference between degree coffee and filter coffee?
    Degree coffee is a term used in South India for high-quality coffee prepared with milk that was certified as pure with a lactometer, known as “degree milk”. The coffee that was brewed for the first time before mixing with the milk was known as “first degree coffee” because it was very strong. Filter coffee, while similar in preparation, does not necessarily use “degree milk” and can be prepared with various types of milk or even black.

    2. How does the addition of chicory affect the taste of coffee?
    Chicory adds a slightly earthy and nutty flavor to coffee. It is often described as having a woody, bittersweet taste that complements the flavor of coffee. Chicory can make the coffee taste less bitter when consumed in sequence with roasted coffee.

    3. What is the significance of “degree milk” in degree coffee?
    “Degree milk” refers to milk that was certified as pure with a lactometer. In the context of degree coffee, it signifies the use of high-quality, pure milk, which contributes to the rich and authentic taste of the coffee.

    4. Can the caffeine content of coffee be influenced by the brewing method?
    Yes, the caffeine content can vary depending on the brewing method. For example, espresso methods extract the most caffeine due to the fine grind and pressure used, while methods like the French press or pour-over extract less caffeine.

    5. What role does the coffee bean type play in the flavor of coffee?
    The type of coffee bean (Arabica or Robusta) significantly influences the flavor of coffee. Arabica beans are known for their superior taste and aroma, while Robusta beans have a stronger, more bitter flavor.

    6. Is there a difference in caffeine content between degree coffee and filter coffee?
    The caffeine content between degree coffee and standard filter coffee may differ due to the preparation method and the inclusion of chicory in degree coffee, which is caffeine-free.

    7. How does the preparation of degree coffee differ from other brewing methods?
    Degree coffee preparation involves using “degree milk” and a strong first decoction of coffee, which is different from other brewing methods that may not use such high-quality milk or may include second or third decoctions.

    8. Why is degree coffee culturally significant in South India?
    Degree coffee is culturally significant in South India as it represents a cherished ritual and a part of the daily rhythm of life. It is deeply ingrained in the cultural fabric of the region and is more than just a morning beverage.

    9. What factors affect the taste profile of filter coffee?
    The taste profile of filter coffee is affected by factors such as the coffee bean type, roast level, grind size, water temperature, brewing time, and the presence of additives like chicory.

    10. How has the global perception of filter coffee evolved over time?
    The global perception of filter coffee has evolved to appreciate its versatility and adaptability to different tastes and preferences. It is now enjoyed worldwide and is recognized for its unique preparation methods and cultural significance in various regions.