Turkish coffee is a unique brewing method that dates back to the 16th century, making it perhaps the oldest style of brewing coffee that’s still used today. The ancient Turkish proverb describes traditional the coffee perfectly: “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love.” The following is a guide to making this intense and luscious beverage.
Equipment and Supplies
You will need the following items to make Turkish coffee:
- an ibrik
- a heat source
- fresh coffee
- a grinder (highly recommended)
- a metal spoon
Turkish coffee is brewed in an ibrik. Also called cezves, ibriks are small pots that have a wide base and narrow neck. Some necks have one spout for pouring, and others have two. Traditionally, ibriks are made out of copper, although manufacturers also make stainless steel models today. Ibriks are available in a variety of sizes, ranging from 1 cup to 6 or 8 cups, but these cups are only 90 milliliters (about 3 ounces).
You will also need a heat source. Ibriks were traditionally heated on the hot sands of the Middle East. Unless you’re making a trip there soon, we recommend using your stove. Both gas and electric stovetops work.
Turkish coffee can be made with coffee of any roast level, but it’s important that the coffee you use is fresh. The brewing process relies heavily on a foaming phenomenon (detailed below), and the gasses in fresh coffee help produce foam. Stale coffee that’s fully degassed won’t produce nearly as much foam, which is the best part of a cup of Turkish coffee.
For optimal flavor, you should also grind the coffee yourself, immediately before brewing it. Turkish coffee is made using the finest of all grind settings — even finer than espresso. The grounds should be like a smooth powder. If you don’t have a grinder that has a Turkish grind setting, there are manual mills specifically made for Turkish coffee. These may be less expensive than a conical burr grinder that has a fine enough setting.
You will also need sugar. Old recipes sometimes include other spices, such as cardamom or anise. These spices were used to mask poor quality coffee, though. If you have freshly roasted, recently ground coffee that’s decent, you shouldn’t be using any additives other than sugar. (Note that the Turkish proverb doesn’t mention anything about milk. If your guests ask for cream, be a generous host or hostess. For the authentic Turkish coffee experience, though, forgo any milk for yourself.)
Finally, you’ll need a metal spoon. Any metal spoon will do, but a traditional Turkish tea spoon is slightly smaller than standard teaspoons. Turkish spoons used for making coffee measured 1 centimeter by 0.5 centimeters. Keep this in mind if your ibrik didn’t come with a spoon, as the “tea spoons” below refer to a Turkish tea spoon. If you don’t have a traditional Turkish tea spoon, use just under 1 teaspoon for every tea spoon in the brewing directions.
Brewing Turkish Coffee
Brewing Turkish coffee is easy, but it’s important to never leave the coffee unattended. The coffee needs to foam, but not spill over or boil. There’s a fine line between a perfectly brewed Turkish coffee and a huge mess on your stovetop, and taking your eyes off of the ibrik for just one moment could be the difference between the two outcomes.
To make authentic Turkish coffee, simply follow these steps:
- Add the sugar to the ibrik according to taste. Sade is no sugar. Orta is a medium amount of sugar, about one Turkish tea spoon (see above) per cup (90 milliliters). Sekerli is sweet, two tea spoons of sugar per cup.
- Fill the ibrik up to the bottom of the neck with cold water. The water should be up to, but not into, the neck of the ibrik. (You can’t make a half-pot of Turkish coffee; the water needs to reach the neck.)
- Once the sugar is dissolved, add the coffee. 2 heaping Turkish tea spoons of coffee should be used for every cup. The coffee grounds should float on the water — don’t stir them!
- Slowly heat the ibrik. Don’t ever leave it unattended, even for a second!
- The grounds will start to foam up, but they shouldn’t boil. The foam should be small and dense. This foam is delicious and the most favored part of Turkish coffee. Boiling will destroy all the precious foam. If your coffee boils, clean up the mess and start over.
- When the foam reaches the neck of the ibrik, remove the ibrik from the heat and use the spoon to “stir down” the foam.
- Once you’ve stirred down the foam, repeat Steps 4 through 6.
- After you’ve stirred down the foam a second time, repeat Steps 4 and 5. Don’t stir down the foam this time.
- The coffee is ready to serve. Pour into cups, quickly pouring at first so that the foam pours out and then pouring slowly. Don’t pour out the final drops, as grounds will have settled on the bottom.
- Pair your Turkish coffee with a glass of water, which is the traditional way to serve it.
If you’ve not had Turkish coffee before, it’s unlike any other brewing method. Find an ibrik and try it out. For more brewing guides on unique ways to make coffee, be sure to follow us on Twitter.