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Where the Middle Eastern Arabic traditions meet the European continent there are the origins of humanity as we know it today. From the idyllic Mediterranean coast in the south to the vibrant culture in Istanbul, Turkey is a country that is bursting with culture and history.
The Turkish people are famous for the wonderful tea they serve but this isn’t the only hot drink they have perfected. Coffee shops are common in the big cities and many small towns in Turkey so it comes as no surprise that they have a kind of coffee named after themselves.
Turkish coffee is not your average, regular coffee and the characteristics that brew the perfect cup are not the typical ones we usually go for.
Turkish coffee is made with ultra-fine, powdery ground coffee. This is heated in a small pot until it foams, allowed to cool slightly, and then this is repeated. It makes a very bold, dark, rich cup of coffee that’s not for the faint of heart!
So that’s a quick summary, but what are the origins of Turkish coffee and the main question is ‘how can I make it at home?’
What Is Turkish Coffee?
Turkish coffee is a traditional method of brewing fresh ground coffee that originated in the middle east, Turkey, and surrounding Mediterranean countries. It is brewed in a special kind of coffee pot called a cezve or ibrik where it is repeatedly boiled before serving in a small glass cup called a demitasse.
Coffee in the middle east has a rich history dating back to the Ottoman empire and even earlier. The strictest interpretations of the Quran meant that for a long time coffee was forbidden as it was considered a drug like alcohol. The growing popularity of the drink soon led to the ban being lifted and men would gather in coffee bars after work to socialize and play games.
Turkish coffee, served for guests, is considered a luxury and is typically reserved for very special occasions.
The coffee is brewed in a Turkish coffee pot over medium heat until the water boils. It is quickly removed from the heat and the coffee grounds are scooped away from the surface of the liquid. This process is repeated several times until the brew is complete.
If sugar is desired, this is added during the brewing stage. The coffee is served in a small glass sometimes with a sweet treat on the side like a pastry or piece of Turkish delight. The coffee grounds are not filtered away after brewing and because a very fine grind is used they often remain suspended in the liquid although some will settle to the bottom of the cup.
The grounds are said to add a depth of flavor and texture to the liquid that some people love whereas others hate it.
What Does it Taste Like?
It’s rich and dark like espresso and full-bodied like french press coffee. Turkish coffee is very dark in taste and sometimes bitter. Expect some sediment in your cup as no filter is used to strain the coffee prior to serving it. Your tastebuds will be hit with all the most intense flavor notes from your chosen coffee beans and some people find this to be too intense. Turkish coffee is often balanced by serving it with some sugar to tone down the bitter notes.
To make traditional Turkish coffee at home you will need a Turkish coffee pot, a coffee grinder, and ideally a Turkish coffee cup as well. If you don’t have these to hand then a very small saucepan may work but the taller and thinner it is, the better. If you don’t have a demitasse then small cups or espresso cups can work well.
Start with the Coffee Beans
You can use pre-ground coffee but fresh whole beans always give the best flavor. Similar to cutting up fruit, when you cut up coffee beans they start to go stale straight away. The best option is to weigh out the amount of beans you plan to brew and grind them up just before you brew your coffee.
There’s no traditional type of coffee that’s required for this brewing method so you can use any beans you enjoy best. Arabica beans are usually considered the best for their lighter flavor notes but good quality robusta beans are also fine if you prefer a more intense flavor.
For best results, use filtered water as this ensures a better flavor extraction and less impurities mean less taint to your brewed coffee.
The brew ratio to make a cup of Turkish coffee is 1:12 coffee to water. 12 Ounces of water needs 1-ounce of fresh coffee. It’s always a good idea to weigh your ingredients rather than using a measuring scoop or spoon as digital weighing scales give much more accurate results.
How to Brew – Authentic Turkish Coffee Recipe
Prep Time: 2 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes
Start by adding as much cold water to your cezve as you wish to brew coffee.
Grind up your coffee beans into a very fine powder, the finest possible setting on your grinder.
Place the pot of water on a stovetop over medium heat until it starts to warm slightly.
Now it is time to add the coffee and teaspoon of sugar if using.
Do not stir the pot but keep it on medium heat.
When you notice that the sugar has dissolved and the coffee has sunk to the bottom of the pot, turn the heat source down to low.
Now you should notice a small amount of foam beginning to form.
When you see a ring forming in the coffee remove it temporarily from the heat and replace it once the foam has settled.
Keep repeating this step another 2-3 times but never let the water boil. Turning the heat right down can help you maintain control over this stage of the brewing process.
The idea with Turkish coffee is that the liquid needs to remain calm so that the grounds settle to the bottom. This means avoid stirring it and don’t let the water get so hot that it bubbles.
Some people like to scoop the foam off the top each time it forms and some people say it’s important to leave the foam as it adds flavor. I’d recommend trying it both ways and see which option you prefer!
How to Serve
Using the long handle on the cezve, gently pour the liquid coffee into a demitasse or small glass or cup. Pour the coffee gently so that most of the grounds stay at the bottom of the coffee maker.
You can enjoy your coffee black, with sugar or with a sweet treat like Turkish delight. It’s often a nice touch to serve this strong coffee with a glass of water to cleanse the palate afterward.
When ordering Turkish coffee in Turkey there have different words for the way you can enjoy it.
For unsweetened ask for ‘sade’, for a little sugar ask for az sekerli, for a little more sugar ask for orta șekerli, and for very sweet ask for șekerli.
If you’re visiting a Turkish family then don’t be surprised if everyone turns their cups upside down after the coffee has been finished. There is a coffee culture where the cup is left to dry and then it is used for fortune-telling!
Turkish coffee is a brewing method steeped in history and tradition. It makes an extremely bold cup of coffee that many people love but some folk can’t get on board with. The only way to know which group you belong to is to try it for yourself!
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