How to Make Traditional Turkish Coffee
Whether you’ve had it before or are just itching to try some for the first time, learning the traditional Turkish coffee recipe is an easy process.
But, while relatively straightforward to make, what this world-renowned coffee style represents is anything but simple. Turkish coffee is a deeply ingrained part of Turkish culture, with a unique brewing method that is rich in tradition and steeped with meaning.
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1.5 cups filtered water
- 1 tbsp super fine ground coffee
- 1 tsp sugar (optional)
At A Glance
1. Prepare your Ibrik
Add 1½ “cups” of water per cup you are making to the ibrik. These are not measuring cups, though. Instead, use the small cup that will ultimately hold the coffee to measure out the water.
For each cup of coffee you are making, add between one heaping teaspoon and one heaping tablespoon of the coffee grounds, depending on how strong you like it.
Add the sugar to the ibrik, if desired. Stir the coffee and sugar until thoroughly mixed.
2. Place Over Heat
Place the ibrik on your heat source over medium heat. This should be a steady process, not a rapid boil – boiling the coffee will turn it bitter. In a container as small and thin as an ibrik, though, even at a lower heat this should only take a few minutes, so don’t walk away!
3. Remove from Heat
As the coffee approaches a boil, it will begin to form a dense, dark foam on top. Before it comes to a full rolling boil, remove it from the heat and use the spoon to place a small amount of foam in each of the cups. (Think of this as similar to the crema in espresso.)
Return the ibrik to the heat and let it continue until it almost reaches a rolling boil.
After removing the foam, bring the coffee to a boil and remove it from the heat before it boils over. Let it cool for 15 or 20 seconds and then return it to the heat, still full. Do this a third time if stronger coffee is desired. Then pour the coffee very slowly and gently into the cups.
- After pouring from the ibrik into the cups, let the coffee stand a few seconds so that the coffee grounds will begin to settle.
- Don’t forget to serve it with cold water and a sweet treat!
- The quantity of coffee grounds can vary wildly from one recipe to the next. We chose to go with 1 tablespoon per cup of coffee, but others will prefer a heaping teaspoon, while those who are more mathematical about their brewing tend to put it at around 2.5 grams of coffee per 30 ml of water.
- If you like spices in your coffee, you can also make Turkish coffee with cardamom. Simply add ⅛ of a teaspoon of cardamom in along with the sugar.
What is Turkish Coffee? A Little History…
Turkish coffee is one of the most popular international coffees (see this list for more of them). Why is it so popular?
In the Middle East, coffee isn’t just a pick-me-up — it’s a part of life. Coffee is an exceedingly social event that serves to bring people together. It’s a time to bond with friends and family.
One of the most significant Middle Eastern nations to create their own distinct “coffee culture” was, and still is, Turkey. Sometimes called Arabic coffee, countries throughout the eastern Mediterranean have their own variations on the basic recipe. You can also find essentially the same preparation in Ethiopia, which is after all the birthplace of coffee.
Watch Steven from Home Grounds brew Turkish coffee in this video:
But in Turkey, coffee is integrated into life everywhere you look. The grounds are used to tell the future.
The Turkish word for breakfast is Kahvaltı, which literally means “before coffee” (1). Hell, the first coffee house on record even opened up in Constantinople in the mid-16th century!
By 1565, Turkish coffee was brought to the island of Malta. Within a hundred years, coffee spread throughout Europe; the oldest cafe in Paris, Le Procope, was founded in 1686 and served luminaries such as Voltaire, Robespierre, and even Napoleon Bonaparte. Not your typical coffee shop by modern standards!
In Turkey, coffee is king. And while Turkish cuisine varies from region to region, from fresh seafood on the Bosphorus and the Black Sea to the richly seasoned meat stews from central Anatolia, coffee remains a vital and vibrant part (2) of Turkish culture to this day.
Tradition states that after the guest has consumed the coffee and the cup is turned upside down on the saucer and allowed to cool, the hostess then performs a fortune reading from the coffee grounds remaining in the cup.
Just don’t call a Turkish coffee Greek coffee in front of a Turk. They won’t be happy.
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How to Serve Turkish Coffee
The traditions that surround Turkish coffee rely heavily on the equipment, the process used to make it, and the way that it’s served.
The Ibrik Coffee Pot
The coffee maker used to brew Turkish coffee is perhaps the most unique part of the process. The Turkish coffee pot is called either an ibrik or a cezve. It is small, wide-bottomed, and has a long handle coming off of the side, often at an upward angle. It is also the brewer used for making mirra coffee, a style of coffee that’s popular in southeastern Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. In Greece, where they drink very similar coffee, this pot is called a briki.
Ibriks come in different sizes, from single-serving brewers that hold around 75 ml, all the way up to 350 ml or more.
One Lump or Two?
Okay, lumps of sugar might seem more appropriate for a post on tea in England, but Turkish coffee can also be consumed with sugar (and often is). To be a good host, you will want to ask how much sugar each drinker wants (3) (cubes, not tablespoons of sugar) with the standard choices being as follows:
- “Sade”: No sugar
- “Az sekerli”: minimal sugar, less than a teaspoon
- “Orta sekerli”: a modest amount, 1-2 teaspoons of sugar
- “Sekerli”: very sweet, 3-4 teaspoons of sugar
Turkish Coffee Cups
Standard Turkish coffee cups are small cups made of thin porcelain in order to keep the brew warm for as long as possible. This is also why some cups come with a copper cup holder and a lid. Turkish cups are an integral part of enjoying Turkish brewed coffee.
How to Serve the Coffee
Apart from the actual coffee, traditionally you will want to have a glass of room temperature water with each cup. This allows the person to cleanse their palate before drinking the coffee. In addition to the coffee and the water, you may also want to include a sweet treat, like a pastry, cookie, candy… or you can even stay on theme and get some Turkish delight!
When serving the coffee itself give it to the eldest guest in the room first as a sign of respect. And traditionally the youngest girl in the family takes everyone’s orders, brews, and serves the coffee.
Hopefully, by now you’ve realized that the cup of coffee in your hand, while sweet and simple to make, is more than just a typical cup of joe.
Apart from its strong, unique tasting notes, Turkish coffee represents an entire world that is infused with tradition and purpose, which makes it an experience that you’ll want to slow down and truly enjoy. If you’ve tried the recipe yourself, leave your thoughts and comments.
If you’re interested in another type of coffee from another country, why not try Cuban coffee? Here’s our guide on how to make Cuban coffee.
You can find them in many places online, such as Turkish Coffee World (4). As always, Amazon is also a good place to shop prices.
This is the traditional way and will ensure that you make the coffee correctly. They are inexpensive to purchase and are small and light to ship! Not to mention, they can make for beautiful culinary decorations. However, if you want to make the coffee without investing in the equipment, read on to the next question.
Opinions are all over the place on this one, as it isn’t the recommended or authentic method. Making Turkish coffee without an ibrik also takes away the control you have over the boiling elements and foam in the taller, thinner ibrik shape. However, if you’re feeling confident, and not too worried about authenticity, you can make this style of coffee with most heat-resistant containers, such as a small saucepan.
While this kind of coffee isn’t always available at local grocery stores, it’s worth checking. You can also get many popular Turkish coffee brands online, such as Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. As far as a good roast, a darker roast, such as French roast, is generally recommended in order to give the coffee a bolder presence in the cup.
Technically you can, but because of its extremely fine grind, most simply purchase it pre-ground. However, if you’re hardcore about your coffee and want to grind your favourite coffee beans yourself, make sure you get the best Turkish coffee grinder!
The foam naturally forms as you heat the coffee. Just make sure to share it evenly amongst all participants, as that is an important part of the Turkish coffee experience. Don’t mistake this foam with a coffee bloom – these are not the same thing.
It is meant to be drunk slowly, in small sips, over a long period of time. If you drink it too quickly, you’ll get a mouthful of grinds from the bottom of the cup. Getting a second cup is a rarity!
To the bottom of the cup! Drink it slowly to give them time to settle, and don’t drink the dregs unless you want a mouthful of grounds! The layer of mud at the bottom of a cup of Turkish coffee is far, far thicker than the silt at the bottom of a cup from a French press.
Some people add milk, although it is not too common or typically recommended. The classic, untampered-with flavours that make up Turkish coffee are generally restricted to the water and coffee, with sugar or some spices as optional components.
- Art of Wayfaring, A. (n.d.). What is? Kahvaltı (breakfast). Retrieved from https://artofwayfaring.com/understanding-turkey/kahvalti-turkish-breakfast/
- Sansal, B. (n.d.). Turkish coffee. Retrieved from https://www.allaboutturkey.com/coffee.html
- Brosnahan, T. (n.d.). Turkish Coffee. Retrieved from https://turkeytravelplanner.com/details/Food/TurkishCoffee.html
- Turkish Coffee World. (n.d.). https://www.turkishcoffeeworld.com. Retrieved from https://www.turkishcoffeeworld.com/default.asp