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I learned how to make Turkish coffee when I was a kid. I looked over my mom’s shoulder, and I picked it up fast. When I asked my mom if I could brew her a cup, she was a little unsure at first, as I was a little too young for drinking coffee, but I said that I only wanted to make it, and not drink it. She let me do it, and in no time I was declared the master brewer of the family. I grew up in Eastern Europe, and to this day coffee prepared this way is one of the preferred brewing methods there.
Traditionally, Turkish coffee is prepared in a cezve, (called ibrik in North America and many European countries). The history is not very clear if the Turks invented this brewing method or not, but they certainly made it very popular.
Greeks prepare it the same way, and they call it Greek coffee, the whole Middle East brews coffee the same way and it’s called Arabic coffee, or Lebanese coffee.
You can call it however you want, the coffee gets prepared the same way, with small variations, such as adding various spices. More about this next…
What Are the Best Beans for Turkish Coffee
You can use any coffee beans you want with this brewing method. Traditionally, the African coffee is used, but modern times have brought Brazilian beans everywhere. I personally like to use high quality Brazilian beans for my Turkish cup. My absolute favorite beans are a blend of Ethiopian Harar, (medium-light) and Brazilian such as Bourbon Santos or Brazil Cerrado, (medium-dark). The have their unique subtle earthy flavor, and with lighter roasts, these are preserved in the bean and passed onto your brew.
Turkish Coffee Roast
If we refer exclusively at Turkish coffee, the medium-dark roast is the most commonly used. Historically, darker roasts were employed by the Turkish roasters. Lighter roasts are very common with Arabic coffee and Greek coffee. The roast ranges from cinnamon all the way up to Full City and Vienna.
When using light roasts, the coffee beans have to be of a high quality. Otherwise, your beverage will pick up the bad flavors. Coffee beans with a strong acidity are not great with this brewing method, as they will impart too much acidity to your final cup. My personal favorite with Turkish coffee, is a medium-dark roast.
Grinding for Turkish Coffee
The uniqueness of Turkish coffee is given by the exceptionally very fine grind size. The ground coffee is milled into a powder. This ensures a very fast extraction time, the fastest extraction possible. It also facilitates a better dissolution of the soluble solids, which give Turkish coffee its distinctive body.
The domestic electric burr grinders are not capable of grinding Turkish size, because their motor is not strong enough for the huge force needed. Grinders that are advertised as such will give you a fine grind, but not the real thing. Real Turkish coffee grind can be obtained with either commercial machines or manual grinding machines. You have to do some manual grinding, but it is worth the effort. Read this article for more tips on grinding Turkish coffee.
Some Arabic coffee recipes call for coarsely ground coffee. Greek coffee uses in its recipe the finest grind, while Turkish uses just a slightly coarser grind.
Turkish Coffee Profile – How Does it Taste?
If you wonder what to expect from a cup of Turkish, or Greek coffee, (exactly the same recipe), let me tell you, it doesn’t look, or taste like any other coffee you drank. The beverage is very dark, and you can see it’s a strong coffee. There is no considerably more caffeine in a cup brewed this way, but there are more soluble solids and more coffee oils than in any other brewing method.
The classic recipe calls for sugar, and this is the way most of the people will drink it. However, I have friends who drink it black. I like mine a little sweet.
The taste of a classic Turkish coffee is a little on the bitter side, but if you tweak your brewing parameters, you can avoid that. Some people like to compare it with espresso, and it has some of the espresso attributes, but the brightness of espresso is missing with this brewing type.
The lack of pressure during extraction provide you with a more dulled profile, but very tasty, nonetheless. The taste and the aroma are closer to a French press brew if you want, but more flavorful. The extra flavor and aroma are enhanced because of the very fine grind. The fine grind allows more sugars, oils and other solids to pass into the coffee. The beverage is very thick, and it is a strong coffee. Turkish coffee has the highest TDS among all coffee brewing methods. The foam on top and the deep black color fo the coffee make it easy to recognise.
A Greek, or Arabic, or Turkish coffee will fill up with aroma large spaces. In fact, my wife brews a cup in the weekend mornings knowing that the smell coming from the kitchen downstairs will wake me up. It is the best way to be awakened. The smell only gets me a little caffeinated, if you can believe that.
Arabic coffee is a twist on Turkish coffee. The change is the addition of various finely ground spices to obtain a nice aroma. Traditionally, there are no spices in a Turkish or a Greek, or an Eastern European coffee. The spices used with Arabic coffee are cardamom or saffron most usually. Other spices used are cloves or rose water. The ratio is three parts ground coffee to one part cardamom, but you can tweak this to your taste.
Properly prepared, a Turkish coffee is a strong beverage, with a full body. It is a dense beverage, saturated with soluble solids. It is stronger than most other brewing techniques but does not contain more caffeine. The popular belief is that a Turkish coffee will make you jittery, as too much espresso does. In reality, Turkish coffee does not give you jitters unless of course, you drink three cups at once. However, if you boil Turkish coffee, as with some recipes, it will have more caffeine. The longer you boil it the more caffeine will dissolve into your cup. However, boiled coffee tastes bad.
Mehmet Efendi Turkish Coffee
You can try this ground Turkish coffee. Although I am not very very fond of pre-ground coffee because it goes stale easier than the beans, you can at least try this authentic Turkish coffee, to see how fine you need the grind.
The can is very small so coffee doesn’t have the time to go stale after opening. The relatively tight lid will keep the ground beans safe from the environment.
Traditionally Brewing Turkish Coffee on Hot Sand – Video
The video below shows how is Turkish coffee prepared traditionally, in hot sand, for a better temperature control and transfer. However, we can’t have that setup at home, so just follow the instructions below and you’ll make delicious coffee.
Automatic Turkish Coffee Maker
Brewing Turkish coffee is not hard, but if you don't have the right equipment you can't do it. A gas stove is the best, because the burner is not very hot, compared to an electric stove. A great alternative is the Turkish coffee maker, which has a perfectly calibrated burner, so the coffee is brewed at the right temperature.
With a few amazing innovations, Beko is taking coffee preparation to another level. All aspects of Turkish brewing are taken into consideration, to ensure hands-free operation, and a delicious cup, as good as the traditional way, if not better. Read here my Beko review.
How to Make Turkish Coffee Step by Step
The best Turkish coffee is brewed at low temperatures, under 160 degrees Fahrenheit, (70 degrees Celsius). The objective is to maintain the froth that forms at around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The froth is delicious, and it imparts your coffee a special taste and texture. But make sure you don’t destroy the froth also helps you brew at a low temperature, which prevents aromatic oils to evaporate at higher temperatures. So here my 8 steps brewing guide for Turkish coffee.
Measure the water for the number of servings you need, and pour it into the brewing pot. I brew an 8 oz mug for myself, and I use an ibrik.
Measure the water for the number of servings you need, and pour it into the brewing pot. I brew an 8 oz mug for myself, and I use an ibrik.
Place the brewing pot on the stove and turn the knob up to maximum, until the water heats up.
Add sugar to the hot or cold water.
I use about one and a half teaspoons for my 8 oz mug, but I have seen people who like it sweeter than that. Do not stir the sugar yet, just let the water warm up.
When the water starts to warm up, add 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee to each 8 oz of water.
Stir in to make all the ground coffee saturate with water.
This ensures a uniform and complete brew. Also, make sure there are no clumps after you stir.
When the ground coffee starts to sink turn down the heat to low.
This means the water is hot enough to dissolve soluble solids in your coffee, and you need to avoid overheating your coffee. If you overheat it, you will over extract. With the heat turned down, stir the grounds a few times, until the brew starts to make the foam.
When the coffee just starts to rise and forms a dark ring, it means it is mixed with coffee grounds. The brewing temperature should not raise at all at this point. Stir continuously at this point to make all the fine coffee particles sink, and to encourage the foam to form.
If you use an electric stove, the temperature will still raise, even with the heat turned down. To avoid this, lift the coffee pot just a millimeter off the heating element.
The foam should be very fine, the aspect is similar to the espresso crema, however, the chemical composition is different. It is very important to keep the heat low and not to allow the coffee to raise too much. A high brewing temperature will destroy the foam, and all the volatile compounds that make coffee delicious will vanish.
When the foam is thick enough take it off the stove.
Never boil Turkish coffee, as you will get a bland coffee, very strong, similar to a strong drip. If the foam disappears, your Turkish coffee is not that tasty anymore.
Some More Tips and Tricks
Some recipes on the Internet say that you should raise the coffee 3 times. When you do that, you have more caffeine in your coffee, but the aroma and taste will disappear. So, never let the brew raise more than once. There is also some advice that you should raise the coffee a few times, so the fines in the coffee sink. While the objective of clearing up your cup is achieved, the beverage turns bland and more caffeinated.
As with any brewing method, coffee grounds need to be fresh. Stale coffee will not make a foam and will taste bland.
When you pour it in cups, make sure you pour a little in each cup, so that the foam is shared equally. The foam is the best part of a Turkish cup, and it imparts a distinctive look and flavor to your coffee. Spooning the foam is a common technique. You can spoon the foam while brewing.
Many coffee experts think that coffee continues to brew when poured into cups because the grinds are never removed from the beverage. This is not true, at least not to the extent to cause over-extraction. The brewing temperature is very low, and when removed from the heat, and poured into cups, the temperature drops even more. At these temperatures, there is no extraction anymore.
Many people complain of grounds in their coffee, but if you give the coffee 30 seconds or so, all the grinds will sink at the bottom of the cup. More than that, they will form a compact layer that is not easily disturbed. Just remember to leave the last sip in the cup. Some add a drop of cold water in the freshly brewed cup, to accelerate the grounds sinking. I personally don’t.
Traditionally, Turkish, or Greek, or Arabic coffee, is served on a tray with a glass of water. I drink water with any coffee. People think that the water is meant to cleanse your palate before sipping your beverage. However, the real reason is a health-related one. Because Turkish coffee is strong, it dehydrates you, so drinking a cup of water keeps that in control. Also, the sugar in coffee gives you a little insulin spike, so having a cup of water helps evening out the sugar crash. Furthermore, there is evidence that your pancreas reacts to unsweetened coffee. So, protect yourself and have a glass of water with your coffee.
Turkish Coffee FAQ
What is special about Turkish coffee?
Turkish coffee is prepared with finely ground coffee beans almost a powder, and is served unfiltered.
Is Turkish coffee stronger than regular coffee?
Turkish coffee is stronger because of the increased extraction. Extraction is increased by the particularly fine grind specific to this brewing method.
Is Turkish coffee bad for cholesterol?
Turkish coffee is unfiltered and similarly to espresso and French press contains more coffee oils, particularly kahweol and cafestol which have been proven to increase LDL cholesterol.
Is Turkish coffee high in caffeine?
Turkish, Arabic, and Greek coffee have a lower amount of caffeine than drip coffee, though the serving size of Turkish coffee is 2 ounces, whereas the serving size of drip is around 6 ounces.
Is Turkish coffee better than espresso?
Coffee taste is very subjective, and it changes in time. We tend to need about 1 to 2 weeks to get used to a new coffee roast or brewing method. When we got used to the new coffee we enjoy less the old one.
Do you drink the sediment in Turkish coffee?
No, the sediment stays at the bottom of the cup, and the last sip can be left in the cup in order to avoid disturbing the sludge.
Why do you drink water with Turkish coffee?
Drinking water with Turkish coffee is a healthy custom to compensate for the dehydration caused by the caffeine, and to temper the sugar spike caused by the sweet beverage.
Is Turkish coffee espresso?
No, Turkish coffee is a distinct coffee brewing method. Turkish coffee is an immersion method, whereas espresso is a pressure method.
What is the difference between Arabic coffee and Turkish coffee?
The two coffees are almost identical, some small differences exists depending on the geographical location. Spices are more commonly added to Arabic coffee, and the grind size is sometimes finer for Turkish.
Do you filter Turkish coffee?
No. Turkish, Greek, or Arabic coffee is served unfiltered. However, there are variants where coffee is ground slightly coarser, so that filtering is possible.