How to make Turkish Coffee


Well after a short lived foray into tea, it’s back to the tried and true original, coffee. Something a little different to my usual home barista shenanigans this time though. In the past, much of my efforts have been focused on preparing and perfecting espresso and milk based drinks. To the extent that I think I’ve been remiss in my attention to other forms of preparing coffee that are equally as rewarding. It’s easy to get excited about a perfect ristretto pour dripping like honey into your cup… but I’ve discovered recently that you can do just fine with nothing more sophisticated than a pot of hot water.

Enter Turkish coffee. Or Lebanese coffee, or Greek Coffee, or Arabic Coffee, or Armenian coffee… they’re all roughly similar, and I’m just using Turkish because it’s perhaps the best known. Long before Mr Gaggia pulled together the first modern espresso machine circa 1938, those crazy Ottomans (the people, not the foot rests), were hanging around the worlds first coffee shop in downtown Constantinople circa 1475… in fact Turkish law at that time made it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he failed to provide her with her daily quota of coffee. Which is fair enough really.

So in a country (Australia) where some major cities have an espresso machine in every other laundromat, there’s a tendency to forget about the ways that millions of other people around the world appreciate coffee every day. Hence I present in it’s complex simplicity, my attempt at brewing Turkish coffee.

Let me just say right now that I am no expert at this. I’ve based my method on what I’ve gleaned from other websites, from talking to people, and from drinking variations of this in restaurants and cafes. I will not be offended if you completely disagree with me… much.

How I make mine

So to start with you need a couple of things. An Ibrik (or cezve), a grinder, and some coffee.

An ibrik (eee-brick) is a small pot, often made of copper or brass, that is used to boil coffee. The one I bought is a little fancier than the tradition sort, with a solid stainless steel base and a moulded handle… which hopefully doesn’t disqualify me in the authenticity stakes. You should be able to find them in middle eastern supply stores.

The grind is the next most important thing. Turkish coffee is the finest of all grind levels, and basically resembles dust. You can buy special Turkish coffee mills that will give you a really fine grind, or else you could try a mortar and pestle. I use my espresso grinder on it’s lowest possible setting… 4 stops below my normal espresso level, which gives me coffee so fine I can barely see it.

Turkish coffee is typically drunk out of small cups. Thimble sized ones sometimes. I use my Chinese tea cups, which seem to give a decent portion in each pour. To work out how much water you need in the ibrik, try using roughly one teaspoon of ground coffee per cupful of water. So to make 6 cups, measure 6 cups of water into the ibrik, and add 6 teaspoons of coffee.

Measure Grind Dose Shower Spice Stir HeatBoil

View the pictoral guide by click the images above, or by going to my flickr site for some more details

There’s an old saying that goes:

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and as sweet as love.

If this isn’t talking about Turkish coffee then I don’t know what is. The fineness of the grind, when incorporated into water, creates a thick solution reminiscent of mud when you get down to the bottom. Sugar is also commonly added at the start of the brewing process, rather than at the end, which would account for the sweetness. I’d add about a third as many teaspoons of sugar as the number of cups… So 2 teaspoons of sugar for 6 cups…

If you want to be extra fancy/authentic (like I did), you can also add a pinch or two of ground cardamom at this stage. It gives the coffee a wonder flavour that is distinct yet not overpowering (given you don’t add too much), that seems to be popular.

Once you’ve combined all the ingredients and stirred well so that it’s all mostly dissolved, then it’s time for the cooking. Put the ibrik onto the heat (a gas burner in my case), and over a moderate flame, heat it til it starts to bubble up and boil. Once its beginning to boil, remove it from the heat before it can overflow the ibrik… It’s important to keep a close watch on the boiling because things can get out of control in a hurry.

Once the first boil settles down, put the ibrik back over a low heat and bring it back to the boil… again stopping before it overflows. Repeat this process a final time, and you’re done. It’s apparently quite important to try and retain as much of the thick foam as possible while boiling. I think I’m a long way off perfecting it, but the flavour in the cup at the end is definitely to my liking, so I think I’m on the right track.

So now pour the coffee out into small espresso / chinese tea sized cups and sip away at the thick sweet spiced flavours, and feel it warming you from the inside out. Traditionally it’s drunk with a cup of water and perhaps a little glass of mint liqueur at the end of a meal, which sounds like a good excuse for me to try and construct a Turkish dinner menu sometime soon.

Lebanese Cardamom CoffeeLebanese Cardamom Coffee

So next time you’re kicking yourself over bitter espresso and woeful attempts at latte art, just grab the nearest pot and give this method a shot. 71 millions Ottomans can’t all be wrong :)

31 thoughts on “How to make Turkish Coffee”

  1. Aaaah…a topic dear to my heart. Being of Greek descent I watched the very same ritual you described, performed by my parents on a daily basis. You did well Matt. I only ever drink it when I visit my folks and I like it very sweet. It’s also very traditional to have your cup read straight after…but thats another matter. Great pics as usual.

  2. i second peter’s accolades. great job and great step-by-step pix! i too am of greek descent and one thing i hankered for after moving away from home was a greek (or turkish, or lebanese, or…well you get the drift) coffee. its become a weekend arvo ritual for me to get out the briki (ibrik), brew up a cup and sit down to catch up with the weekend papers. my mum never adds the ground cardamom but i’ve found using it makes the coffee extra spesh!

    …you know something else? i know its wrong, but sometimes i like to eat the coffee slurry left on the bottom of the cup (!)

  3. Peter, glad I’ve got some confirmation that I’m on the right track :) Being a coffee geek, my next line of thought are which roast levels and types of beans are the best to use for this kind of coffee… but I’m not sure it makes that much difference once the sugar and cardamom go in… I shudder to think what my cup might say about my future… possibly death by caffeine overdose :)

    Serenity, it seems the Greeks know their stuff… I’ll have to keep you guys on hand for good moussaka recipes. I think the cardamom makes it pretty spesh too, i’m also going to give ground Fennel a try soon, which i reckon would be tasty. I won’t tell anyone you eat the slurry… just remember not to smile afterwards, black hill billy teeth are a dead giveaway :)

  4. you forgetting that all the north african region as well as the middle east drink this coffee, its not 70million only probably more like a fifth of the world’s populations

  5. Hey Omar, haven’t forgotten them, just had to try and focus on one style/name or else it’d get too confusing… so the Turks were the ones who got the nod… But “One fifth of the worlds population can’t all be wrong” has a nice ring to it too…

  6. This was a very informative read with great pictures, but before I try it, what kind of coffee did you use? Which origins, farms, roasters, etc. have you found to work well with this process(especially the cardamom)?

  7. Aria: give it a shot… it’s just like boiling water… but… thicker, and much more rewarding :)

    Flip: I’ve tried a bunch of different styles of coffee. Some fancy Indian single origins, a blend of PNG coffee, and some Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. All of the roasts levels were designed for espresso, and a medium dark style… and I’d say all worked pretty well… although perhaps with the addition of the sugar and the cardamom, the subtle nuances of the different coffees is not as apparent.
    I’d say African, Yemeni, and other interesting single origin beans would work really well.

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  9. Hi Matt,

    I’m going to make use of your Turkish coffee tutorial soon. A colleague is donating her spare ibrik to me once we return from our San Francisco road trip and I’m already drooling at the thought. Got the coffee, the cardamom and my taste buds at the ready…will let you know how our first attempt pans out.

  10. Hey Kare,

    Just make sure that coffee is good and strong… no wimping out with only a half teaspoon or something… and make sure you grind that stuff fine… like dust fine, if you can. Look forward to seeing your efforts.

  11. Greetings from the other part of the world…Bellevue, WA., USA.

    Got hooked on Turkish coffee when I was living in S.F. through a bunch of good Palestinian friends. Still love the way and taste of this coffee. I think I’ll give it a brew one of these fine days. Enjoy reading your blog!


  12. Your description of how to make Turkish coffee is excellent. But the roast and the coffee is not what is being served in Turkey or Greece today. Usually it is a cinnamon to medium roast (so espresso roast is far too dark) and Brazilian “Minas” or “Rio” is most commonly used. Not a coffee geek’s favourites! I would go along with your Yirgacheffe. It’s mild, yet typical, and not too fancy: a perfect choice for this infusion style method.
    Try it together with “lokum” (= Turkish delight)

    Have you ever tried coffee made with the “Karlsbader” method ?

  13. Hi Sebastian,

    Thanks for that info. I’ve not had coffee roasted specifically for a turkish style preparation before… So I might have to roast some myself. I’m guessing that kind of roast level would be just after 1st crack ? Or mid way between first and second…

    I also haven’t tried the Karlsbader method, which looks to be a type of ceramic moka pot ? Definitely agree on the turkish delight though… :)

  14. Hi Matt,

    yes, that’s a rather light brown just after 1st crack. As a reference you can try
    if you can get this coffee brand downunder. They sell little portion packs as well.

    The trick with Karlsbader is that it has a ceramic filter – no paper ! – and thus needs a very coarse grind. So there is no taste of paper, extraction is slow but with a smaller ground coffee surface and the aroma oils go into the cup! Among coffee experts over here its becoming ever more popular. 100% Arabica only !

    Sebastian, Stuttgart/Germany

  15. turkey doesnt produce coffee they takeit from ethiopia and call it their own, however ethiopia and turkey are sisters and ethiopia supports turkey’s goal to crush the PKK

  16. Hi, Matt.. As a Turkish woman, I’d like to contribute to your recipe,if you allow me: You need to start with room temp. waterand never hot water.Now fill your mini coffee cup with water and pour it into the “cezve”. Then add your sugar and 2 very full teaspoons of coffee per person. Put your “cezve” on medium-low heat. Do NOT stir at this point, just wait till the coffee sinks in the water, and starts boiling from the sides. When the boiling approaches the middle, take the cezve away from the stove (otherwise it’ll boil over) and give the coffee a quick, decisive stir. Immediately put back on the heat and when it starts boiling again, pour the it in your mini cup (called fincan) and enjoy!!!!!

  17. ..and never boil your Turkish coffee too much. Just a few seconds. Otherwise it’ll lose the taste. Remember you are supposed to be”cooking” it. :)

  18. “in fact Turkish law at that time made it legal for a woman to divorce her husband if he failed to provide her with her daily quota of coffee” now yr talking my language :) why ever was such a law not sustained, and introduced to all other nations? …. course, I’d need to get a husband first to be worried about divorcing him over coffee, but while we’re playing hypotheticals, might as well make him rich so’s I get a decent alimony payout *rambling* coffeeeeeeeeee :D

  19. Hi Matt,
    If you’re interested in Turkish coffee or Lebanese coffee (same same…) you should try ‘The Prophet’ in Vic Park along Albany Hwy. Their pretty good, must book cause their normally full house! Enjoy!

  20. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this at first, but the taste is unbelievable. I had the coffee last time I was in turkey and will never forget the taste.. SO RICH. I am very impressed by all your pictures.

  21. Matt,

    My mother is Cuban-American and My father is I come from a family of espresso drinkers.
    The moment I came across your article (about 2 yrs ago)I knew I had to try this “middle-eastern” style method. This is now my fav method of making coffee. So deliciously rich and strong without the bitterness(something i’ve always hated about espresso)! Have you ever tried it w/milk? Yummo!

  22. I am Croatian and grew up making this coffee. I was taught NEVER to bring it to the boil, to stir sugar (1 spoon per cup), coffee and water till blended. Allow to ONLY JUST begin to form small bubbles on top, and then remove from heat immediately. this ensures a good, thick foam topping and then muddy bottom of the cup. Enjoy!!!!!
    if you happen to be grinding cardamom pods for curries, leave the oil residue in the grinder, and then grind your coffee beans afterwards.

  23. Hi Nina, I’ll keep that in mind should I ever be asked to make coffee in a Croatian household, tho I’ve done a lot of variations on this method now that include boiling multiple times and not at all, and I don’t get a huge difference in overall flavour.

    But grinding spices and coffee in the same grinder is a big no no in this house, so I will pretend you didn’t say it and we can still be friends.

    Lisa: No I never tried this method with milk, I’m sure it couldn’t hurt, but would likely offend someone, and I’m good enough at that already :)

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