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.
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.
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 :)