Turkish coffee is a rich and thick small cup of coffee, often no larger than 2 ounces, best served and enjoyed with friends and family. It’s made with a powder-fine ground coffee that is brewed in a coffee pot called a cezve or ibrik, which is used directly on the stovetop. And unlike the common styles of American and European coffees, Turkish coffee isn’t filtered. The coffee is just poured directly from the cezve into the porcelain cup, called a finjan, and then enjoyed slowly, like wine. Do not drink it fast, as the grounds need to settle in the finjan first.
Turkish coffee is not difficult to make. It is always served with water, which is used to cleanse the palate before sipping the coffee. And often there are sweets served along with it, like Turkish delight, candies, or chocolate. Aysegul Sanford of the blog Foolproof Living explains that Turkish coffee is always served to the eldest person in the room first as a sign of respect.
Turkish Coffee Culture
Türkiye, the country formerly known as the Republic of Turkey, is a Mediterranean country that has a rich history with coffee. The Ottoman coffeehouse or Ottoman Café started in the mid-sixteenth century and became a hub for social and political activity, with the popularity rising. By the late 1800s, there were nearly 2,500 coffeehouses in Istanbul.
Turkish coffee’s tradition goes beyond the coffeehouse though. Turkish coffee is often part of traditional Turkish wedding customs, with coffee served by the bride-to-be while the groom and his family visit to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. The grounds of the Turkish coffee are even sometimes used to tell fortunes. This fortune telling, similar to tea leaf reading, involves turning the cup of coffee upside down on a saucer when finished drinking, and then interpreting the shapes that the coffee sediment leaves behind.
Turkish Coffee Around the World
Though the name Turkish coffee implies that the coffee is only found in Türkiye, you can find versions of Turkish coffee all across the Mediterranean. Greek coffee is almost identical to Turkish coffee, with their pot called a briki instead of a cezve.
Slovenia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and other Balkan countries all have similar versions of Turkish coffee in their home countries. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, preparation is slightly different.
Lebanon, Israel and Armenia often brew theirs with a touch of cardamom, while Morocco and Algiers may brew it with cinnamon.
And, of course, you can find Turkish coffee around the world at various Turkish restaurants or bakeries, as Turkish people moved and dispersed, bringing their culture and cuisine with them.
A Powder Fine Grind
Typically, I recommend buying whole beans and then grinding them right before brewing for optimum quality. But Turkish coffee is the exception. Unlike filtered pour over coffee or French press coffee, Turkish coffee is made from powder fine ground coffee, a texture akin to all-purpose flour, and finer than typical espresso grounds.
Most home coffee grinders can’t produce ground coffee this fine. And extended grinding for a higher-performing burr grinder on a setting this fine will either wear out the motor or wear down the burrs faster. Because of this, I suggest buying a pre-ground coffee that is designed specifically for Turkish coffee. A popular brand that you can find online is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi.
Equipment for Turkish Coffee
Though technically you can make Turkish coffee in any small pot, it is recommended you use a special pot called a cezve or ibrik, otherwise known in Greece as a briki. In English, the terms cezve and ibrik are used interchangeably. But the word ibrik actually means pitcher in Turkish, like the vessel you serve water or lemonade, and is never used to refer to the coffee pot in Türkiye.
The cezve is a small pot with a wide base and more narrow neck, with a long handle attached to it. The shape of the pot is ideal in heating the water as it has a wide, stable base to sit on the stove. The slanted walls of the cezve also help circulate the grounds inside the pot as it boils. The pot has a spout that allows you to pour the Turkish coffee directly into the finjan, or small porcelain cup.
Traditionally the cezve is made of copper or brass and often lined on the inside with tin. But everyday cezve are usually stainless steel or aluminum. The handle is commonly wood, though it can be made of metal, plastic, or resin. Metal handles, though pretty, are not recommended, as the metal can heat up as you make coffee, making it difficult to serve.
You can find cezve and finjan online and at specialty shops, often in sets. Cezve come in a variety of sizes. Pick the size of cezve that is appropriate for the amount of coffee you want to make. There’s no need to buy a large one if you only plan on making a single or double serving. A cezve with an 8-ounce capacity will yield up to two 3-ounce servings.
Variations: Sweet, Spicy, Foamy, and Creamy
Turkish coffee can be made with or without sugar. When made with sugar, the sugar is mixed in with the coffee grounds in the beginning of the preparation and then they are boiled together. As such, it’s important to ask how much sugar the person wants before preparation. The traditional terms for sweetness include sade (no sugar), az şekerli (a little sugar, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup), orta (medium sugar, about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons per cup), or şekerli (more sugar, 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons).
You can also brew Turkish coffee with cardamom or cinnamon. In fact, you can even buy pre-ground Turkish coffee with cardamom added to the grounds already. The typical amount of cardamom or cinnamon will range depending on your preference, from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon per cup. Regional versions of Turkish coffee might have different flavorings, including mastic, a woodsy herbal resin of the mastic tree, finely ground almonds sprinkled on top, or honey and walnut.
Turkish coffee can be served with foam or without foam. When serving with foam, bring the coffee to near boil, then remove from heat. Spoon out the foam into the finjan, then place the coffee back on the stove to continue to cook. Then gently pour the brewed coffee down the side of the finjan, trying not to disturb the foam placed in it.
Finally, though less commonly found in Türkiye, you can make Turkish coffee with milk instead of water, much like a Turkish version of a latte. Just replace the water with an equal amount of milk. However, do not let the milk boil in the cezve, but instead just bring it to a low simmer. Engin Akin’s book Essential Turkish Cuisine has a recipe for Turkish Coffee with milk and she suggests serving it in Turkish tulip-shaped tea cups made of glass, instead of the porcelain finjan.
How to Make Turkish Coffee
For the basic coffee
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon Turkish coffee grounds
1/2 to 2 teaspoons sugar, depending on preference
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cinnamon, depending on preference
Turkish delight or another sweet treat, optional
Mix the coffee, water, and (if using) sugar or spices in the cezve:
Place the water and Turkish coffee grounds in a metal cezve (Turkish coffee pot). Add the sugar and/or spice, if using, to the pot along with the grounds. Stir with a small spoon or chopstick to combine.
Always add the sugar and/or spice to the water with the coffee grounds. Mix together, then boil on the stovetop without stirring the coffee.
Begin brewing over medium-low heat:
Place the cezve on the stovetop and cook on medium-low heat, until the water just starts to boil. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Don’t try to rush the boiling, you want it to come to a slow simmer to give the coffee time to brew.
Don’t walk away from your coffee as it brews. It does not take much for an unwatched cezve to boil over and make a mess.
Once you see the Turkish coffee start to boil and rise, remove from the heat. If you’d like foam with your Turkish coffee, spoon some of the foam out of the cezve and into your finjan (cup).
Once the coffee has settled down, return the pot to the stove and let it boil again. Repeat this process, removing the pot from the stove to let the coffee settle, and then re-boiling it 3 more times.
After the 4th time, pour the rest of the coffee into the finjan. Serve with a glass of cold water and a sweet treat like Turkish delight on the side.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
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|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|