Turkish coffee is known for its boldness, high-caffeine content, and shockingly robust flavor. It’s a truly unique coffee drinking experience that’s become more popular in the US in recent years. If you acquire the taste and can adjust to the brewing style, there’s a good chance that you might not go back to traditional American coffee.
The most authentic version of Turkish coffee is found in Turkey (obviously) but also other parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. Since that would be an expensive trip to get a cup of coffee, let’s explore how to make delicious Turkish coffee in the comfort of your home—no flight or passport required.
What Is Turkish Coffee?
Turkish coffee is a special type of coffee prepared by using extra-finely ground coffee beans and no filtering, which leads to a thicker and richer cup of coffee.
The grinds are boiled over heat with water and sugar (optional) in a unique pot called an ibrik, or if in Turkey, a cezve. After pouring but prior to drinking, the grinds settle at the bottom of the person’s cup and are not meant to be consumed.
With Turkish coffee, any added flavors or sweeteners are mixed directly into the ground beans before brewing. With regular coffee, this is typically done after. It’s quite common for Turkish coffee to be flavored with spices, such as cardamom, that you wouldn’t find in a normal cup of coffee but greatly enhance the coffee-drinking experience.
Even though it might not look like it, the types of beans used to make Turkish Coffee are the same as regular coffee, which are either Arabica or Robusta. Though either type of beans can be used, Arabica is the overwhelming favorite and generally considered the best for bringing out Turkish coffee’s unique flavor.
The History of Turkish Coffee
Contrary to popular belief, Turkish coffee didn’t originate in Turkey. This style of brewing actually originated in Yemen and made it’s way to Turkey during the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish refer to the brew as ‘Arabic coffee’, which is a hat tip to the traditional Arabica beans used to brew it as well as their historical origin (Arabica beans were widely grown in Yemen).
This beverage now has historical significance in Turkish culture and has become part of Turkish wedding customs and other important ceremonies. Oddly enough, the grounds have also long been used for fortune-telling, which refers to a divination technique called tasseography.
In addition to Turkey, this coffee is popular in parts of Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Poland) and across parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa regions.
Why Is Turkish Coffee so Strong?
Drinkers of Turkish coffee recognize the beverage for its potent flavor. The unfiltered brewing process is the primary reason behind that potency.
In traditional coffee, water flows over the grinds and then through a filter into either a cup or pot. The filtering process keeps the grinds and any impurities separate from the final product. This leads to a reduction in flavor as a partially unintended side effect. You don’t have to deal with grinds in your drink, but as a result you lose flavor, so it’s a trade-off.
With Turkish coffee, there is no filtering. The drink is poured and served with the grinds still in the mix, which allows for maximum dispersion of flavor throughout the liquid.
In addition to its stronger flavor, Turkish coffee also contains more caffeine than traditional coffee. This is again because caffeine is partially removed during the filtering process, which doesn’t happen when brewing Turkish coffee.
How to Grind the Beans for Turkish Coffee
The key to making delicious Turkish coffee is the consistency of the ground beans used in the brew. It’s very important that the beans be ground extremely fine, essentially into a powder. As a reference point, the grind used for Turkish coffee is even finer than that of espresso.
Because not many grinders can achieve this grind, the best way to achieve the powder-like consistency is to use a grinder specifically designed for Turkish coffee. Both manual and electric options exist, however, manual (hand) grinders are largely preferred. This is due to the high amount of force needed to adequately grind the coffee into a powder, which most electric grinders struggle to keep up with, at least not unless you’re willing to spend a boatload of money.
Manual grinders are available in almost all department stores, and if nothing else, a quick Google search for “turkish coffee grinder” will help you find what you’re looking for online.
How to Make Turkish Coffee
Now that you know what Turkish coffee is and a few of its quirks, let’s get into the recipe for making it. Before you start, you will need to make sure you have the proper items on hand.
What you’ll need:
- A manual coffee grinder
- A Turkish coffee pot (e.g. an ibrik or cezve, both are the same – just different terminology). Note: If you don’t have a Turkish coffee pot, a small saucepan works almost as well.
- Whole coffee beans, preferably Arabica
- Sugar (optional)
Once you have these items, you are ready to start the brewing process.
- To get started, grind your beans on the finest setting. You want the consistency to resemble powder. If you are unsure what setting does this, use a setting beyond what is required for espresso. For every 1 cup of coffee you want to make, you should plan to use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground coffee, depending on how strong you want the flavor.
- Grab your Turkish coffee pot and add the desired amount of water. You should use 1 cup of water for every 1 cup of coffee you plan to make.
- Add the ground coffee to the water in the same pot. Don’t stir.
- If adding sugar, add it into the pot now. Still don’t stir the mixture.
- Move the pot onto the stove and apply medium heat.
- Watch your concoction carefully. Once the coffee starts to sink in the pot, turn the heat down to low and stir until you see foam. When the brew foams, remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
- Return to heat and repeat the process of foaming your coffee 1 to 2 more times. Take care not to boil the coffee as this will overcook it.
- When ready, remove from heat and allow the coffee to settle before serving. Some Turkish coffee drinkers will remove the foam at this point as a matter of personal taste.
- Pour the coffee into a small cup before drinking, trying as best as you can not to transfer any grinds from the bottom of the pot into your cup.
Now that you have made delicious Turkish coffee, take a few moments to enjoy your efforts. Keep in mind that you should not drink any grinds that make it into the bottom of your cup. Simply discard them when you are done. The grinds won’t cause you harm, but they don’t taste great and are somewhat difficult to digest (i.e. you’ll be visiting the bathroom a bit later!).
How to Make Delicious Turkish Coffee Is Easy
While Turkish coffee may use steps not seen when brewing a classic pot of American coffee, the treat is often worth those extra steps. This style of coffee has large cultural significance in Turkey, parts of the Middle East, and Northern Africa and offers a delightfully unique flavor profile. Make sure to use a manual grinder to get the beans to a powder-like consistency, don't allow the water to get too hot, and allow the grinds to settle before you serve.
Follow this recipe and you’ll be enjoying delicious Turkish coffee in no time, without leaving the country.