Turkish coffee


Turkish coffee description, details, recipes and tips.

I recreate this page on ibrik coffee that used to exists on this website with the url turkish-coffee.html on the same url for letting it to be accessed via old bookmarks. Here is an Internet Archive link to that original page. I choose to call it ibrik coffe for detaching it from nations and proposing it as a generic recipe where the main distinctive quality is the medium, i.e. ibrik.

Introduction

You can skip to recipes. Though this introduction is essential reading if you visit this page for the fist time!

Ibrik coffee, a.k.a: arabic/armenian/greek/turkish coffee, is a method of coffee-brewing invented and rather popular in the middle east and balkans that has been in use in households and coffee-houses for centuries to this day.

At its heart, it is a very simple brewing method where powder-fine coffee grains are immersed in water that’s contained in a ibrik, a.k.a cezve – a metal container wider at the bottom with a handle attached close to the rim – and heated until the natural foam forms on the top and rises. But there’s some variety around this basic recipe, where small deviations result in different tastes and properties in the end product.

Coffee poured into a cup from a copper ibrik. Courtesy of Eaeeae, source.

First, it’s possible to brew ibrik with milk instead of water. A distinct type of milk coffee, it has its unique flavour. Then, many spices may be added, where, traditionally the most popular ones are: cardamom, mastic and cinnamon.

The sugar may or may not be added, and while it obviously affects the sweetness of the coffee, it also affects the body and the foam. With sugar, the coffee will have more body to it, and the foam will be more and denser.

Any type of coffee beans and any roast can be used for preparing ibrik coffee, but a medium-to-dark roast beans with mild flavors are more fit. Fruity or citrusy aromas may get excessively amplified, resulting in a sour cup. The key is the grind, the coffee beans should be ground to a very fine powder, finer even than espresso, at least as fine as powdered sugar. Bigger grinds will float in the cup instead of sinking to the bottom.

The coffee may be put into cold or hot water. When put into cold water, the ibrik containing the mixture is placed on heat and the mixture is mixed either in the beginning or halfway throught the brewing process, or continuously. When let to bloom a bit before mixing, a better foam may be achieved. When mixed initially and left to raise, the body will be denser. For densest body, mix all along while brewing. When coffee’s put into just-boiled water, left to rest for about a minute and mixed and put on heat, the resulting coffee will have less body to it, and a lighter taste. Sugar may be added while heating the water, before adding coffee, then it’ll get caramelised and give a slightly different taste.

The usual serving for the ibrik coffee is the demitasse. The demitasse is used also for measuring, where about one heaped teaspoonful of coffee (5-7 grammes) per demitasse (roughly 60ml) is used. I’ll use the term cup to mean demitasse, interchangably, throughout this text. Lots of different cups have been used with ibrik coffee, of varying sizes, shapes and designs throughout history, each belonging to different cultures, social classes, places and ambiences. A collection of authentic ottoman ceramic coffee cups is exhibited at the Pera Museum of Istanbul. A serving usually accompanied by a glass of water, and sometimes by some candy (e.g. turkish delight).

After brewing, the coffee is poured directly into the cups, where the foam is either distributed via a teaspoon, or poured in simultaneously with the drink. The grounds are not filtered, but being very fine, they immediately sink to the bottom of the cup. Sometimes the last sip has some grounds in it, if accidentally drunk, the palate is cleaned with some water.

The turkish word for breakfast is kahvaltı, meaning meal before coffee. Ibrik coffee has lots of tradition around it determining how, when, and by whom it is drunk at certain occasions. In Turkey, where I’m from, one very iconic tradition is the coffee serving at the kız isteme ceremony, a preconiugal occasion where families of the soon-to-be spouses meet, and the parents of the husband-to-be ask for permission to the parents of the wife-to-be for the marriage, at the brides house. The potential bride is required to serve the coffee to her family and their guests. Traditionally, the potential husbands coffee is served salty, a joke as old as the hills. Another tradition around ibrik coffee is tasseomancy, where the patterns formed by coffee grounds that sink to the bottom of the cup after the coffee is consumed are interpreted to tell the fortune of the drinker. When the drink finishes, the cup is covered with the saucer, flipped upside down, usually moved in a horizontal circle a couple times (where in Turkey the phrase «neyse hâlim, çıksın fâlim» is pronounced, meaning «how are my matters, my fortune shall tell») and left to cool. When the bottom of the cup is cool to touch, the shapes that form in the cup and on the saucer after it’s slightly inclined are interpreted. Coffee is also served after meals, and to guests on their visits to houses and offices.

Ottoman Coffeehouse; Preziosi, 1862. Courtesy of Bogdan.

One particular aspect of ibrik coffee preparation is to ask the requested amount of sugar beforehand. Because the grounds are included in the final beverage, sugar is added while brewing, not after. Thus, whoever offers coffee asks beforehand to his or her guests how much if any sugar they want in their coffee. In Turkey, the question is either the formal phrase «kahveniz nasıl olsun?» or the more informal «kaç şeker?», where the usual responses are one of sâde/acı, az, orta, şekerli; no sugar, little sugar, mild, sugary, respectively.

The consummation of a cup of ibrik coffee has its own peculiar way: some water is drunk beforehand, then the coffee is sipped slowly before it cools down, though never rushed.

Recipes

All recipes are for a single serving.

Any additional spices are added when coffee is added.

From cold water, mix initially

  1. Put a teaspoonful of coffee and a cup of water into the ibrik, add the desired amount of sugar, mix well now, or mix continuously on heat.
  2. Place on low heat for about two or three minutes.
  3. Take off and pour when the foam forms and raises, but before the coffee boils.

From cold water, late mix

  1. Put a teaspoonful of coffee and a cup of water into the ibrik, add the desired amount of sugar.
  2. Place on low heat for about two or three minutes.
  3. About a minute after placing the ibrik on heat, mix well.
  4. Take off and pour when the foam forms and raises, but before the coffee boils.

From hot water

  1. Add a cup of water and the desired amount sugar into the ibrik.
  2. Heat to a soft boil, take off, rest a couple seconds.
  3. Add half a teaspoonful of coffee, let bloom, either mix now or after blooming.
  4. Place ibrik on low heat.
  5. Take off and pour when the foam forms and raises, but before the coffee boils.

Milky

  1. Add a cup of milk and half a teaspoonful of coffee, and the desired amount of sugar.
  2. Put on low heat, mix slowly all along.
  3. Take off and pour when the foam forms and raises, but before the coffee boils.

Classic Turkish ibrik coffee serving. Courtesy of Tema, source.

Tips

When making multiple cups in one ibrik, duplicate the measurements, then add a bit more coffee to taste to maintain the desired strenght for each cup.

In order to evenly distribute the foam without the spoon, fill each cup half way first, and then fill up the cups starting from the last one that was filled half way. First time round, incline the cups by about 45 degrees and pour slowly. It’s okay to shake the ibrik gently to bring the foam closer to the pouring edge. But for fairly sharing foam, use a spoon to distribute first, then pour the rest of coffee gently into the cups.

Never ever boil the coffee. But it’s okay to take from heat while raising, and put it back on a short while after to raise multiple times. This way the taste and the foam may be controlled.

The ibriks come in many types and sizes. For nice foam and best taste, always use the smallest ibrik possible for your servings, though mind the gap for the foam to raise. To keep foam as dense as possible while raising, use an ibrik that’s wider at the bottom, and gradually narrows towars the top. I use copper ibriks from the famous ibrik and grinder producer Sözen, whose products can be found on Amazon. They also have a nice little shop (map) in Eminönü, İstanbul. I use one of their brass hand grinders too. If you’re going to buy one, don’t buy the small ones which are about 10 cm tall, buy a bigger one. The small ones are hard to operate because of their size. Hario hand grinders won’t work.

There are pre-ground and pre-flavoured coffee for ibriks. In Turkey the most popular one by far is Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi. Their shop at Eminönü (map) is a tourist destination where people line up for freshly ground coffee, though it’s the same thing they sell in the supermarket, nothing premium.

I’m from Istanbul, so I know what’s good here. There certainly are local artisans everywhere this drink is enjoyed.

Experimenting is the key, be adventurous with your method, personalise. The best way is the way you like the most. Still, abundant foam is a sign of expertise.

Never let your ibrik alone. Things happen quickly, and if you don’t take it off the heat when the coffee raises as high as the rim, it won’t hesitate to go over and make a mess.

I’d be pleased to receive criticisim and improvements on this page’s content, please don’t hesitate to contact me.