There seem to be a never-ending stream of different types of coffee and how to make them. From AeroPress champions to award-winning baristas. Each tweaking different processes in an attempt to squeeze an extra ounce of flavor from the beans or to enhance certain properties.
However, there is only one method of making coffee that is given UNESCO Cultural Heritage status. And that is Turkish coffee. So, if you want to know how to make Turkish coffee at home and see what all the fuss is about, this guide is for you.
Authentic and Delicious
A Turkish proverb perfectly explains their feelings on coffee: “Black as Hell, strong as death, sweet as love”.
Coffee houses are now part of the modern-day culture around the world. But for those of us in the Western world, this is a very new experience.
In Turkey, however, coffee houses have been an integral part of society since the mid-16th century. They started as a place for the wealthiest of society but soon became a meeting place for the masses too. With that much history, they certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to coffee!
History of Turkish Coffee
As with all things in history, there are a couple of stories of how coffee first came into Turkey.
When coffee first appeared in the Ottoman Empire it was deemed a drug and banned, in accordance with the strictest interpretations of the Quran.
However, the drink became so popular it was eventually allowed to be consumed.
The following are the two stories about the drink’s origin in the country. But as nobody alive at the time can corroborate, there is absolutely no way to know which – if either – is actually true.
Yemeni Coffee Brewing
In 1521, the Ottoman in charge of Yemen, Özdemir Pasha, learned the technique of Yemeni coffee brewing. He did so in an attempt to win the favor of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
He personally dedicated the drink to the Sultan – coffee being one of the most expensive drinks at the time, imported from Ethiopia.
Sultan Suleiman expressed his enjoyment of the drink by issuing a royal decree adopting the drink. From there, its popularity grew and grew.
The Black Drink
Two Syrian traders, Hakam from Alleppo and Shams from Damascus, wanted to start trading the coffee beans from Syria into Turkey.
To help facilitate this they set up a shop selling drinks in Turkey. The drink was brought to the palace for Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to try, where it was titled “the black drink”. It then spread around the nation from there.
Where Did Turkish Coffee Come From?
Both versions of Turkish coffee’s origins make nice stories. Although they are almost definitely not true, the chronology is sound:
Coffee first spread through the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520 – 1566).
It first becomes popular with the wealthy families who employed special coffee brewers Kahveci Usta. Then, eventually, it became a drink for the masses as the price came down.
Occasionally the coffee houses were closed en masse when a Sultan decided they were the source of anti-Ottoman sentiment. Or that they had become breeding grounds for conspirators.
However, by the end of the 16th century, there were around 600 coffee houses in Istanbul. By the 19th century, there were around 2500.
Cultural Significance of Coffee in Turkey
Coffee in Turkey is much more than a beverage to wake you up. Or even something to enjoy whilst chatting with friends. It is an important part of Middle Eastern culture.
In Turkey, coffee was an integral part of the marriage process:
Young girls would be taught how to make coffee from a young age. The first time they met their potential husband, they would prepare coffee with a little salt added to test his patience.
The second time, she would prepare coffee for his family. His parents would scrutinize her technique. This included the way she carried herself during the process and the cups she chose to serve the coffee in. And, most importantly, the taste.
Around Turkey, coffee was always served with water for washing the residue out of the mouth. Plus Turkish delight, of course.
Reading Turkish Coffee Grounds
Reading the coffee grounds also became a popular activity in the 16th century.
Tasseography (or Tasseomancy) is the art of reading the patterns and symbols left in the cup once the grounds have been swirled and the cup tipped upside down to remove most of them. The most important rules for this were:
- Never read your own cup
- Never get a “second opinion” from another reader
- Always start reading from the cup handle
Turkish Coffee Recipe
To brew Turkish coffee at home you’ll need to use Turkish ground coffee. The coffee needs to be extremely finely ground, even finer than espresso grind.
So, set your grinder to the appropriate setting – if it even grinds that fine. Unfortunately, not all types of coffee grinder are created equally meaning it may not be possible with your grinder.
Whilst using freshly ground coffee is always better, if you are struggling to get a fine enough grind size, you can opt for specially ground coffee. A good Turkish coffee brand to look for is Kurukahveci Mehmet Effendi.
Just know that there will be an impact on the flavor as ground coffee loses freshness much quicker than beans. This is especially important here as Turkish coffee is far more at risk of over extraction than your average coffee maker.
You’ll also need a special Turkish coffee pot called an ibrik or cezve.
It is possible, in theory, to make it without an ibrik. For example, you could use a saucepan. However, making Turkish coffee without an ibrik removes your control over the boiling process and the resultant foam. Plus, the little pots are very pretty, not very expensive, and easy to pick up (even on Amazon), so it’s worth splashing out on one if you want to give it a try.
- 1 ½ cups cold, filtered water per person (use the cup you’ll serve the coffee in not a cup measurement)
- 1 heaped tablespoon ground coffee per person
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar per person
How many cups you are able to make will depend on the size of your Ibrik. So, when you’re buying one make sure you get the size you need.
Always be precise in coffee to water ratio so you get a well-balanced brew – Turkish coffee is much more concentrated than your average coffee.
How to Make Turkish Coffee Step by Step
- Combine the cold water, coffee, and sugar in the Ibrik.
- Place on a stove over medium heat and bring to the boil. This will take 3-4 minutes but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over.
- As it heats up a dark foam will appear on top. It’s important that Turkish coffee is served with foam on top so just before it boils, spoon some of the foam into each cup.
- Return the coffee pot to the stove.
- Once the coffee comes to a boil pour half into the cups.
- Return the pot to the stove and boil the remaining half for another 20 seconds or so.
- Fill the coffee cups to the brim.
Serving your Turkish Coffee
Whenever you get coffee in Turkey, the experience starts from the moment the cup is put in front of you. Turkish coffee cups are often elaborately designed. However, the most important element is their size and thickness:
The cups should be demitasse sized (what you would usually expect for an espresso). However, they should be thinner than an espresso cup. Often, they will be made of thin porcelain or have a copper cup holder and lid. The design helps to keep the brew warm for as long as possible.
Always serve your coffee with cold or room temperature water to allow people to clear their palette before enjoying the coffee. This will help get maximum flavor enjoyment.
It is also recommended that you leave the coffee for a few moments before serving. This allows the grounds to sink to the bottom. Plus, it helps with reading the coffee grounds if you want to try your hand at this.
A sweet treat such as Turkish delight should also be served on the side.
This type of coffee is much stronger than filter coffee so one cup should be enough. If you are not used to the intense flavor, you may want to add milk or cream in. But this isn’t something that is done in Turkey, so we encourage you to drink it as it is.
By Matt, Home Coffee Expert
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can only find in Canggu. Welcome to my coffee world!