June 13, 2018

The perfect cup of Turkish Coffee?

After 20 years or trial and error I’ve finessed it down to a pretty good cup of Turkish. Not sure I’ve had one better, but I’m open if it comes along. Here’s my method:

I start with a touch more than 2 tablespoons of medium-roast, whole-bean Arabica coffee. After much fussing, I’ve settled on pedestrian 8 O’Clock Coffee in the standard red bag. (It’s what the Bosnians who first taught me to make Turkish Coffee used and a fairly well-kept secret. Shhh.) Though bags of 8 O’Clock are weeks away from their roasting, but the whole beans remain fresh a long time.

If you feel the need for something fresher, the problem is that most roasters don’t understand what Turkish Coffee is. So that overroasted “Turkish grind” (that they likely can’t grind fine enough) from your local place can be a real disappointment, even when it’s fresh ground.

Arabica is superior to the Robusta bean and roasting plays a big role in the flavor. Medium roast has a fuller coffee flavor compared to both a light and dark roast and also retains more caffeine than dark does.

I grind the beans into a fine powder in a burr grinder. A good, hand-crank, burr grinder rips the beans apart as opposed to cutting them. Some speculate that ripping releases more flavor. For sure, the powdery consistency (fine as cocoa) of a burr grind for Turkish Coffee exposes more of the coffee surface area to the water so you get more flavor. Also, the heat created by electric-blade grinders can rob coffee of its taste. Grinding fresh is a necessity and its best to grind enough for each pot you make.

I use 2 tablespoons of Sugar In The Raw. The large grains take longer to dissolve at the bottom of the pot and start to caramelize better than refined sugar. This enriches the flavor of the coffee.

I also use a healthy dash of ground, green cardamon, which is traditional to add to Turkish Coffee in many places. In addition to a flavor that blends flawlessly with coffee, cardamom soothes any bitterness. Deep brand from India is excellent. Tip: The better grades of cardamon will smell more peppery than piney.

I add these three ingredients to a thick, tapered Turkish pot called a Jezve or Ibrik. The narrowed top of the pot helps to create foam that holds in the flavor. Traditional tin-lined copper or brass were once preferred for their even heating, but the more-modern clad stainless steel work just as well. You can use a butter warmer, provided it tapers at the top. The method here is for a 12 oz. pot. Having the pot near full creates better foam, retains the flavor and settles the grounds better.

I add a little cold spring water and stir the ingredients until pasty. Then I add more until I have 10 oz. of water well-stirred in the pot. You want the ingredients blended so there’s no dry coffee floating on top.

I put this on a medium heat on an electric stove. (You might want to use low heat if using gas.) You want the coffee to cook slowing to caramelize the sugar, and get the full flavor from the beans, but not come to a boil through the foam. The edges will start to swell when done. This should take 15-20 minutes. If the heat is too high you can burn the fine-grind of the beans, which can make the coffee bitter and taste like ash.

The traditional method for Turkish Coffree is to cook the coffee almost to a boil three times, but this cooks out the flavor. Instead I stir twice during cooking which keeps the heat more uniform throughout the pot and runs less risk of burning the coffee. The early stirring helps to keep grounds from getting caught in the foam. Once done, remove from heat and let the pot cool for 3 minutes. This helps settle the grounds.

2 oz. ceramic Turkish cups are best for serving, but espresso cups work fine. Pour slowly into the cup and more grounds will stay in the pot. This method makes four, 2 oz. cups.

Turkish Coffee is often served with baklava, a cookie or Turkish delight and accompanied by a glass of water. The water cleanses the palate and makes the next sip more flavorful.

I didn’t talk about the hundreds of variations I’ve tried that led me here. Many of my methods above break with the tradition of how someone’s dear, sweet Jadda used to make it. But I urge you to try the above and see if you don’t agree this gives you a smoother, more-flavorful cup.

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