March 19, 2016

Beko and the tech of Turkish coffee.

UPDATE 3/11/17: Beko has a new version. Mostly styling changes from the original. Coffee process slightly improved for an even smoother cup. The pot stays warmer longer.

We Americans tend to think of coffee as our own thing, but it’s not. It became a success here when colonists boycotted British tea. But before Columbus sailed, coffee was already a popular drink with the Sufis in Yemen. The word coffee has a Turkish origin, so Turkish coffee is closer to “original” than Starbucks or Folgers.

Why it took so long to automate Turkish coffee.

The modern stovetop percolator was invented in the US in 1889 and made cooking coffee an automatic process. Bialetti’s Moka Pot did the same for stovetop espresso and came along in 1933. But Turkish coffee requires a manually-intensive process of bringing the pot to a near boil three times and maintaining a froth. The time and labor required is what’s kept it from from being a profitable drink at coffeehouses and restaurants. The award-winning Beko (the first electronic Turkish coffee maker) required numerous innovations to heat, cool and froth properly. And on top if that, it’s energy efficient.

The technology needed to mimic tradition.

The 120-volt version of the Beko is not much more expensive than a Keurig and substantially smaller. The plastic pot is somewhat of a technological wonder itself with its thermal bottom. There are no pods or filters involved here. You add the water, coffee, sugar and spice to the pot. It holds 7oz of water, enough for three 2oz cups of Turkish. When you press the start button, the Beko lifts and seals the pot, brings it to a near-boil, slightly cools, repeats the process a few times, froths the coffee and beeps three times to let you know it’s done. The process takes about 3.5 minutes, but varies depending if you fix one, two or three cups. It’s best to let it sit for a minute for the grounds to settle a little more (you’ll hear a subsequent single beep) but you can pour and drink immediately after the beep.

So…how’s the coffee?

One thing for sure, it’s consistent. We seem to be too busy today to manually make Turkish through the traditional 15-20 minute process. Typically somewhere along the way we accidentally boil it, which adds bitterness. The Beko is very precise with temperatures, so it’s likely that it brews a cup of Turkish that’s smooth and tastes near as good as what a grandma in Istanbul makes. I use the full 7oz of water for three cups with 3 level scoops of fresh-ground coffee, 1 level scoop of sugar in the raw and 1/4 t of homemade Turkish Coffee spice.

Where to get real Turkish ground coffee.

Most of the Bekos come with a can of Mehmet Effendi, which is from Turkey’s largest roaster. It’s readily available on Amazon and comes ground superfine in special cans keep it fresh tasting for two years. The downside is that Mehmet Effendi has an acquired, sulphury taste, which becomes obvious if you make it too strong. You get used to it surprisingly quickly, but if it’s a turnoff, try grinding your own.

In Turkey they’re more particular about the fineness of the grind than the bean. The first time I had Turkish Coffee it was made with good-old 8 O’Clock whole-bean coffee that had the hell ground out of it. Even if you use the grinder in the store, their espresso and Turkish grind are not fine enough, so a spice mill is the best option for getting it almost to the finesse of talc. You can use any whole bean coffee, but a medium roast will give you the best flavor. 8 O’Clock’s original bean is reasonably priced and makes a wonderfully smooth cup.

The Beko on Amazon

Tips for the Beko.

  • Grind the coffee fresh. You can buy pre-made such as Mahmet Effendi, but most of these has a noticeable sulfur taste. I use 8 O’Clock whole beans. The fresher the bean, the nicer the froth. Grind just enough coffee for one pot.
  • Grind the coffee fine. You want it to be as fine as talcum powder. The Zassenhaus Havanna is the gold standard for hand grinders. Electric grinders can rob the beans of flavor. A level scoop (comes with the Beko) per cup is the perfect amount. Dont try to pack the coffee in the scoop or it might not cook properly.
  • Use cold water. If you cheat and start with warm water, you won’t absorb as much flavor from the beans. I use spring water from the fridge. And don’t let the level pass the dividing line between the top and bottom of the cup.
  • Add a little sugar before cooking, even if you don’t want it sweet. A cube of sugar helps to create the froth, cuts bitterness and adds to the taste.
  • Mix dry ingredients with a little water. This forms a paste and makes sure all ingredients get wet and settle properly. Once you’ve formed as paste, stir in the rest of the water with a plastic spoon. (You want to make sure you don’t scratch the coatings of the metal in the pot.
  • Clean the unit weekly by filling the pot to the fill line with distilled water and running it through the brewing process. Since the grounds are so fine, they can gum up the works. The manufacturer recommends a half vinegar mixture for cleaning. If you clean with distilled water weekly, it’s probably a good idea to use vinegar monthly.
  • Pour out the sides. The little tabs on the sides that help to lock the pot into place are cleverly designed as spouts for clean pouring.
  • Cups. As opposed to traditional ornate cups, a practical option is Bodum’s 2.5oz Pavina Cups. These are double-walled, hand-blown glass that keeps the coffee warm. They’re also dishwasher and microwave safe.

See more Turkish Coffee articles

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