How To Make Perfect Turkish Coffee, and Its Social Importance

A cup of Turkish coffee in Istanbul, Turkey.

by Erlend Geerts

in Cafés, Restaurants

Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) plays an important role in Turkish society.
It was like that in the past, when coffeehouses were the place to meet the fellow countrymen and have a conversation about politics, religion, social and even scientific matters.

But even today, almost 500 years after coffee was first introduced in Turkey, it still fulfills an important role in Turkish social life. Learn why it still takes such a prominent role in Turkish society. And most importantly, learn how to make, serve and drink the flavor-rich, strong yet healthy Turkish pride.

Social Importance of Turkish Coffee

Traditionally, when a man was about to marry a woman, his parents would ask the permission of her parents by visiting the future wife’s house. The bride-to-be was supposed to serve the guests the best Turkish coffee she can — a test to show her skills. Today many people simple decide to get married and announce it to their parents. Yet, the traditional ceremony with the coffee treat is very rarely skipped.

Another well-known and still very common tradition while enjoying a cup of Turkish coffee is fortune telling (fal). This is done by looking at the bottom of a finished coffee cup. Whether you believe the outcome or not, the fact is that it’s another nice invention to extend the conversation.

A typical Turkish coffee pot or cezve, Istanbul

A typical Turkish coffee pot or cezve

Preparing Turkish Coffee

  • Coffee — Originally, coffee was cooked on charcoal embers. Since this is no longer possible in the modern life, the fire of the stove is set to the bare minimum. Use two tea spoons of coffee per person. Keep in mind that a Turkish teaspoon is slightly smaller than what is commonly used in the rest of the world: 1 cm long and 0,5 cm wide.
  • Sugar — The amount of sugar is up to your personal liking, so make sure to ask your guests before you start making the coffee. Sade is without any sugar, orta is a medium level of sugar – one tea spoon or a cube of sugar, and şekerli is sweet — two teaspoons or cubes of sugar. Brown sugar can be used, yet white sugar provides more foam which is very important for many people.
  • Water — Only use bottled drinking water, since the chloride in the tap water will ruin the taste and the smell. Measure the amount of water by using the coffee cups — one cup per person.
  • Coffee Pot — In the past only cupper coffee pots (cezve) were used, but these days you can find them also in other metals like steel and aluminum. Any regular Turkish kitchen would have a set of different sizes of coffee pots to have the perfect match readily available for the amount of Turkish coffee to be made.

Making Turkish Coffee

Put the coffee and sugar in the pot first, and then add the water. Set the flame to as little as possible. Put the pot on the stove and stir. From now on, you cannot stir the coffee again! After a minute or so, a layer of foam will start to build up on the surface. When the foam gets thicker in texture and darker in the color, take some of the foam into the cups. Just at the moment the coffee starts to rapidly rise (be quick!), take the pot off the fire and pour the rest into the cups. First equally shared half way in the cups, and then fill up the cups with the remainder of the coffee in the pot.

Serving and Enjoying Turkish Coffee

Serving water with the coffee is important to clean the mouth before drinking Turkish coffee. This to ensure you can enjoy most of its taste. Turkish delight, liquor and chocolate or cookies are also served with coffee as sweet treats to enrich the treat.

People prefer to drink Turkish coffee after dinner, in the company of friends and/or relatives. It is a real good excuse to enjoy each other’s company and a good basis for a nice conversation.

Afiyet olsun!

Photo Sources [1] [2]

What's Next

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Graham Edwards December 10, 2012 at 12:34 pm

After trying every other method of coffee making, I’m finding that this simple traditional method is the best. However I add the coffee to hot (bubbles present) water and remove at the first hint of boiling. I also use a little more coffee than recommended. I’d guess not every Turk ever born slavishly followed the same instructions so I’ll continue with my method, it suits me :-)

But what I haven’t perfected yet is the total abscence of floating grouts. I use a blade style bean chopper to get a coarse powder and then grind it with a mortar and pestle. I suspect I try to grind too big a batch at once.
Straining of course removes the ‘creme’.
Anyway big up Turkish style coffee making, saves spending thousands on coffee machines for a better result.

Reply

Erlend Geerts December 12, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Hi Graham,

Thanks for sharing this.

Afiyet olsun,
Erlend

Reply

Mr. X April 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

The way the coffee is ground makes all the difference. I own a coffee grinder but I use it just to grind coffee for pour over/drip coffee with a filter. I’ve found that most grinders do not grind coffee fine enough for Turkish coffee. However you can easily find coffee grinders at places you buy coffee such as supermarkets, cafes, or other places that sell coffee and they will have a setting to grind the beans for Turkish coffee.

I add in the dry coffee, sugar, and cardamom to the ibrik and then put the water in. I put it on medium heat and let the foam rise up once, and then take the heat down to low and let it rise up again.

This site shows variations in making Turkish coffee depending on the country: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_coffee

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 22, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi Mr. X,

Thanks for sharing.

Erlend

Reply

Mr. X April 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

I also use filtered water as I own a water filter.

Reply

Duncan July 29, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Where can you buy a quality turkish coffee pot? Many options I’ve found over the internet appear to be thin copper. Or, are these the same pots traditionally used in Turkey?

Thanks

Reply

Erlend Geerts August 2, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Hi Duncan,

Sure, the originals were made of copper, even hand made. But these days in common households they use plain (cheap) steal ones available in every Turkish supermarket.

Kind regards,
Erlend

Reply

Carole September 30, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Hello.
It is now 38 years since I lived in Turkey. I remember so well the wonderful coffee I was introduced to – thick and strong. For several years after returning home, I did make Turkish coffee for myself and my husband. But then life changed and I never bothered again.
Reading the messages here has rekindled my interest and I might well try making one of my great pots of Turkish coffee this coming weekend when I have my little dinner party.

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