Are you planning a trip to Turkey and want to know more about traditional Turkish coffee? Or perhaps you’ve just come back and want to prepare yourself a cup at home. We’ve got it all covered here.
Turkish coffee is a coffee-brewing method. Finely ground coffee beans are mixed with water inside a cezve (ibrik). Over a gas flame, the coffee is brought to the boil and cooled up to three times to create a foam. The contents of the cezve are then emptied unfiltered into a demitasse cup and enjoyed.
For many, Turkish coffee is shrouded in mystery. Here, we delve into this historical brewing preparation so you can try it yourself.
What is Turkish coffee?
Turkish coffee is a method of preparation used throughout Turkey and other nearby countries. In Turkey, it’s known locally as kahve or Türk kahvesi.
It’s not a type of coffee bean but a preparation method for brewing coffee. It is one of the earliest recorded ways to prepare coffee.
The process of brewing coffee this way is called decoction. Decoction is heating or boiling a substance in a liquid.
Turkish coffee is prepared in a cezve (pronounced jehz-veh) using extremely finely ground coffee. A cezve is a small, long-handled pot with a pouring lip. Cezves are often called ibriks, and the terms are used interchangeably outside of Turkey.
The coffee is served in very small cups with a typical serving containing around 60ml of liquid coffee. It is to be consumed in four to five sips, leaving some of the coffee undrunk so as not to consume the ground coffee sediment at the bottom.
Turkish coffee is stronger than regular filter coffee but weaker than espresso.
- Turkish coffee uses a brew ratio of around 10g of coffee per 100ml of water.
- Filter coffee uses around 6g of coffee per 100ml of water.
- Espresso coffee uses as much as 50g of coffee per 100ml of water.
It is sometimes brewed with sugar and spices such as cardamom and clove. In coffee houses, it’s often served on a tray together with a small glass of water and a sweet treat such as Turkish delight.
On average, a cup typically costs 3 – 5 Turkish lira (0.50 – 0.87 USD) in Turkey at the time of writing.
How is Turkish coffee prepared?
First, the coffee beans are ground extremely finely. The grind is actually finer than for espresso and normally requires a hand grinder to achieve such fine particle size. Few electric grinders are capable of grinding fine enough for Turkish coffee due to clumping and clogging of the machine.
Turkish coffee is usually prepared by adding the ground coffee to an empty cezve and then adding room-temperature water. The cezve is then typically placed over a gas flame and heated until boiling.
Upon heating and boiling, the coffee forms a layer of foam at the top of the cezve. At this point, the coffee is allowed to cool slightly before boiling again to form more foam. This can be repeated up to three times depending on the establishment or home-drinker’s preference.
Once the coffee has been prepared, almost the entire contents of the cezve are emptied unfiltered into a small cup called a demitasse.
Most of the coffee grounds fall to the bottom forming a layer at the base of the cup. This is much the same as the sediment at the bottom of a cup of coffee that was prepared using a French press.
As Turkish coffee isn’t filtered through cloth or paper, it has a lot of body and mouthfeel.
How to drink Turkish coffee
To drink the coffee properly, you must push any floating coffee gently downwards from the surface. You must never stir so as not to unsettle the coffee grounds at the bottom.
It’s important to wait around four minutes before drinking the coffee to allow it to cool enough to experience its flavours.
A lot of people that are not accustomed to drinking Turkish coffee consume the coffee immediately after preparation. This results in the ingestion of the floating layer of coffee grounds and is very unpleasant.
Due to coffee grounds being in the cup, the coffee continues to extract due to thermodynamics (residual heat). It’s therefore important to drink the coffee within 10 minutes or so of preparation to avoid over-extraction (bitterness).
Turkish coffee is often prepared with sugar to counteract the bitterness. Spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and clove are also sometimes added for further flavour.
If you want to drink sweetened Turkish coffee, the sugar must always be added to the cezve during preparation. It’s not possible to add sugar later on in the cup as stirring to dissolve the sugar would whip up the unfiltered coffee grounds at the bottom, resulting in a very muddy brew.
Make sure to order your coffee with sugar if you want it sweetened. Keep reading to find out how to order Turkish coffee in Turkey like a local.
Turkish coffee equipment
Turkish coffee is made in a cezve (also known as a jezve or gezve). Cezves come in different sizes and it’s important to use the appropriate size for the number of cups that you want to make.
Cezves come in a variety of materials. Each material has its own thermal conductivity (heat retention).
Cezve heat retention from best to worst:
- Stainless steel.
Copper is the favourite of serious Turkish coffee drinkers as it’s almost as good as silver but around 10 times cheaper in price.
Turkish coffee is served in a demitasse (a small cup with a capacity of around 80ml) and saucer. Turgay Yildizli, the 2013 World Cezve/Ibrik Champion, recommends avoiding traditional espresso cups and, instead, using wide-bottomed demitasse cups.
The wider bottom serves to create a thinner layer of ground coffee sediment and also acts as a pocket to trap the coffee grounds when you drink from the cup.
This is a simple way to improve the drinking experience. For more ways to improve your coffee, check out our 50 tips.
How much caffeine is in Turkish coffee?
A typical cup of Turkish coffee contains 60mg of caffeine. Turkish coffee contains 84mg of caffeine per 100ml (25mg per fluid ounce). Here is a comparison guide with other caffeinated beverages:
|Beverage||Caffeine per 100ml (3.38fl oz)|
Turkish coffee: arabica or robusta?
Turkish coffee is mostly made from 100% arabica coffee beans. This differs from neighbouring Greece where they drink the inferior robusta variety of coffee beans.
The Turkish prefer a very darkly roasted coffee as opposed to the lighter roasts favoured by the Greeks. Unfortunately, darkly roasted coffee adds to the bitterness found in Turkish coffee.
Turkish people use coffee beans sourced from all over the world as coffee does not grow in Turkey.
Is Turkish coffee good for you?
Turkish coffee has the same health benefits as any other black coffee. Drinking unsweetened Turkish coffee contains around 5 calories per cup.
Due to the bitterness of Turkish coffee, a lot of people drink it with sugar which adds to the calories. A typical serving of sweetened Turkish coffee contains around 11.5g of sugar which brings the overall calories to 46kcal per cup.
Benefits of drinking Turkish coffee include reduced risk of:
heart disease and stroke
liver illnesses, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, and liver cirrhosis
type 2 diabetes
brain disorders, such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s diseaseSource: Healthline.com
Are you supposed to drink the grounds in Turkish coffee?
No, leave the last few drops as drinking the ground coffee sediment is very unpleasant. However, if you do so by accident, it isn’t going to hurt you and could actually be beneficial to your health.
Researches at Vanderbilt University Center for Latin American Studies have recently discovered that spent coffee grounds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and are working on a method to extract these antioxidants to mix with our food.
But don’t go chomping down on vast quantities of your used coffee grounds just yet.
Some of the chemicals in coffee are potentially harmful. For example, coffee beans contain diterpene compounds, called cafestol and kahweol, which raise blood cholesterol.
These are removed by paper filters when coffee is brewed, but people who drink a lot of unfiltered coffee (such as Turkish, French press, and espresso) may see their cholesterol go up. If you eat the grounds, you’ll also get these compounds.Source: Berkeley Wellness
Turkish coffee history
Due to the rule of the Ottoman Empire, coffee has been prepared in this way for hundreds of years – not just in Turkey – but throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, Greece, the Balkans, and Northern Africa.
By way of Ethiopia and the Yemen, coffee made its way through the Arabian Peninsula and Northern Africa in the 16th-century with coffee shops opening in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and Cairo (Egypt).
Not being allowed to consume alcohol, men would get together from the mosque to enjoy the effects of caffeine.
In 1517, the Ottoman Empire invaded Yemen, and they took coffee back to the sultans in Istanbul. It was very well received and so imported the Yemeni coffee ready-roasted.
The Ottomans later took charge of the trade of coffee in the Yemen so as not to lose control to other empires.
In the year 1554, the first official coffee house was opened in Istanbul by two Syrian men and the coffee house culture boomed.
However, just two years later in 1556, a ban on coffee houses was issued due to fears of discussion of overthrowing the Sultan. The ban was short-lived due to the uproar of the Turkish population.
Did you know that history repeated itself exactly two centuries later in Sweden? You can read about it in another of my articles.
European travellers came across coffee in Turkey in the 17th-century and took it back to Europe.
This led to Europe’s first coffee house opening in Venice, Italy in 1647. This was closely followed by England’s first coffee shop opening in London in 1652, and Austria’s first coffee house opening in Vienna in 1683.
Coffee spread to France during this time as King Louis XIV of France was good friends with the Turkish Sultan Mehmet IV.
By way of the French, coffee found its way to the French-ruled Caribbean. From there it spread southwards to Brazil in the 18th-century and on to the rest of South America, causing it to become the coffee-producing behemoth that it is today.
The spread of coffee within the Ottoman Empire lead to countries serving their own take on Turkish coffee, with some even still referring to it as Turkish coffee in their own language.
How to order a coffee in Turkish
|Turkish coffee||Türk kahvesi||turk KAH-veh-see|
|with a little sugar||az şekerli||AHZ sheh-kehr-lee|
|with medium sugar||orta şekerli||ohr-TAH sheh-kehr-lee|
|with lots of sugar||çok şekerli||CHOK sheh-kehr-lee|