How to Make a Perfect Cup of Turkish Coffee

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    Try Your Hand at Making Turkish Coffee

    Making Turkish coffee is easy when you have all the right ingredients and supplies. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Is a strong cup of Turkish coffee the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Turkish cuisine? These tiny, delicate cups of extra strong coffee have become the universal symbol of Turkish culture for good reason. Preparing, serving and enjoying Turkish coffee is an integral part of daily life.

    So much history, tradition, and lore exist behind Turkish coffee that it's impossible to talk about Turkish food without paying it the attention it deserves. Fortune-telling is only the beginning.

    All About Turkish Tea And Coffee Culture

    If you're a fan of strong coffees like espresso, or you've had the chance to try Turkish or Greek coffee before and want to make it yourself, let the following pages serve as your guide to help you prepare a perfect cup of authentic Turkish coffee every time.

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    What You Need to Make Turkish Coffee

    turkish coffee ingredients
    You can find the ingredients and equipment for Turkish coffee at Greek and Middle Eastern grocers and websites that sell Turkish food and supplies. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    It's best to have all the materials and ingredients you'll need ready before you begin.

    1. Freshly ground Turkish coffee
    2. A small copper or stainless steel kettle called a 'cezve' (Jez-VAY')
    3. A small cup and saucer designed for Turkish coffee or espresso
    4. A wooden spoon for stirring and measuring the coffee
    5. Sugar cubes, or granulated sugar
    6. Water
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    What You Need 1: Freshly Ground Turkish Coffee

    turkish coffee grinds
    For Turkish coffee, the beans must be ground to a very fine texture, similar to cocoa powder. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    The first thing you'll need is the star ingredient. Freshly ground Turkish coffee. It's most aromatic and flavorful when it's freshly ground and cooked right away.

    Medium-roasted Arabica beans work best as they have a lower oil content than other types of beans, but you can also experiment with mixes.

    Before you begin, make sure your coffee grinder has a 'fine' setting. Turkish coffee is traditionally ground in a copper hand grinder and is ground much finer than filtered coffee. It should be as fine as cocoa powder.

    If you don't have the equipment or time to grind the beans yourself, it's easy to find vacuum-packed pre-ground Turkish coffee which also preserves the freshly-ground taste.

    Once you've used your ground coffee, store the rest in an airtight container. Before closing the lid, use the back of a wooden spoon to pack the ground coffee tightly in the bottom of the container. This will help preserve the flavor until the next time you use it.

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    What You Need 2: a Small Cup and Saucer

    turkish coffee cup
    Turkish coffee cups and saucers are smaller than espresso cups and are often embellished with gold, silver and traditional patterns. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    One of the most important details in preparing successful Turkish coffee is the presentation. That's where the cup and saucer come in. Traditionally, the coffee is served in tiny cups made especially for Turkish coffee. They often have delicate designs and gold or silver embellishments.

    Turkish coffee cups are even smaller than espresso cups, but in a pinch, single shot espresso cups will also do. You can find contemporary cups and saucers made of ceramic and porcelain, or you can opt for more traditional cups and saucers, or Turkish coffee sets made of metal and porcelain. One of my favorite things to do is stroll through antique bazaars and shops and pick up old Turkish coffee cups.

    In Turkey, you can buy Turkish coffee cups nearly everywhere, even at local markets and grocery stores. Outside of Turkey, try Middle Eastern, Greek or Turkish grocers or on the web.

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    What You Need 3: a Small Kettle Called a ‘Cezve’ (jez-VAY’)

    Turkish coffee is cooked in a small kettle made of copper or stainless steel called a 'cezve.'. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Turkish coffee is cooked rather than brewed. Each cup is cooked individually in​ a small kettle with a handle called a 'cezve.'

    These kettles are made from copper or stainless steel and come in different sizes. Most people use smaller sizes, enough for one or two cups of coffee at a time.

    If you entertain or have a restaurant, having larger kettles on hand will save time. You can cook more than one cup of coffee together in the same kettle as long as they all have the same amount of sugar.

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    What You Need 4: Sugar

    sugar cubes
    Sugar is added to Turkish coffee before it's cooked. The most popular way to drink it is 'orta,' which means coffee with a medium amount of sugar. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Did you know that adding sugar to Turkish coffee happens before it's cooked rather than after it's served? Unlike filtered coffee or espresso, you have to decide how much sugar you want when you ask for your coffee. As a general rule, coffee is prepared in these four ways depending on how sweet they are:

    1. 'Sade' (sah-DAY'). This means 'plain,' or coffee with no sugar.
    2. 'Az şekerli' (AHZ' sheh-KEYR'-lee). Coffee with a little sugar. (1/2 to one cube).
    3. 'Orta şekerli' (or-TAH' sheh-KEYR'-lee). Coffee with a medium dose of sugar (one to two cubes).
    4. 'Çok şekerli' (CHOKE' sheh-KEYR'-lee). Coffee with a lot of sugar (three cubes or more).

    The most popular ​is an 'orta,' or medium-sweet coffee. Sugar cubes make measuring easier, but you can also use granulated sugar and measure it with a teaspoon.

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    Step 1: Measure The Water With the Cup

    measure the water
    Use your Turkish coffee cup to measure the water to get the right amount. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    The first step to making a great cup of Turkish coffee is to get the amounts right. Use the cup you plan to serve it in to measure the water. Fill it nearly to the rim then pour it into the kettle.

    If you're making several cups together and your cups are different sizes, measure each cup individually and pour them into the kettle together.

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    Step 2: Measure and Add the Coffee

    spoon coffee
    Measure the coffee with a small wooden spoon. Use one heaping spoon per cup. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Using a small wooden spoon about the size of a dessert spoon, measure out a heaping spoonful of ground coffee for each cup. Add it to the kettle on top of the water.

    Do not stir them together! Leave the coffee in large lumps floating in the water.

    Traditionally, wooden spoons are preferred as metal is said to affect the taste of the coffee.

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    Step 3: Add the Desired Amount of Sugar

    add sugar
    Add enough sugar to reach the level of sweetness you desire. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    The next step is to add the sugar on top of the ground coffee. Do this according to the level of sweetness desired.

    As a general guide, one cube for mildly sweet, two cubes for medium-sweet and three or more for very sweet coffee. Drop the cubes on top of the coffee and don't stir the mixture.

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    Step 4: Cook the Coffee Over a Low Flame

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    As the mixture begins to heat up, a thick froth will begin to form on top. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Cooking good Turkish coffee takes some time and patience. Put the kettle over a low flame and leave it to begin warming.

    Stand ready nearby to keep an eye on it. Still, hold off on stirring it.

    As the mixture begins to warm up, the sugar and coffee will sink to the bottom, then the sugar will begin to melt. When it looks like the ingredients are combined on their own and a thick froth begins forming on top, give it a quick, gentle stir with the wooden spoon.

    Be careful not to disturb the bubbles and froth. Remember, the best cups of coffee are served with this on top.

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    Step 5: Let The Coffee Bubble up a Few Times

    Allow the coffee to bubble up and down a few times over the heat with letting it spill over. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    As the mixture gets hotter it will begin to bubble up in the kettle as it reaches boiling temperature. Stand ready nearby to remove it from the flame just before it bubbles over.

    This can take some practice to get the timing just right. You can let it bubble up and down two or three times. This will maximize the highly-prized, frothy bubbles on top.

    When the coffee is ready, pour it gently into your Turkish coffee cup. If you need more foam on top, you can remove any extra left in the kettle with your wooden spoon and add it.

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    Step 6: Enjoy Your Turkish Coffee

    done coffee
    It's customary to serve each cup of coffee along with a small glass of water. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Turkish coffee goes well with sweet Turkish desserts like pistachio baklavakazandibi, lokma (fried sweet dough)candied pumpkin, and candied quince. If you're serving it on its own, you can add a piece or two of Turkish Delight on a tiny, decorative dish to complete the service.

    Always serve your Turkish coffee along with a small glass of water. It's common for people to have a sip of water after each sip of coffee.