As far as I understand coffee made east of Italy is broadly similar, give or take a few regional derivations. This includes Serbian, Greek, Turkish, Lebanese and the rest of the middle east. Although different spices, particularly cardamom, may be added, the general brewing method seems to be about the same. Whereas the rest of the world filters the coffee in some way, this method involves brewing the grinds in the water, no filtering required.
Turkish coffee is not the obvious choice anywhere west of its native area, which is a shame because if it's made well it's an excellent cup of coffee, restorative and reinvigorating, as well as being inexpensive and simple to make at home. No multi-hundred or thousand dollar coffee machines are required, no high pressure steaming, no milk even.
General consensus, as with everything, offers a great divergence of opinion in how to best make Turkish coffee - after a few months of reading it all and practicing daily, here's my contribution. The main point is grinding whole beans and brewing them straightaway means you get less stale cups of coffee and the most flavour possible, without costing $3.50 a cup.
- One Turkish coffee grinder
- One ibrik
- Whole coffee beans
- Small cup or glass (up to 6 fl. oz. capacity)
- Water, preferably filtered
The biggest expense is the grinder. It has to be capable of grinding the beans to a consistency finer than that required for espresso, so most machine grinders won't do it. I went with the web-consensus and got a good quality Zassenhaus mill from Sweet Maria's. This is a well-made brass conical burr grinder which, being manual, doesn't require power and doesn't make that wretched headache-inducing racket that electric grinders specialise in. The ibrik can be any small saucepan, although the shape of a proper ibrik helps with brewing and containing the majority of the coffee grinds when you pour it into the cup.
- I think I use a bit more water than is conventional, but then I like my coffee to last more than two sips. Having just checked I see that it's just over 5 fl. oz. After evaporation that probably results in 4 fl. 0z., give or take, so maybe not far over the standard 3 fl. oz. Anyway use your cup to measure out how much water you want and then put that in the ibrik.
- Add sugar to taste. I add half a level teaspoon. The quantity you need depends mostly on the quality of the coffee beans. High quality, well roasted fresh beans won't have the bitterness that burnt cheap beans have. Stir the sugar in the water until it's dissolved.
- Add the coffee. I've seen recommendations for between one heaped teaspoon and as much as you can fit in the ibrik. Personally I'm finding three level teaspoons of whole beans grind down to about two heaped teaspoons of coffee and that works for this amount of water. Grind it up and add it to the ibrik.
- Some people say leave the coffee to float on top of the water and don't stir, others say stir thoroughly. I find the coffee generally sinks of its own accord so I've been stirring as this, in my mind, seems to be a more even brew.
- Heat on a low to medium (gas, electric, candles, whatever) and keep an eye on it. If you're in the other room checking email when it starts bubbling up you'll hear it, but you won't get there in time. This is a fact. I know. If it bubbles up and boils over it is burnt and you have to chuck it and start again. And clean the stove top. It seems that the coffee can cope with boiling for a few seconds, but any more than that and it goes bitter. So when it starts to bubble up lift it off the heat.
- Heat again. Turn the heat down low and put the ibrik back on when it's subsided a bit, so after about ten seconds. It bubbles up quickly this time, remove again when it does.
- Do that again. The internet says reheat two, three or four times. I'm doing three. It's good.
- After it bubbles up for a third time remove from the heat and let it sit for 30 seconds so that the grinds can settle, or you'll get a big mouthful of coffee grinds at the bottom of your cup, as opposed to a small mouthful.
- Pour slowly into the cup until you can see grinds pouring in along with the coffee. Throw the rest out.
- Drink, remembering there are some grinds at the bottom which aren't the best texture on the palate, so don't drain the cup.
That's it. The only other consideration is the coffee. There is no specific bean for this type of coffee, so any will work, but as with anything, higher quality works better. I started with the Organic French Peruvian from Porto Rico Coffee in New York, which was ok, although it didn't give much of an espresso-style crema and didn't foam up too well. Then I switched to Black Cat Espresso beans from Intelligentsia and it's way better. Bitterness is minimal, which is key considering the coffee is being boiled. But, either way, there are many coffee beans that will work for this, so try whatever is available.