Weary of coffee fads? Perhaps you'd prefer something a little more five-hundred-years ago: it's time to dust off your ibrik and prepare a little Turkish coffee.
First a word about nomenclature: the charming metal pot with the long wood handle we'll be using to brew is known, confusingly interchangeably, by a couple of names: the cezve, and the ibrik. In Turkey, cezve is the name of the brewing device described, whereas in much of the rest of the world, and particularly in North America, you're more likely to find it called an ibrik, even if you're making coffee that you're calling Turkish. We'll call it an ibrik here. Clear as mud? Good, so is the coffee. Let's continue.
Perhaps the most distinct characteristic, then, of Turkish coffee is its intensity. The filterless method of brewing combined with exceptionally fine grind produces a cup that's dark and brooding and, well, sludgy. Yet it's the sludge that contributes to the particular body and texture of the Turkish preparation, which, when prepared with the addition of sugar and spice, result in an inarguably unique drink.
What counts as a traditional preparation has room for latitude: spice application may be chalked up to regional as well as personal preference, the amount of coffee you use can be adjusted to taste, and the number of times you remove and replace the ibrik on its heat source can vary—as can the temperature from which you begin the brewing process in the first place. What elements stay the same in importance across the board are the coffee's superfine grind, and the prestigious importance placed on how good your resultant coffee foam is.
Ready to start making a mess on the stovetop? Come this way.
How to Prepare Turkish Coffee
You'll need: an ibrik or cezve (Sweet Maria's has a good, affordable selection), coffee, good quality water, a heat source, and, if you prefer, a little sugar and ground cardamom.
Step 1. Grind your coffee
Coffee for this preparation should be ground uber-finely: more soft than crumbly. If for some reason you don't have a Turkish coffee mill handy, the finest setting on your grinder—finer than espresso, resulting in something like dusty cocoa powder—should produce the grind you want.
Step 2. Add your coffee and water to the ibrik
It's easiest to combine coffee and cold water at the beginning of the process rather than adding the coffee to the water as it's heating up. Select a ratio of about 2.5 grams of coffee per ounce of water—note that you shouldn't fill the ibrik to the top, as you're already likely to boil it over as it is. (For a 10-ounce capacity ibrik, we used about 20 grams of coffee and filled it with 8 ounces of water, but if you prefer your Turkish coffee stronger, go ahead and use a higher ratio of coffee.)
For those wishing to add sugar and spice to their coffee, this is the time to do so. Stir in ingredients measured to taste—a teaspoon or more of sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom (if you like) at this time.
Stir to mix the the coffee (and spices) into the water—note that this the only time in the process that you will stir.
Step 3. Slowly heat the coffee
What's thought to be special about the Turkish brewing process has a lot to do with how temperature is attenuated as the coffee steeps. Many find best results are achieved by starting with cold water. Over a low flame, heat the coffee up to near-boiling.
Step 4. Take it off the heat!
Removing the pot from its heat source, you'll soon find as you practice your ibrik brewing, is less about following the letter of any set of written instructions as it is about the sudden dramatic urgency of taking it off the flame before the ibrik boils over. Remove the ibrik from heat and allow it to cool down for about 20 seconds. But you're not done brewing yet.
Step 5. Put it back on the heat!
Bring the coffee back up to the same near-boiling point once more. Again remove it from heat and allow to cool. Some people prefer to do this a third time, but your preferences may vary. You're trying to allow enough brewing time while not jeopardizing the foam that's forming at the top of your coffee, and how you manage this balancing act will be up to you. Cool the coffee for a moment before serving.
Step 6. Serve
Pour out your coffee into small, ideally curvy cups, like espresso demitasses or even smaller. You're going for the effect of a foamy crema on top of the cup, which indicates quality of the brew (and possibly, your suitability for marriage). Drink your creation—but not all the silty grounds remaining at the bottom—and enjoy.
Next week, we'll take a look at more contemporary twists on ibrik brewing.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop in 2013.