Serious Eats: Drinks
Automatic Turkish Coffee Takes to Manhattan
For those who can't afford the private services of an in-house World Ibrik/Czeve champion, technology (and an endless cafe boom) has made that thick, frothy cup of Turkish coffee just a little closer within grasp.
At New York City's Simit + Smith, a small chain whose third Manhattan store opened this week in the Financial District (within 100 feet of both a Starbucks branch and an independent, third-wave cafe, Blue Spoon), Turkish coffees are prepared to order for workers, traders, Turkophiles, and tourists alike—all in a fully automated Turkish coffee machine.
The diminutive countertop device made by Beko looks strange in a cafe environment, and is yet perfect for a cafe environment, all at once. It's resoundingly unstylish and looks like it would be more at home on a kitchenette counter: but it does a good job at what can be a fussy, messy task. (Heating a pot of coffee up to a frothy near-boil multiple times, in a busy cafe environment, could require both a bigger infrastructure and performative commitment to preparation than may be practical for most.) And it's pretty persuasive for a home environment, too—not to diminish the art of preparation, but let's face it, not everyone can be trusted to bring coffee almost to boiling, back off, and back up again in a tidy manner. (Just watch me make a syphon sometime!)
Though Simit + Smith have from time to time sold the machines, most of Beko's brewers are meant for European, not North American voltage requirements. (Be sure to double-check voltage if you purchase online—Amazon seems to have one model in stock.) These very simple little machines (boasting an advanced "double overflow cooking detection system"!) do a solid job in just a few minutes, with none of the (lovely, romantic) tending. The result? A concentrated, just-foam-topped-enough cup of silky Turkish coffee. Just like that.
The single-pitcher model (models that produce more coffee, somewhat adorably, just have more pitchers instead of a larger brewing chamber) as used in this cafe don't have a water reservoir: coffee (and sweetener or spice, if preferred) is added to the traditionally shaped pitcher at the outset, then water, then heat. And though Simit + Smith import their coffee from Turkey, I'll run the risk of offending tradition and suggest that a fresh-ground, higher quality coffee not meant to be shelf-stable for 12+ months would taste much better. It's still possible to brew a thick, rich, Turkish-style coffee using higher grade coffee ground appropriately into that fine, silty dust, and come out with something delicious.
That said, the experience at Simit + Smith is a total package, and there's a charm about the concept of a fast-food Turkish coffee and simit experience insisting its way into the already saturated morning landscape of lower Manhattan. Settle in with a Turkish pastry and pretend you're somewhere else—for maybe just as long as it takes to drink your tiny sludgy little coffee.
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 the creator of Nice Coffee Time, a book of photographs of the best coffee in the world, published by Presspop.