Coffee

How to Make and Serve Turkish Coffee

January 29, 2016

When people hear I grew up in Turkey, they often ask about Turkish coffee. It's either because they love it and want to learn how to make it or are concerned that enjoying a thick, espresso-like drink will make it difficult to sleep if they mistakenly take a sip before bedtime.

Either way, it's always a fun conversation starter.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Turkey is known as the heart of the world where ancient traditions of diverse people blend with the modern, and learning to correctly prepare coffee in the Turkish style will bring a bit of this classic custom into your own home.

But before I tell you about how to make Turkish coffee, I think it's important to start by explaining the tradition behind it: In my opinion, learning to make Turkish coffee starts from understanding its terminology and customs.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

In Turkey, when you are visiting someone's home, the first question isn’t if you want to drink Turkish coffee, but rather how you would like it be prepared. More specifically, your host is asking for your sweetness preference. To answer the question, you may say “sade” to indicate no sugar, “az seker” for very little sugar, “orta” for 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar, or “sekerli” for 3 to 4 teaspoons of sugar. Once your request is made, the person preparing the coffee has the responsibility to remember and make each cup accordingly.

Turkish coffee is always served with water: A sip of water will allow the person to clear his or her palate before drinking coffee, making for the best enjoyment. Additionally, most people serve the coffee with a small, sweet treat like Turkish delights, chocolate, or candy.

When serving coffee, it's important to start with the eldest guest in the room as a sign of respect, and it's considered discourteous not to do so. Last but not least, since Turkish coffee is much denser than filtered coffee, it's not customary to drink more than one cup.

To make Turkish coffee, you'll need filtered water, a cezve (a special wide-bottomed pot, usually made of copper), Turkish coffee cups (which are usually small in size and sold together with the cezve), sugar, and Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee is much more finely ground than regular coffee. Even though you can grind it yourself from beans, nowadays you can find ground Turkish coffee in most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean supermarkets.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Always use cold, filtered water. To measure the amount of water for each cup, use the coffee cup you are going to serve it in as the measuring vessel. My rule of thumb is to use a volume of water 1 1/2 times the volume of the coffee cup. (Once again, the “cup” measurement refers to the coffee cup that you are going to serve the coffee in, rather than a standard measuring cup.)

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

For each person you're serving, use 1 heaping tablespoon of ground coffee (as long as you're using Turkish coffee cups 1 heaping tablespoon Turkish coffee should be fine).

If you're preparing the coffee with sugar, add it in at the very beginning, stirring it into the ground coffee and the water until combined. If one or more of the guests prefers no sugar, however, prepare and pour that cup first. After returning the coffee pot to the heat, then begin the sugar additions to suit the remaining guests.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. This will take 3 to 4 minutes, so keep a close eye on it.

As the coffee warms, dark foam will build. It is customary and important to serve Turkish coffee with foam on top. When the mixture is close to a boil, use a teaspoon to transfer some of the foam into each Turkish coffee cup. Return the coffee pot to the stovetop. As coffee comes to a boil, pour half of the coffee into the cups, over the foam.

Return the coffee pot to the stovetop and boil the remaining coffee for an additional 10 to 15 seconds, then divide it into the cups to fill them to the rims.

Photo by Aysegul Sanford

Serve the coffee with a glass of water and a Turkish delight, chocolate, or candy.

What are your coffee traditions? Tell us about them in the comments!

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29 Comments

Danielle C. April 14, 2018
PLEASE TELL ME where to find those gorgeous cups and saucers!
 
Galata August 22, 2017
Surely Turkish coffee holds its special place in a foody's list. For a great Turkish coffee in NYC, visit Galata NYC at 212 E34th Street.
 
Mitana M. March 15, 2017
GREAT ARTICLE! and very informative.......Thank you so much!!!
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 15, 2017
I am glad you like it Mitana. Thank you for reading.
 
ceylan March 14, 2017
thank you for a great article.<br /><br />allow me to make one more comment which accompanies Turkish coffee almost as a side ingredient:<br />'bir fincan kahvenin kirk yillik hatiri vardir' is a saying in Turkish meaning ' a cup of (Turkish) coffee has a memory for 40 years'; nearest i could translate.<br /><br />this saying not only stems from its beans being precious since, apparently the best beans use to come from Yemen in the old times, made it expensive and a rare ingredient; time consuming roasting and grounding was done at home; cooking -as explained, not only took some time but demanded all the attention, care and love; last but not least, time shared over a cup of Turkish coffee was a true expression of honouring the guests with quality time spend with them. <br /><br />in other words Turkish coffee preparation and drinking is a ritual; it is not a drink to be enjoyed while on the go. it is a true slow food delight.<br /><br />enjoy your cup of Turkish coffee!
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 15, 2017
Can't agree more. Thank you Ceylan.
 
Steven W. March 13, 2017
So the Turkish coffee is finely ground like an espresso grind? I am fine with leaving the grounds in the cup, but wouldn't most of them settle in the pot ? Or do you have to pour it all out right after the second boil...I wish you'd included a video!
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 15, 2017
Hi Steven,<br />I am in the process of making a video for this and will publish it on my blog in April. My goal is to answer all these questions in a short video. <br />To answer your question: Yes, they would settle when the coffee is poured into the coffee pot. However, this is normal as Turkish coffee is much thicker than any other coffee that I know. Also, the thickness depends on the amount of coffee you used. <br />I hope this helps.
 
Mrsgoldilocks March 13, 2017
What a beautiful way to make coffee. The Turkish coffee I've tried in the past, contained Cardamom. I absolutely loved that variation!
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 15, 2017
Hi Jena.. Yes, a lot of people (mostly Arabic countries) do add flavorings such as cardamom. I have only tried it once and it was pretty good.
 
Kat March 13, 2017
I'm Armenian; I grew up with Turkish coffee being served to our Armenian friends and family. My mother use to read the coffee grounds that form secret messages after the coffee is consumed and the drinker's cup is turned upside down on the saucer. She was actually quite good at it and learned how to read the grounds from her mother.
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 15, 2017
Ha haa... My mother used to read my cup when I was a teenager too. At the time I was in love with a boy in my class. She would make up stories about him. Later, none of them turned out to be true, but at the time it was fun. :)
 
ELENA M. March 13, 2017
When I've been to a Turkish restaurant here in NYC, the bottom of the cup has a lot of coffee granules, I feel like I can't enjoy a full cup of coffee since I have to leave the bottom of it. Have I been given bad coffee or is that the way it is?
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. March 13, 2017
Oh I know.. That is the way it is as Turkish coffee is much more dense and strong than any other coffee.
 
Giovanni G. August 26, 2016
Looks divine! Though my Italian roots are from are from Southern Italy, there is a Northern Italian coffee tradition I would love to try called the coppa dell'amicizia from the Valle D'Aosta region. <br /><br />https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grole
 
Kerry August 25, 2016
There's no mention of filtering. The ground coffee will dissolve in the water like instant coffee?
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. August 25, 2016
Hi KY,<br />Turkish coffee needs no filtering as the coffee is very thin. Yes, it will dissolve in the water like instant coffee. However, unlike instant coffee (like Nescafe), Turkish coffee is much thicker. For the lack of a better word, it is muddier than instant coffee. Does this make sense?<br />I am here if you have any other questions.
 
Robyn July 10, 2016
hopefully there's a pattern or maker imprint on the bottom of the cups! they are so beautiful. Can't wait to try out this method
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. August 25, 2016
They are hand painted and one of a kind. My friend allow me to use them for these photos. However, if you ever visit Turkey I promise you you will find beautiful Turkish cups everywhere.
 
Nina I. July 10, 2016
Hi, I'm from Serbia, and when we make what we call the Turkish coffee, we add the coffee once the water is boiled. I understood that you mix the coffee and water in the very beginning. If so, I am curious to try it the Turkish way.
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. August 25, 2016
Yes, we add the coffee in the beginning. No need to wait for it to boil first. Interesting that you guys wait for the water to come to a boil first.. <br />Thanks for letting me know.
 
Cem B. July 10, 2016
try this specialtyturkishcoffee.com
 
Corie C. February 1, 2016
This is gorgeous! I'm going on a Turkish coffee pot hunt at once!
 
Jona @. February 1, 2016
This is very similar to how we do it in Albania as well, and even Bosnia. Glad to see it on Food52 :)
 
Elena S. January 31, 2016
Very good description. I am Romanian born and only drink coffee in Turkish style. I boil my measured water with sugar and when boiling I take it off the heat and mix in the ground coffee. It makes for a finer taste, still foamy and it's weaker, I can drink a whole pot (three demitasse cups). You have to use your best china to enjoy it, I have the finest antique German china.
 
Ashley C. January 29, 2016
I dated someone from Lebanon for awhile and I fell in love with Turkish coffee then. I have my own set, but it's never quite as good when I make it as it was when I first had it with him.
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. January 30, 2016
Hi Ashley,<br />I can totally relate to that. Turkish coffee tastes better when you share with friends. :)
 
Sarah C. January 29, 2016
This is gorgeous. I lived in Istanbul for a while and it remains my favorite place on earth. I returned home with a lovely set of Turkish coffee cups and a cezve, but I don't use it often enough. (This set is GORGEOUS - any chance you could tell me where you got these cups?) When teaching me to make Turkish coffee, some of my friends double boiled like your directions and some triple! Any idea why one would want to triple boil the coffee?
 
Author Comment
Aysegul S. January 30, 2016
Hi Sarah.. This set is a vintage set that belongs to a friend. It was given to her by her husband many years ago as a birthday gift. I think that it is gorgeous as well. <br />For your question about double/triple boiling... I usually only double boil to make sure that the coffee is fully cooked/boiled. Even though I do not know why anyone would triple boil it, I am guessing that it is because they want to make sure that the coffee is really hot and the sugar is fully dissolved in it.<br />I hope this helps. :)<br />