The weather is finally starting to cool down a bit. I know what you’re thinking: it’s the middle of October, of course it’s cooling down! Um, I live in the middle of California. It’s going to be near 90 degrees tomorrow. Things are relative, you know? So what this all means is that it’s time to switch out from our refreshingly cool iced frappes to our hot and comforting Greek coffees for our mid-day caffeine fix.
Here in the States, we tend to treat our coffee as something meant to grab and go. The travel mug has been around for a few decades now, as have been the now-iconic coffee shops with their drive-through windows serving stuff that passes, kind of, for coffee. In Greece, having one’s cup of coffee is meant to be a sit-down-and-socialize affair. You sip it slowly, not gulp it down in a frenzy. Even the way it is prepared forces you to take a moment to slow down to do it right. (Enjoy this coffee treat with a slice of easy-to-make and delicious-to-eat Plum Cake.)
This particular method of preparation, found throughout the ancient world where coffee first became something we recognize today, predates automatic coffee makers or even campfire percolators. The finely ground coffee is nearly boiled in the coffee pot, then the whole thing is poured into the waiting cups, unfiltered. That means it’s pretty strong, hence the small, demitasse cups. Depending on which Middle Eastern region you are in, you may see spices being added (no, not pumpkin spice), and of course, what the beverage is called will differ, too. Just be sure of one thing, when you are in Greece it is Greek coffee, not Turkish!
Greek Coffee Recipe
To make this coffee you will need a briki (pronounced VREE-kee). The shape of the pot allows the coffee to be properly brewed. There are many beautiful or simply functional pots out there, just take a look! You will also need Greek Coffee, which is in a finely ground powder. My favorite brand is Loumidis, but I know many Greeks who love Bravo. The cups used are demi-tasse size, which are essentially the same as espresso cups.
- 1 generous tsp Greek Coffee
- 1 tsp sugar (or to taste)
- 1 demitasse cup of water
Pour one demitasse cupful of water for each person into your briki. Most brikis are meant to prepare no more than 2-3 cups at a time, as this gives the best results. Add one spoonful of coffee and desired sugar to the water. The coffee is pretty strong, so most people prefer at least a little sweetness added. You can adjust your amounts of each once you know what you like.
Put the briki on the stove turned to high. Stir the coffee until there are no clumps of powder. This is not an instant coffee, so it doesn’t dissolve. Stir occasionally to keep the coffee distributed in the pot as the water heats.
Once you start seeing a layer of foam appear on the surface, stop stirring. Watch the pot carefully, you don’t want the coffee to boil. You should see the foam getting thicker and rising, and you will hear the water starting to “sizzle” on the bottom of the pot. At the moment the coffee seems about to boil, immediately pull the pot from the heat.
Pour the coffee into the first cup about a third of the way up the cup. Pour the same amount into any other cups. Then return to the first cup and pour another third, and so on. This helps to distribute the foam evenly into all the cups.
Resist the urge to start slurping! Wait a few moments to allow the coffee powder to settle, otherwise your coffee will be gritty. This is a sipping coffee. As you get close to the end of your cup, be mindful that the bottom will be where all your coffee powder will settle. You don’t want a mouthful of that, so sip slowly and stop before you get to the coffee grinds. It is also traditional to serve the coffee with a glass of water and something sweet to offset the coffee.