Playing backgammon in Dogubeyazit, a town in far Eastern Turkey some time back, I confess I fell instantly in love with two things: Baklava and Turkish coffee. Now, after months traveling in Turkey and eating the intricate blend of honey, pistachio nuts, and filo pastry, I realized I would never be able to produce the same quality baklava at home, but what about making the coffee in my espresso machine?
Can Turkish coffee be used in an espresso machine? No, it cannot. The grinds required for Turkish coffee are too fine to pass through the portafilter, which will simply block up. Worse, you may be sprayed with hot, wet grinds if you attempt this and then remove the portafilter before it cools.
The world is becoming smaller every day, or so it seems. Exotic foods and drinks are all around us, and with the influx of immigrants over the last century, we are a truly cosmopolitan society. Exciting drinks and beverages are produced in restaurants, food trucks, and a plethora of other venues, and coffee is no exception With literally hundreds of bean choices and, indeed, styles of coffee on offer.
How Is Turkish Coffee Made
The Turkish coffee you find for purchase is made using a cezve or Ibrik – briki in Greek. It is produced in a totally different way, with a philosophy that is worlds apart from the espresso culture. The emphasis in espresso-based coffees is on consistency and timing, two attributes shunned by all makers of the mud-like Turkish coffee.
Whether you enjoy a coffee at a taverna in Athens, a coffee shop in Tehran, or beside a bus station in Cairo, the process is the same as it is in Istanbul. The coffee maker has no interest in churning out identical cups of coffee to hundreds of rushing customers.
He treats coffee production as an art form, and while you can be certain that every cup will be superb if he feels the cup is below standard, he will discard it and start again. The queue size will not intimidate him, and indeed, the waiting customers all understand the ritual, so they rarely feel aggrieved.
Rather than time the production, the Turkish coffee maker will watch the cezve as it heats up, and only when he feels it is ready will he pour the brew. Unlike the baristas using an espresso machine, he can make nine to twelve coffees at a time, whereas a three-group espresso machine will only pull five shots at once, at most.
Conversely, consistency is very sought-after among baristas, and we go to great lengths to achieve cup after cup of brown nectar, all of the exceptional quality. Timing is also vital: Leave the shot too long, and it’s burnt, too short, and it’s under-extracted. The difference will be just a few seconds, so yes, timing is vital for espressos.
Is Turkish Coffee Suited To An Espresso Machine Style of Production?
Not at all. Turkish coffee is heated over an open flame, where the fine grinds, sugar, and water mix over several minutes (three to seven at least in my experience). The flavor is built up over a lengthy time, and crisp skin is produced when done correctly. Espresso is created by forcing hot water through a puck of coffee under huge pressure (usually 9 bars) in much less time (certainly less than a minute)
The two styles of coffee production are poles apart and are easily separated by taste. The Turkish style can be cloying, perhaps because of the sugar, whereas a good espresso is creamy and clean. Both can be wonderfully addictive, and both have devoted followers, with literally millions of cups of each selling daily, globally.
Producing Turkish Coffee
In Turkey, you might find certain herbs or a spice added to the coffee in small doses, but by and large, Turkish, Greek, Iranian, and Arabian coffee is all made the same way, and the great news is that you can produce it at home. Unlike espresso, which must be ground to a certain consistency to get the best results from your machine, even a pestle and mortar can be used to grind coffee to the correct consistency for Turkish, etc.
Whereas Arabica beans are used by most espresso aficionados, Turkish coffee often uses a blend of Arabica and Robusta, a coffee bean usually grown at lower levels, which somewhat alters the flavor spectrum. This allows for more variety and is less costly to procure.
If you have a decent coffee grinder, it will allow you to adjust the setting between the two burrs. If you set it on the finest setting, you may well be able to produce the correct consistency for Turkish coffee, which must be like icing sugar or talcum powder.
Once the beans are ground, and the herbs/spices added, an amount of ground powder is added for each person (usually a heaped teaspoon) into the cezve. This is a copper stovetop pot – although many are now made from brass or stainless steel – placed on an open flame.
Sugar is added if required, and water is measured out to match the capacity of the cups, and the whole mixture is given a couple of brisk stirs but never stirred again, including after it is poured into the cups.
Producing Espresso Coffee
Espresso coffee is almost always made from 100% arabica beans, which are ground as close to the actual coffee production time as possible. Ideally, a barista (or a coffee lover) will grind fresh beans at the same time that he froths the milk for a latte so that the result is as fresh as humanly possible.
Differing from Turkish coffee, the beans will be ground for that specific espresso machine. Still, regardless of the brand of the machine or who is doing the grinding, the resultant particles are much larger than Turkish coffee. The preferred measurement will be measured out – or weighed – and placed in the portafilter, where very hot water – never boiling – is forced through the grounds and into the cup.
As you can see, the two coffee preparation methods are very different. While an espresso ground brewed in a cezve would at least present you with a result, water could simply never pass through Turkish coffee in an espresso machine.
Turkish coffee cannot be used through an espresso machine. Still, it’s a wonderful way of enjoying coffee, so spend a few pennies on a cezve – they’re inexpensive – and add Turkish coffee to your repertoire the next time you have friends over.