I love the ritual making Greek coffee: Measuring out the water with a demi-tasse then emptying it in the demi-tasse cup, adding the almost powder-like ground coffee and sugar to taste and watching over the “briki” coming to a boil, of waiting for the coffee grounds to settle and then, sipping it until you taste the mud at the bottom.
I’m writing this post to share my passion for this “way” of making coffee which is simmered/brewed, unfiltered and if made properly, you may may indeed begin to make it for yourself or friends. Some good times have been had around the table with Greek coffee…sipping and chatting with my Papou (grandfather), enjoyed some sunrises and sunsets with Greek coffee and I’ve had my fortune told by aunts who tip the cups and read the coffee grounds! In Greece, the ritual of drinking Greek coffee usually occurs twice a day. The first Greek coffee is sipped in the morning as a jolt to wake up the morning and the second jolt comes after waking up from the afternoon siesta.
Greek coffee can be strong in flavour but not necessarily in caffeine. Much like any other coffee – it all depends on your blend and or type of coffee used. In the coffee world there is light roast and dark roast. Light roast actually will give you a milder tasting coffee but there will also be more caffeine present. A dark roast (my preference) means the flavour of your coffee will be bolder but there the roasting reduces the caffeine in the coffee.
To make Greek coffee, you’ll need a briki (vessel to boil the coffee), demi-tasse cups, cold water, sugar and of course, the coffee. Greek coffee can be made in four different ways. It can be sketos (without sugar, strong and bitter), metrios (medium, usually with half teaspoonful of sugar), glykys or vari glykos (almost honey-sweet) and glykys vrastos – sweet but boiled more then once so it loses most of its froth.
The most common way to boil your coffee is on your stove-top but the camping-style “gazaki” has become very popular and there are some fancy looking ones that come in brass and silver. Most are impatient to get that jolt of caffeine in your body but Greek coffee is best simmered over medium-low heat. If you’re lucky, some of the better cafes in Greece will make Greek coffee in a Hovoli. Some are more ornate than others but a Hovoli basically works like this: add your water, sugar and coffee into the brass briki then place it in the part of the hovoli filled with hot sand. The hot sand mimics hot ashes, the traditionally way to heat up some Greek coffee.
Depending on what kind of Greek Coffee you like, measure and add into the briki the coffee, a teaspoonful of coffee per cup, and the sugar. For a medium coffee the best balance is to add the same amount of sugar as coffee. For a medium coffee the best balance is to add the same amount of sugar as coffee.
An interesting anecdote on Greek coffee and its origins – is it Greek or Turkish? This was the question posed to the wife of the former Greek Ambassador to Canada, Apostolos Papsliotis. I was reunited with the Ambassador and his wife at a wedding reception this past Summer in Halkdiki, Greece. We were taking about food, Greek food and the city of Isatanbul creeped into the conversation. Mrs. Papasliotis told me about attending a dinner and being seated right beside the Turkish ambassador. The Turkish ambassador leaned over to the Greek Ambassador’s wife and asked about the origins of coffee…., “Greek or Turkish”?
The cunning and very diplomatic Ambassador’s wife replied, “It is not Turkish or Greek…but Eithiopian”!
- Greek coffee
- Sugar (1 tsp for sweet, 1/2 tsp for medium/metrio)*
- A briki
- Demi-tasse cups
- Cold water
- side glass of water
- Using the demi-tasse cup, measure the amount of cold water will need to make your serving of coffee and add into briki.
- Add the a teaspoon of coffee in to the briki.
- Now add the appropriate amount of sugar*.
- Over medium heat, place the briki on the heat. Do not stir but swirl the briki until the coffee and sugar have dissolved.
- As soon as the coffee foams, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the demi-tasse.
- Allow the coffee grounds to settle to bottom of cup for about a minute before drinking. Sip until you detect a bit of coffee grounds in a sip. Coffee is done.
- You want to serve Greek coffee with the foam (kai-maki) and as soon as you start to see the coffee rise and foam, quickly take the briki off the heat and pour into your guests’ demi-tasses. A well-made Greek coffee will have a solid layer of “kaimaki” or krema on top.
- Serve with a glass of cold water and a cookie or a sweet.
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