Greek Coffee (Ελληνικός-καφές)

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.

a coffee roaster

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.

dark and light roast Greek coffee

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.

a “gazaki”

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.

water container of a Hovoli

hot sand of a Hovoli slowly warming up the 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 (Ελληνικός-καφές)

  • Greek coffee
  • Sugar (1 tsp for sweet, 1/2 tsp for medium/metrio)*
  • A briki
  • Demi-tasse cups
  • Cold water
  • side glass of water
  1. Using the demi-tasse cup, measure the amount of cold water will need to make your serving of coffee and add into briki.
  2. Add the a teaspoon of coffee in to the briki.
  3. Now add the appropriate amount of sugar*.
  4. Over medium heat, place the briki on the heat. Do not stir but swirl the briki until the coffee and sugar have dissolved.
  5. As soon as the coffee foams, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the demi-tasse.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve with a glass of cold water and a cookie or a sweet.

© 2011 – 2015,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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22 Comments for “Greek Coffee (Ελληνικός-καφές)”

Lisa

says:

Seems we share some bad habits Peter M. I’ve never had Greek coffee before, but I certainly enjoy a cup or more of coffee a day and I’m positively sure I would like to drink Greek coffee. There’s also my red wine habit, and I haven’t stopped smoking. In your previous post you note your enhanced sense of taste since you quit. My dad (ex-smoker) has remarked on that too, no doubt to encourage me to quit.

Elly

says:

I have never been much of a fan of Greek coffee myself, though I do love my American coffee with a koulouraki. But now I have a huge, huge craving for amygdalota. Where are the instructions on reading the coffee cup after drinking the coffee? :)

Katerina

says:

Could you just grind your normal coffee to a fine grind – or is there something special about the greek coffee? I have good memories of this stuff.

Peter M

says:

Elly, I rely on the aunts with the wild imaginaion to read our fortunes from the coffee grounds.

Katerina, that’s a great question and here’s what I’ve found (never tried it myself):

“Greek (or Turkish) coffee is the finest of all grind levels, and basically resembles dust. You can buy special coffee mills that will give you a really fine grind, or else you could try a mortar and pestle. It’s best to use an espresso grinder on it’s lowest possible setting… 4 stops below the normal espresso level.”

Laurie Constantino

says:

Great post, Peter! Don’t you know, I love Greek coffee, although I’m a sketos gal.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is it used to be people only drank Greek coffee out of espresso size cups. Now I see a lot of Greeks serving their Greek coffee in teacups (just double the amount of coffee and sugar). Don’t know what it means, but it is an interesting phenomenon.

On Katerina’s question, I’ve tried and it doesn’t work. It’s not just a matter of the grind, which you correctly note is more like powder than ground coffee, something you can’t achieve in a normal coffee grinder. It’s also the roast. I’ve never found coffee in the US that is the correct roast for Greek coffee.

One of my husband’s great-aunts gave me coffee-ground reading lessons a number of years ago. But like your aunts, she had a wild imagination!

Peter M

says:

Laurie, I’m a “metrios” kinda dude and yes, I see Greeks drinking full cups of Greek coffee (are they nuts?).

But then again, Greeks do overdo things and you can add 3 packs of smokes a day to their long list of sins.

Thanks for sharing your experience and perhaps saving us from a failed experiment.

Here in Toronto, I can pick up a bag of Loumidis Greek coffee for as little as $6, so the convenience of buying it ready suits me fine.

For anyone else looking to buy Greek coffee, look for it at stores operated by Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Bulgarians…it’s all pretty much the same coffee & grind.

Ivy

says:

Hi, Peter, sorry I missed some of your posts but here I am again. Metrios for me as well but double in a tea cup or a mug. I don’t double the amount of coffee and sugar, just add a little bit more and the rest is water. Just after lunch and I am having my third mug.

Núria

says:

You are a “Pozo de sabiduria” which literally translated means a wiseness well – meaning that your knowledge never ends! I just love to learn all these words in Greek!

Proud Italian Cook

says:

Coffee in any way, shape or form is a simple pleasure in my life!!! This looks great, I can almost smell it!

phoena

says:

ok… the 1st time i tasted one of Greek Coffee was Frappe :-P yes…I was exposed to this version by my Greek friend who visited me!

Of course, I heard & read much about this Ellinikos Kafe until I tasted it in Athens… My verdict? It’s amazing based on the technical side to produce such beverage. It’s quite funny that my friend and I took the trouble to hunt for traditional-briki-Ellinikos Kafe that we asked the kafeteria first if they ‘re doing that way..if not I don’t want to waste time there even IF it’s a in Kolanaki!

On the other side… what disappointed me was… majority kafeterias in Athens now resorted to machines as they used for Italian style for making coffee Ellinikos Kafe… :-( My avid coffee-drinker Greek friend was astonished with such practice! I don’t blame him bcos he brewed his at home (I assumed most Greeks do that) but for tourists who don’t have Greek friends what can we do? This would made us think that’s the way to make this coffee and it’s nothing special to rave about!

Even we managed to find places that making it correctly, they won’t do it for dinner hours. At night they’re serving Italian ways…

Mark my words… it’s disgusting to use coffee machine to cut short the way to make this signature beverage of Greece. Firstly, it took ages for the powder to sink, no aroma and it’s not hot either.OK-the hot part I excused them cos I was @ Athens in Winter and maybe they did warmed up the cups before pouring in the coffee and we sat outside bcos I can’t stand smokers..yea..I have allergy with anything that’s smoky or dusty and even certain perfume :-D. The idea to use coffee machine to make Greek Coffee is totally NO-NO for me. It’s a sacred beverage. IF it’s Greek Coffee or even Turkish Coffee..they have to make it in BRIKI with sugar stir in it… as it is meant to be- over a burner or stove but not slushing through tubes of coffee machine.

My hope was this traditional of making Ellinikos Kafe maintains for long time.

Thanks to you, Peter for the infos & technic… :-) I hope more Greeks will follow your footsteps… :-D

Thank you for letting me sharing my opinions in your wonderful blog… keep up the great work.

says:

Καλημέρα από Ελλάδα:)
Ελληνικός καφές….
Ό,τι καλύτερο για να ξεκινήσεις τη μέρα σου!!

says:

Peter τι υπέροχο ποστ είναι αυτό που έβαλες σήμερα!!!
Ο ελληνικός καφές είναι λατρεια, είναι ο ομορφότερος τρόπος για να ξεκινάει η μέρα μας!
Σε περιμένω να τον πιούμε, ξέρεις που!
Φιλιά!

says:

My theio and theia make theirs on a gazaki, and they drink it by the mugful! I’d never seen anyone else do that before! I often do a double cup in a small, hand-crafted mug I bought from a friend (it’s the perfect size for this, and I get better foam if I make a double in my briki, it’s not small enough for single servings and I often drink it alone), but I’ve done small coffee mugs too.

One does have to be careful about buying coffee from other countries – Lebanese coffee for example often has a certain percentage of cardamom mixed in, which is tasty, but worth noting. I also find it (Najjar brand, anyway) has a burnt sort of flavour – Greek coffee tends to be a lighter in colour. Turkish coffee is good, though – I quite like Mehmet Efendi brand coffee, but it’s since disappeared from my local shop, as has their Greek brand (Bravo) – now my only choice is Najjar, or one from Serbia.

says:

I love Greek coffee, it has been a long time since I had the right kind of coffee to make it though…is it possible to grind your own?

DEMETRE PETROVAS

says:

It is very hard to find suppliers that sale the beans and it is hard to find the right blend of beans.
The best Greek coffee companies are Papgalos (loumidi) and bravo. Loumidi also makes a dark roast greek coffee it is awesome but not cheep

says:

Never liked Greek coffee myself but was a pro at making in. Every office gal could be asked by her boss to make a nice metrio, and no, you could not claim it wasn’t in your job description ;)
Personally, I prefer coffees that come in bigger cups and are served with milk. Frappe is a genius summer version of this.