Greek Coffee Instructions and Tom’s Review of Brands
Greek coffee is an acquired taste, and it’s one I’m very glad to have. I make it the way my friends do, half sweet, once stirred, and twice boiled, but it seems people have different views on this. Here are the proportions and directions for one (espresso-sized, since that’s the norm) cup of Greek coffee. If your briki makes two cups of coffee, adjust accordingly. You can make it without sugar, or add more, according to taste. My friends always make one cup of coffee at a time, even when making coffee for more than one person. And remember to always wait a minute when your coffee is served, to allow the grounds to settle to the bottom of the cup.
- Put a teaspoon of coffee and a teaspoon of sugar into a one-serving briki. Add water up to just below where the top flares out.
- Put the pot on medium heat, give it a single stir, and bring the coffee to a little boil. If the briki doesn’t balance perfectly over the burner, stand there and hold the handle.
- When it begins to boil and the coffee begins to foam, use the handle to lift it off the heat until the boiling is completely down, and then put it back on the heat and let it come back to a boil once again.
- Pour the coffee into a cup, leaving the grounds that have settled at the bottom of the briki alone.
Tom, my Greek-American friend who refuses to blog but continues to put together interesting things to read, has done a comparison of Greek-style coffee brands, so here’s what he has to say about them, along with nice photos and his own coffee lore:
The coffee used in Greek coffee is finely stoneground to a powder, and although the coffee can be made in any small saucepan, it is traditionally made in a small pot called a briki. Here is my mother’s “Made in Lebanon” tin-lined brass briki that has been in my family for at least 65 years:
The method for making Greek coffee is simplicity itself. To water, add coffee, and sugar if you like, bring to a boil, pour, and enjoy. In making Greek coffee, there are many individual preferences on the amount of coffee, sugar (if any), whether the water is brought to a boil before adding the other ingredients or not, how many times to boil (somewhere between one and three), and how to maximize the frothy crema that rises to the top.
A Review of Brands
My opinion is that the Turkish-made Mehmet Efendi, Kurukahveci (lit.: Mehmet Efendi, coffee vendor—not the Greek-Russian Mehmet Efendi, Sultan Ahmed III’s ambassador to Louis XV) is the best-tasting Greek coffee currently available, with fruit and floral notes forward and a full, round body. Mehmet Efendi’s coffee shop was founded in 1871 and is still in the same location in the old Byzantine Quarter of Istanbul near the Galata Bridge and run by the same family. Here is a video of the current operation:
Next in quality is the old standard, and probably the most commonly available, Venizelos brand, now made in the U.S. and not up to its former Greek-made self; it is similar to Mehmet Efendi in taste profile, but not as intense in fruit and floral notes because of a darker roast that brings chocolate notes to the fore.
Third in quality is the Greek-made Bravo brand distributed by Krinos Foods, the largest importer, manufacturer, and distributor of Greek specialty foods in North America, with operations in New York, Chicago, Montreal, and Toronto. Bravo tends toward brown sugar and maple notes with a slight sourness.
Finally, the Greek-made brand Loumidis is my least favorite Greek coffee. To me, it’s simply under-roasted and lacks complexity. It is, perhaps, best suited for Mormons—and not surprisingly is made by Nestlé.
In complexity, coffee is a beverage that falls between wine and whiskey.
Drink what you’re up for.