Greek coffee, which is known in other parts of the world as Cypriot, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic, Middle Eastern etc., has nothing to do with any of these countries as the beans are imported from other countries. These beans are roasted and then finely ground into powder.
The taste differs in all the above countries because it depends on the type of beans used and the roasting method.
The old traditional way of making a good Greek coffee was using a brass or copper briki, which is a long-handled coffee pot and then it was boiled on low heat to allow dissolve the flavoursome compounds.
Old traditional heating sources included the embers of a fire, or a tray, about 10 cm (4 in) deep, filled with sand. The tray was placed on the burner to heat and when the sand was hot, the briki was placed in the hot sand. This allowed a more even and gentle than direct heat and this was called “καφές στη χόβολη”(kaffés sti hóvoli).
In Greece we call our coffee Ellinikos Kaffés. I doubt if there are still any kafeneia (pl.) making coffee the old traditional way “sti hovoli”, but some still use old fashioned brass or copper briki and if it is made on a gas stove on low heat, then you are still fortunate to enjoy a nice cup of coffee. The end result will be a coffee well brewed, with a frothy “kaimaki” and not a boiled black broth.
When going to a coffee shop or cafeteria ask if they make coffee using the machine or if it is brewed on a gas stove. Boycott machine made Greek coffee!! That’s what my husband and I do. We either go somewhere else or don’t drink coffee.
For Greeks, offering Greek coffee is an act of hospitality and social gathering and when you visit a Greek home, especially in the villages, the first thing they will ask you is if you would like a cup of coffee. If you accept the coffee, before bringing it to your mouth just say“Στην υγειά σας – Stin ygiá Sas” (which means to your good health).
If you are visiting Greece or Cyprus and would like to enjoy a cup of Greek coffee, I would suggest that you visit a “kafenío – in Greek καφενείο” which are the local coffee shops. In “kafeneia” coffee is still prepared in a briki, on a gas stove whereas in most cafeterias it is likely that they will be making it using a machine, like espresso and when the coffee is made instantly, there is no time for the ground coffee to dissolve, so you can feel the coffee grounds in your mouth.
Update 2015: It seems that with the economic crisis they are trying to find ways to attract customers by bringing old methods back. I recently visited a modern coffee shop where they prepared the coffee on sand. When I went inside to take a picture they told me that the management did not allow taking pictures.
A very handy serving tray for drinks is used in Greek kafeneia to serve the coffee. This tray has a handle on top and this makes the serving of the coffee much easier.
In order to make the coffee yourselves, first of all measure the water with a demitasse cup and add the proportions of your preference. The water should always be at room temperature. Depending on how many coffees we are making we must have an equivalent sized briki. There are a few sizes of brikia for 1, 2, 3 and 4 demitasse cups. We cannot make 1 coffee in a briki which is for 3 or 4 cups. The end result will be a coffee without “kaimaki” and boiled.
As you can see in the picture I always prefer to drink a double sized coffee, so instead of serving it in a demitasse cup, I add the usual amount of coffee and sugar but add more water and serve it in a big cup.
There are many ways to prepare a Greek coffee but the main four ways you can have your Greek coffee, is sketos (which means plain): which is without sugar, me oligi, (which means with a little sugar): with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, metrios (which means medium): with 1 teaspoon of sugar and glykys (which means sweet): with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Some prefer more coffee (varis) and some prefer it light (elafris) with less coffee or more water. Others prefer it boiled only once, others prefer it boiled two or three times (vrastos).
Ellinikos Kaffés – How to make Greek coffee
Makes: 1 cup of coffee
- 1 heaped teaspoon freshly ground Greek coffee
- sugar (optional, according to your taste)
- 1 demitasse cup of water
Use the proper size of briki.
Put all ingredients in the briki and place on heat and stir until the coffee is dissolved and then bring to the boil on low heat, without stirring.
Once it starts boiling, froth turns in from the sides and the coffee begins to rise towards the centre. As soon as it reaches the centre remove from heat at once.
Serve in demitasse cups. If a quantity more than one is prepared, distribute a small amount to each cup and then fill the cups with the remaining.
Στην Υγειά σας – Stin Ygeia Sas!!!
You can find my Greek recipes in my cookbooks «More Than A Greek Salad», and«Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste!» both available on all Amazon stores. Read more here.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,