If you have recently been to Greece, are planning on going to Greece or can’t quite get to Greece, you may want to bring the baklava, salad and gyros to the comfort of your own home to extend/plan for/subsidise your holiday.
But the traditional Greek dishes don’t just stop at food.
Ellinikos, or Greek coffee, is a strongly brewed coffee found everywhere in Greece. It’s similar to coffee served in surrounding countries such as Turkey and is a big part of the food and drink culture in the country.
Because of the rich flavours and twist on what we would traditionally drink here in the UK, travellers commonly want to try and recreate the dish when they get home. It is designed to be enjoyed with friends and family in a social setting, and drunk slowly, which is why it can be stronger and more potent than the coffee you may be used to.
How Is Greek Coffee Different?
Greek coffee is usually made in a briki, similar to a Turkish ibrik, and uses a fine grind of coffee beans. In fact, it most closely resembles Turkish coffee in both taste and preparation.
A briki will be narrow at the top and wide at the bottom to allow the grounds to sink when boiling. Traditionally, it is small and made from copper or brass but stainless steel variations have emerged recently.
The term ‘Greek Coffee’, much like ‘Armenian Coffee’, ‘Bosnian Coffee’ or ‘Cypriot Coffee’, doesn’t necessarily refer to a particular recipe but instead lays claim to how important it is in the Greek culture.
It is also thought that the name of the coffee may have changed in response to the political events of 1974 when Turkey invaded Cyprus and the relationship between the two nations became strained.
The use of the Ibrik/Cerve is probably the one thing we would pick up on here in the UK – there is no machines or pressing of buttons involved. But the one thing which could mainly put you off is how it is served, with the grounds in the cup.
You are flexible when it comes to serving – add as much sugar as you wish, or leave it out altogether. It is often served in a demitasse (espresso) cup, and when it is drunk slowly, the grounds are allowed to settle, so it isn’t quite as ‘bitty’ as it sounds. A traditional coffee break in Greece could last up to 90 minutes, which is plenty of time for them to sink to the bottom.
Family or local traditions have played a part in several variations of the drink preparation throughout Greece, however. Some will just boil once and keep stirring throughout the preparation. Others swear by boiling it three times, but only stirring once.
The Build Of A Greek Coffee
A Greek coffee consists largely of three parts:
- The grounds/dregs settled at the bottom of the cup
- The liquid coffee
- The foam, or kaïmaki (pronounced kaee-MAH-kee)
The actual coffee should be on the thick side and definitely strong in taste. As for the foam, this should be quite rich. The foam will be created in the briki once the coffee is made, and should remain in the cups once poured of done correctly.
It is common to add sugar to the coffee when it is actually brewing, which creates one of four variations:
- Unsweetened: Sketos (SKEH-tohss) – 1 tsp coffee
- Semi-sweet: Metrios (MEHT-ree-ohss) – 1 tsp coffee, 1 tsp sugar
- Sweet: Glykos (ghlee-KOHSS) – 1 tsp coffee, 2 tsp sugar
- Very sweet: Vary glykos (vah-REE ghlee-KOHSS) – 2 tsp coffee, 3 tsp sugar
Traditionally, it will have been served black, and this is still how you should drink it for that authentic taste. But the younger generation now commonly order a double and add milk to taste. It is commonly served with a glass of water, due to the strength, as a palate cleanser. Sweet treats such as cookies are also traditional with the coffee.
Greek Coffee Recipe
First of all, as mentioned, you need a very finely ground coffee. Greek coffee commonly uses light-roast coffee too. This should be simple enough to find online but will be even easier if you have your own coffee bean grinder.
You will also need an ibrik or similar coffee pot, as well as espresso cups to serve.
- Using your cup as a guide, fill the briki with as many cups of cold water as you want to make cups of coffee
- Add one heaped teaspoon of coffee for every cup being made (follow our variations guide above if you also want to add sugar)
- Heat over medium heat, stirring regularly to incorporate grounds and sugar into the liquid
- As the coffee warms, the foam will rise – when it is nearly at the top, remove from heat
- Allow to sit for around a minute until the grounds have settled
- Pour a little foam into every cup before then topping each up
- When pouring, move the briki up and down to help settle the grounds
- Hold the handle of the briki at all times to prevent it from tipping
- You may want to experiment with the stirring to create various consistencies