Greek coffee is a traditional beverage commonly consumed in Greece and other parts of the Mediterranean. It is made of finely ground coffee beans in a small pot called a briki, along with water and sugar. Greek coffee is known for its strong, bold flavor and rich aroma, and it is often enjoyed alongside a sweet dessert or pastry.
What is Greek coffee?
Greek coffee is a strong brew prepared with very finely ground coffee beans in a small pot called briki. The strong coffee is not consumed immediately after serving. One must wait a couple of minutes for the grounds to settle at the bottom of the cup to enjoy the velvety texture.
Greeks drink a lot of coffee and see the whole process as an excuse to meet with a friend, take a long break from work, or just to wake up in the morning. In Athens, every block has at least one café typically busy and full of people. Although Italian coffee has dominated the industry in recent years, the love for Greek coffee is still going strong.
Every home has a small coffee pot and small cups, usually made from thick porcelain to keep the drink hot. In the past, women drank it at home while the men enjoyed the beverage in coffeehouses, kafenia, a place of social life and political/sports discussions. In today’s Greece, traditional neighborhood cafes have started to disappear and specialized coffee shops are everywhere in the big cities with customers of all genders and ages. Lattes and macchiatos are everywhere, and homes have fancy espresso machines, yet this beverage is still going strong; about 50% of the total coffee consumed is Greek.
Greek coffee is actually Turkish
That is how it was known and called in Greece until the expulsion of the Greeks from Constantinople in the early 60s. Then everyone, reactively began to call it “Greek”.
According to UNESCO, Turkish coffee is an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turkey. Greece was under Turkish rule for hundreds of years. The Greeks of Constantinople, Thessaloniki, and, in general, Northern Greece got to know this hot drink first. In the 1700s, Thessaloniki had more than three hundred coffeehouses frequented by both Turks and Greeks. In Athens, the first cafes appeared later, at first mainly with Turkish patrons. Over time, however, their clientele was enriched with Greeks and the coffee habit spread to the rest of the country.
The traditional method for this coffee is to simmer over hot charcoal ashes (hovoli) in a copper pot.
The Bedouins of the Middle East were the first to make this coffee by placing the pot on the sand covering the hot charcoals.
Now it is made over the stove, sometimes over a portable gas camping stove many have in their kitchen. That does not mean it can’t be made over any other type. In fact, at home, I make mine over induction.
Differences between Greek and Turkish coffee
It has a different taste, and the consistency is thicker. The method Greeks use to make this coffee differs from the Turkish. It rises once and is served immediately, while the Turkish may be allowed to rise a second and third time before serving. However, the most important difference is the variety of coffee used.
Greek coffee is mainly Brazilian beans, two varieties from Rio and Santos, and Ethiopian beans. The beans roast in a specific process, which makes them blonde. After roasting, they are very finely ground. Greek coffee is blonder than Turkish or Arabic, unflavored (Arabs mainly use cardamom), and more concentrated.
What you need to make Greek coffee
- Small pot, ideally with a narrow mouth. In Greece, we call it briki. The traditional ones are made of copper. It is not necessary to have a copper pot. Actually, most people use stainless steel or aluminum. Also, a small milk warmer will do the trick. You can find a variety of small coffee pots at Amazon and Greek supermarkets like Titanfoods.
- Greek coffee. The beans are ground very finely, like powder. Major brands of this coffee are Loumidis and Bravo, both available at Greek grocers around the US and Amazon.
- A small cup. An espresso cup is perfect.
- Sugar. This is an optional ingredient.
This coffee can taste and feel different depending on your chosen version below.
- Plain (sketos). 60 ml water + one full teaspoon of coffee
- With a little sugar(me oligi). 60 ml water + 1 full teaspoon of coffee + sugar on the tip of the spoon.
- Medium (metrios). 60 ml water + one full teaspoon coffee + 1/2 teaspoon sugar)
- Sweet (glikos). 60 ml water + one full teaspoon of coffee and one teaspoon of sugar.
This is how to make it
Pour 60 ml of water into a small pot with a narrow mouth.
Add a full teaspoon of coffee and sugar according to your preferences.
Mix well and cook on medium heat until it swells and forms a creamy foam (images 1 and 2). The effect will be similar to making cocoa with milk on the stove.
The second the foam reaches the top (images 3 and 4), remove the small pot immediately from the heat. Do not let it boil!
Serve the coffee, slowly pouring it into the cup and finishing with the creamy foam on top.
The creamy foam is called kaimaki. Greek coffee is considered successful when the kaimaki is preserved during serving.
This hot drink is not consumed immediately after serving. Wait a couple of minutes for the grounds to settle to the bottom of the cup before drinking.
Serve Greek coffee with a glass of iced cold water, a couple of pieces of Turkish delight, or cookies.
How To Make Greek Coffee
- 1 teaspoon Greek coffee such as Loumidis or Bravo.
- sugar optional
- Pour 60 ml of water into a small pot with a narrow mouth. Add a full teaspoon of coffee and sugar according to your preferences. Mix well and cook on medium heat until it swells and forms a creamy foam.The effect will be similar to making cocoa with milk on the stove.
- The second the foam reaches the top, remove the small pot immediately from the heat. Do not let it boil!
- Slowly pour the coffee into your cup. Be patient so all the creamy foam stays on top. Let the coffee grounds settle on the bottom of the cup for a couple of minutes. Enjoy!