I learned how to make Greek coffee, first from toddler-to-teenager by watching my grandmother do it every morning, and then by making it for her in later years when her hands had grown too arthritic to handle the spoon and briki (coffee pot) comfortably. In 1975, after graduating from university, I went to Greece for the first time and managed to get permission to visit Mount Athos, The Holy Mountain, where I began the first of more than 14 visits over the next thirty-some years, to the monks living in the 20 monasteries and dozens of hermitages. Here, the making of coffee is a central ritual in the welcoming of the thousands of pilgrims who visit each year, and I had a chance to observe and learn from many serious “masters” in the making of this marvelous drink.
Here is my technique:
1. Use very cold water, preferably the bottled type, as the chlorine in many municipal tap waters will interfere with both the flavor and the creation of a nice thick kaimaki (foam).
2. Make sure you have a traditional briki (coffee pot) or cezve (Turkey), or ibrick (no this is not made by Apple Corp.), as it known in Middle Eastern countries. The shape of the briki is crucial in the creation of the kaimaki.
3. For a metrion (middle sweetness) coffee, use a one-to-one ratio of sugar to coffee, about 1 very heaping-teaspoon of each for every cup of coffee. Obviously, how much you use will depend on the size of the briki. Be sure to use the right size briki since it will influence the development of the kaimaki. Most Greek (and Turkish) coffee aficionados will judge the quality of your coffee from the thickness of your kaimaki.
4 . Put the briki on a stove at medium-high heat. Make sure to watch it continuously because the moment the coffee begins to boil it will surely boil-over and make a mess of your stove.
5. The crucial part in producing an outstanding cup of Greek coffee is in knowing when to pull it off the heat source. If it boils, the coffee will be substandard. This is the “art” of coffee-making. Watch the opening of the briki and look for the surface of the coffee to begin to gently roll over at the edges. Here’s a pretty good picture. At this moment pull it off the heat and let it “rest” for 20 seconds or so. Then put it on the heat source again and repeat the process of observing, retracting, and resting, 2-4 times. Each time you do this it will thicken the kaimaki.
6. Pour a little kaimaki gently into each of the cups and then go back and fill each cup with the remaining coffee in order to make sure that everyone has some kaimaki.
7. Sip and enjoy.