Greek coffee is one of those ancestral drinks closely associated with the tradition and customs of a people, in this case, the Greeks, which with time and as a result of globalization, has become increasingly obsolete.
We have not dared to include it in our recipe section, as it has no added ingredients other than a normal coffee. Still, we consider it a particular method or way of making coffee.
Today, authentic Greek coffee is still widely prepared and consumed in homes, but there are fewer and fewer bars (kafenios) and public places where it can be enjoyed traditionally.
If you are curious to know what Greek coffee, or Ellinikos Kafés, is, how it is made and what its most important characteristics are, be sure to read this article because we are going to do our bit to make it known.
An important part of Greek coffee, as is the case with Arabian coffee, for example, is the ritual and custom accompanying its consumption. It is generally drunk in gatherings of several people or family members, with a lot of calm and chatting in between (the opposite of Italian espresso), and often around a game of cards or dominoes. A social gathering in Greece always takes place around a coffee.
Greek coffee vs. Turkish coffee: First cousins
Greek coffee has many similarities with Turkish coffee but is not exactly the same.
Their main similarities are that they are brewed unfiltered and that their preparation and consumption are part of a customary ritual deeply rooted in their country’s society. In other words, both Turkish coffee and Greek coffee have a strong cultural component.
And they differ in some of these cultural details and in slight variations in how they are prepared. Of course, we should not be surprised if we consider that geographically they are both neighboring countries.
The main difference between Greek and Turkish coffee is that Greek coffee is boiled only once, while Turkish coffee is boiled up to three times. It is also usually served with a glass of cold water.
What does Greek coffee taste like?
Greek coffee, as we have already said that it is prepared in a similar way to Turkish coffee, has similar characteristics to Turkish coffee. Greek coffee is thick and quite strong, and as it is not filtered, it is necessary to be careful of two aspects that we Westerners can easily overlook:
- You must learn to drink it by leaving the grounds at the bottom of the cup.
- It should not be stirred (because then the unfiltered grounds would be spread all over the drink, and it would be impossible to separate them).
These are two fundamental issues when learning how to drink Greek coffee.
How do you prepare Greek coffee?
To make Greek coffee, you only need the right ingredients and instruments, and then, you need to know the precise steps.
The ingredients of Greek coffee are no different from those we use in other countries: on the one hand, water, and on the other hand, coffee (if possible, of Greek origins, like the ones you can see throughout this article).
The proportion is one cup or glass of water and a heaped teaspoon of coffee for each person at the table.
The first particularity is the grind: to prepare authentic Greek coffee, we must use an extra-fine grind, almost with the texture of powder or flour.
Remember that the coffee will not be filtered, so if it is not fine enough, it will be difficult to drink. Greek ground coffee is already prepared this way, but if you use a different coffee, you will have to worry about grinding it on your own.
Without a proper grind, making Greek coffee at home is impossible.
It is then mixed with water (and sugar, if you like) in a jar or container called a briki in Greek or ibrik in Turkish. Indeed: the very famous Turkish coffee pots.
- Café Ole S8059/06 Stainless Steel Turkish Pot Cezve Ibrik Style Traditional Stovetop 6oz (170ml)
- MAYOKIAAR Turkish Coffee Pot with Lid, Stainless Steel Coffee Pot With Long Handle
The mixture is left on medium/low heat until it boils. You should remove it just when the characteristic foam starts to appear, which is when the coffee starts to rise quickly, and in a matter of 2-3 seconds, it will spill all over the kitchen if you are not attentive.
Once brewed, Greek coffee is left to brew and drunk. Some people add sugar or milk, but these options are in the minority and not so common. And by the way, depending on the amount of sugar added, there are up to five different types of Greek-style coffee. Let’s get to know them below:
The different types of Greek coffee
It may seem strange, but the Greeks have a specific name for each type of coffee, depending on the amount of sugar added. Normally, it is drunk on its own, unsweetened, but pay attention to these other names in case you find yourself on holiday in Athens and don’t know how to order it:
Greek coffee Sketos
This is black coffee on its own, without any sugar.
Greek coffee Metrios
The same amount of sugar as coffee (i.e. one teaspoon of sugar is added to each teaspoon of coffee).
Greek coffee Glykos
Twice as much sugar as coffee.
Greek coffee Variar Glykos
An extra-sweet coffee with a ratio of 3 to 2: three teaspoons sugar for every two teaspoons. Not the most popular among Greeks, by the way.
Greek coffee Glykys Vastros
This is the same as glykos, but it is boiled twice instead of once, thus avoiding the characteristic foam.
In all cases, it should be noted that the sugar is added during the preparation of the Greek coffee, not when it is already in the cup. This is another important difference compared to the way we drink it.
How to make Greek coffee at home… without Greek gadgets
If you don’t have some of the traditional tools we have seen above, you can always manage to make Greek coffee, even if the technique is, let’s say, less traditional or purist.
The following video shows how to make Greek coffee without a briki (without a Turkish or Greek coffee pot) using a normal saucepan. What remains the same, however, is that the grind has to be much finer than what we use here. The option is to grind it at home with a grinder or buy imported Greek ground coffee.
Greek Frappé Coffee: Easy Recipe
Here we have to be precise. Greek frappé coffee is a variant that became fashionable in Greece in the 1980s and is still widely drunk today. It is still a cold Greek coffee (we will explain it better now), but in many places, the name has been standardized, and this frappé preparation is referred to as “Greek coffee”, plain and simple. This, as popular as Greek frappé is, is not accurate.
You can read the recipe for frappe coffee on our website: it comes from the Greek word frapé and is simply a kind of milkshake made from coffee and crushed ice, with foam on top. Today it is a very popular drink as a summer refreshment, but not everyone knows that its origin is in Greece and Cyprus, around the decade of the 50s of the last century.
The ingredients of the traditional Greek frappé coffee are as follows:
- Instant coffee. No ground coffee or similar inventions: just instant coffee, preferably Nescafé brand.
- Cold mineral water.
- A shaker or mixing bowl.
And the method to prepare a Greek frappé coffee is very simple: mix the coffee with cold water, and shake it well until it froths. Fill a tall glass with ice cubes (about one-third full) and pour the frothy coffee mixture on top. Top up or fill the glass with cold water to about the rim, and you’re done – it’s easy, but you have to be thorough in the process!
As we said, this is the Greek national drink, but it has long since crossed borders. It is now consumed in many European countries, with different variations (with milk, other ingredients, without a shaker…), but the original is the one we explain here.
Greek frappé coffee can also be drunk with sugar in the same three grades we have seen above for normal coffee: metrios, glykos and sketos.