Life Eat & Drink The 500-year-old art of making coffee

The 500-year-old art of making coffee

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It was around 500 years ago that the world’s oldest coffee brewing method was established, influencing the course of beverage history and consumption for many years to come.

During the 16th century, the process was considered a revolutionary method and welcomed in man’s pursuit of the perfect brew.

“In Turkey, you never, ever drink it with milk. It’s a big insult to the culture, you shouldn’t even order it.”

Before technology modernised our exhaustive consumption of the drink, this traditional method reigned supreme and today continues to be used regularly across various cultures.

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In celebration of coffee culture, specialist Robert Forsyth will be working to replicate the ‘ibrik’ Turkish coffee method for crowds at this weekend’s Sydney Aroma Festival.

Having worked the past 40 years with coffee, Robert has practiced, demonstrated and also been awarded for his extensive knowledge of the bean and the methods.

In his role as President of the Australian Coffee Speciality Association, Robert considers education, training and the principles of coffee as an important part of the product and culture around it.

“We try and represent everyone in the industry, from the grower, coffee buyers and brokers to the roasters, cafes and the barista and consumer,” he explained.

“Coffee is an interesting product. I used to work in a bank, most bankies wanted three jobs – it was very traditional in those days. One of the jobs, a guy invited me to come and work Saturday mornings.

“In that shop, he had a coffee roaster and I put my hand in the roasting tray and felt those coffee beans and I had this imagine that ‘this is what I wanted to be’.”

The story behind the 500-year-old method

According to Robert, a search online for ‘Turkish coffee’ will also offer up four or five other names.

“What they do really reflect is where the coffee is being made.

“If it’s being made in Turkey, it’s called ibrik. Made in Greece it could be called briki. It’s what your country or region call the little pot.”

“The principle comes back about 500 years, when the Ottomans moved their coffee down towards England, at the same time it moved into Turkey and other countries.”

Before the ibrik method became established, the traditional way of making coffee had involved seeping the grind – a five hour process.

With this method proving too time consuming, the ibrik style offered a way of controlling both the heating of the water while reducing the sediment. All it required was the ibrik pot, a heat source and cups.

“As grinding got better, they started grinding the coffee in a flour mill and were using stone mill which made talcum powder coffee, then you didn’t need to have that shaped pot anymore but they still use it as part of the tradition.”

Creating a flavour your espresso won’t give you

Robert said the style of coffee and the texture provides a unique and layered taste for consumers.

“If you have an espresso, you don’t have any sediment. If you have filtered coffee, you have no sediment. Plunger you have sediment but with ibrik coffee, it’s grinded so powder fine, we get these super fine particles,” he said.

“When you drink the coffee, of course you get this massive mouth full. It has a much better feel to it.”

There is one rule that must be followed when making this kind of coffee: ‘coffee boils, coffee spoils’.

“When you create the coffee flavour what you are really doing is extracting the oils out of the grinds. When you take it above 97 degrees, you start to do chemical reactions to it.

“The longer you do it, the more often you do it, the more bitter it gets.

“When you drink it and it’s not smooth, then you’ve done something wrong. It could be three things; you’ve boiled it, too much coffee or not enough coffee or you’ve got stale coffee or bad coffee.”

According to Robert, the key to perfecting Turkish coffee involves sourcing the right coffee, additives, quantity of water and controlling the boil.

The guide to making the perfect cup of Turkish coffee

Gather the ingredients together, which will include the ibrik pot, a heat source, spices, sugar and water.

Measure the water into the cups, ensuring not to overfill them.

Place the ingredients into the pot and mix the spice and a teaspoon of sugar with the coffee grind.

Then pour the water from the cups into the ibrik with the ingredients and stir before placing the mixture on heat. Do not allow it to boil.

“When milk boils, it first creates a skin on top and then the skin starts coming in – that’s what we achieve here. Before the bubbles come in tight, take it off so it hasn’t quite boiled.”

Pour one third of the coffee into the cups and allow the ibrik to cool slightly before putting it back on the heat and repeat twice more.

“By the time we finish pouring the coffee should be at a drinkable temperature, nothing left in the pot and that’s the perfect ibrik coffee.”

Turkish culture and the importance of coffee

For popular Sydney Turkish chef Somer Sivrioglu, coffee is an integral part of the overall dining experience.

“You will start with drink, mezes, larger meals, tea and then you might have desserts.

“Coffee is the last taste that will be left in your mouth so it’s very important.”

Contrary to popular belief, Turkish coffee isn’t consumed with breakfast but mostly enjoyed afterward the meal and during the afternoon.

Somer also advises against the temptation to order it with milk.

“In Turkey, you never, ever drink it with milk. It’s a big insult to the culture, you shouldn’t even order it.”

The traditional way it would have been made 500 years ago would have been by brewing it slowly over charcoal.

Today, the method continues to be taught in the family home, with the ceremonial cups provided when guests are to join.

In Turkish culture, coffee also serves as an important ritual when a man proposes to a woman.

“The girl will make the coffee, make a good coffee for her parents in law to-be but for groom will make the coffee with salt or make it bitter.

“What the groom says back will affect their marriage in the long term before if the groom says, ‘this coffee is disgusting’, it means he is not a patient person.

“A good groom should say, ‘that’s delicious’, even if it’s full of salt! That means they will have a long and happy marriage and they can laugh it off at the end.”