In terms of coffee-making methods still in use, Turkish coffee is considered the oldest. Old enough and sufficiently important to be considered an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Turks" confirmed by UNESCO. *1 Around the greater Mediterranean and Middle East area the preparation method is sometimes known by a political name. For example, "Greek Coffee" came about in the 1960's due to political tensions with Turkey, but it is the same as what we know as Turkish coffee. Call it what you may, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and Turkish coffee by any other name is still Turkish coffee.
Just like "espresso," Turkish coffee is a method of preparation and not a type of bean nor a roast level. I have to assume you have Internet access and know how to search there, so I do not intend to give all the details here on how to make Turkish coffee the traditional way, but the basics are as so: Use an ibrik, which looks very much like a steaming pitcher with a longer handle. Add water, sugar, and very fine-ground coffee. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the coffee is saturated. Place the ibrik over heat. Heat slowly until the pot nearly boils. The coffee will foam up just as it is ready to boil. The idea is to remove the ibrik from the heat source before the foam overflows or the water actually boils. It's a fine line between just enough heat and too much and it takes practice to get it just right and avoiding making a mess when it boils over. With the ibrik removed from the heat source, allow the foam to settle. Repeat the boil and settling. Then if desired repeat again. When taking off the heat the final time, stir the coffee to settle the foam and allow the grounds to settle. Pour carefully into small cups. That's about it. I offer my apologies to the traditional Turkish coffee brewers and drinkers for being so basic in my description.
If you wish you may add cardomen to the coffee, others use cinnamon, and sometimes it is served with a chocolate stick. However it is consumed, Turkish coffee embodies the Turkish proverb that states, "Coffee should be black as Hell, strong as death, and sweet as love." It would be difficult, if not impossible provide a better description of Turkish coffee. It can have more body than espresso and a sweetness that makes it a delightful after-dinner beverage. Of course there are enough variations, from no sugar to a large amount, and the addition of various spices (or not), that saying "Turkish coffee tastes like..." would be as ludicrous as saying, "Espresso tastes like.." Like so many other cultural foods, the methods and ingredients vary by local custom.
Unfortunately, the traditional method of making Turkish coffee is not well know in the West. Much like making espresso, it is a ritual involving love of the process as well as of the beverage, and in our hurry-up world of fast cars and hyperspeed Internet, the number of people who take the time to enjoy these sorts of processes are few. Consider the small size of the beverage and it is no wonder that the "Super-Sized" Western attitude is such that Turkish coffee has little commercial potential in the West. The twelve-ounce (and larger) beverages which are the norm in the hands of the vast majority of Western coffee-drinkers would indicate that a one or two ounce beverage would not be a viable choice in their eyes.
Beyond the cultural problems in introducing Turkish coffee there is also the equipment to do it traditionally. Besides an ibrik, there is the need for a quality grinder that can grind very fine. Turkish coffee demands a grind even finer, actually quite a bit finer than espresso. All but the best grinders are incapable of grinding fine enough for Turkish. Grinders deisgned for espresso will do quite well, or at least a lot better than the low-end grinders designed for feeding Mr. Coffee. There are affordable hand grinders specifically designed for Turkish coffee grinding but it is likely that few rannk-and-file coffee drinkers would be interested in hand grinding for any method of making coffee, and even fewer would be motivated to purchase a dedicated Turkish coffee grinder. Yes, but we aren't them!
The Beko company is known in Australia, the Middle East, Mediterranean region, Europe, and parts of the Far East, (they are the largest producer of premium appliances in Europe), but they are virtually unknown in North America. They are a manufacturer of a wide range of home appliances, from refrigerators to hair dryers. Kaffette http://kafette.com , a coffee roaster in Arizona has introduced the Beko Turkish Coffee Maker http://kafette.com/turkish-coffee-brewing-system.html to the United States.
It seems an ambitious effort to try to introduce Turkish coffee to America, but there is a personal motivation behind this. Kafette is a roastery which sells whole bean as well as ground coffee with the Turkish method in mind. Burc, the owner of Kaffette, has his own history, deeply rooted in the history of coffee as well as the history of Turkey. I was told that he can trace his ancestry back to the man who introduced coffee to Istanbul. While stories from that long ago are open to debate, his grandmother was known as the "Woman who served Ataturk coffee." Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was the first president and founder of modern-day Turkey. Enough coffee history. Let's talk coffee.
I first learned of the Beko Turkish Coffee Maker at the Boston, 2013 SCAA exhibition. I had never tasted Turkish coffee before that show. The sample cups I had at the SCAA Exhibition were amazingly delicious- enough so that even the sludge at the bottom of the cup was eagerly consumed! Tasty, tasty sludge! Kafette have had a 110 volts version available in the US for some time, and I finally was able to get my curious, coffee-making hands on one, and I was quite excited over the opportunity.
So what does the Beko Turkish Coffee Maker do that is different from using an ibrik? Nothing. If you think of the Beko as an "auto-ibrik" you have the gist of it. Pull its "ibrik" out of the base unit and add water, coffee, and sugar, give it a bit of a stir, replace it in the base, and push a button. From that point forward the entire process, except for enjoying the coffee, is automatic. There is a beep when done. I hope you have enjoyed the review.
OK, you know I have words left to spend, and spend them I will. But really, it is just that easy. The Beko folks have automated the process. The unit heats to near-boil, stops and allows the brew to settle, and heats again. When done the light goes off, the unit beeps, and the coffee is ready.
HOW DOES IT DO ALL THAT?
In the main unit's base there is a heating plate, in which the heating element resides. An interesting design feature of the Beko is how the heat is transferred to the carafe. The metal bottom of the carafe is recessed about three millimeters up inside the carafe leaving a rim of plastic around it. Sort of like an upside-down frisbee. When you start the brew cycle the entire heating element assembly is pushed up against the carafe, fitting inside the recess of the carafe. It pushes the carafe up onto the top of the brewing chamber as well.
Inside the machine, above the heating chamber you will find (if you take your Beko apart- not advised):
1 - The microswitch which closes when the carafe is inserted
2 - Button thermostat
3 - The switch which is pressed by the "on" button to start the brewing cycle
4 - Optical sensor circuit
On the "ceiling" of the heating chamber (the bottom-side of the last photo) you find a number of features:
5 - This is the microswitch that signals the Beko that the carafe has been inserted.
6 - The button thermostat.
7 - The glass cover over the optical sensor.
8 - A vent opening that gives the steam and hot air a place to go.
The vent is connected internally to the blue plastic hose seen here. It leads to a small chamber in the base which is vented through the bottom of the machine. I did not find any excessive amount of moisture under the machine when in use.
ARRIVAL, SET UP, AND USE
At only 8.75" tall and 5.5" wide, the first thing you notice is the compact size of the entire unit. It takes up about as much space as an electric can opener, but looks much nicer on the counter top. The Beko is pretty much ready to go when it arrives. Wash out the carafe, dry it, and get ready to make coffee.
As seen at the opening of this review, it comes with a scoop which is approximately three teaspoons. One scoop of un-compacted Turkish-grind coffee per serving which, like espresso, is approximately two ounces is the recommended amount. For all my "tests" on this first weekend I made a full pot which is about three servings:
• Three scoops of finely ground coffee.
• One scoop or a little less of sugar (optional)
• Fill to the maximum "line" with water. There is a sort of seam or molded-in line inside the carafe that represents the total maximum volume which includes the dry ingredients as well as the water.
• Stir to dissolve the sugar and full saturate the coffee-drinkers
• Place carafe into the Beko with the ears of the carafe at three and nine o'clock with the handle facing straight out.
At that point the Beko beeps and all you have to do is press the button. It only takes about three minutes for the brewing cycles to complete a full pot, and the Beko beeps again to let you know it is finished. Now it is your choice how to serve. Some say to stir to settle the foam and grounds, others say to pour right away so the grounds go into the cup.
My first few pots were brewed with a batch of Ethiopian Yirgcheffe I had roasted to a City+ about four days earlier in anticipation of the Beko's arrival. I figured that a heritage coffee should be used with a heritage brewing method. I was right! The taste was fantastic. With that amount of sugar you get a delicious beverage that is fit for dessert service. We had another pot shortly thereafter. The late evening saw us enjoying an "adult beverage" to help insure sleep over our caffeine vibrations.
The care recommendations urge you not to immerse the base unit nor do more than give it a wipe with a damp rag. The machine depends on good contact between the heating element and the bottom of the carafe, so you are advised in the instructions to keep these areas clean and to not use anything abrasive to clean those surfaces as scratches can interfere with heat transfer.
Any negative comments I have all involve the carafe:
• I was a bit disappointed that the carafe is plastic. It has a metal bottom which is slightly magnetic (so I assume it is likely stainless) with a non-stick coating. The plastic of the carafe's body does not seem to absorb much heat, and so I have to think that the plastic is part of the design in that it allows the machine to send its heat as directly as possible to the coffee making it easier for the programming to control the brewing cycle. Just an assumption. Still, I would rather have a metal carafe or at least a metal lined carafe.
• The "full" line inside the carafe indicating the maximum level is difficult to see without an overhead source of light. The walls inside the carafe are black.
• The carafe has no spout, so if care is not taken the coffee will dribble down the side. Pouring it sideways over one of the two tabs limits that dribbling quite a bit. I assume that adding a spout would have complicated matters since the carafe has to fit into the base just so for the Beko to operate. The two alignment tabs could be easily redesigned to form spouts which would be a nice touch. The coffee it makes is so good that you will not want to waste any!
The grind is important. You really cannot grind too finely. The consistency of flour would not be a bad thing to try. I ground one batch as fine as the Baratza Virtuoso would go, and another batch as fine as I dared on the Kony. Both brewed nicely. I was able to compare the tactile feel against that of the bag of coffee that Kaffette supplied and the two felt very close. After a few batches I calibrated the Virtuoso to just short of as fine as it could be adjusted and will try that. A Turkish hand grinder or even a mortar and pestle are worth a try.
If you order a Beko Turkish Coffee maker I hope it arrives early in the morning. Otherwise, don't plan on getting to sleep on time. Starting with quality coffee, you will be having more than one cup!
You may have noticed that there are no photos of the beverages I created during testing of the Beko. None of hem lasted long enough, and the flavor was so deliciously-distracting that I didn't once think about taking out the camera.
If you enjoy making your Turkish coffee by using a Turkish hand grinder and a traditional ibrik over a heat source, I completely understand. I had thought about it at times, and even looked for an ibrik online in the past, but in the end, I have enough projects, and already have a number of coffee-making appliances I do not use. We all draw lines. The traditional method just seemed like a ritual I would not be sufficiently interested in to justify the investment. After being introduced to Turkish coffee at the Kafette booth at the SCAA Boston Exhibition I was hooked. The Beko just makes the addiction so very convenient! Considering its small size, fast production of beverage, and weighing in at about 4 pounds with the carafe, it just might make an excellent travel setup!
The Beko from Kafette includes everything you need to get started:
• The Beko Turkish coffee maker with carafe
• The measuring spoon
• Two Kafette-branded Offero ceramic cups
• Your choice of one pound of roasted coffee from Brazil, Uganda, Ethiopia, and a Brazilian decaf. I believe that these come preground.
• A Quick Start guide and a Users Manual
• Price is $149.95.
How good is the coffee from the Beko? I actually said to my wife this morning, "Maybe we should look into a good decaf to be able to enjoy this in the evening?" Yes.. I said decaf.
My wife looked me in the eyes, and she said, "You told me decaf was evil. The Beko is for weekends."
I am already looking forward to next weekend.
*1 Intangible Cultural Heritage can be song, music, drama, skills, cuisine, annual festivals, crafts, and the other parts of culture that can be recorded but cannot be touched and interacted with, without a vehicle for the culture. These cultural vehicles are called "Human Treasures" by the UN.