Espresso, French press, slow drip, frappemochawaccuccino. Coffee preparation can be baffling—and that’s just in your local Starbucks. There are many other ways coffee is made around the world. Here are seven of them.
Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Coffee’s origin story is set in Ethiopia, where a goat herder notices his flock is full of beans after eating a certain berry. He tells the local monks, who toss the offending berries on the fire, but then—presumably overcome by the heavenly aroma—decide to make a drink out of them instead. The increased alertness aids in prayer, and the rest, as they say, is a multibillion dollar industry.
Whether that’s all true or not, Ethiopia does retain a unique coffee culture—one in which the famed and elaborate coffee ceremony, conducted by women, remains part of daily life. Details vary, but it goes something like this:
(For more on Ethiopian coffee, see David Farley’s “Coffeeland.”)
I was lucky enough to participate in similar ceremonies with the local Nubian people around Aswan, in southern Egypt. The procedure was the same, except spices like cloves, ginger, and cardamom were ground up along with the coffee beans. Similar coffee drinking rituals take place in Sudan, too.
At the other end of the spectrum, kopi tubruk, the traditional Indonesian way of making coffee, is about as simple as it gets.
That’s it! The key is to not boil the water for long, or else the brew will taste flat, and to use good quality, finely ground coffee. Oh, and sip carefully as you near the bottom.
The scare quotes are because this brewing method is used all over: in much of the Middle East, North Africa, and the Balkans, for example. (Quickest way to cause offense in Greece? Order a Turkish coffee. Bonus demerits if you are in Greek Cyprus at the time.) This method is quick, unfussy, and results in a brew that is thick, strong, and chewy.
The coffee grounds sink to the bottom of the cup as a kind of sludge (like tea leaves, they can be used for fortune telling), and there should be a foamy, creamy layer on top of the drink. A Turkish proverb sums up what coffee made this way should taste like—”black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love.”
Scandinavian Egg Coffee
This is really easy to make, and produces a strong but not bitter coffee. The egg does three things: binds to the coffee grounds and makes them sink, counteracts the acidity of the coffee, and neutralizes some of the chemicals that cause coffee to taste bitter.
Malaysian coffee is brewed in a “sock,” a tubular cloth or muslin filter attached to a handle. The beans are often roasted with butter (or margarine) and sugar, giving the coffee a kind of burned caramel flavor. The famed Ipoh white coffee is roasted without the sugar and is considered a more refined drink.
Brazilians don’t drink cups of coffee. They drink cafezinho—tiny cups of strong and extremely sweet coffee. And they drink them all day, everywhere—from gas stations to sidewalks to posh boutiques. This is another method that uses a cloth filter.
South Indian Filter Coffee
While India is more famous for its spiced chai than its coffee, connoisseurs claim the kapi made in the southern states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala is some of the best in the world. The secret is patience, boiled milk, and the right equipment.
A South Indian coffee filter is basically two stacked metal chambers. The top one is where you put the coffee grounds and water. It’s perforated, and comes with a plunger and a lid. The bottom one is where you collect the coffee decoction, which will be thick and extremely concentrated.
Note that some people produce a second decoction after the first. It’s nowhere near as strong, so is kept separate. A quarter cup or so is added to the first milk/decoction mixture.
The better-known Vietnamese coffee is made with similar equipment. But rather than boiled milk, condensed milk is used.
For more on coffee, hitch a ride with David Farley as he travels around Ethiopia to learn about the source of our global obsession.
© 2016 AFAR Media