What’s the difference between Turkish coffee and Bosnian coffee?

Short answer: Sugar is added later when making Bosnian coffee.

“We [Bosnians] serve [our coffee] without sugar in the coffee pot.. because we have a less bitter life than Turkish people.”

Bosnian guide

I had some delicious Bosnian food for lunch today! We tried a combination plate with ćevapi (kebab-like minced meat), pljeskavica (spiced meat patty), chicken kebabs, sausages, lepinja (flatbread), and ajvar (relish), as well as a gulaš (goulash). Not quite Bosnian, but they also had a lovely rose hip soda from Slovenia! Unfortunately I didn’t get a nice photo of the combination plate (so that’s an image from Yelp), but the other two are actually from today…

They also had some interesting decorations. One was an advertisement for a free concert by Bijelo Dugme (White Button), the most popular rock band ever from Yugoslavia. This concert was a comeback attempt by the band, and the last performance before the lead guitarist’s (Bregovic) army duty. Between 70,000-100,000 people showed up to Kosutnjak in Belgrade, and it is considered a seminal event in Yugoslav rock. Another was a little placard about the Sebilj in Sarajevo, an Ottoman-style fountain in Bascarsija Square (Sarajevo’s old bazaar). According to local legend, visitors who drink water from this fountain will return to Sarajevo. No doubt the restaurant wishes a similar effect from the poster…

The owner of the restaurant noticed I was taking some photos of the poster and came by to show us a can of Coke. He proudly told us that the can was an original Coca-Cola from the Sarajevo Olympics in 1984! Amazingly, the can still contained some liquid after 37 years, although it was quite soft (probably from loss of carbonation and direct corrosive effect of phosphoric acid).

After lunch, we went to the attached Bosnian market. While shopping, I made a major mistake asking if they had “Turkish coffee.” The owner was appropriately insulted but did patiently direct us to the Bosnian coffee. We ended up getting 4 bags (as gifts), so the encounter ended with all smiles and some free Bananko (a Croatian candy of chocolate-covered banana foam). This did have me wondering what the difference between Turkish and Bosnian coffee was though.

Bosnian coffee grounds. Source: my own phot

Turkish and Bosnian coffee are both strong, unfiltered, and prepared with the same grounds. The preparation begins by boiling cold water in a copper pot (known variously as a dzezve, cezve, or ibrik). Turks add sugar to their water, while Bosnians do not. Once the water comes to a boil, coffee grounds are then added. This causes the characteristic foaming of Bosnian/Turkish coffee. Some additional hot water can be used to help sink the grounds. Alternatively, the foam may be stirred down with a spoon and the mixture slowly heated again to generate more foam. Bosnian and Turkish coffee are both served with a glass of water. Bosnian coffee will additionally be served with sugar cubes and rahat lokum (sweet jelly cubes coated in sugar).

How Bosnian Coffee Is Different from Turkish Coffee | MyRecipes
Bosnian coffee. Source

Bosnian coffee should first be poured out from the dzezve, then a little foam spooned on top. The drinker can then take a small nibble of a sugar cube then drink some coffee to let the two mix together in one’s mouth. This contrasts with Turkish coffee, which has already been sweetened during the preparation. In addition, in Bosnia, the dzezve is brought to the table; whereas Turkish coffee is served in a single cup. As for the taste – the two honestly are pretty similar…one BBC article notes “Bosnian coffee tasted indistinguishable from its Turkish counterpart, which is to say it was potent, bitter and as thick as mud.”

Bekrija si cijelo selo viče (The bohemian is shouting at the whole village) by Bijelmo Dugme. From the album Šta bi dao da si na mom mjestu (What Would You Give to Be in My Place).

Note: I don’t really (yet) understand the proper use of diacritical marks for Slavic languages, so sorry for missing a bunch of these!


  1. https://www.bbc.com/travel/article/20140707-the-complicated-culture-of-bosnian-coffee
  2. https://www.myrecipes.com/extracrispy/how-bosnian-coffee-is-different-from-turkish-coffee
  3. https://cookingtoentertain.com/bosnian-coffee/
  4. https://meanderbug.com/art-bosnian-coffee/
  5. https://driftaway.coffee/a-brewing-guide-for-turkish-coffee/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bijelo_Dugme
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebilj_in_Sarajevo
  8. https://www.quora.com/How-long-does-Coke-last-in-the-can-How-long-in-the-bottle

Can vegans get sufficient vitamin B12 from kombucha alone?

Answer: Probably not (unless you’re drinking a B12 fortified kombucha).

One of my friends, who is a vegan, mentioned recently that kombucha might be a good source of vitamin B12. Confusingly, when we went to a local market, we encountered numerous brands of kombucha that did not mention vitamin B12 on the nutrition label. Only a single brand had a substantial amount of Kombucha (Humm). We couldn’t figure out why this brand was different – if it was a special SCOBY they used or some other production secret.

Humm Kombucha. Note the Vitamin B12 content of 1750%…

As a brief introduction, kombucha is tea fermented with co-cultures of yeast and bacteria. The specific yeast and bacteria vary from study to study but almost always include the bacteria Komagataeibacter xylinus (formerly Gluconacetobacter xylinus). This bacteria ferments alcohols produced by other yeasts into organic acids such as acetic acid, which increases kombucha acidity and limits ethanol content. For those interested Jayabalan et al. review the microbiology and composition of kombucha. In their review, Jayabalan et al. discuss an older study by Bauer-Petrovska et al. quantifying water-soluble vitamins in kombucha. This study showed that kombucha made with black tea and sucrose contained ” vitamin B1 74 mg/100 mL, vitamin B6 52 mg/100 mL, vitamin B12 84 mg/100 mL, and vitamin C 151 mg/100 mL.” A typical 16 fluid ounce container of kombucha is around 500 mL (473.2 mL), for an estimated 400 mg of vitamin B12 per bottle. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin, B12 is 2.4 mcg/day so a bottle should exceed the RDA by an astounding 166,000 times. A more recent study from Turkey by Arikan et al. determined that the mechanism was biologically plausible; Komagataeibacter indeed “carrries complete pathways for the biosynthesis of vitamin B1, vitamin B7, vitamin B12 “

Wanting to investigate this further, we directly contacted Humm. To our surprise, we actually received a reply! It turns out that “due to inconsistencies in the vitamin levels that naturally occur in our kombucha, we add Vitamin B12 to provide 1,000% of recommended daily intake of Vitamin B12.  Accurate labeling is extremely important to us, as is the consistency and quality of our kombucha.” It’s like the natural variability was also too high from other brands that did not supplement vitamin B12 to make any claims on the nutrition label. The full reply from Humm is below:

Of course, this doesn’t indicate whether or not kombucha is a good source of B12 in practice. A small study (n=42) from Romania by Zugravu et al. compared different strategies of vitamin B12 supplementation in vegans. This study found that vitamin B12 supplementation was superior to supplementation with alternative products (algae, kombucha, other fermented products).

Values of serum transcobalamin in vegans who supplemented with cyanocobalamin (group 1), methylcobalamin (group 2), and natural products (group 3). Source: Zugravu et al. Figure 1

My overall conclusion is that for vegans, vitamin B12 supplements are probably still superior to drinking kombucha alone. Although the mechanism of vitamin B12 in kombucha is plausible, the response from Humm suggests that actual vitamin B12 levels in Kombucha vary wildly in practice. Furthermore, the limited clinical evidence seems to suggest that vitamin B12 supplements are superior to alternative strategies of supplementation.

Note: Humm’s email also mentions they supplement with the “natural” form of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin (often derided as “synthetic” B12) is readily converted to methylcobalamin in the body. Per Zugravu et al., cyanocobalamin supplementation was actually superior to methylcobalamin supplementation for maintaining serum B12 levels.


  1. https://www.reddit.com/r/Kombucha/comments/6op8kd/why_does_humm_kombucha_have_such_insane_amounts/
  2. Jayabalan R, Malbaša RV, Lončar ES, Vitas JS, Sathishkumar M. A Review on Kombucha Tea-Microbiology, Composition, Fermentation, Beneficial Effects, Toxicity, and Tea Fungus. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2014 Jul;13(4):538-550. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12073. PMID: 33412713.
  3. Arıkan M, Mitchell AL, Finn RD, Gürel F. Microbial composition of Kombucha determined using amplicon sequencing and shotgun metagenomics. J Food Sci. 2020;85(2):455-464. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.14992
  4. Zugravu CA, Macri A, Belc N, Bohiltea R. Efficacy of supplementation with methylcobalamin and cyancobalamin in maintaining the level of serum holotranscobalamin in a group of plant-based diet (vegan) adults. Exp Ther Med. 2021;22(3):993. doi:10.3892/etm.2021.10425

Who invented commercial meat extract? Bouillon cubes?

Answer: Justus von Liebig (commercial meat extract). Auguste Escoffier or Julius Maggi (bouillon cubes)

Happy Thanksgiving! In an effort to cook more, I recently started a trial of Hello Fresh (not sponsored). Multiple recipes from this week have called for stock concentrate – which got me wondering about the origin of stock concentrates, meat extracts, and bouillon cubes.

Marco Pierre White, legendary chef and Gordon Ramsay’s mentor, now turned corporate shill for Knorr stock pot. Source.

First off, some basic definitions of broth, stock, and bouillon. Broth is made by simmering vegetables and/or meat in water. Bouillon is synonymous with broth. Stock is similar to broth, with the addition of bones. This makes a substantial difference as bones contain ample quantities of gelatin (~20% by weight vs. 1% in muscle). Gelatin is a collection of peptides/proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen and gives mixtures a definite body without overly thickening a sauce (at low concentrations). Glace de viande (literally “meat glass”) is a stock reduced to approximately 10% of its original volume (demi-glace is approximately 25-40% of original volume). Bouillon cubes, also called stock cubes, broth cubes, or stock pot, originally consisted of further dehydrated broth or stock.

Dehydrated broth/stock has been known in the English-speaking world since the 17th century. For example, dehydrated meat stock was known to Anne Blencowe, a 17th-century compiler of recipes. In the 18th and 19th centuries, a dehydrated meat broth called “portable soup” became a common ration for sailors and explorers. Townsends, a channel dedicated to recreating historical foods, demonstrates how to make portable soup below (with a slow cooker!).

The first person to try to create mass-produced meat extracts was Justus von Liebig (apparently he was also a leading proponent of the theory that searing meats “seal juices in”). He also held the mistaken view that the soluble substances in meats contain the majority of the nutritional value. Hoping to feed the undernourished, Liebig attempted to create a commercially viable meat extract. Unfortunately, his process was an inefficient use of meat (30kg of meat for 1 kg of extract), making manufacturing in Europe difficult. Taking advantage of cheap cattle prices in Uruguay (where cattle was being raised for hides and not meat), Liebig was finally able to create a financially viable meat extract (Liebig’s Extract of Meat Company – today Oxo).

The origin of bouillon cubes is unclear. Wikipedia credits the invention to Auguste Escoffier, a great popularizer of French cooking in the late 19th century (pretty much every other article online on the subject almost certainly draws from the Wikipedia page). However, the source cited is a single line from an article from the International Wine and Food Society. This article opens with the line “I was dimly aware of the name Auguste Escoffier just a few months ago, but if I had been asked to give any kind of summary of his life or importance, I would have been unable to do so, other to say he was an pioneer [sic] in French cuisine.” No further sources are cited in this IWFS article. Another article claims Benjamin Thompson invented a proto-bouillon cube of solidified stock of bones and meat trimmings in the late 18th century.

However, the history of mass-produced bouillon cubes seems more clear. Maggi in 1908 (lead at the time by Julius Maggi), Oxo in 1910, and Knorr in 1912 began commercial production of bouillon cubes. Their products became ubiquitous worldwide as these companies provided bouillon cubes to soldiers during the World Wars, and as European countries spread bouillon cubes to their colonies.

Julius Maggi
Julius Maggi and his products. Apparently, he not only made bouillon cubes, but also mock-turtle-flavored instant soup and truffle-flavored Maggi. Source: a hagiographic article by Nestle

The big players in the bouillon cube business are predictably all owned by food conglomerates: Knorr (a subsidiary of Unilever), Maggi (a subsidiary of Nestle), and Oxo (licensed by various companies around the world). These companies have been very secretive about the actual manufacture of bouillon. However, Wikipedia linked to an intriguing patent from Unilever that suggests that bouillon cubes are created by directly mixing salt, fat, flavor extracts, and myriad other ingredients. Modern bouillon cubes are certainly very unhealthy, consisting primarily of salt (>50%), fat, and MSG; there is often less than 3% of actual meat extract.

Seasonings, salt, and additions such as glutamate, separately or premixed, are introduced first into the extruder through feed funnels. The liquid extract, for example meat extract and vegetable extract, which can also be added in powder form, however, is then added. The fat, which can be fed in liquefied form to the extruder Screw, is added next. Finally, the garnishes are added, such as vegetable strips or herbs e.g. parsley, which are added to the paste under mild conditions.

Patent US6099888A

For anyone with some more time, Danish national television presented a show investigating bouillon cubes with the help of a professional chef, food scientist, a meat extract manufacturer, and a Knorr representative (below). The interview portion with Unilever (parent company of Knorr) opens with the reporter asking why the Knorr test kitchen is filled with numerous ingredients like carrots and fennel not present in beef bouillon cubes. Watch as representative wilts as she is asked why they Knorr leads in both market share… and salt and fat percentage.

Some other random facts I came across while reading about bouillon cubes:

  1. Liaison. In the cooking world, a liaison is a thickening agent made of egg yolks and cream (it can also be a verb to describe the act of thickening). The word is originally French; when borrowed into English in the 17th century, it was the culinary sense that came first.
  2. Stock derives from an old Germanic word meaning “tree trunk.” The word was first used in a culinary sense in the 18th century. Broth derives from a Germanic root, bru, meaning to prepare by boiling.
  3. Stocks should be cooked uncovered from a cold start with slow heating. This allows soluble proteins to coagulate slowly, to be skimmed off later. Cooking uncovered also further dehydrates the scum (as well as concentrates the stock).
  4. Ikeda Kikunae derived MSG from kombu in 1908 (the same year Maggi developed bouillon cubes). Kikunae also coined the term “umami” as a portmanteau of “umai” (delicious) and “mi” (taste).


  1. https://www.marthastewart.com/1539238/differences-between-broth-stock-lowdown
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fE5KzvOZRk
  3. https://www.seriouseats.com/bouillon-cube-history
  4. McGee, Harold. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, 2nd edition. Page 762-841.
  5. https://patents.google.com/patent/US6099888A/en
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTPc5O8IFLM
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