. The first time I had a Vietnamese coffee made and served the traditional way was in, of all places, Colorado Springs. We were visiting friends who suggested what turned out to be a great Vietnamese restaurant. It served big, flavorful bowls of pho and Vietnamese grilled pork chops with rice noodles (we have a similar Vietnamese noodle salad recipe).
The food was great, but on a whim, I ordered a cup of Vietnamese hot coffee (cà phê sữa nóng), and I was hooked!
How is Vietnamese Coffee Brewed?
The Vietnamese coffee was rich, flavorful, sweet and perfect on a cool day, but the method for brewing and serving the coffee is what really impressed me. The coffee was brought out with a layer of condensed milk at the bottom of a small, clear thick glass, with a stainless steel Phin Vietnamese filter sitting on top.
The coffee was already dripping into the glass and mixing in with the condensed milk. My friend, Philip ordered a Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá), so he had the same setup along with another glass filled with ice.
When our coffees were done dripping, we stirred them to combine the coffee and condensed milk. Mine was ready to enjoy. Philip poured his coffee into the glass full of ice, and voila!
As coffee addicts even before this experience, we had to go to the one Asian market in town to buy some of those Vietnamese style stainless steel coffee filters (Phin filters ) so we could make our own Vietnamese coffee recipe.
We also got our hands on some of the Vietnamese coffee that the restaurant used. The condensed milk is the Longevity brand. Philip said he has been using the same brand for years! As for the Trung Nguyen brand of ground Vietnamese coffee, it has a deep rich flavor with just a tiny hint of hazelnut flavor.
Vietnamese Coffee Recipe Instructions
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3 tablespoons Vietnamese ground coffee (we used Trung Nguyen brand)
- 1-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, depending on your preference (we used Longevity brand)
- 6-8 ounces water that is close to boiling point, depending on your desired coffee strength
We used the Trung Nguyen brand of ground coffee for this Vietnamese coffee recipe, but you can use any good French roast coffee, too.
Our Vietnamese Phin coffee filters are the 6-ounce size, but they come in different sizes depending upon your brewing needs. Alternatively, you can use a French coffee press or your favorite drip coffee method.
Update: We received a suggestion from one of our readers to rinse the phin filter and the cup with/in hot boiling water so the coffee will bloom and drop better. It cleans and pre-heats the filter and it works!
Measure 3 tablespoons of ground coffee, and distribute it evenly into the filter.
DO NOT shake the filters or compress the coffee, or the coffee grounds will drop into the holes of the coffee filter and plug up the holes! The result will be that the coffee takes forever to drip, or the grounds may clog the filter entirely. Place the metal filter gently on top of the coffee.
Pour 1-3 tablespoons of condensed milk into your coffee mug or heatproof glass.
Measure out 6 ounces of near boiling water . Use 8 ounces if you don’t like your coffee with such a strong kick in the pants.
Pour two tablespoons of hot water into the filter and wait for 5 seconds to “bloom” the coffee . This is the part of the brewing process when the water releases CO2 from the coffee and the grounds expand.
Next, press on the filter gently to compress the bloomed coffee. This helps slow down the drip rate when you use all of your water. It also makes for a more flavorful coffee.
With these steps, you’ll be able to achieve the optimum brewing time. Slowly pour the rest of the water into the filter. The coffee will begin dripping into your cup or glass.
Wait about 5 minutes for the coffee to finish drip brewing!
Remove the filter, and stir to mix in the condensed milk. The amount of condensed milk you use is a very personal decision but here are my personal recommendations:
- 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk for a regular coffee
- 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk for a sweet coffee
- 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk; your coffee will taste closer to a caramel coffee hard candy, and sometimes there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that!
Enjoy your Vietnamese hot coffee (cà phê sữa nóng)! To make a Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá), pour your coffee over a glassful of ice once it has been brewed and stirred.
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So much has been happening with Vietnam over the last few decades and producing coffee is one of them.
Vietnam is the world’s second-largest producer of coffee and even with the rise and surpassing Columbia, the way coffee is brewed there, still remains the same.
The traditional way of making Vietnamese coffee after roasting and grinding the beans begins with the use of an aluminum filter called a phin. The photo above shows what a typical phin looks like placed on top of a glass.
There are fancier versions of this filter made from stainless steel but in the streets of Vietnam and many Vietnamese households you’ll see plenty of these resting on top of coffee glasses. This is how the filtering process is done.
A vessel (glass mug) is filled with sweetened condensed milk and placed on top is where you’ll pour your water into the phin where it will drip hot Vietnamese coffee grounds into your vessel.
The phin is a smart and straightforward little device. It’s basically a slow dripper that’s meant to be placed on top of glass. It will fit on top of most common glasses.
Here’s how to use a phin to make Vietnamese Coffee.
- Place the phin (filter) on top of a glass with a mouth that’s 2.75″ – 3.85″ wide
- Preheat your with mug and phin by running hot water through it
- Discard hot water from glass and remove phin
- Fill a preheated glass with 1-3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk
- Add 3 tablespoons of coarsely ground Vietnamese coffee to the phin’s brew chamber.
- Compress the grinds with the perforated tamper.
- Set the whole unit on top of a glass
- Pour in a few cycles of hot water.
- This should take roughly 4 – 5 minutes to make one cup a coffee.
- Stiff and enjoy
What Are The Coffee Grounds In Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese coffee is often made from Robusta coffee beans.
In the traditional preparation of Vietnamese coffee, Robusta is intentionally dark roasted on a low heat for fifteen minutes, and often mixed with other ingredients, such as chicory or corn, to improve its flavor and increase yield.
Does Vietnamese coffee have more caffeine?
Robusta coffee contains more caffeine and less sugars than Arabica coffee, and some may consider it to taste stronger and this is what adds to the distinctive taste of Vietnamese coffee.
Example: a 6oz cup of Arabica coffee contains around 75-130 mg of caffeine whereas Robusta is roughly at 200 mg. This makes it almost twice as much in caffeine content from the Arabica bean which is typical used in black coffee.
Why Is Vietnamese Coffee So Thick
It’s due to brewing times. The longer the brew times will cause the hot water to extract all the oils and compounds from the grounds. This combined with the sweetened condense milk give it a thick and creamy taste and feel.
The use of Robusta coffee beans and sweetened condensed milk and perhaps a tablespoon of sugar will sure charge up your tastes buds. So if you haven’t already tried this, you can easily make this at home or the next time your out and find yourself at a Vietnamese Restaurant, pair this with some Pho.
Vietnamese Coffee with a phin
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
Vietnamese coffee, you love it or you hate it. Strong, bitter, yet extremely sweet, and a legend in its own time! This particular cup of Java seems to have a massive following worldwide, everyone singing sweet rhapsodies in its name.
It’s intimidating and it’s addictive.
Coffee, like baguette, was introduced to Vietnam by the French, but oh boy, have the Vietnamese turned it into a tradition for the ages!
What is Vietnamese Coffee?
The most famous Vietnamese coffee amongst non locals is the one you see in the images here, dark strong coffee, dripping onto an inch high of sweet condensed milk. This is known as ca phe sua (milk coffee) in Ho Chi Minh City and the rest of the south, and ca phe nua (brown/dark coffee) in the north.
To anyone born anywhere within Asia, like me, Vietnamese coffee is not all that big a deal; after all, that’s how we drink our coffee and tea, with condensed milk. Before the advent of Starbucks et al, naturally.
How do you like your Coffee?
I like mine any which way I can get it! Black, white, sweet, hot, cold, in a shake, in a smoothie, in cake, and in supplements. As you can see above, it makes a great workout drink. And one product I recently discovered, is Organo Gold, I just love their various coffee selections!
Coffee, Avocado & Banana Smoothie
How to make Vietnamese Coffee?
It’s the same process as making any coffee with a coffee drip and coffee beans:
- Fill a small coffee cup or glass with condensed milk
- Coarse coffee beans are placed in the Vietnamese coffee filter called phin, which is placed on the cup
- The beans are lightly moistened with a little room temperature water, so they swell up and slow the drip down
- Hot water is poured over the ground coffee and allowed to drip onto the condensed milk, very, very slowly (3-4 minutes)
- Drink up!
Phin, Vietnamese coffee filter
Vietnamese Coffee Filter
The Vietnamese coffee filter is called a phin. In Vietnam, you’ll find them everywhere, especially at shops that cater to tourists, like Ben Thanh Market. Here in the UK, they are easily found online, Amazon being an example. And if you happen to have a large Vietnamese community near you, well, that’s a no brainer!
The phin is a lightweight, cheap and cheerful contraption made up of 4 parts, from the top:
- the lid (which will double up as a drip tray after)
- a flimsy, lightweight plunger/press
- the drip cup, which has tiny holes at the bottom
- the filter tray, which the cup sits on
the plunger, and the whole thing sitting on the lid
Other types of Vietnamese Coffee
Starbucks has nothing on Vietnamese Coffee! There is quite the adventurous range of coffee to be had in Vietnam! And slowly, but surely, I’ll get around to them all on this site! After all, it’s only taken me 3 years to do this one! Here are just some different types of Vietnamese coffee:
Coffee Smoothie (Sinh Toh Ca Phe)
Ok, nothing extraordinary about this one, except that the Vietnamese will add coffee to their fruit juices. Not so sure about that one! But see my coffee smoothie above? I thought I was being cool with that combination. Until I saw it in Hanoi! Huh! It is quite the thing there and is known as sinh to ca phe chuoi bo!
Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung)
Now this is a little different. That is, if you didn’t spend years in a gym being fed egg smoothies with coffee and milk by your gym instructor!
Seriously though, I really like this combination, condensed milk and egg yolk are whipped to a light, airy froth and poured over thick black coffee. This is something I do from time to time, to my kids’ disgust!
Yoghurt Coffee (Sua Chua Ca Phe)
Again, this is a beautiful combination, coffee adds just that little bit of flavour to the bland, sour yoghurt. Not unlike the many flavoured yoghurts you find these days.
Vietnamese Coffee Beans
Any strong coffee will do to make a good cup of Vietnamese coffee. As to whether you should be using arabica or robusta beans, well, that’s a matter of preference; the Arabica is naturally the coffee of choice for many conoisseurs.
While the French may have introduced the arabica to Vietnam, today, Vietnamese coffee is mainly made with the robusta bean. In fact, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of the cheaper robusta coffee, and 2nd largest producer of coffee overall, behind Brazil.
Robusta coffee is harsher and stronger on the palate, and for the true Vietnamese experience, that’s what you want.
Vietnamese Coffee Stall at Ben Thanh Market, also selling the filters
Vietnamese Coffee without a Vietnamese Coffee Filter
Just make your strong black coffee the way you usually would. No instant coffee though. Use a french press, a moka post or your regular drip filter. Whatever you have, just make your coffee strong, and gently pour it over the condensed milk. Or not. You are, after all, going to be stirring that coffee and milk!
Let’s take a look at how to make Vietnamese coffee!
Shall we get our aprons on?
If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you!
And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood.
Learn how to make Vietnamese coffee easily with this step-by-step recipe! You need coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and a Vietnamese coffee filter.
How to Make Vietnamese Coffee
I fell in love with Vietnamese coffee the first time I dined at a Vietnamese restaurant. Years previous, I had read a precise and sensuous description of Vietnamese coffee in Anthony Bourdain’s book A Cook’s Tour, so my anticipation was high. It was just as wonderful as described, and I want to share with you how to make Vietnamese coffee so that you can enjoy it for yourself. (Also check out these Vietnamese Coffee Brownies and the cold brew latte version of this recipe!)
If you’re unfamiliar with Vietnamese coffee, it’s made in a single cup filter that balances atop your coffee cup. You can purchase the filter for about $5 at an Asian grocery store or online. For the coffee itself, I usually stick with Trung Nguyen brand (Trung Nguyen Gourmet is my favorite variety). You can also use Cafe Du Monde successfully, and in fact, it’s often sold in Asian grocery stores for that very purpose.
Vietnamese coffee is traditionally made sweet with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. To get the full visual effect, you use a clear glass or cup, add a layer of sweetened condensed milk on the bottom, and brew the coffee directly directly into the cup. Once brewed, the coffee and the sweetened condensed milk are swirled together. You can drink it hot, of course, or you can pour the mixture directly over a tall glass of ice to make iced Vietnamese coffee.
It’s easy and inexpensive to pick up the proper filter and coffee brands at your local Asian grocery store or at online retailers, so I encourage you to give the authentic version a try. If you decide to make some Vietnamese coffee, let me know! I’d love to hear about it.
If you’re reading this, you may be wondering what Vietnamese coffee is and how to make it. Having grown up with Vietnamese coffee and culture ourselves, we’re here to introduce you to a part of our heritage that is becoming more popular these days.
What is Vietnamese coffee?
Simply put, Vietnamese coffee refers to coffee beans that are grown and produced in Vietnam . Most often, Vietnamese coffee is robusta , a species of coffee that has historically been grown for mass consumption and commercial coffee blends. Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world and the leading producer of robusta coffee, so it’s safe to say that robusta coffee is an integral part of what comprises Vietnamese coffee as well outside of origin.
While many products or cafes may label their coffee or drinks as Vietnamese coffee, they must be from Vietnam in order to be truly considered Vietnamese coffee.
We’re no strangers to asking what’s in our cups! If you see something labeled as Vietnamese coffee, but see that the beans do not come from Vietnam, this is a great moment to have a conversation about what makes Vietnamese coffee what it is. If a cafe uses beans from a different country and prepares a drink to emulate Vietnamese coffee, it’s really an inspired drink and not technically Vietnamese coffee.
Why does this matter? For starters, it’s about transparency and visibility . When we recognize Vietnamese coffee as coffee grown and produced in Vietnam, we recognize the producers and their efforts. With more visibility comes more opportunities for production and specialization as the Vietnamese coffee movement grows– it’s not purely semantics! This definition is rooted in putting people and the cultural cachet of Vietnam first and foremost.
How is Vietnamese coffee brewed?
In Vietnam, coffee is most commonly brewed in a phin filter , which is like a cross between a V60 pour over and a French press . These ergonomic brew tools are no-waste and highly efficient at brewing a concentrated cup of coffee.
The phin filter consists of a filter plate, filter chamber, gravity press (or screw on press), and a lid. Ground coffee is placed into the chamber followed by the press. Then, hot water is poured over to brew the coffee. The water steeps the coffee and passes through the filter chamber and filter plate, resulting in a concentrated brew that many people liken to espresso.
These days, Vietnamese coffee is prepared in a variety of ways from pour over to espresso to siphon and beyond . A key distinction: the phin filter is a traditional brew method that is integral to Vietnamese coffee culture, but it is not synonymous with Vietnamese coffee overall. Vietnamese coffee can be brewed however you enjoy it, so long as the grind size of the coffee beans are dialed in appropriately!
How to make Vietnamese coffee
To make Vietnamese coffee, you’ll need the following:
- Fresh Vietnamese coffee (something grown and produced in Vietnam like our single origin robusta coffee, Truegrit )
- Hot water around 200ºF
- A brewing tool of your choice
There isn’t a precise or absolute way to make or enjoy Vietnamese coffee! While we love and encourage the use of a phin filter, it’s not an absolute must. You can brew your Vietnamese coffee beans in an auto drip, as cold brew, as espresso, or however else you like . Remember: you’ll need to grind the coffee accordingly for the respective brew application.
If you’re looking for a recipe to make Vietnamese ICED coffee (cà phê sữa đá), we’ve got you covered. Vietnamese iced coffee is ultimately just a drink preparation and recipe , though we understand how it can be conflated with Vietnamese coffee in general due to its immense popularity .
How is Vietnamese iced coffee different from iced coffee?
In essence, iced coffee combines brewed coffee with ice. Vietnamese iced coffee is unique however, in that it employs the use of sweetened condensed milk as both dairy and sweetener whereas other iced coffees use other forms of milk and sugar. Additionally, Vietnamese iced coffee most often uses coffee brewed using a phin filter for a more concentrated brew that perfectly compliments the richness of sweetened condensed milk.
Though Vietnamese iced coffee is among the most popular Vietnamese coffee beverages, there are a handful of other drinks that are also considered Vietnamese iced coffee (in English at least) such as cà phê đá (iced black coffee) and cà phê bạc xỉu (white coffee made with more parts condensed milk than coffee).
When we expand the understanding of Vietnamese coffee, we open ourselves up to a world with more diverse offerings and rich cultural histories. While many continue to refer to Vietnamese coffee as a drink, we’re here to assert that Vietnamese coffee is an entire category unto itself the same way coffee from any other country is its own category with its own unique history and traditions.
When I first started working from home, there was one thing I missed the most.
I used to head to the cafe around the corner with coworkers to ‘take a break’ in the afternoons, but with suddenly no colleagues and no need to leave the house, I had to learn to make my own coffee.
The early experiments were pretty terrible, but eventually I figured out how to make a proper cup of espresso!
In fact, when I finally went to a coffee shop months later, I thought to myself “hm.. I could make this better at home and save the $6 bucks!”
If my mother had heard me, she would have been proud, ha.
Anyway, an espresso soon got pretty routine so I experimented with making different types of coffee and more ‘fun’ drinks like caramel lattes, iced mochas and dalgona coffee.
But my favorite type of coffee to make?
Vietnamese iced coffee! In today’s post I’m sharing just how easy it is to make Vietnamese coffee at home.
Keep reading for the recipe and some tips + tricks to making a great, balanced cup!
Keep reading, or pin this article to save it for later ⇟
Vietnamese iced coffee is known for being strong, sweet, and refreshing. Luckily, you don’t have to fly to Vietnam (or your favorite coffee shop) to enjoy it. It’s very easy to make at home using just a few simple ingredients. You can buy a Vietnamese coffee press, but you can also use a coffee brewing method that you already own.
For this guide, we’re using a drip coffee machine, but you can also use a pour-over, French press, or Chemex. Make sure you buy Vietnamese ground coffee if you want it to be authentically chocolatey and rich.
Ready to get started? The ingredients and supplies you need are listed below. Then we’ll show you how to make this international coffee delight.
How to Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee:
- Two to three tablespoons Vietnamese ground coffee OR a dark roast coffee
- Eight ounces of cold filtered water
- One to two spoonfuls of sweetened condensed milk (to taste)
- 1/2 cup of ice (or coffee ice cubes)
- Drip coffee maker, preferably with cold coffee settings OR Vietnamese phin
1. Set up your glass.
Put the half cup of ice into the glass you are drinking your iced coffee from. Then place this directly under the pour spout, if you can. If you are using a carafe instead, put the glass aside for later.
2. Set up your brewer.
Scoop two to three tablespoons of the Vietnamese ground coffee into the coffee filter. If you want to make multiple servings, add more, sticking to the proportion of eight ounces of water for every two to three tablespoons of coffee.
3. Start brewing.
If your machine has an iced coffee option, select it and let the brewing begin! Otherwise, brew a cup of coffee as usual, straight onto the ice. Once it has finished brewing, remove the glass from under the drip spout.
4. Add sweetened condensed milk.
Drizzle a spoonful of the sweetened condensed milk over the coffee and ice. Add one more spoonful if you want it sweeter. Stir vigorously and enjoy!
I’ll admit it – I’m a coffee snob. If you drink copious amounts of coffee every day, then it makes sense to brew the best cup possible, right?
The first time I ever had Vietnamese coffee was shortly after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City – post-14 hour long haul flight. It was hot. Our hostel had a cafe downstairs so we ordered a ca phe sua dua (no, we definitely didn’t use the correct pronunciation), aka Vietnamese iced coffee.
For starters, our coffees were 20,000 VND each. That’s less than $1 USD. At that price, we would have been lucky to get instant back home.
It took a few minutes and our Vietnamese iced coffees were brought out. By this point, our expectations diminished. We just needed coffee. We later found out they prepare the coffee in advance as Vietnamese coffee lasts longer than Arabica bean coffee.
So we were delighted to find our coffees tasted something like a caramel frappuccino from Starbucks. Cold & refreshing, a huge caffeine hit, and deliciously sweet.
Table of Contents
What is Vietnamese Coffee?
Everyone has heard of coffee from Africa and South America. However, you might be surprised to learn that Vietnam is the second largest producer of Coffee in the world – after Brazil.
What’s especially unique about this is the type of coffee beans grown in Vietnam. Instead of the commonly grown Arabica bean, Vietnam predominantly grows Robusta beans.
These beans are generally considered to be of a lower quality, possessing much less desirable traits than the more expensive Arabica beans.
However, this didn’t stop the Vietnamese from drinking coffee. Instead, they innovated how coffee should be brewed.
By creating a slow, drip brewed coffee and combining the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, the Vietnamese have created a delicious style of coffee not commonly found in the Western world.
Best Vietnamese Coffee Beans
Vietnamese coffee should be made with Robusta beans. These beans are easier and cheaper to grow than Arabica beans. Robusta beans tend to be more bitter, less acidic and contain almost twice as much caffeine.
There’s nothing stopping you from brewing your Vietnamese coffee with freshly ground Arabica beans, bear in mind that it will taste very different to what is typically sold in Vietnam.
If you want the absolute best coffee possible, you should consider grinding your robusta beans fresh each time you brew a cup. A medium grind would be best to ensure the grinds don’t fall through the holes, but also compact enough to prevent water draining straight through.
To make things easier, we choose not to grind our own Robusta beans. Unlike Arabica beans, your coffee will still turn out amazing if you purchase pre-ground coffee beans. This is much easier and will ensure you achieve a consistent brew each time, so we recommend buying your beans already ground.
Your pre-ground beans will stay fresh for longer than a year as long as it has been vacuum sealed. Once open, it will maintain it’s flavour for at least 3 months.
Now, any Robusta coffee bean will do the trick. But we feel that if you want to make a Vietnamese coffee, then you should use Vietnamese coffee.
Our number one pick is Sang Tao 2 from Trung Nguyen. If you are in Vietnam, then these cafes are everywhere and you will easily find one. If you are based outside of Vietnam, you can easily and affordably purchase Trung Nguyen coffee from Amazon. This is one of our top things to buy when we visit Vietnam.
A quick disclaimer: we recommend avoiding most Vietnamese coffee brands sold by vendors in markets around Vietnam, including Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City. They often will not be anywhere near as fresh as a reputable cafe.
They will ask you to smell the beans to check that they are good, but the smell is not a suitable indicator of coffee beans’ freshness. You need to taste coffee to determine how fresh it is. On top of this, they will surely do their best to rip you off.
Another popular choice for Vietnamese coffee is a French blend called Cafe Du Mond. It’s not made in Vietnam, but it is made with Robusta beans so it should be very similar.
Vietnamese Coffee Filter
Traditionally, Vietnamese coffee is brewed inside a phin filter. They are simple ceramic or stainless steel coffee filters with holes punched out of the bottom.
Any drip coffee filter will work for brewing a Vietnamese coffee. If you already have a high-quality drip filter, such as a Hario V60 or Kalita Wave, then you can just use this.
If you are looking to purchase one specifically for Vietnamese coffee, then look out for something affordable. Metal is most commonly used, but we have a ceramic one that looks a bit nicer and works fine.
You can find this filter at any market in Vietnam for a few dollars. There’s no need to overthink it as any phin filter will work.
If you aren’t in Vietnam, this Premium Vietnamese Coffee Filter is cheap and perfect:
Condensed Milk in Vietnamese Coffee
Robusta beans are notoriously strong and bitter. These qualities are why most Westerners prefer Arabica coffee beans.
The Vietnamese worked out that by adding a generous helping of condensed milk to their coffees, they could counteract this.
If you are counting your calories you can, by all means, skip the condensed milk. But we would also suggest that Vietnamese coffee may not be the best choice for you, as it is the condensed milk that makes it so delicious.
Condensed milk is usually sold in a can. Any brand will work fine, just make sure you don’t by a different product instead. Evaporated milk is NOT a substitute.
Vietnamese Coffee Recipe
Once you have attained the beans, condensed milk and a phin filter, making Vietnamese coffee is actually very simple.