In Vietnam, coffee is a way of life and not just a beverage. Not to mention, Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer, only surpassed by Brazil, which explains the Vietnamese fierce coffee culture.
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Vietnamese coffee is creamy, rich, sweet, flavorful, and the perfect way to get a caffeine fix in the morning or afternoon. For this unique beverage, freshly brewed dark roast coffee is combined with sweetened condensed milk and then served hot or chilled.
Usually, Vietnamese prefer hot coffee or Cafe nong in the morning and Cà Phê Sữa Dà or iced coffee in the afternoon. You’ll find Vietnamese coffee on Vietnamese coffee shop menus worldwide and in all Vietnamese households.
This article provides a detailed Vietnamese coffee recipe and discusses everything you need to know about this special beverage. Let’s begin!
What Is Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is a sweet, robust, flavorful beverage from Robusta coffee beans. 97% of Vietnamese coffee plantations grow Robusta coffee beans, which are famous for their high caffeine content and bitter taste. The brewing and serving methods of Vietnamese coffee make this beverage special.
As mentioned, brewing Vietnamese coffee involves mixing freshly brewed coffee with sweetened condensed milk using a stainless-steel Vietnamese metal filter (Phin) available in most Asian grocery stores.
The result is a strong and thick coffee similar to thick caffeinated espresso. Sweet condensed milk is added to the coffee to offset the bitterness of Robusta coffee beans. In addition, you can use a French press as an alternative to the Vietnamese filter. The taste of the coffee is quite similar.
With that said, it’s okay to wonder how people drink Vietnamese coffee. Well, the answer is simple – the same way you drink any other coffee.
What Are the Best Vietnamese Coffee Brands?
As mentioned earlier, Vietnam ranks as the second-largest worldwide coffee producer. This explains the numerous coffee brands on the market that can be challenging to choose from, especially for beginners in Vietnamese coffee.
Moreover, success in making great coffee begins with determining the best Vietnamese coffee brands. Here’s a list of the best Vietnamese coffee brands in America:
- Vinacafe instant coffee mix
- Trung Nguyen pre-ground coffee
- Café Du Monde coffee – pre-ground
- Trung Nguyen G7 3-in-1 instant coffee
- Chestbrew Moon Bear whole bean coffee
- Saigon Phin Daklak
These are just a few popular coffee brands that are available in America. Otherwise, there are lots of other Vietnamese coffee brands that pop up on the market daily.
Not to mention, Vietnam has numerous other coffee brands that produce, roast, and sell Vietnamese coffee that you cannot buy in America.
The Unique Elements of Vietnamese Coffee
You’ll need the following elements to prepare the delightful brew.
Vietnamese Coffee Filter (Phin)
Vietnamese coffee filter, also known as Phin, Vietnamese coffee drip, or Vietnamese press, is the first distinguishable feature when brewing Vietnamese coffee. This brewing apparatus is a simple stainless steel coffee filter placed on top of a glass. The Phin acts like a coffee press and a drip coffee filter at the same time.
A Phin consists of four parts. These are:
- Body – This refers to the cylindrical part of the coffee filter where the medium-coarse coffee grounds go into
- Filter disk or press – This is lightly placed into the body. In most new Vietnamese coffee filters, the press is a simple disk placed on top of the coffee grounds and comes with a handle for easy removal. To control the brewing speed and strength of your brew, you’ll need to control the water temperature, the grind size of your coffee, the volume of the coffee grounds, and the water.
- Lid – This covers the Phin to retain the steam while the coffee is brewing. In addition, it acts as the drip tray after brewing coffee.
- Rim or lip – This refers to the metal around the filter that enhances its stability on the glass. In short, a rim allows you to rest the filter on the glass while brewing.
Here’s how a Vietnamese coffee filter works: add the coffee grounds to the filter, then place the filter lightly on the coffee grounds. Add hot water into the Phin and put the lid to cover everything and retain moisture. The coffee will drip slowly into the waiting glass or mug. The process is slow, but that’s part of the Vietnamese coffee appeal.
Vietnamese coffee filters are low-tech and inexpensive, plus you can find them in most grocery stores. You can find these filters in the UK in online stores like Amazon.
The Sweetened Condensed Milk
Vietnamese coffee is robust and bitter due to the Robusta coffee beans used. Therefore, Vietnamese use sweet condensed milk, a popular ingredient, to offset the bitterness.
This explains why Vietnamese coffee tastes so sweet. However, condensed milk is optional-add to Vietnamese coffee.
Some people prefer enjoying Vietnamese black coffee—sweet condensed milk developed as a fresh milk substitute in areas where refrigeration was not available. In addition, it’s a staple ingredient in Asian desserts, such as cassava cake.
When using sweetened milk, sugar isn’t a requirement, as the beverage gets enough sweetness from the condensed milk. If you’re looking to add sweet condensed milk to your drink, try the Longevity brand, which is available at Asian and Vietnamese supermarkets.
Sweet condensed milk mostly comes in cans. When it comes to storage, you can transfer the condensed milk into another storage container or a squeeze bottle. Alternatively, for convenience, you can leave the can open in the refrigerator with a spoon in the condensed milk.
Vietnamese Coffee Beans
Strong or dark roast coffee, such as French roast, is ideal for Vietnamese coffee. However, coffee beans grown and roasted in Vietnam provide a unique Vietnamese coffee experience. Mainly, Vietnamese coffee is brewed from Robusta coffee beans that give an intense, dark, and bitter flavor. Generally, Robusta coffee beans are what makes Vietnamese coffee so strong.
Most restaurants and shops use Cafe Du Monde coffee when making Vietnamese coffee. However, the coffee brand isn’t pure coffee. It is laced with the chicory herb root. The use of chicory came about during the second war 11. The economy was tough, and beverages like coffee still had to exist. As a result, chicory root increased the coffee supply. People became used to the chicory flavor, and it became a preference for many up to date.
For Vietnamese coffee, we recommend you opt for Cafe Du Monde or Trung Nguyen coffee beans for a legit Vietnamese coffee experience. In addition, you can use any dark-roasted Robusta coffee beans.
History of Vietnamese Coffee
The history of coffee in Vietnam dates back to 1857 when French missionaries first introduced it. The French catholic missionaries brought the Arabica coffee plant to Vietnam with the hope of starting a small-scale venture. Although their quest was successful, the Robusta bean made its way into Vietnam in the early 1900s.
Generally, the Vietnamese owe the availability of their coffee ingredients to the French. However, Vietnamese coffee is a creation of the Vietnamese. The invention uses medium to coarse dark roast coffee grounds, a small metal Vietnamese drip filter, and sweetened condensed milk.
Vietnamese coffee is either served hot or cold. For hot Vietnamese coffee, Vietnamese add hot water to the Phin, which slowly drips into a glass or cup. Sweet condensed milk is then added to the mixture. For iced Vietnamese coffee, hot water is put into the Phin and collected in a glass filled with ice cubes. Sweetened condensed milk is added to the mixture to form Vietnamese iced coffee.
Vietnamese Coffee Variations
The most popular Vietnamese coffee variation is the cà phê sữa đá, which is iced Vietnamese coffee served with sweetened condensed milk. Other Vietnamese coffee variations include:
- Den nong – Hot black coffee
- Den da – Iced black coffee
- Ca Phe Sua nong – Hot coffee with condensed milk
- Ca Phe dua – Coconut coffee
- Bac Xiu – Hot or iced milk mixed with some coffee
- Egg coffee or Ca Phe Trung – made with brewed coffee, condensed milk, chicken egg yolk
- Sua Chua Ca Phe – Vietnamese yogurt coffee
These are just a few best Vietnamese coffee variations to try out.
Where Can You Buy Brewed Vietnamese Coffee?
If you’re looking to enjoy some brewed Vietnamese coffee, you can find it in the following places:
- Vietnamese coffee shops such as Banh hi shops.
- Vietnamese sandwich shops such as mega-chain Lee’s sandwiches
- Some third-wave American Coffee Shops
How to Make Vietnamese Coffee
First and foremost, to brew Vietnamese coffee, you’ll need a Vietnamese coffee filter, condensed milk, hot water, and French roast coffee grounds. After getting all the requirements, pre-heat the filter by running some hot water. Get rid of excess water in the filter and add medium-coarse coffee grounds.
Insert the metal filter on your coffee grounds, then push it down and twist it until there’s some resistance—the amount of pressure you use determines your final brew. Place the Phin on the glass, then add some hot water to the Phin.
Wait for the coffee grounds to expand, then fill the Phin with hot water to the brim. Brew the coffee for three-five minutes until all the water has dripped through the filter to the glass. Lastly, add sweetened condensed milk to the glass.
Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)
- Vietnamese coffee filter
- Coffee mug
- Electric kettle
- 2 tsp sweetened condensed milk
- 4 tsp Trung Nguyen coffee or Cafe Du Monde coffee or any quality French roast coffee
- 1 cup of boiling water
- Boil some water using the electric kettle.
- Preheat the coffee filter and the mug by running some hot boiling water through them. Allow the boiling water to sit for 60 to 90 seconds to cool to a temperature range between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Boiling water will burn the coffee grounds leading to bitter or burnt coffee.
- Remove the coffee filter and put four teaspoons of Cafe Du Monde or your choice of coffee into the Phin. Use medium to coarse-ground coffee.
- Gently place the filter on the coffee grounds and twist it until it stops. Give it another twist that's less than 1/8 of a turn. The level of twisting affects your final brew. A loose filter will result in runny brown water, while a tight filter will result in nothing - no coffee will drip.
- Place the Phin on the coffee mug, then pour some water to wet the coffee grounds and allow them to expand. This helps remove small coffee grounds that might have made it through the coffee filter.
- Fill the Phin with hot water nearly up to the brim and cover it with a lid. Let the coffee drip into the mug for three to five minutes.
- Add two teaspoons of sweetened condensed milk to the brewed coffee. The amount of condensed milk you add depends on your preference. If you like your coffee sweeter, add more condensed milk
- For iced coffee, allow the mixture to cool a bit, then pour it into a glass with ice.
Vietnamese coffee is the perfect treat for coffee lovers. If you haven’t already tried it, you’re missing out on a delight big time. Try out our Vietnamese coffee recipe to have a flavor-packed cup of caffeine every time. The sweetened condensed milk used to make Vietnamese coffee is definitely a game-changer.