Vietnam can be described as a coffee-fueled nation. Here locals and visitors alike love starting their day with a satisfying and invigorating “cup of ca phe” or cà phê đá. At its simplest, this is a Vietnamese coffee made with medium to coarse ground roast Vietnamese-grown coffee beans. It is prepared using phin cà phê, a small metal Vietnamese drip filter.
It was way back in 1857 when coffee was first introduced in Vietnam by the French and soon it became one of the biggest exports from the country. Not only did the French bring coffee, but they also brought another element that became critical to the growth of the world-famous Vietnamese coffee: sweetened condensed milk.
Today, a very popular way of drinking Vietnamese coffee is cà phê sữa đá. This is a Vietnamese iced coffee that has been sweetened with condensed milk.
If you want to try new things, you should try them the right way and experience the culture that comes with them. This is why we recommend getting an authentic Vietnamese coffee filter set. This one is made by Thang Long (Vietnam based company) and for less than $10 it offers you everything you need.
Experience the process, not jus the taste!
Traditional Vietnamese Coffee Making
The traditional Vietnamese way of making coffee is by using a special filter, called a Phin. Another good alternative is to use a French press, also referred to as a cafetière or plunger. With the French press method, ground coffee is normally brewed in hot water prior to being filtered through the plunger or press, hence, the name.
The coffee produced when using a French press is quite similar in terms of taste to what you get from a Vietnamese Phin filter. The advantage of this technique is that you will be in a position of making larger quantities of coffee, based on the French press size. The same applies when you use stove-top coffee pots. These are generally also good at producing very strong espresso.
Making Vietnamese Coffee at Home
Homemade Vietnamese coffee is an awesome way of expanding your coffee taste without necessarily having to visit the coffee house.
- 3 tablespoons Vietnamese-grown ground coffee.
- 1-3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk (or depending on your taste preferences).
- 6-8 ounces water close to boiling point (or depending on the desired coffee strength).
- Place 1-3 tablespoons (depending on your taste preferences) of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of a heat-proof glass or mug.
- Place your coffee filter on top of the mug or glass.
- Put the ground coffee into the filter’s cup, press it down using the removable press. Make sure it’s evenly distributed into the filter. Avoid shaking the filter lest the beans fall through and clog the system.
- First, pour in just a little of the boiling water in order to moisten “bloom” the coffee.
- After a couple of seconds, slowly fill up the filter cup with boiling water.
- Put the lid on the filter; wait for your coffee to slowly begin dripping into the mug or glass.
- Gently press on the filter to compress the bloomed coffee.
- Depending on the filter size this stage should take about 3 to 5 minutes. Then remove the filter.
- Stir gently to dissolve the sweetened condensed milk. You may taste in case you need to add some more.
- If you are making iced coffee, throw in some ice cubes and immediately serve. If you are not a fan of iced coffee, enjoy your cà phê sữa nóng while it’s still steaming hot!
Some like drinking their Vietnamese coffee unstirred. The good thing about this approach is that you drink the strong coffee first and then finish with the coffee-flavored, sweet condensed milk that remained at the bottom of your mug or glass.
Choice Of Coffee Beans
If you prefer making Vietnamese coffee using the traditional way, go for Robusta coffee beans. Alternatively, try Vietnamese coffee beans which you can easily get at most Vietnamese grocery stores. Typically, roasted Vietnamese coffee beans are very bitter and dark. It is only when you try drinking the coffee black when you will appreciate the role played by sweetened condensed milk. Basically, it makes your Vietnamese coffee more palatable.
Although medium-roasted coffees are perfectly fine, avoid light roasted coffee beans as they can easily be overpowered by the richness and sweetness of your condensed milk.
Making Vietnamese Coffee Using Espresso
- Place your sweetened condensed milk in the glass.
- Add some hot espresso.
- Stir gently in order to dissolve the condensed milk.
- Taste to check if you might need to add some more condensed milk.
- For an iced espresso coffee, add some several ice cubes, serve immediately.
Vietnamese coffee is a sweet and strong beverage often served on ice. Traditionally, it’s made with a pour-over coffee metal filter, known in Vietnam as Phin that usually makes one cup at a time. Although available in most restaurants and coffee houses across Vietnam, you can easily replicate the process at home.
Different from other types of coffee, the unique tasting Vietnamese coffee is made using sweetened condensed milk. The thick, rich, and sweet milk tends to balance out the bitterness typically associated with strong coffee. The result is that you get a tasty and refreshing beverage.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.