How To Make Vietnamese Coffee
Are you a coffee lover who’s always willing to try a new version of java? Experimentation can sometimes be expensive in the coffee world, but not this time.
Vietnamese coffee is a unique beverage that originated in Vietnam. What makes Vietnamese coffee different? Mostly, the brewing method and strong flavor of this beverage.
It requires some patience to make, as it’s brewed one cup at a time, and that single cup can take five to seven minutes to brew properly. However, it’s surprisingly easy, plus it’s one of the more affordable ways to brew some great java.
There are many variations of Vietnamese coffee — hot or iced, black or with condensed milk, and even brews that contain yogurt or egg. While Vietnam was introduced to coffee by the French, this Asian country has definitely developed some fantastic variations of the original.
What Is Vietnamese Coffee?
The obvious answer is that Vietnamese coffee is a particular type of coffee that originates from Vietnam, but there’s definitely more to this story. From its ingredients to the method of brewing, this beverage is unique.
A Brief History of Vietnamese Coffee
Coffee isn’t often associated with Vietnam, and most people are unaware that the country is one of the largest coffee producers in the world. According to the BBC, major economic reforms by the Vietnamese government in the 1980s kickstarted the nation’s coffee exportation industry. Today, it’s considered a coffee giant.
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam by French colonists during the 1800s. Vietnam was then part of French Indochina, and a French priest introduced Arabica coffee plants to the area. By the late 1800s, Vietnam was producing coffee for France. Robusta beans were introduced into the area in the early 1900s with even more success, as the beans are particularly well-suited to the climate.
French colonists were used to adding milk to coffee, but fresh dairy milk wasn’t commonly found in Vietnam, and bringing it from France was difficult. Their solution was to use condensed milk as an alternative.
Traditional Vietnamese Coffee
While there are multiple ways to enjoy coffee in Vietnam, traditional Vietnamese coffee remains one of the most popular.
Traditionally, it’s brewed with dark roasted beans, usually Robusta. Most coffee beans grown in Vietnam are Robusta, which is often less expensive but has more caffeine with a strong, bitter taste. For more information on Robusta beans, you can check out this article.
Vietnamese coffee is brewed using a small metal drip filter known as a phin. It’s best described as a cross between a pour-over coffee maker and a French press. Phins are traditionally made of metal and include a brewing chamber, plate with perforations, lid, and a filter press.
Phins are inexpensive and can be found at many Asian grocery stores or online. However, if you can’t source one, a French press can be used with similar results.
There are many regional variations — more on those soon — but the basic Vietnamese coffee recipe combines dark coffee and sweetened condensed milk, which is then poured over ice. This bitter/sweet combination creates a one-of-a-kind taste and texture. Fresh milk can be used but isn’t preferred.
What You Need to Make Vietnamese Coffee
Before it’s time to make your own beverage, make sure you’ve gathered everything you need:
- A tablespoon.
- One to three tablespoons of dark roast, Vietnamese coffee in a medium-coarse grind level. Robusta beans are preferred but you can also use any dark French roast.
- Six to eight ounces of very hot, almost boiling water.
- Heat-proof clear cup for brewing.
- Phin, a small, thin Vietnamese drip filter.
- Cup or mug large enough to hold six to eight ounces of liquid, filled with ice.
- One to three tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
How Do You Make Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is increasingly popular in the US, but you don’t have to rely on a cafe for your fix as it’s easy to make this coffee at home.
Step 1: A medium-coarse grind level is recommended. Assuming you’re grinding your own beans, wait until you’re ready to brew before grinding. Fresh is best.
Step 2: Heat your water. A kettle is the simplest way to heat water.
Step 3: Choose your cups. You’ll need one for brewing plus one that contains ice. Make sure your brewing cup can withstand hot temperatures, you can preheat it by rinsing with hot water. It should be clear, so you can see the brewing progress. The other cup should be filled with ice.
Step 4: Measure out your coffee once you’ve ground the beans. The recommendation is one to three tablespoons of ground coffee, depending on how strong you prefer your java.
Step 5: Set the phin plate atop your brewing mug. Add the brewing chamber on top of that.
Step 6: Add your ground coffee to the brewing chamber. We recommend starting with one tablespoon if you’re unsure about your preferred coffee strength.
Step 7: Level off the ground coffee, place the filter press on it and press down firmly. Don’t make it too tight, though.
Step 8: Add six to eight ounces of hot water to the brewing chamber, then secure the lid. If there’s not enough room in the chamber for all the water, wait a few minutes then top it up.
Step 9: Coffee will very slowly drip down into the cup. With a clear cup, you can see how much has been brewed and whether additional water should be added to the brewing chamber. It takes about five to seven minutes to drip through.
Step 10: At this point, your beverage is technically done but for traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, you should add condensed milk and ice. Depending on your sweet tooth add one to three tablespoons of condensed milk directly into the very hot liquid, or pour it over the ice and then add the hot coffee. The taste may be slightly different if you pour the condensed milk into the hot coffee as the temperature “cooks” the milk slightly. Some people prefer to pour the condensed milk into the brewing cup before brewing coffee.
Something Went Wrong, Now What?
We all know that there’s some trial and error involved with brewing coffee, especially if it’s a method you’re unfamiliar with. Sometimes it doesn’t work quite right.
- Nothing is dripping into your brewing cup. You may have pressed the filter down too much. The water needs a little space so it can drip through the ground coffee. Your grind level may also be too fine and can clog the filter.
- Coffee is dripping too fast. The filter plate may not be pressed down tightly enough, and you’ll miss out on the best flavors. Your grind level may be too coarse, which lets too much water through.
- Your beverage is too strong or weak. You can adjust the ground coffee or water amounts. If you want it stronger, use more ground coffee and/or less water. If it’s too strong, use less ground coffee and/or more water.
Other Vietnamese Coffee Variations
While using sweetened condensed milk is the most common way to enjoy Vietnamese coffee, there are different variations according to Lonely Planet. Some are regional, but others are just personal preferences. So what else is in Vietnamese coffee?
Condensed Milk Versions
As previously mentioned, traditional versions (both hot and iced) use sweetened condensed milk. Ca phe sua is the name in southern Vietnam for hot coffee with condensed milk, while ca phe nau refers to the same drink in northern Vietnam.
Ca phe sua da is the name for iced Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Do you want extra condensed milk added to your drink? That would be bac xiu.
Known as ca phe (hot) or ca phe da (iced), this is your strong, black Vietnamese coffee, either hot or iced. No other ingredients, no sweeteners, or anything extra. Some people find it a bit overwhelming, as there’s nothing to cut its bitter, bold flavor.
Egg, Yogurt, and Coconut Coffee
With egg coffee (ca phe trung), an egg yolk is whipped with sweetened condensed milk. A frothy layer goes on top of the liquid, and sugar may be added on top of the beverage. It’s decadent but sweet, which makes for an interesting combination with coffee.
Yogurt coffee (sua chua ca phe) is another variation. Rather than using sweetened condensed milk, creamy yogurt forms the bottom layer in your cup, and then coffee is added. This beverage has a thick, rich texture without as much sweetness.
And then there’s coconut coffee (ca phe cot dua), which means adding coconut milk to black Vietnamese coffee along with a small amount of condensed milk. It can be blended with ice to create the consistency of a milkshake.
Many people don’t realize the impact that Vietnam has had on java worldwide. Not only does this country export a major amount of the world’s Robusta coffee beans, but they’ve shared their love for Vietnamese coffee.
Sure, you can buy it freshly brewed at a cafe, but the directions for how to make Vietnamese coffee at home are pretty simple. All you need are Vietnamese coffee beans or dark roasted coffee, sweetened condensed milk, hot water, a phin, and a cup that can withstand hot liquids.
This beverage should definitely be on your to-do list if you haven’t tried it yet. What exactly does Vietnamese coffee taste like? It’s not really easy to explain, but the combination of bitter and strong drip coffee with sweetened condensed milk is unbeatable.
How to Make Vietnamese Coffee FAQs
What Makes Vietnamese Coffee Different?
Vietnamese coffee is different from other types of java for several reasons. It’s made with Robusta beans, which are more bitter and caffeinated than other types of beans. Plus, the phin filter used to brew Vietnamese coffee results in a thick, strong brew.
What’s the Difference Between Thai Coffee and Vietnamese Coffee?
Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee are similar, but they have a couple of major differences. The filters used to brew each type are different as are the sweetening methods. Vietnamese coffee uses sweetened condensed milk, while Thai coffee often uses regular milk and sugar. Thai coffee also uses spices in its beans to give it a different flavor.
What Kind of Coffee is Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is traditionally made from Robusta beans, which makes it distinct from beverages made with Arabica beans. Robusta beans make a beverage stronger and more bitter.
Why is Vietnamese Coffee so Strong?
Vietnamese coffee is stronger than regular coffee because it’s usually made with Robusta beans, which have more caffeine than Arabica beans. The ratio of ground coffee to water in Vietnamese coffee also creates a stronger beverage.
How Do You Make Vietnamese Coffee Without a Phin?
If you don’t have a phin, you can use a French press to make Vietnamese coffee. It won’t be exactly the same, but those brewing processes are similar, so you’ll get close to the original version.
Why Is Vietnamese Iced Coffee so Sweet?
Vietnamese iced coffee tastes so sweet because it uses sweetened condensed milk instead of regular dairy milk. Made by removing water from dairy milk and adding sugar, sweetened condensed milk has a lots of sugar — one reason why the nutritional value of Vietnamese coffee is vastly different to that of regular joe.