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.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
- What is Vietnamese Coffee?
- How do you like your Coffee?
- How to make Vietnamese Coffee?
- Vietnamese Coffee Filter
- Other types of Vietnamese Coffee
- Vietnamese Coffee Beans
- Vietnamese Coffee without a Vietnamese Coffee Filter
What is Vietnamese Coffee?
For starters, 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!
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; because 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!
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!
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
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 connoisseurs.
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 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?
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How to make Vietnamese Coffee (Ca Phe Sua)
- 1 heaped Tbsp condensed milk
- 1 heaped Tbsp coarsely ground strong coffee beans
- 2 Tbsp room temperature water
- Hot water just off the boil (count 10 seconds after boiling)
- Place your condensed milk in your glass or cup.
- Place the ground coffee beans in your drip cup and press down with the plunger to flatten.
- Pour in 2 Tbsp of room temperature water, and count to 10. This will allow the beans to swell up and slow down the drip, making a stronger and more flavourful brew.
- Pour the hot water, almost to the top, stopping about 1-2cm (1/2") from the rim. Or less water, if you want a stronger coffee.
- Leave to drip, it should take about 3 minutes in all. The initial drip may be faster, it will soon slow down. If not, your coffee grains need to be coarser.
- Stir and enjoy!