Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

Vietnamese iced coffee,cafe sua da

In Vietnam, coffee, whether it is brewed and served at home or in restaurants, is brewed leisurely. Hot coffee (cafe nong) is preferred in the morning, while iced coffee (cà phê sữa đá) is saved for the heat later in the day.

I was talking to my Dad about coffee and he was reminiscing about cups from the past. This man loves his cup of joe.

He’s completely happy here in the States, but has an incredibly fond memory of his life in Vietnam. “There was nothing like escaping from the rain–running into a coffee shop with a lightly damp raincoat. I can immensely enjoy a cup in that kind of atmosphere.”

Although we Vietnamese “owe” the availability of ingredients for this coffee to French colonization, this creation is Vietnamese. Vietnamese coffee is uniquely characterized by a combination of French roast coffee dripped through a Vietnamese coffee filter mixed with condensed milk.

French roast pairs exceptionally well with condensed milk. The Vietnamese coffee filter gives a stronger brew than that of an American drip machine and different than that of a French press.

Any French roast can be used, but the most popular brands for Vietnamese coffee I’ve seen are Cafe Du Monde, Cafe’de Paris, and Trung Nguyen. For this recipe, we’re going to stick with Cafe Du Monde.

Notice that Cafe Du Monde isn’t pure coffee! This grind is laced with the ground root of the chicory herb. This mixture originated in Europe during WWII when money was tight and expensive foods like coffee needed to last. Chicory root was used to stretch the coffee supply. After the war, the preference for the chicory flavor became a trend and exists even today.

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Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 heaping tablespoon (about 4 teaspoons) of Cafe Du Monde or Trung Nguyen grind 1-2 teaspoons condensed milk to fit your taste
  • a Vietnamese coffee filter
  • a glass for the brew
  • a second glass filled with ice
Instructions
  1. Start by boiling some water. An electric kettle makes it a lot faster. I'm lucky my tea-loving roommate left it behind when she went back to Australia. I would have never thought to purchase one, but it I'm glad I have it!

  2. Remove the metal filter and pour in 1 heaping tablespoon of Cafe Du Monde (about 4 teaspoons). I love the smell of coffee!

  3. Twist the filter on gently until it just starts to stop. Then turn it little more, a bit less than ⅛ a turn.

  4. If you wanted to drink this hot instead, you can put the brewing cup in a bowl and fill the bowl with hot water. For this recipe, we're going to stick with the iced version.

  5. Ideally you want to add the condensed milk to the cup before brewing because the boiling water actually cooks it. It does have a slight affect on the flavor. For this recipe we'll add it after since most readers probably don't know how much condensed milk they want.
  6. To brew, pour a tiny bit of water in the filter just to wet the grind and to let the grind expand a bit. Also this will help rid of some small grinds that happen to make it through the filter. You can toss it out if you see any.
  7. Then go ahead and fill the filter all the way and let it drip. Ideal brewing time comes to about 3 to 5 minutes so adjust the filter accordingly. Too loose and you'll just have runny brown water. Too tight and nothing will drip through. The filter will be hot, so use a fork or another utensil to adjust the filter. Place the cap on and watch the coffee drip!

  8. For condensed milk, I prefer Longevity Brand - Sua Ong Tho, because of the sweet graphic. :)
  9. Personally, I like it a little bitter. About 1 teaspoon of condensed milk does it for me. If you like it sweeter add 2 or 3 teaspoons.

  10. Pour the brew into a glass filled with ice and serve. Now make some for your coffee loving buddies!


 

Comments

  1. So, this is amazing. I almost love Vietnamese iced coffee more than life itself. I’m inspired to do this on my own instead of forking over the $1.75 for coffee!

    • I love it too! Making it is half the fun. Let me know how it turns out for you.

      • Dương Quý says:

        Không ngờ ở đó cũng có sữa ông Thọ :D, sữa ông Thọ ở Việt Nam do Vinamilk sản xuất, không biết ở đấy thì ai sản xuất nhỉ :)
        Mà đáng lẽ phải bỏ sữa vào trước để sức nóng cà phê làm nóng sữa, đồng thời giảm nhiệt của cà phê và làm chín sơ qua sữa chứ, nếu có thời gian thì đổ một ít nữa nóng vào trước để làm ẩm và nở cà phê khoảng 10 đến 20 phút, sau đó mới chế cà phê vào, vậy thì sẽ ngon và đậm hơn. Màu cà phê có vẻ hơi loãng.

  2. cafe du monde! i keep my monies in those tins.

  3. Hi Huy – Though I tend to go more for Cafe Den Da, Cafe Sua Da is always a nice pick me up. Here’s a funny story, in North Vietnam they call it Cafe Nao Da, so when we tried ordering it no one knew what the heck we were ordering! Keep up the great posts.

  4. I love Vietnamese coffee! Never thought to make it at home. I’ll have to try. Thanks.

  5. hmm, Cafe Sua Da (iced milk coffee) is the common name in the Southern of Viet Nam. The people in Southern prefer sweeten and weak taste and coffee here is served with a lot of ice.
    People in the North prefer much stronger taste (even much stronger than coffe in Buon Me Thuot, home of Trung Nguyen brand) and just a little milk is enough. Cafe Nau Da (iced brown coffeee) is the common name in the North, most people in the South is not familiar with this name (but the situation is changing now, in some café you can order Cafe Nau Da and they will bring Cafe Sua Da which is sweeter and weaker)

  6. Often when I order this in a Vietnamese restaurant or make it myself there is so much coffee in the filter that you can’t screw the filter on–you just press it down and it will drip slowly enough. It makes it very strong; one of my favorite things about café sua da is the clash of the strong bitterness of the coffee and chicory with the strong sweetness of the sweetened condensed milk. Delicious!

  7. Chicory coffee predates WWII by quite a bit! In Louisiana, Chicory became popular in the 1800s as a way to extend supplies of coffee that were in short supply due to the civil war. Since then, chicory coffee has been popular in the New Orleans area, where Cafe du Monde proudly brews coffee 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    As an aside, there is a huge vietnamese population in New Orleans, concentrated in the New Orleans East neighborhoods of Village de l’Est and Îles Vénetiennes. There’s fantastic coffee out there, too.

  8. I love my cà phê đá! Thanks for the filter instructions and to add a little water first. I tend to over tighten and add too much water too fast. I had to substitute w/vanilla ice cream because I didn’t have condensed milk…not bad, but original is much tastier! :-)

  9. Even full brewed Vietnamese coffee is great. Staying in a hotel in HCMC recently each morning with breakfast we got “pot coffee” that was delicious. It had that unmistakable chocolate flavor that comes with the type of roasting given coffee grown in Vietnam. I just bought 2 bags of Vietnamese roasted beans by the internet and how brew that subtle chocolate 6:00 coffee in my Cuisinart every day. The beans are dark and fragrant and almost sticky with oil. This is the real stuff, grown, roasted, and shipped from Vietnam, and ohhhhh so delicious!!

  10. Such fantastic coffee the cafe Sua Da.. Funny to experience around the world that other coffee lovers travelling to Vietnam experience the same!! Its a true winner and apparantly quite unknown..

  11. Great article, and fabulous photography! Thank you!

    One quick note – you might want to mention that Cafe du Monde and Cafe de Paris are not Vietnamese brands. Only Trung Nguyen is Vietnamese, of the brands you listed. Lots of people in America still think of chicory coffee when they think Vietnamese, like you said, but I think it’s worth mentioning in case people want to be authentic.

  12. Monique Rubio says:

    I like using Trung Nguyen, but will have to try Cafe Du Monde at home. I found your recipe while searching for a tip for screwing on the filter I usually screw it too tight and hardly get a drip, its 50/50 most of the time, but right now I got it just right!

  13. Love your blog! I especially love Cafe Sua Da and have been too lazy to make myself at home. But this post has given me a little motivation! I also love Cafe Du Monde (you chose for this post) from my hometown, NEW ORLEANS! Yay!

  14. The other Huy Vu says:

    I was searching on which brands of coffee to use for CSD and came across your site. Given our shared name I had to say hi.

  15. Hi, I hope you don’t mind but I linked this page through a post on my blog. I used to live in Vietnam but have moved to India and realised that many of my readers wouldn’t know what I was blathering on about when I mentioned cafe sua da. They will now, it’s a great article.

  16. Great page. I recently “discovered” cafe sua da and love it. I have tried to recreate at home and have not been having success; I just can’t get that same great strong flavor. It seems like I am getting a cup of caffeine that upsets my stomach more than anything. For such a simple device, I think I just haven’t mastered the phin yet. I recently tried to really tighten the filter and that gave me a better cup, but still a little to much caffeine and after almost 10 minutes only half the water had gone through the coffee. I will keep experimenting on getting the right “tamping” of the coffee but not so tight the water doesn’t do it’s job…..but I would love some tips if you have any. For coffee I have used the Trung Nguyen gourmet blend and premium blend and have tried mixing in some espresso roast ground as well.

    • Hey Daniel,
      I have two phins, but one of them is kind of janky. The filter on it is slanted, so when it’s tightened it doesn’t have even pressure and messes up the drip. Check yours first.

      If you’re putting the same amount of coffee in each time, I would just work on the tightening. Screw it in until barely tight. Then, for different brews try different amounts of tightening such as 3 quarter turn, 6 quarter turns, etc. until you find one that works consistently enough. To waste less coffee, start with more pressure and work your way down for each trial. Then you can take note and do the same for your next cup successful cups.

  17. I love you.

  18. Thank you Huy for sharing how Cà Phê Sữa Đá is made along with its history. We have had some at a local Pho restaurant and always enjoyed it. Your instructions and setup were very helpful and our coffee came out perfect the first time. For the record we used Cafe Du Monde’s Coffee and Chicory blend with some Eagle Brand condensed milk. Thanks again! 5 stars!

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