How To Make Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

Vietnamese coffee is an intensely strong and sweet coffee, that’s sure to dissolve your morning daze and perk you up for the day. Its dark roast coffee and potent condensed milk, slowly dripped through a metal filter (phin) make this a unique coffee.

In Vietnam, coffee, whether it’s brewed and served at home or in restaurants, is brewed leisurely (i.e. less intense than how I typically brew pour over coffee). Hot coffee (cà phê nóng) is preferred in the morning, while iced coffee (cà phê sữa đá) is saved for the heat later in the day.

brewing Vietnamese coffee with a metal phin or filter

How do you drink Vietnamese coffee you ask? Any way you’d drink any other coffee! I especially like to sip on this stuff after a big bowl of phở, or when snacking on buttery, piping hot pâté chaud, or crispy pandan waffles.

I was talking to my Dad about coffee and he was reminiscing about his many past cups. 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.”

Vietnamese coffee bean brands

Vietnamese coffee cans: Cafe Du Monde and Tay Nguyen

In America there are sooo many popular brands of Vietnamese coffee you can order and have shipped to your doorstep:

These are just to name the popular ones available in America! Lately there are many new roasters in America trying to hop on the Vietnamese coffee scene. There seems to be a few small companies popping up every year starting as local roasters, selling at farmers markets, and eventually shipping their beans nationwide and worldwide.

We saw the big name coffee brands like Trung Nguyen above have chains of coffee shops when visiting Vietnam in 2020. In Vietnam there are countless other brands producing, roasting, and selling Vietnamese coffee and beans though that you simply cannot buy in America.

People are passionate about their coffee, and asking which brand or type of Vietnamese coffee is best is sure to stir up some arguments!

Vietnamese metal coffee filter or “phin”

brewing coffee in large Vietnamese metal filters
barista brewing in massive phins at Amazing Coffee, Ho Chi Minh City

The Vietnamese coffee filter gives a stronger brew than that of an American drip machine and different than that of a French press, which has a lot of factors.

But the metal coffee filter used to brew Vietnamese coffee is a large part of it what makes Vietnamese coffee unique. The filter is sometimes referred to as a Vietnamese press, or Vietnamese dripper, but it’s all the same item, or the same phin.

two Vietnamese phins / coffee filters taken apart
3-piece screw-down filter (left), 4-piece coffee filter (right)

The “phin” (pronounced like feen), is typically made of three or four parts:

The lid – This helps keep the coffee from losing heat or evaporating too much while brewing.

The body – This is the main cylindrical center where the coffee grounds go. The

A filter disk – This goes into the body and sits on top of the coffee. On older versions of the phin I’ve seen, this can screw into a threaded shaft that’s part of the body. This added another variable to adjust while brewing–how tight this was screwed on.

However on most newer types I’ve seen this is a simple disk with a handle on top for removal that sits on top of the coffee grounds. This means the main way you control the speed and strength of brew is reduced to water temperature, water volume, coffee volume (and grind size if grinding your own.

The rim or lip – simply the rim around the filter so you can rest it on a glass while brewing.

Sweetened condensed milk

Why is Vietnamese coffee so sweet you ask? The condensed milk!

Traditional Vietnamese coffee is very strong so the concentrated and very sweet condensed milk is a natural pairing for it. When you buy Viet coffee at stores, the default is SUPER SWEET.

When I make it myself, I like taking the sugar down by about 50% so more coffee flavor comes through, so feel free to sweeten it as you like! Condensed milk usually comes in cans, because its simple and cheap to produce.

The problem is that the milk is super thick and sticky so it’s not fun to have to transfer to another storage container. So, you can do like my dad does and just leave it open like that in the fridge with a spoon in it, or transfer it to a squeeze bottle.

I like using Longevity Brand as shown below, typically available at Vietnamese or Asian supermarkets. However, I’ve used Eagle Brand, and the Trader Joe’s store brand in a sqeeze bottle which is very convenient. And to be honest they taste very similar to me.

How Vietnamese coffee was invented

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 a dark roast coffee dripped through a metal Vietnamese coffee filter mixed with condensed milk.

More often than not, you’ll see this served with lots of crushed ice since it is so refreshing! You can order Vietnamese coffee hot too, but this seems to be much less popular in comparison, at least in America.

Vietnamese coffee varietals and filler?

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.

The new companies have more modern marketing and branding campaigns, and source beans, often times from single family-owned farms in Vietnam for the typical Vietnamese coffee roast. The varietal commonly used for Vietnamese coffee is the robusta bean.

Where to buy ready to drink Vietnamese coffee

takeout cup of Viet coffee and two banh mi sandwiches

Vietnamese sandwich and coffee shops

I typically buy Vietnamese coffee at bánh mì shops, like our local chain Banh Mi Che Cali, or Tan Hoang Huong in Southern California.

Of course the mega-chain Lee’s Sandwiches sells Vietnamese coffee too, but we have beter sandwich options, and their coffee is way sweeter than I prefer. I think it’s premade so you can’t request the coffee to be made less sweet here, but it’s fine in a pinch.


Our local Costcos stock a concentrated version of Lee’s Vietnamese coffee in the freezer section too! Each 16 fl oz bottle of this concentrate is meant to be defrosted, then poured over lots of ice to make about 3-4 servings of Viet coffee. I must say it’s pretty similar to what you can buy at their store ready to drink! But a bit too sweet to me.

American coffee shops

Some third wave coffee shops have been trying to ride the wave of Vietnamese coffee popularity by offering their own takes on Vietnamese coffee. I get excited to see it and always give it a shot, but have been disappointed just about every time.

The quality ranges from decent, to outright bad. Most of these shops don’t even try to use Vietnamese coffee beans, and don’t use the intense condensed milk, but rather wing it to create a “close enough” concoction they can label as Vietnamese coffee–not cool.

We actually have ONE local, modern, Vietnamese-owned-but-American-looking coffee shop nearby that does a good job with Vietnamese coffee. This was a rare find. I think the core of why it’s traditionally on point is it’s more of a Vietnamese coffee shop that looks modern/American.

Starbucks probably has avoided marketing a drink called Vietnamese coffee for these reasons. They don’t normally stock right ingredients to do it right and it would create unnecessary items to stock for just a single drink.

However Starbucks fans have of course found a way to hack the menu and order a sort of rendition of it. This typically involves about 3 shots of espresso (sometimes blonde), 4-5 pumps of white mocha, either heavy cream or whipped cream and lots of ice.

Vietnamese coffee Pinterest image
vietnamese coffee recipe ingredients

Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

5 from 17 votes
A strong dripped coffee, with rich and sweet condensed milk makes Vietnamese coffee a bold treat to sip on!
BY: Huy Vu
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Total: 10 minutes



  • Start by boiling some water. An electric kettle makes it a lot faster. My tea-loving roommate left it behind when she went back to Australia. I would have never thought to purchase one, but it's seriously a game changer in terms of speed.
  • Preheat the filter and cup by pouring a bit of boiling water through it.
    preheating filter and cup
  • Remove the metal filter and pour in 1 heaping tablespoon of Cafe Du Monde (about 4 teaspoons). I love the smell of coffee!
    scooping coffee into the metal filter
  • Twist the filter on gently until it just starts to stop. Then turn it little more, a bit less than 1/8 a turn. If your filter doesn't use screws, simply place the filter on top of the coffee.
  • Pour a tiny bit of water in the filter just to wet the grind and to let the grind expand a bit. 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.
  • 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!
    pouring hot water to brew
  • For condensed milk, I prefer Longevity Brand – Sua Ong Tho. Any brand will do but I like the art on this one 🙂. Personally, I like it a little strong and less sweet than most folks. About 1 teaspoon of condensed milk does it for me. If you like it sweeter add 2-3 tsp.
    Adding it to the cup before brewing does have a slight effect on the flavor since the boiling water cooks it a bit. For this recipe we'll add it afte brewing since you can more easily adjust how much condensed milk slowly. Once you know the amount you like you can add it straight to the cup before brewing.
  • For iced coffee, let it cool off a bit then pour the brew into a glass filled with ice.
    brewed vietnamese coffee
Nutrition Facts
Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)
Serving Size
0 g
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Course: Beverage, Breakfast
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: coffee
Did you cook this recipe?Tag @HungryHuy or #hungryhuy–I’d love to see it!

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52 comments on “How To Make Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

  1. Jinra says:

    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!

    1. Huy Vu says:

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

      1. 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. daisy says:

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

  3. Kirk says:

    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.

    1. Huong says:

      no we call it Cafe Nau Da = Iced Brown Cafe because of its color after adding condensed milk 😀

  4. Nooschi says:

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

    1. Huy says:

      Yup, it’s pretty easy to make. Just gotta make sure you have fresh coffee 🙂

  5. abcslayer says:

    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. Biloxi says:

    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!

    1. Huy says:

      Yup the contrast is pretty tasty.. I like mine a little less sweet, paired with maybe a croissant.

  7. SV says:

    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. MyNga says:

    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! 🙂

    1. Huy says:

      Gotta make subs when you’re forced, but yeah condensed milk is the way to go. Hope the instructions helped! 🙂

  9. fizzy says:

    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!!

    1. Huy says:

      Interesting, I’ve never considered getting Vietnamese beans shipped over here, but that could be fun. I wouldn’t mind waking up to room service and a pot of this stuff each morning 🙂

  10. C.T. says:

    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..

    1. Huy says:

      It is delicious! Yeah it’s kinda silly because we’re used to it. But I guess it’s the only way to get the full experience and ambiance hehe. Definitely a luxury to do that.

  11. Melanie says:

    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.

    1. Huy says:

      Thanks for the tip Melanie. Yeah Trung Nguyen is quite popular, but not as easily found in stores as I have seen so far.

  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!

    1. Huy says:

      Monique, I’m glad it helped! It does take tinkering and these filter things vary by brand, and even by each unit as they are quite janky… haha. It takes some trial and error.

  13. Cat says:

    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!

    1. Huy says:

      It’s fairly easy once you get the gist of it. You’ll save a ton of money making it at home too.

  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.

    1. Huy says:

      Thanks for stopping by Huy Vu 🙂

  15. Anne says:

    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.

    1. Huy says:

      Anne, of course that’s no problem. I appreciate it!

  16. daniel says:

    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.

    1. Huy says:

      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. Hieu says:

    I love you.

    1. Huy says:

      I love you too. 🙂 Are you still puttin the Aeropress to work?

  18. Trent says:

    5 stars
    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!

    1. Huy says:

      Great to hear it helped, Trent. I’ve tried Eagle as well as a few other brands, they all do the trick!

  19. Allan says:

    I use half Cafe Du Monde and half Trung Nguyen. I’ve had it explained to me by a Vietnamese shopkeeper that the Du Monde is for the flavor and the Trung is for the smell.

  20. Quoc says:

    5 stars
    Allan: Our restaurant uses half Café Du Monde and half Trung Nguyen! its a secret so don’t tell anyone.

    1. Huy says:

      I’ve heard of some places doing this–might be kinda hard to pinpoint with a taste test even, but I bet it tastes good :). Thanks for sharing!

  21. Ty says:

    I have always loved Ca Phe Su Da but haven’t made it for years. Was able to buy everything at one store here plus other Vietnamese coffee brands to experiment this week. One dilemma I find is that I like it iced but the ice cubes can quickly dilute the flavour of everything. I like to quickly throw away the ice. This time around mine wasn’t as “desserty” as I liked. It tasted yummy but didn’t have that “ahhhh this is what I remember” feeling. Also, damn that screw gets hot. I now make double sure it’s dripping the way I want with a little water first and make it tighter than looser to avoid touching it again. Mine takes about 5 minutes. 5 minutes could be why mine is tasting quite bitter seeing as I added more of the Vietnamese grinds.

    1. Huy says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience here Ty! Yup the ice cubes will melt fast. You can avoid that if you wanna get really serious. What about using whiskey stones instead of ice. Or freezing your cup before dripping, using an ice bath for the glass it’s dripping into, or sticking the freshly brewed cup into the freezer before adding ice cubes? 🙂 For sure the screw gets hot, I like to use a small fork or just scorch myself a bit to adjust haha. Hope you can find that “ahhhh” in a future brew!

  22. Mike says:

    Where’s a good site to order the coffee and condensed milk?

    1. Huy says:

      Hey Mike, I love Amazon, so I’d probably order it there. There’s a variety of brands carried there and they all have been good in my opinion. Just realized that ingredient wasn’t added to my recipe list, so just added, thanks!

  23. larry says:

    Have you tried gavina french roast coffee ? I think the taste is better with ice and condense milk.
    It is a little bit strong but smell good .!!! It is common use in the restaurant.

    1. Huy says:

      You’re right Larry, a quick search shows some restaurants often blend with other brands. Perhaps I have already unknowingly had some at my local shop. Thanks for the tip!

  24. Thỏ says:

    I love your post. I spent a part of my younger school days (pre 1975) wandering Saigon streets, drinking cafe phin with friends, and sampling snacks.

    Cafe phin trả tôi về thỏi` xa xủa đó…

    1. Huy says:

      Thank you Tho, sounds like a good time you had in Saigon 🙂

  25. Susan K says:

    Just tried for the first time and all loved it! This has been moved to the top of our favorites list. Thank you for the great tips and advice. Total success☕️

  26. Suzanne says:

    I have found that normal condensed milk doesnt cut it. It has to be Coconut condensed milk, which I had to make as it wasnt available here

  27. Channon Doughty says:

    Thank you so much for writing this how to guide. I tried on my own, and just couldn’t get the flavor right. May I ask if 2 Tbs of condensed milk is what you use or if it is the normal sweeter way of making it? I like mine with about 1/2 the usual amount of milk.

    1. Hungry Huy says:

      Glad it helped Channon! I try to get away with using as little sweetener as possible.. maybe 1 teaspoon or less 🙂

  28. Suzie Scott says:

    5 stars
    I LOVE Vietnamese iced coffee! A few years ago, I was in the Saigon (as I still call it) airport and saw what, at first glance, looked like a Slushy machine. Nope. It was full of iced coffee. I must have had four glasses. Heaven on Earth! I make it at home, too, for at least 15 years.

    1. Huy @ Hungry Huy says:

      If I had four I’d definitely be down for the count lol. But yeah its tasty stuff Suzie!

  29. Robert Noyes says:

    5 stars
    Yes, a great way to serve coffee. FWIW, the phin was in use in France in the early 60’s when I was there. Same way, on top of a cup but without the sweetened condensed milk.

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