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 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 (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 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.”
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.
The Vietnamese coffee filter gives a stronger brew than that of an American drip machine and different than that of a French press.
The coffee beans
Any French roast can be used, but the most popular brands for Vietnamese coffee are Trung Nguyen and Cafe Du Monde. For this recipe, we’re going to use 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.
The condensed milk
The concentrated flavor of French roast pairs exceptionally well with potent condensed milk.
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 and they do the trick too.
How to brew
1. 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.
2. Preheat the filter and cup by pouring a bit of boiling water through it.
3. Remove the metal filter and pour in 1 heaping tablespoon of Cafe Du Monde (about 4 teaspoons). I love the smell of coffee!
4. Twist the filter on gently until it just starts to have some resistance. Then turn it little more, a bit less than ⅛ a turn.
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 effect on the flavor. For this recipe we’ll add it after 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.
6. 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. Fill the filter all the way and let it drip. Ideal brewing time comes to about 3 to 5 minutes so adjust the filter tightness 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. Place the cap on and watch the coffee drip!
8. 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 or 3 teaspoons.
9. For iced coffee, fully dissolve the condensed milk first, let cool a bit, then pour into a glass filled with ice.
Aand some frequently asked questions about Vietnamese coffee:
What is different about Vietnamese coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is a combination of bold flavored French roast coffee (often times mixed with chicory root), dripped through a Vietnamese coffee filter called a phin, and mixed with condensed milk. Using a phin creates a stronger brew than the traditional American drip machine.
How do you make Vietnamese coffee?
To brew Vietnamese coffee you need French roast coffee grounds, water, condensed milk, and a phin (a Vietnamese coffee filter). Boil the water and preheat the filter and cup by adding some water through. Remove excess water, then add a heaping tablespoon of coffee into the filter.
Twist the filter on top until there is some resistance and pour some water inside and wait for the grounds to expand before filling the filter all the way up. Brew for three to five minutes, then add the desired amount of condensed milk into the cup.
What kind of coffee is Vietnamese coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is traditionally made with dark French roast coffee and often times mixed with chicory root. Common brands used for this are Trung Nguyen and Cafe Du Monde.
Why is Vietnamese coffee so sweet?
Vietnamese coffee is sweetened using condensed milk. You can adjust the level of sweetness to your preference, but this is traditionally a very sweet and bold flavored coffee.
What is the best Vietnamese coffee?
There are many types of Vietnamese coffee beans or grounds, but I prefer using good old Cafe Du Monde.
- Start by boiling some water. An electric kettle makes it a lot faster.
- Preheat the filter and cup by pouring a bit of boiling water through it.
- Remove the metal filter and pour in 1 heaping tablespoon of Cafe Du Monde.
- Twist the filter on gently until it just starts to stop. Then turn it little more, a bit less than 1/8 a turn.
- 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!
- Add 1-2 teaspoons of condensed milk and slowly add more to taste. Stir to fullly dissolve.
- For iced coffee, let it cool off a bit then pour the brew into a glass filled with ice.