Nothing is more refreshing or more energy life giving than an icy cold Vietnamese coffee. Sweet and creamy, with a huge kick of intense coffee flavor. This is the caffeine hit I want all day, every day.
After Brazil, Vietnam is the largest producer of coffee in the world and it’s no surprise that Vietnamese coffee culture is fierce. Cafes line the streets and morning, noon, and night, you’ll see people drinking coffee. It’s just a way of life. After pho and banh mi, I think Vietnamese coffee might be the most well known Vietnamese culinary export.
What is Vietnamese coffee?
Dark, intense, rich, and deep, Vietnamese coffee is coffee made from Vietnamese grown coffee beans, strong and flavorful, often cut with sweetened condensed milk and drunk hot or cold.
Nowadays, lots of people think Vietnamese coffee is just regular old coffee with sweetened condensed milk in it. If we’re going to be purists: true Vietnamese coffee is made from robusta coffee beans (or a mix of robusta and arabica) grown in Vietnam.
Robusta beans are bitter, less acidic, and have twice as much caffeine as the more commonly used Arabica beans. Robusta beans produce a very dark, very strong coffee that’s beautifully balanced out by sweetened condensed milk.
For the sake of simplicity in this post, we’ll define Vietnamese coffee as coffee made from beans grown in Vietnam and or coffee served with sweetened condensed milk. We’re using Vietnamese grown beans and if you want a truly authentic cup, you should use them too 😉
What does Vietnamese coffee taste like?
In a word: delicious! I am addicted to that sweet milky coffee-forward flavor. It tastes like how you imagine coffee to taste. Deliciously dark and deep with a hint of roasty caramel, sweet milkiness, nutty buttery-ness, with just a touch of chocolate notes.
How to make Vietnamese coffee
- Get the coffee equipment ready. Gather your phin, the ground coffee beans, sweetened condensed milk and a mug or glass. I like to use a heatproof glass because aesthetics.
- Boil the water. To be specific, you want the water between 195°-205°F. Essentially boil it and remove from the heat.
- Preheat the phin and cup. Pour a bit of water through the filter. It’ll run right through and warm the filter and cup. Carefully pour the hot water out.
- Add the condensed milk to the cup. Spoon some condensed milk (if using) into the cup. Add the body of the phin back on top, leaving the filter and lid to the side.
- Bloom the coffee. Scoop in 1 heaping tablespoon of fine coffee grounds and use the filter press to lightly press down on the coffee. Pour in about 1 tbsp hot water over the filter. Let bloom for about 30-40 seconds.
- Brew the coffee. Slowly pour more hot water into the phin until it reaches the top then cover it with the lid. Let the coffee brew, it should take about 3-5 minutes and it should drip through slowly.
- Enjoy! When the coffee is done brewing, remove the phin. Stir it up and pour over ice or add more hot water if desired.
Hot vs iced Vietnamese coffee
In Vietnam, coffee is enjoyed both iced and hot, it’s really up to personal preference.
- Hot: Simple enjoy the coffee brewed straight from the phin. If you want your coffee slightly diluted, more like an americano, add some hot water.
- Iced: There are two ways of making iced coffee. You can brew the coffee then pour it over ice or you can brew the coffee directly over ice.
Vietnamese coffee ingredients & equipment
What is a phin? It’s an individual stainless steel coffee filter that sits on top of a glass. A phin is made of three parts: the body, the press or filter disk, and the lid. Coffee grounds go into the body, the press is placed lightly on top and finally, the lid covers everything. The coffee drips out slowly into the waiting cup at the bottom. It’s kind of a mix between pourover and a French press.
Some people say that it’s the condensed milk or way it’s been brewed that makes Vietnamese coffee Vietnamese coffee, but really it’s the beans. Lots of Vietnamese roasters roast with butter for extra richness.
For a true Vietnamese coffee, try to find a bean that’s grown and roasted in Vietnam. Contrary to popular belief, Cafe du Monde coffee (which is often used in Vietnamese restaurants) are not actually Vietnamese beans. There are a variety of Vietnamese beans on the market and lots of them are sold online.
Sweetened condensed milk
Contrary to popular belief, Vietnamese coffee doesn’t need to have sweetened condensed milk in it. In fact, Mike drinks his Vietnamese coffee black (ca phe den) and so do a lot of other people. I’m a huge fan of sweetened condensed milk – sometimes I eat it with bread.
My preferred brand of sweetened condensed milk is Longevity Brand. You can find it online or in Asian grocery stores. After opening, use a rubber spatula to scoop it into a clean container with a lid and pop it in the fridge. I like to put mine in a squeeze bottle so I can squeeze to my heart’s content. Sweetened condensed milk will keep in the fridge forever.
If you’re just at a regular grocery store, go for Eagle Brand, Carnation, and Nestle’s La Lechera sweetened condensed milks. I especially like the tubes that they sell now (Eagle Brand, La Lechera) because it’s so easy to squeeze out, no can opener needed.
Cheater’s Vietnamese Iced Coffee
When you want Vietnamese iced coffee and you want it fast, here is a quick and easy way to make it, no phin needed! Here’s how:
- Make a cup of very strong coffee, either espresso (at least 2 shots) or extra strong brewed coffee.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk or to taste then top off the glass with ice.
- The hot coffee will melt the ice. Top it off with cold water if desired. Enjoy!
Starbucks Vietnamese iced coffee hack
This is a trick I use when we’re on the road and I need a sweet and creamy Vietnamese ice coffee but I don’t have any sweetened condensed milk handy. You can adjust the shots of espresso and pumps of white chocolate mocha as needed based on your caffeine and sweetness needs.
When I want it to taste almost exactly like a Vietnamese iced coffee, I order an Iced grande quad espresso with 3 pumps white chocolate mocha.
Egg coffee or cà phê trứng is a specialty of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Whisked egg yolks, condensed milk, and strong coffee come together in a perfect cup. Egg coffee’s beautifully layered with contrasting flavors: bitterness from the coffee, sweetness from the condensed milk, and richness from the whipped egg yolks. It’s like drinking a liquid tiramisu.
How to make egg coffee
Brew a cup of Vietnamese coffee, without any sweetened condensed milk. The fluffy, creamy egg topping will add all the sweetness you need. While the coffee is brewing, make the sweetened egg cream by whisking together egg yolks and sweetened condensed milk with a milk frother. I like this one because it whips up eggs incredibly fast.
You can use it to make dalgona coffee too! Once your sweetened egg cream is whipped up and your coffee is brewed, gently spoon the cream on top of the coffee. Enjoy sipping as is, or use a small spoon to stir everything together.
Where to buy already brewed Vietnamese coffee
If, after reading all this, you feel like you want to try a cup of Vietnamese coffee but don’t want to make it yourself, there’s another option. Just hit up your local banh mi deli. They’ll always have Vietnamese coffee on the menu.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Where is the black phin from?
It was a limited edition thing from a friend who owns a Vietnamese coffee shop, unfortunately you can’t get it anymore but if anyone knows where else you can get one, please leave me a comment!
- Vietnamese coffee is too sweet for me
Pro tip, when you order it at Vietnamese bakeries or restaurants, you can ask them for less condensed milk if you like your coffee on the less sweet side.
- Can you drink it black?
Yes you can and lots of people do. It’s called ca phe den and it’s pretty common actually!
- Why use sweetened condensed milk?
Back when coffee started to become really popular in Vietnam, fresh milk wasn’t as readily available as sweetened condensed milk. Fresh milk is much more perishable and sweetened condensed milk was so much easier to store and use. Now the combination of strong and sweet is synonymous with Vietnamese coffee.
What to serve
Sweet and creamy, with a huge kick of intense coffee flavor.
- 1 tbsp Vietnamese coffee ground
- 1-2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk optional
To make egg coffee
While the coffee is brewing, make an egg foam by combining 2 egg yolks and the condensed milk in a glass. Use a milk frother to whisk until thick and foamy, 2-3 minutes.
Spoon the fluffy egg on top of the brewed coffee. Serve the cup of egg coffee in a bowl of hot water, if desired. Sip the coffee as is or stir before enjoying!
Estimated nutrition for coffee with 1 tbsp condensed milk. Black coffee is essentially 0 calories.
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 15
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 1.1g7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.