Do you love coffee but feel you’re in danger of getting into a rut?
Perhaps you’re ordering the same thing every time you go into your local coffee shop?
If so, prepare to be inspired!
You may not have heard of Vietnamese coffee, but people across the world have been converted to its strong flavor and feisty caffeine hit.
And with serving options including eggs, yogurt and fruit, there’s enough variation to keep even the most adventurous coffee lover happy.
We’ve loved Vietnamese coffee from the moment we tasted it – but who wants to go halfway across the world to enjoy a drink, no matter how delicious it is?
After a spot of research, we discovered some great news: despite its exotic heritage, this is one coffee style that’s easy to create at home.
Here we share with you how to make Vietnamese coffee in 10 easy steps.
Read on, and soon you’ll be able to enjoy this distinctive beverage wherever in the world you call home!
What you will need to follow this tutorial
3 rounded tablespoons of Vietnamese ground coffee
Yes, we know we usually say you should grind your own beans, but most Vietnamese families use pre-ground coffee.
If it works for them, why not spare yourself some hassle and follow their example?
The iconic Vietnamese coffee brand is Trung Nguyen.
You can usually find it in Asian supermarkets, either pre-ground or as whole beans.
Another favorite amongst Vietnamese ex-pats is Cafe Du Monde French Roast Chicory coffee.
Alternatively, any good, dark or French roast coffee will do the job.
Make sure, though, that it’s made with Robusta or a Robusta blend, rather than Arabica beans.
You’ll need a more bitter flavor to balance out the sweetness of the other ingredients.
And if you’re buying your coffee pre-ground, make sure it’s a medium coarse consistency.
Anything too finely ground will slip through the holes of the coffee press.
6 to 8 fluid ounces of water at 200 degrees Fahrenheit
Choose how much water to use depending on how strong you want your coffee.
6 ounces will give you a punchy taste, or take it up to 8 ounces for something slightly mellower.
1 to 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk, according to taste
For a truly authentic experience, try “Longevity” brand, a favorite in Vietnamese households.
But whatever you do, don’t buy evaporated milk instead – it really won’t taste the same.
Vietnamese coffee press
Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to spend money on expensive equipment here.
A Vietnamese coffee press – or phin, to give it its proper name – is surprisingly easy to find.
Amazon stocks them for just a few dollars.
If you prefer to taste the results before deciding to buy new kitchen equipment, there are other options.
Just use a French press or whatever drip method you prefer.
How to make Vietnamese coffee: Step by step instructions
Step 1: Add your coffee to the filter
If you’re using a Vietnamese coffee filter, begin by removing the top screen.
The coffee needs to sit beneath it. This YouTube video shows how the various elements of the coffee filter fit together.
Next, measure out 3 rounded tablespoons of your chosen coffee and add it to the filter.
Try to spread it out as evenly as possible.
Now screw the top screen back onto the filter so that it’s snug but not too tight.
One or two full turns should be enough, but don’t worry about getting it exactly right.
If you find that the water drips through it too quickly or slowly, you can adjust it.
We’ll show you how to do that later.
Don’t be tempted to shake the coffee grounds or squash them down before applying the filter. The grounds will slip into the holes in the filter, clogging it up and making the drip process take forever!
Step 2 (Optional): Warm your cup or glass
Vietnamese coffee takes between 3 and 5 minutes to brew, and during that time a lot of heat can be lost.
That means that instead of being nice and hot, your coffee may be tepid by the time it’s ready.
Avoid that happening by warming up your mug or heat-proof glass before you start.
To do this, just fill your mug or glass with hot water and then flush it away.
This simple process will give you a much better end result.
Step 3: Add the condensed milk to your cup or heat-proof glass
Pour your desired amount of sweetened condensed milk into your cup or glass.
Use a glass if you can, as shown in this image.
This has two advantages.
Just make sure the glass is heat-proof to avoid your coffee exploding all over the counter!
Choose between 1 and 3 tablespoons of condensed milk depending on how sweet you want your coffee to taste.
1 tablespoon balanced with the dark Robusta beans will give you a similar sweetness to regular coffee.
For a drink that’s a little sweeter and creamier, try 2 tablespoons.
And if you’re looking for a flavor that’s more like caramel coffee candy, increase the quantity to 3 tablespoons.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to get the best balance of bitter and sweet for your palate.
Step 4: Measure out the hot water
Your water should be between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use a kitchen thermometer if you want to be precise.
Alternatively, just boil a kettle and leave it for a couple of minutes before measuring out the required amount.
This is another stage where you have a choice in terms of the quantities you use.
For a really strong flavor, use 6 fluid ounces of water.
If you prefer something with less of a kick, increase the water up to a maximum of 8 fluid ounces.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
You might find you like a strong coffee, but only with a bit more condensed milk to balance out the taste.
Try a few combinations to see what works best for you.
Step 5: Add two tablespoons of hot water to the filter
That’s right – we’re not adding all the hot water just yet.
This stage is all about releasing the carbon dioxide from the coffee grounds.
It’s known as “blooming” the coffee and plays a big part in unlocking the flavors and aromas of your drink.
Place the filter on top of the mug or glass containing the condensed milk.
Now add 2 tablespoons of hot water to the filter and wait 5 seconds to begin the blooming process.
After adding the first 2 tablespoons of water, press down gently on the filter to compress the coffee. This will slow down the drip rate and give you a more flavorful drink. Remember, though: the key word here is “gently”! You don’t want to clog up the filter by forcing the grounds into its holes.
Step 6: Pour the remaining water into the filter
Now pour the rest of the water into the filter slowly and steadily.
When it’s all in, cover the filter with its hat.
The coffee will take between 3 and 5 minutes to drip into the glass.
You should see just a few drips per second. Don’t rush it: the longer it takes, the better your coffee will taste.
If you find that the coffee is dripping too quickly, you can adjust the tightness of the press. Take a small spoon or the tip of a knife and give it a single turn clockwise. If the press is too tight and you’re only getting one drop every few seconds, turn the spoon or knife once counter-clockwise.
If you’re going to add ice to your coffee, you can put this brewing time to good use.
Get a glass and fill it with ice cubes for later.
Step 7: Remove the filter and stir the coffee into the condensed milk
When the coffee has finished dripping, remove the filter from the top of your glass or mug.
Set it down on top of its upturned lid to avoid any drips making a mess of your counter top.
If you’ve used a heatproof glass, at this stage you’ll be able to see two distinct layers.
The caramel of the condensed milk will sit at the bottom, with a dark brown layer of coffee on top.
Take a moment to appreciate the sight before mixing the two layers together.
If you want your coffee hot, now’s the time to settle back and savor the unique flavor of what is known in Vietnam as cà phê su͂a nóng.
Or if not…
Step 8 (Optional): Add fish sauce
This may not sound the most appetizing addition, but bear with us: we’re talking about a very small amount here.
In Vietnam, some café owners soak one end of a toothpick in fish sauce, then stir it through the coffee.
The idea is that the salty flavor will cut through the bitterness of the Robusta coffee, giving a smoother taste.
If the idea of this isn’t appealing, feel free to skip this step – as many Vietnamese people do!
Step 9 (Optional): Pour the coffee mixture over ice cubes
Vietnamese iced coffee is known as cà phê sứa dà – and it’s delicious.
Some people simply add ice cubes to the coffee and condensed milk after they’ve been mixed together.
We prefer to pour the coffee mixture over a separate glass of ice cubes instead.
We’re not sure why it tastes better, but we think it does!
Step 10: Experiment with variations!
Vietnamese people serve their coffee in lots of different ways.
We couldn’t finish without sharing some different recipes to give your Vietnamese coffee a fresh twist.
The sweetened condensed milk we’ve used in this recipe is just the start of the story.
Add egg yolk for cà phê trứng, or egg coffee. This is similar to eggnog and has been likened to the Italian dessert tiramisu.
Then there’s the wonderful yogurt coffee.
Thick creamy yogurt is served with a topping of fresh fruit and a drizzle of black coffee.
The yogurt does the same job as the condensed milk by balancing the bitter Robusta taste with creamy sweetness – delicious!
Or how about a smoothie?(Try 34 smoothie DIY ideas)
The Vietnamese enjoy coffee blended with banana and avocado, or sapodilla, a tropical fruit that tastes like custard.
The variations really are endless.
Ready to give it a go?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our step-by-step guide to making a delicious Vietnamese coffee.
We’re firm believers that something this good should be enjoyed by coffee lovers across the globe!
A French press works fine to make our recipe – but if you find you enjoy Vietnamese coffee as much as we do, we recommend investing in an authentic Vietnamese coffee filter.
The ones available on Amazon will do the job perfectly for just a few dollars.
Alternatively, if you have an Asian supermarket where you live, why not pop in and see if they stock them?
If you’ve tried this recipe or any of the variations we’ve mentioned, please comment and tell us how it went.
We’d love to hear your thoughts!
My name is Kathy Gallo, Editor of Ag Ferrari, a Coffee buff. The guide you find here is designed exactly for you, and it is our hope that you find it not only interesting but also actionable.