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Vietnamese Coffee Recipe: An Overview

Dave Carter

September 3, 2020

Coffee in Vietnamese culture originated back in the 18th century when Dutch and French colonial settlers brought the coffee phenomenon and coffee plants to the country, resulting in the establishment of vast coffee plantations throughout Vietnam. These settlers also brought sweetened condensed milk, which was vital to the development of Vietnamese coffee.

While the French were essential in establishing the coffee culture in the country, the coffee industry didn't leave when the colonists did. Instead, the Vietnamese took over and embraced these 'coffee roots' and have successfully expanded. They're now one of the top coffee-producing countries in the world. And now you can make Vietnamese iced coffee at home.

From the original Vietnamese iced coffee recipe to yogurt, and egg coffee recipes, we have featured them all for coffee connoisseurs and casual drinkers to make and enjoy.

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The Original Vietnamese Coffee Recipe​

When making traditional coffee Vietnamese, you need to ensure you only use the best brews and compare Nespresso machines to see which one can give you the best-brewed coffee for the recipe. You can also use instant coffee when making Vietnamese iced coffee, but make sure you only use medium-coarse grounds. Another important part when making the drink is perfecting the use of a French press, so before you make Vietnamese coffee, make sure you read your French press instructions.

The original recipe of traditional Vietnamese coffee (cà phê sữa nóng) provides you with a sweet and decadent drink involving strong drip coffee and condensed milk. Below are the different versions of the original Vietnam coffee recipe:

Cà Phê Sữa Nóng ​

Cà Phê Sữa Nóng translates to coffee, milk, and hot. This version is the original version and is a popular choice among locals and tourists. Its base consists of sweetened condensed milk and is poured over with 2 ounces of strong drip coffee using individual serving size filters. The flavor of this beverage is robust and sweet, similar to an espresso shot. It's best to enjoy it during casual mornings or lazy afternoons.

Cà Phê Sữa Đá ​

Cà Phê Sữa Đá translates to coffee, milk, and ice. The Vietnamese iced coffee is the most popular variation of the original brew. Its ingredients follow the original one, except this one requires ice. Enjoy the perfect combination of the caramel sweetness of the milk, the blend, and the refreshing addition of ice with this classic iced coffee.

Ca Phe Đen and Ca Phe Đen Đá​

Other versions of the original version feature Cà Phê Đen, meaning coffee and black, eliminating condensed milk and other sweeteners. And Cà Phê Đen Đá means coffee, black, and ice, which doesn't contain milk and is 100% drip iced coffee.

You can make this drink by placing coarsely ground coffee beans into a French drip filter or Phin, placed on top of a mug or cup. The beans are then pushed down with a thin lid, slowly pour the hot water through the Phin, and then the water will trickle into the container. For the best results, it's best to repeat the process twice before the Phin produces enough brew for you to enjoy.

What is Different About Vietnamese Coffee​

Many will argue that what makes Vietnamese coffee different is the use of the filter drip or the Phin, an inexpensive, low-tech device that combines the function of a drip filter and coffee press. However, that isn't what makes the drink different; the traditional roasting process makes the Vietnamese iced coffee unique and emphasizes its distinctive intense flavors. The Vietnamese tend to roast it with salt, butter, and rice wine, while some roasteries add flavorings such as caramel and chocolate.

Other factors that make their coffee unique is that it produces a distinct robust taste and thicker brew. Drip coffee is very bitter, and the locals counteract this by adding condensed milk, yogurt, or eggs. Try a cup of Vietnamese coffee and experience their unique culture in one sip.

What Kind of Coffee is in Vietnamese Coffee?​

The dark roast Vietnamese coffee consists of robusta beans, that's because the country is also the second-largest exporter of coffee, and their specialty is robusta. This type of coffee bean is twice as strong as arabica beans, having 2.2 to 2.7% caffeine while arabica has 1.2 to 1.5%, making Vietnamese iced coffee very bitter. That's why most versions of this popular drink in Vietnam contain generous amounts of sweetened condensed milk and other sweeteners.

Robusta beans contain 60% less fat and sugar than arabica beans, giving you a healthier and sharper cup of joe. If you don't add condensed dairy products and other sweeteners, you can expect unpleasant flavors like burnt tires and rubber. Although it may be unappealing to most, for many Vietnamese, robusta blends are the only way to enjoy coffee. It's best for drinkers that love a potent brew.


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How to Make Vietnamese Coffee​

When getting your first coffee machine with grinder, what better way to get your money's worth and explore different coffee recipes? You can start from the classic cortado recipe to the more intricate Vietnamese iced coffee.

Here are some of the most famous recipes from Vietnam to help you explore the vast coffee possibilities and make Vietnamese coffee at home.

The Original​

The original version of coffee Vietnamese provides you with sweet and robust brews, perfect to start your day right. The ingredients consist of three tablespoons of ground coffee, 1 to 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk and 6 to 8 fluid ounces of boiling water.

The following are the steps to make Vietnamese coffee at home.

  1. Measure around three tablespoons of coffee grounds and place them uniformly into the coffee filter or Phin.
  2. Place the metal filter on top of the ground coffee. Never shake or compress the filters because the coffee grounds will go through the filters and plug up the holes.
  3. Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk into a heatproof glass or mug.
  4. Measure our 6 to 8 ounces of near-boiling water and pour two tablespoons of the hot water into the filter.
  5. Wait for 5 seconds to bloom the coffee. Blooming is the process when water releases carbon dioxide from the grounds, making them expand.
  6. Press the filter gently to allow the bloomed coffee to compress. Doing this slows down the drip rate of the water, giving you a more flavorful mug.
  7. Slowly pour the rest of the water into the filter.
  8. Let the coffee finish drip brewing, and this usually takes around 5 minutes.
  9. After 5 minutes, remove the filter and stir to allow the sweetened condensed milk to mix with the drip coffee. You can add more condensed dairy as you stir.

For brewed coffee, you can use any French roast coffee or try local coffee Vietnam brands for the authentic experience. If you can't use Phin or filters, you can use a standard French coffee press of any other drip brewing methods. You can serve the original version hot or as an iced coffee.

Yogurt Coffee Vietnamese (Sữa Chua Ca Phe)​

Like with coffees, yogurt was brought to Vietnam by the French colonists and has long adopted into local culinary tradition. This unique drink balances the combination of tartness and sweetness, exhibiting a unique aroma and intensity.

The following is how to make Sữa Chua Ca Phe:

  1. Add medium-coarse ground coffees to a Phin filter chamber and place the metal filter press on top and start pressing gently.
  2. Place the filter over a clean mug or a glass and add one tablespoon of near-boiling water. Wait around 10 to 20 seconds to let the grounds bloom and settle.
  3. Pour the remaining hot water and cover the Phin's chamber with the filter cap and wait for the brew to drip into the container. This process can take up to 5 minutes.
  4. While the coffee is brewing, add yogurt and condensed milk to a clean bowl and mix. Place the mixture into a serving glass.
  5. Once the drip brew is ready, pour it into the serving glasses and top it off with crushed ice. Serve immediately.

Egg Coffee (Ca Phe Trung)​

An unusual ingredient that locals in Vietnam added to their famous coffee is the egg yolk. It provides creamy and decadent brews that even the pickiest drinkers can enjoy.

Follow these steps to make Ca Phe Trung:

  1. Brew 12 ounces of espresso-style coffee.
  2. Add one egg yolk and four tablespoons of condensed milk into a bowl and mix until you achieve soft peaks, and its volume increases.
  3. Pour the espresso into a cup and place the whipped egg mixture on top of the drink. Enjoy!

How to Use Vietnamese Coffee Press​

It's best to use the best manual coffee grinder if you plan on brewing conventional Vietnamese coffee, it allows you to get the freshest roasts, but remember to keep the grounds medium-coarse. After getting your fresh grounds, you can use your espresso coffee machine to make brews for your Vietnamese coffee conveniently, or if you want to make it the traditional way, learn how to use a Vietnamese coffee press or 'Phin.' This inexpensive but innovative device provides you with distinctive brews uniquely found in Vietnam.

The Phin features a round perforated (contains small holes) plate that fits over a coffee mug or glass, a brewing chamber that you place on top of the plate, a perforated insert to place inside the brewing chamber, and tamp the coffee grounds down, and a cap for heat maintenance. Below are the steps in using a Vietnamese coffee press or Phin.

  1. Place your ground coffee to the brewing chamber, twist the perforated filter insert downwards to get every last bit of the blend.
  2. Put a generous amount of condensed milk in a cup.
  3. Pour near-boiling water on top of the filter, and after 60 seconds of blooming, add the rest of the water.
  4. Wait for the rest of the brew to drip down. The process usually takes 5 minutes.
  5. Once you get enough liquid caffeine to indulge in, stir and enjoy hot or pour it over ice.

The long process may worry you that your brew may lose its optimal temperature. You don't need to worry because the Phin filter's cap retains the heat when the first drip descends into an empty cup or spoonful of creamy condensed dairy, ensuring you only get the best brews at the perfect temperature. Phin filters or Vietnamese drip coffee presses come in different sizes, typically with a little knob or handle to avoid getting burned.

The Flavor of Vietnamese Drip Coffee​

The delicious and unique flavors of traditional Vietnam drip coffee is due to the country's use of Robusta beans and slow drip brewing method. The classic Vietnam drip coffee provides a thick brew, making it very bitter, that's why most locals in the country like to add generous amounts of condensed milk and ice. Although these slight adjustments still give you a potent brew, you can indulge in a cup of joe that offers a harmonic balance of sweet and savory while providing you with the perfect amount of caffeine.

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Unique Flavors​

  • Yogurt

Other variations of the drink include adding yogurt, which provides you with a rich and creamy brew served with various toppings such as fermented sticky rice and fresh mango. It balances tartness and sweetness perfectly, making it a delicious but unusual combination.

  • Egg

You can also add a fluffy mixture of egg yolk and condensed dairy products on top of the coffee, giving you a delightfully airy drink.

  • Fruit Smoothies

The most recent version of the drink is a coffee smoothie, blending in fresh fruit and traditional Vietnamese coffee for the ultimate caffeine and vitamin-rich beverage.

Enjoy a cup of classic Vietnamese coffee, and you'll never settle for less again. You can buy one from your local coffee shops, but it's better to take your skills to the test and make one at home. We hope this guide helped you appreciate the coffee culture of Vietnam, experiencing the country's beauty and caffeine-rich history in a fantastic brew.


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