Looking for a delicious drink with a big kick? Vietnamese coffee is a unique brewing style that makes use of oft-neglected Robusta beans for a bolder taste and a bigger caffeine punch.
If you’ve never tried this style of brewing, you should check out one of the brewers below. Any one can be the perfect addition to your coffee-loving household.
Construction quality is the most important thing in a Vietnamese coffee maker, and you’ll get it from this Thang Long coffee press. Its 8-ounce size is ideal for making traditional iced Vietnamese coffee, too, and it’s under warranty for life so you never have to worry about it breaking.
This medium-sized Vietnamese coffee maker from Gladiator is a great option for brewing single cups. Its convenient, compact construction is great for traveling. It’s also easier to use than other brewers. The weighted filter doesn’t require any screwing in, and the rubber handles on the side keep you from touching hot metal while you’re brewing.
The Heirloom coffee maker is trusted by Vietnamese restaurants around the world. Durability is a big reason why. Its SAE-316 steel construction resists corrosion and damage better than other models so you can use it over and over without worry. It’s also incredibly easy to use, with a weighted filter insert and heat-resistant handles.
Here’s a variation on the Thang Long above that has the convenience features most American users look for. That includes a weighted filter insert and plastic posts on the side for easier handling. The wide base is also the perfect size to fit atop most mugs and glasses
A smaller Vietnamese coffee maker, like this model from Import Food, can be a great option for easy traveling or those who simply don’t want as much caffeine. Its attractive design includes heat-resistant side handles, and it comes with complete instructions so you don’t have to guess how to use it.
The Update International Vietnamese coffee filter uses a screw-on insert with a snug fit that won’t let as many grounds escape into the brewing chamber. It has both rubber side handles and a texturized body, so there’s less risk of dropping and spilling during preparation.
Most Vietnamese coffee filters are designed for single-serve use. With this large pot from Gladiator, though, you can make enough for multiple servings at once. It’s made to the same quality standards as Gladiator’s smaller brewers, with a secure base and lid and a quality gravity filter.
Most Vietnamese coffee makers are utilitarian stainless steel. This Viet Delight model takes things to the next level with beautiful, handcrafted ceramic. It also comes with a matching mug, spoon, and plate. The whole set is ideal for gifting to the coffee-lover in your life and makes the same delicious coffee as the metal models reviewed above.
In Western parlance, Vietnamese coffee has come to mean any coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. There’s a lot more to this delicious beverage than what you add to it, though. In fact, some Vietnamese coffee preparations don’t use milk at all. Those are referred to as ca phe da (if iced) or ca phe nong (if hot).
Traditional Vietnamese coffee comes down to two main things: the brewing method, and the beans. We’ll get into the brewing method in more detail below. The kinds of beans you use are equally important to getting the right flavor, though.
Most craft coffee is made using Arabica beans. These beans are typically preferred for their flavor. That’s not the only variety of coffee that’s consumed, however. The other commercial coffee crop is Robusta, a bean that’s higher in caffeine but darker and more bitter in its flavor.
About 80% of the world’s Robusta beans are grown in Vietnam, whose climate provides the perfect environment. Because of that, you can’t call something true Vietnamese coffee unless there’s some Robusta in your bean blend.
The use of Robusta is why the Vietnamese got into the habit of adding sweetened condensed milk to their coffee. Robusta tends to go very bitter and dark when brewed. The sweet, creamy condensed milk mellows out this strong flavor.
A “phin” is the Vietnamese name for the style of mug-top brewer and filter referred to as a Vietnamese coffee maker by most western drinkers. It consists of three individual components:
Phin brewers come in two main styles, differentiated by the way the filter tamps the grounds. Some models screw onto a pin sticking up out of the perforated base. Other models have a weight on the filter, using gravity to hold the grounds in place.
While most phin brewers are made of stainless steel, you’ll also find versions made of ceramic or other metals. Some also have extra features, like rubber or plastic handles to make them easier to handle. At their core, though, all use this same basic design.
There are two traditional preparations of Vietnamese coffee: ca phe sua nong (hot milk coffee), and ca phe sua da (iced milk coffee). The basic steps involved in both is similar. You’ll simply finish each drink differently.
The step by step process:
From here, you can decide whether you want to drink the coffee hot or iced. For hot coffee, you can drink it as-is, though most people dilute it with a bit more hot water poured directly into the cup.
For iced coffee, simply add ice until the beverage is chilled. Keep in mind the first few cubes you drop in will melt, so you’ll probably need to add more ice than you think to finish the beverage.
French presses are the most popular form of immersion brewer. In this brewing method, coarse-ground coffee comes in direct contact with hot water. Since there’s no paper filter, all of the oils and flavors from the coffee stay in the brew.
This is similar to how a Vietnamese phin brewer operates. The water contact time is similar, as well, since both French press and phin brewing take around 3-5 minutes to complete.
In a side-by-side comparison, phin coffee will be stronger per ounce than French press, both in regards to taste and caffeine content. That said, most people dilute their phin coffee before drinking. If you do this, the coffee you drink will be very similar to what you’d get out of a French press.
Still waiting for your phin to arrive? There are a few ways you can approximate the bold flavor and texture of Vietnamese coffee without this special filter. These include:
Whichever brewing method you’re going with, using dark-roasted beans (Robusta, if they’re available) will give you a more traditional flavor.
If you’re looking for true Vietnamese coffee, you won’t get it at Starbucks. This is mostly because Starbucks simply doesn’t carry the right beans. Traditional Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta, and the majority of cafes in the United States—including Starbucks—use predominantly Arabica beans. You’re also not going to find phin brewers at a Starbucks (or most American cafes).
That said, you can get an approximation of the iced version of Vietnamese coffee if you order the right way. You’ll be ordering an iced latte with a double-shot, first of all. Then, ask the barista to put in classic syrup and a hefty serving of vanilla sweet cream. This will mimic the flavor of fresh-brewed Robusta with ice and sweetened condensed milk.
Vietnamese iced coffee
How to Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Vietnamese Coffee Recipe – Iced Coffee (Ca phe sua da) or Hot (Ca phe sua nong)