This article was originally published for Curious Cuisiniere.
There’s nothing more simple than a cup of a good coffee. That is, until you’ve had Vietnamese-style coffee.
If you’ve been to a Vietnamese phở restaurant, you’ll probably have seen someone order Cà Phê Sữa Da (Vietnamese coffee). It is served with the coffee slowly dripping through a stainless steel filter (phin), condensed milk on the bottom, along with and tall glass of ice.
HISTORY OF COFFEE IN VIETNAM
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest. Land was cultivated into coffee plantations. However, it wasn’t until after 1986 that Vietnam became one of the largest producers of coffee.
Most of the coffee Vietnam produces comes from the Robusta variety of coffee bean, rather than the more commonly known Arabica. Robusta is considered not as high quality as Arabica coffee beans because it is much more bitter and used as a filler for instant coffee. However, Robusta is a hardier variety and is less susceptible to disease, and yields larger crops.
METHOD OF PREPARING VIETNAMESE COFFEE
What makes Vietnamese coffee unique is in the method in which it is prepared — medium-coarse dark roast ground coffee is added to a small stainless steel drip filter (also known as a Vietnamese coffee phin), hot water poured over top, and the coffee slowly drips through the filter into the cup. The resulting coffee is strong and is poured over ice before serving. Because the coffee is strong, a little bit goes a long way.
HOW THE VIETNAMESE COFFEE PHIN WORKS
What makes the Vietnamese coffee phin filter different than a pour-over (eg. Chemex) is that the phin consists of 2 parts: a bottom metal cylindrical “cup” with perforations as well as a top disc with perforations that screws into the bottom “cup.”
The coarse-ground coffee is placed into the bottom “cup” and is pressed when the top disc is screwed in with a utensil such as a spoon. The trick is finding the right balance between tightening the disc too tightly (no coffee can drip through), versus having the disc too loose (weak coffee, light brown water).
VARIATIONS OF VIETNAMESE COFFEE
Cà Phê đá — Just dark roast Vietnamese coffee and ice.
Cà Phê Sữa đá — a popular way of preparing Vietnamese coffee, with the addition of sweetened condensed milk. This is usually the coffee people refer to when speaking about Vietnamese coffee.
Bạc Xỉu –– Essentially the same drink, except the proportion of condensed milk is much more than the coffee. Good for people who enjoy their coffee on the sweeter side.
Cà Phê Trứng — Vietnamese whipped egg coffee which originated in Hanoi. Egg yolks are whipped with coffee, milk, and sugar and produces a rich, foamy drink that is reminiscent of eggnog.
HOW TO SERVE
All of these drinks can be served hot or cold. Vietnamese coffee is a drink that is enjoyed at a leisurely pace due to the nature of the slow drip.
It’s one of my favourite pick-me-ups that I can make at home. Try this simple Cà Phê Sữa đá — Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk — it’s a great way to cool down on a hot, humid summer’s day.
OTHER COFFEE RECIPES
Are you a coffee fan? Try these other recipes:
Let me know if you try this recipe — tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment below!
Cà Phê Sữa đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee)
- 2 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 1 heaped Tbsp coarse ground dark roast coffee I used Cafe du Monde
- ½ C hot boiled water
- 1 C ice
- In a heat-resistant glass, add in the condensed milk (you can add more or less to your liking).
- To the coffee phin filter "cup," add 1 heaped tablespoon of coarse ground coffee. Gently tap to ensure the coffee grounds are evenly spread out. Place the top disc on and carefully screw it over the filter "cup" with your fingers. Use a metal spoon and continue to tighten until you feel some resistance.
- Place the coffee phin over top of the glass with the condensed milk.
- Carefully pour a little hot water into the coffee phin and observe how quickly the water drips through. If it's dripping quickly, carefully use a spoon to tighten the filter. (Note: the coffee filter is metal so it will be hot). If no coffee is dripping through, then carefully use the spoon to loosen the filter a bit.
- When the coffee is dripping at an ideal slow rate, add the rest of the hot water (it should take about 4-5 minutes for the coffee to finish dripping through) and place the cover over top.
- In the meantime, add ice cubes to a tall glass.
- Once the coffee has finished dripping, remove the phin. Stir the condensed milk and coffee together, and pour over the ice cubes.
- Add a straw and enjoy immediately.