A simple recipe for Vietnamese Iced Coffee, (Cà Phê Sữa Đá) which features a rich, strong chicory coffee slowly dripped through a phin filter into sweetened condensed milk.
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 iced coffee).
What is Vietnamese coffee?
Vietnamese iced coffee, also known as cà phê sữa da is a rich, strong dark coffee drink sweetened with condensed milk.
The method in which the coffee is brewed is similar to a drip coffee.
Hot coffee slowly drips through a stainless steel filter (phin), with condensed milk on the bottom.
Cà phê sữa da is served on ice, however it can be served hot, which is known as cà phê sữa nóng.
History of coffee in Vietnam
Coffee was first introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest.
However, it wasn't until after 1986 that Vietnam became one of the largest producers of coffee.
Vietnam produces the Robusta variety of coffee bean, rather than the more commonly known Arabica.
Robusta coffee beans are more bitter and used as a filler for instant coffee.
However, Robusta beans are a hardier variety and is less susceptible to disease, with larger crop yields.
What type of coffee to use?
Use any freshly ground dark roast coffee, such as Café du Monde coffee, which contains coffee and chicory.
Chicory has a similar flavor to coffee, but contains no caffeine.
Trung Nguyen is also another brand that is quite popular.
If you don't have Vietnamese coffee beans on hand, you can use:
- strong dark roast coffee
- French roast coffee
- 1-2 shots of espresso
What does Vietnamese coffee taste like?
Vietnamese coffee tastes intensely sweet, milky and bitter at the same time.
Equipment you'll need
- Vietnamese coffee phin: a small stainless steel drip filter; you can find it in Vietnamese or Asian grocery stores
How the Vietnamese coffee filter works
What makes the traditional Vietnamese coffee filter different than a pour-over (eg. Chemex) or French press is that the phin consists of 2 parts:
- a bottom metal cylindrical "cup" with perforations and
- a top disc with perforations that screws into the bottom "cup"
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).
3 ingredients you'll need
- Vietnamese ground coffee: preferably coarse-ground; Cafe du Monde, Trung Nguyen or any dark roast
- sweetened condensed milk: is a thick, rich milk that is sweetened and comes in a can; Longevity brand is our go-to, but you can use any that you like
- hot boiling water
- ice: for serving
How to make Vietnamese coffee
Place 1-2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk (or to your taste) into a tall (hear-resistant) glass. Set aside.
Add the medium-coarse dark roast ground coffee to the coffee phin filter.
Place the filter over the glass.
Pour about 1 tablespoon of boiling hot water over the phin filter and let the coffee grounds bloom.
Next, pour in the remaining boiling water and watch the coffee slowly drip through the filter into the cup.
Once the coffee has finished dripping, give the coffee mixture a stir and enjoy (if serving hot), or pour into a tall glass filled with ice.
Note: the resulting coffee is very strong and concentrated, which is why it is sweetened with condensed milk and served on ice.
How to serve
You can serve Vietnamese coffee iced or hot.
Vietnamese coffee is a drink that is enjoyed at a leisurely pace due to the nature of the slow drip.
Vietnamese coffee variations
Cà Phê đá: Regular dark roast Vietnamese coffee on ice
Bạc Xỉu: "White little" coffee; pretty much the same drink as cà phê sữa da, except there's more condensed milk than coffee
Cà Phê Cốt Dừa: Iced coconut coffee
Cà Phê Dừa: Coconut coffee; dark roast coffee with coconut milk and condensed milk
Other delicious coffee recipes you may like
Be sure to try out these recipes:
Let me know if you try this recipe -- tag me on Instagram @siftandsimmer or leave me a comment/rating below!
Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)
For accuracy and precision in baking recipes, use weight (metric) measurements when available.
- 1-2 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk or to your taste
- 2 tablespoon coarse-ground dark roast coffee Cafe du Monde or Trung Nguyen
- ½ C hot boiling water
- 1 C ice
Prepare the Vietnamese coffee:
- In a heat-resistant glass, add in the condensed milk (you can add more or less to your taste).
- To the coffee phin filter "cup," add 2 tablespoons 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.
- Pour about 1 tablespoon of hot boiling water into the coffee phin to bloom the coffee grounds 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, pour 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.
- Add ice cubes to a tall glass.
- Once the coffee has finished dripping, remove the phin filter.
- Stir the condensed milk and coffee together, and pour into the glass with ice.
- Add a straw and enjoy immediately.
The nutritional information provided should be considered as approximate and is not guaranteed. Please use your best judgment to ensure food is safely prepared and/or a good fit for your diet.