A Coffee Blog

What makes Vietnamese coffee so special?

Have you ever had an iced coffee with condensed milk? No?

Then you missed something, every coffee lover should know what Vietnamese coffee is, how it is made and what makes it so special. So I don’t want to keep you in suspense any longer.

The History of Vietnamese Coffee

Coffee is a big part of everyday Vietnamese life. Vietnam is even the second largest coffee producer in the world.

The story of it all began when the French brought coffee to Vietnam in the 19th century.

At first, this didn’t have an incredibly big impact on life in Vietnam, but that was to change towards the end of the Vietnam War. Because the government introduced a massive coffee production program after the turmoil of this war.

In the 1990s, the country’s coffee production took off and today Vietnam produces over 1.8 million tons of coffee per year.

However, Vietnam produces a special type of coffee bean, the so-called Robusta.

Robusta is almost twice as caffeinated, has a dense, lingering flavour, and has higher acidity than regular coffee beans.

All this ensures a distinctive taste. This and the preparation make Vietnamese coffee so special.

But what exactly makes Vietnamese coffee special?

Vietnamese coffee almost always drips coffee. Street coffee shops, ubiquitous in Vietnam, use rudimentary aluminium filters commonly known as phin, a peculiar quirk of Vietnamese coffee (more on that later).

Vietnamese coffee is traditionally brewed in single portions using the phin.

The Vietnamese enjoy their coffee very leisurely and slowly, setting up the filter and choosing the right time to drink is an art in itself.

When the coffee is good, you want to enjoy it for as long as possible.

Watching the coffee drop by drop not only fuels your lust but also forces you to sit for a few minutes while the coffee brews.

While not all Vietnamese coffee is made this way, the classic slow-drip method is a real treat and a reminder to relax and enjoy a conversation.

This is particularly welcome advice in the ever-present hustle and bustle of life in the densely populated Vietnamese cities.

In Vietnam, whether it’s hot coffee or iced coffee, it’s served with sweetened condensed milk.

Vietnamese coffee is also famous for its incredibly sugary, sweetened condensed milk, which is the perfect counterbalance to the incredibly strong, dark roast coffee.

Vietnamese people drink coffee morning, noon and night, in actual cafes or on small plastic stools on the street.

Cafes – whether they are alfresco cafes, indoor cafes or more side-by-side coffee shops on the street – are just a few of the meeting places for people of all ages.

But why condensed milk, you are probably asking yourself?

Well, the French who brought the coffee culture to Vietnam found that it was difficult to get their hands on fresh milk on a daily basis.

So they brought long-life condensed milk to Vietnam and the problem was solved.

How does Vietnamese coffee taste?

Vietnamese coffee is made from signature dark roast Robusta beans in a very slow drip press.

No wonder the first word that comes to mind when sipping a cup of Vietnamese coffee is “robust”. The strong and bold flavour of the coffee is balanced with the sweet, rich aroma of the condensed milk, creating a taste sensation.

Even those who don’t like sweet coffee will fall in love with the balance of flavours; since Vietnamese coffee is so strong and aromatic in its nature, it can stand the sweetness without losing its true “coffee” flavour.

The special Vietnamese coffee filter

Before we introduce you to some of the delicious coffees you can enjoy in Vietnam, let’s take a look at the infamous Vietnamese coffee filter.

This gravity-fed coffee filter is easy to use and quick to clean. Simply place the filter on a mug, fill it with finely ground Vietnamese coffee, pour the hot water through the pipes and enjoy.

Traditional filters are made of stainless steel and are often used to prepare the Cà phê sua dá.

In the classic paper filter, not all essential oils from the bean often get directly into the cup.

This is what makes Vietnamese coffee so extremely strong because nothing is caught by the filter.

Are you already interested? Great, then let’s prepare the perfect Vietnamese coffee together.

Prepare the perfect Vietnamese coffee

But you should get to know three different Vietnamese coffees before we prepare one step by step:

Cà Phê Sữa Nóng / đá (Vietnamese milk coffee hot / iced)

To make the Cà Phê Sữa, the Vietnamese milk coffee, you have to place the aforementioned filter filled with coarse coffee grains on a cup filled with a little condensed milk.

In Vietnam, it is said that certain brands of condensed milk taste better than others.

Condensed milk consists only of milk and sugar and the European suppliers do not really differ. So just try something out.

The coffee slowly drips into the cup and gradually mixes with the condensed milk inside. The sweetness balances the strong bitter taste and combines it into a taste experience.

Alternatively, ice cubes can also be added to the condensed milk and the coffee enjoyed as iced coffee.

Bac Xiu (coffee, condensed milk, coconut)

The Bac Xiu is a coffee concentrate made from coffee, condensed milk and coconut. The Bac Xiu is made in a similar style to the Cà Phê Sữa, but with the addition of coconut milk.

In contrast to the Cà Phê Sữa, the Bac Xiu is less sweet, even though it is refined with coconut flavours.

Alternatively, this Vietnamese coffee can be made over frozen coconut yoghurt for a cold coconut coffee smoothie.

Cà Phê Trứng (Vietnamese egg coffee)

Perhaps an egg in coffee is the tipping point in your caffeine drink consumption and could potentially put you off coffee forever.

But wait, it’s not as weird as drinking raw eggs just to gain some muscle mass.

The Cà Phê Trứng is made by whipping raw egg yolk and condensed milk together.

Then the coffee is poured using the traditional coffee filter, creating a rich, creamy coffee indulgence.

In case you’re wondering about the taste, some have called this the Cadbury cream egg of coffee.

After enjoying it, you might wonder why eggs aren’t mixed into every cup of coffee. At least that’s what happened to some of our colleagues.

But how do we prepare the perfect Vietnamese coffee step by step?

What do we need now:

  • 3 tablespoons of ground Vietnamese coffee
  • 1-3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk, depending on preference
  • 170-250 ml of water that is close to the boiling point, depending on the desired coffee strength

A Phin coffee filter might be worth getting to enjoy Vietnamese coffee, but if you don’t have one, a French coffee press or your favourite drip coffee method will do.

If you still use a Phin filter, then place it with the cup in the boiling water, this way your coffee will later unfold its full aroma.

The filter is cleaned and preheated in this way.

Measure 3 tablespoons of ground coffee and distribute evenly in the filter.

DO NOT shake the filters or squeeze the coffee, otherwise, the coffee grounds will fall into the holes of the coffee filter and clog them!

The result is that the coffee takes forever to drip or the coffee grounds completely clog the filter. Place the metal filter carefully on the coffee.

Then pour 1-3 tablespoons of condensed milk into your coffee mug or heatproof glass.

Measure out the required amount of boiling water (170-250 ml). Consider that a 170ml coffee will be very strong.

Pour two tablespoons of hot water into the filter and wait 5 seconds for the coffee to “bloom”.

This is the part of the brewing process where the water releases CO2 from the coffee and the coffee grounds expand.

Next, gently press the filter to compress the brewed coffee. This will slow the drip rate as you use up all your water. This also ensures a more aromatic coffee.

These steps will help you achieve the optimal brewing time. Slowly pour the remaining water into the filter. The coffee will start dripping into your cup or glass.

Wait about 5 minutes for the coffee to finish brewing! Then remove the filter and gently stir in the condensed milk.

The amount of evaporated milk you use is a very personal choice, but here are our recommendations:

  • 1 tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk for a regular coffee
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk for a sweet coffee
  • 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk will make your coffee taste more like caramel coffee. Occasionally, however, this can also be an advantage.

Enjoy your Vietnamese hot coffee (cà phê sữa nóng)! To make a Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sua dá), pour your coffee over a glass full of ice after it has been brewed and stirred.

Closing remarks

Vietnamese coffee has a special culture. When work is done, friends and family flock to their favourite cafes to sip delicious, creamy coffee.

Coffee is both a social symbol and a delicious treat in Vietnam.

Enjoy it like the Vietnamese do, with time, patience and in good company!


1. How should my Vietnamese coffee be ground?

Set your coffee grinder to a medium to a fine setting.

It shouldn’t be too fine, otherwise, the ground coffee will squeeze through the openings of the filter, but it shouldn’t be too coarse either, otherwise, the coffee will lose its taste.

2. How strong is Vietnamese coffee roast?

In general, Vietnamese coffee has a slightly higher degree of roast than conventional coffee. This is also reflected in the somewhat bitter taste.

3. Where can I buy a Vietnamese coffee filter?

Basically, you can find good models almost everywhere online, in most department stores or in speciality coffee shops.

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