Whenever I quiz my international friends about Vietnamese cuisine, the top hits are always Phở, Bánh Mì, and Vietnamese Coffee. Of course, there’s more to Vietnamese food, but today, let’s talk about Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee) , the heart and soul of Saigon’s vibe!!
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❤️ Vietnamese Coffee isn’t just a drink!
In Vietnam, Cà Phê (coffee) isn’t just a drink; it’s a whole culture. When we want to catch up with a friend, we casually suggest, “Let’s grab a coffee.”
And if we’re bidding farewell with plans to meet again, it’s a classic “Let’s catch up for coffee sometime soon.” Even when we’re not sipping on coffee, you’ll always find youngsters hanging out at coffee (or milk tea) shops.
Similar to Bánh Mì, coffee is inspiration for many popular songs among the Vietnamese youth, such as this catchy tune “Cà Phê” by Min.
When you’re in Vietnam, you’ll quickly notice that every street is sprinkled with coffee shops, big or small, part of a chain or a cozy local spot. And I’m sure that coffee is one of the must-have Vietnamese souvenirs to bring back from your trip.
🙋♀️ What makes an authentic Cà Phê Sữa Đá?
Three key points for an authentic Vietnamese coffee:
- Robusta Coffee: Robusta coffee is known for its robust, nutty, and dark chocolate-like flavor compared to Arabica. Choose a Vietnamese coffee blend with a high ratio of Robusta.
- Phin filter: The metal Phin filter is the go-to method for dripping coffee in Vietnam. I’ll share some tips on how to use a phin to brew coffee like a true Vietnamese later.
- Condensed milk: condensed milk helps balance out the bitter and bold flavor of Robusta coffee. If you want to make traditional Vietnamese coffee, don’t substitute it with evaporated milk or fresh milk.
In Vietnam, the most popular coffee drinks are:
- Cà phê đen (black coffee): This is pure coffee brewed with a Phin filter. Some prefer to enjoy their coffee without milk, perhaps just with a touch of sugar.
- Cà phê sữa nóng: hot pure coffee with condensed milk.
- Cà phê sữa đá: it’s “cà phê sữa” served over ice cubes or crushed ice.
Besides, there are many creative variations like:
🙋♀️ The best coffee?
- Coffee Brands
I’ve previously shared a post about the top Vietnamese coffee brands for your Vietnam trip. Personally, I like Là Việt and Sơn Pacamara the best.
However, outside of Vietnam, Trung Nguyên is much more accessible, whether you’re in North America or Europe.
- Coffee Grind Sizes
Since we’ll be using a phin filter for coffee dripping, ensure your ground coffee falls within the medium to medium-coarse range . The phin filter takes its time to drip, and if the ground coffee are too fine, the result will be overly strong.
🙋♀️ What is a Phin filter?
Phin filter, the most popular coffee brewing equipment in Vietnam, consists of a perforated plate resting on the opening of your glass, a chamber atop the plate, an insert tamper for compressing the coffee and a lid to retain heat during the brewing process.
Brewing Vietnamese coffee with a phin filter is a breeze, taking less than 20 minutes, but there are a few key points to keep in mind:
Step 1: Heat the water.
- Start by bringing your filtered water to a gentle boil (175°F or 80°C).
Step 2: Rinse the Phin filter with boiling water.
- Preheat the Phin filter to help the coffee bloom better.
Step 3: Measure the coffee and place it in the phin.
- Add 1 heaped tbsp of ground coffee to the phin chamber. Lightly shake it to evenly distribute the coffee. Place the tamper on the coffee (DO NOT press it).
Step 4: Bloom the coffee.
- Pour a bit of hot water onto the phin lid. Next, place the chamber on top of the lid.
- Now, add a bit of water to the coffee, just enough to moisten them and let the grind bloom a bit.
While some people prefer placing the chamber with its plate directly into their glass and pouring water over it to bloom, we do it a bit differently in Vietnam. This method ensures a consistent bloom from top to bottom , plus it helps eliminate those pesky small grinds that might sneak through the filter to the lid.
Step 5: Drip the coffee.
- Move the chamber onto the phin plate and then over your coffee glass. Be cautious as the phin is now hot.
- Fill the filter and let it drip. Place the lid on top. The ideal brewing time is about 4-5 minutes. If your phin gets clogged, use a spoon to unclog underneath the filter.
Step 6: Add condensed milk and ice.
- Add condensed milk to your taste, stir to mix and you’ve got Cà Phê Sữa.
- Add ice cubes (Northern stlyle) or crushed ice (Southern style), and your Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) is ready to enjoy.
☕ How to enjoy Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Bánh Mì and Cà Phê Sữa Đá are always best friends for breakfast. Besides, we enjoy having Cà Phê Sữa Đá with a piping hot bowl of Bò Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) or a delicious plate of Cơm Tấm.
People also like to pour cà phê sữa đá over Bánh Flan (Vietnamese flan caramel) – it’s just our way.
Personally, I do love sipping Cà Phê Sữa Đá as much as my Caramel Milk Tea. Both are perfect companions for sweet treats in a light meal, such as Bánh Kẹp Lá Dứa or Bánh Khoai Mì Nướng.
If you’re interested in exploring more about Vietnamese cuisine and gather tips for your Vietnam trip, take a look at my articles!
Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Vietnamese Iced Coffee)
- 1 tbsp Vietnamese ground coffee (heaped)
- Filtered Water
- Condensed milk (to your taste)
- Heat your filtered water until it reaches a gentle boil (175°F or 80°C).
- Rinse the Phin filter with boiling water. It will help the coffee bloom and extract better.
- Add a heaped tablespoon of ground coffee to the phin chamber. Gently shake it to distribute the coffee evenly. Place the tamper on the coffee (DO NOT press it).
- Drizzle some hot water onto the phin lid. Then, place the chamber on top of the lid.
- Afterward, add a bit of water to the ground coffee—just enough to moisten them and allow the grind to bloom a bit.
- Move the chamber onto the phin plate and then place it over your coffee glass. Be careful, as the phin is now hot.
- Fill the filter and let it drip. Place the lid on top. The recommended brewing time is around 4-5 minutes. If your phin gets clogged, use a spoon to unclog beneath the filter.
- Pour condensed milk to your liking, stir to combine, and you've got Cà Phê Sữa.
- Add ice cubes or crushed ice, and your Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) is ready.