I was more than pleasantly surprised the first time I tried a Vietnamese Iced Coffee (or Cà Phê Sữa Đá) at a locally owned coffee shop.
I didn’t know what it was, what was in it, or what made it Vietnamese. And I didn’t really care. I just wanted to try something new; because, hey, I’m adventurous. I’m just not adventurous enough to travel to Vietnam on a whim. Who knows. Maybe one day.
Turns out, you don’t need to be all that adventurous to try a Vietnamese Iced Coffee or make your own. It’s a remarkably simple drink that only requires three ingredients:
- Great Coffee
- Sweetened Condensed Milk
If you’re a stickler about the way you make your coffee, you can use a traditional Vietnamese filter, or a phin.
As long as you make your Vietnamese Iced Coffee with a little love, you’re in for a smooth, creamy, perfectly sweet and delicious treat.
Types of Vietnamese Coffee
Traditional Vietnamese Iced Coffee is made with sweetened condensed milk. In general, though, Vietnamese Coffee does not have to be iced, nor does it have to contain any sort of milk.
There are essentially four types of Vietnamese Coffee:
Cà Phê Sữa Đá: Certainly the most popular of the four, Cà Phê Sữa Đá literally translates to Coffee Milk Ice. As previously mentioned, it is a rich and delicious combination of great coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and ice.
Cà Phê Sữa Nóng: Translating to Coffee Milk Hot, the Cà Phê Sữa Nóng is the same as the Cà Phê Sữa Đá only, you know, hot. Order this in Vietnam, and they will likely warm your whole glass in hot water. A Cà Phê Sữa Nóng is perfect for a crisp morning or a night at home by the fireplace.
Cà Phê Đen Đá: Eliminate the sweetened condensed milk from your Cà Phê Sữa Đá and you’ve got yourself a Cà Phê Đen Đá, which translates to Coffee Black Ice.
Cà Phê Đen: No ice. No milk. Just Coffee Black.
What Type of Coffee Should You Use for a Vietnamese Iced Coffee?
If you have a personal favorite brand (like you’re basically addicted to it and won’t try anything else) by all means stay loyal and use it to make your Vietnamese Iced Coffee. I ain’t no homewrecker.
But you definitely need to check the size of the grinds.
To make the best Vietnamese Coffee, use a medium grind. A coarse grind won’t yield the proper flavor. A fine grind will just fall right through the holes in your coffee press or phin.
Many Vietnamese Americans use Cafe Du Monde coffee, the world-famous brand out of New Orleans. If you’re wondering why Cafe Du Monde is used to make Vietnamese Coffee, it’s not just because the Vietnamese got mad love for the Big Easy. (But who doesn’t love the Big Easy?) It’s actually because Cafe Du Monde coffee has chicory in it.
Here’s the Scoop on Chicory
Does Vietnamese coffee have chicory? Ideally, yes. Chicory is an herbaceous plant that tastes similar to coffee. It has a long, storied history of being ground up and used as a coffee substitute or added to coffee to impart extra flavor.
If you’ve been to New Orleans, then you’ve almost certainly been to the historic Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand in the French Quarter.
If you’ve never been to New Orleans, shame on you! But you’ve almost certainly seen Cafe Du Monde coffee somewhere. You can’t miss that iconic orange can (often alongside its French Roast companion in the dark blue can).
- Coffee with Chicory
- Cafe Du Monde New Orleans style coffee
- Ground coffee can
- Each can is 15oz and contains two cans
While there’s no denying that Cafe Du Monde is classic, you can still up your Vietnamese Coffee game big time.
Try using coffee from Nguyen Coffee Supply. You won’t be disappointed.
Founded in 2018, Nguyen Coffee Supply is America’s first specialty coffee company. They import through their direct-trade relationships with Vietnamese farmers and roast their coffee in Brooklyn, New York.
Choosing a Sweetened Condensed Milk
Sweetened Condensed Milk is a key ingredient in Vietnamese Iced Coffee, so choose wisely based on your taste preferences.
You can find Sweetened Condensed Milk in pretty much any supermarket.
However, you might be interested to know that Trung Nguyen of Nguyen Coffee Supply recommends Longevity, which is the preferred Vietnamese brand of sweetened condensed milk.
Longevity “is made with more milk added for extra creaminess, and as a result, lightens coffee much better than Carnation or other brands available in America,” says Nguyen.
Nguyen adds that “most brands sold in America now are including vegetable oils or thickeners to save money, but Longevity is 100% whole milk and sugar.”
Vietnamese Coffee Brewing Methods
Certainly, you can brew your coffee however you like; then, throw in some ice and some sweetened condensed milk. But this will not yield a proper Vietnamese Coffee.
For the best result, you should make it the traditional way, using a Vietnamese Coffee press, or a phin.
Don’t be intimidated. Using a phin is Vietnam-easy! And most phins are relatively inexpensive.
You can find a phin at your local Asian market or on Amazon. You really don’t need to pay more than$15 for a decent phin. But Nguyen Coffee Supply makes a superb, high quality phin for around $30.
Using a phin does require a small bit of patience. It takes five or six minutes to brew, drip by drip. This may not sound like very long – and it’s not – but the human attention span seems to have dwindled down to practically nothing.
So, if you can manage to hang in there for a few minutes, you’ll be rewarded with a truly phin-tastic cup of coffee.
- This Vietnamese Coffee Filter is made in Vietnam out of HIGH QUALITY stainless steel
- The Cafe Phin is larger than most Vietnam filters. Enjoy with ground coffee such as by Trung Nguyen
- The GRAVITY INSERT on this Vietnamese Coffee Filter is easier than the screw down type
- This Viet filter comes with a LIFETIME WARRANTY and is DISHWASHER SAFE. Satisfaction guaranteed!
Alternatively, many choose to make their Vietnamese Coffee with espresso. This method is undoubtedly quicker, and it proves much easier to make Vietnamese Coffee for a crowd. You can pull several shots of espresso and stir in the sweetened condensed milk. Then, pour over ice, serve, and thoroughly enjoy.
How to Make a Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá) RecipeCourse: Coffee Recipes
Cà Phê Sữa Đá literally translates to Coffee Milk Ice. It is a rich and delicious combination of great coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and ice.
Medium Coarse Ground Coffee
Sweetened Condensed Milk
- Add Sweetened Condensed Milk to a glass. 2 tablespoons is typical, but you can adjust based on your preferred level of sweetness.
- Place your Vietnamese coffee press on top of the glass. Add 2 tablespoons of your ground coffee to the base of the press. Dampen the grounds with hot water. Make sure the coffee is packed well and screw the lid on tightly.
- Pour hot water into your press.
- Put the lid on your coffee press.
- Wait for your coffee to brew. While you’re waiting, fill a tall glass with ice.
- When your coffee is done brewing, stir well. Then, pour over ice.
- Savor each sip and enjoy!