How to Make Vietnamese Coffee

Four Parts:Setting UpBrewing the CoffeeServing Hot Vietnamese CoffeeServing Iced Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is a type of strong coffee sweetened with condensed milk. You can serve Vietnamese coffee hot or iced—the brewing process is essentially the same either way, but there are a few minor differences you'll need to note.


Makes 1 serving

  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 ml) dark roast coffee grounds
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) ground chicory (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) hot water
  • 1/2 to 1 cup (125 to 250 ml) ice cubes (optional)

Part 1
Setting Up

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    Choose the right coffee. Dark roasted, medium grind coffee works best. Blends that contain ground chicory are commonly used for Vietnamese coffee within the United States, but chicory isn't strictly necessary.
    • Avoid fine ground coffee since the granules will fall through the gaps of the coffee press and contaminate the coffee itself.
    • You should also avoid light roasts since they'll likely be overwhelmed by the sweetness of the condensed milk. Medium roasts will suffice, and dark roasts are the most conventional.
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    Preheat the glass, if necessary. If you plan to make hot Vietnamese coffee, submerge the coffee mug in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes before using it.
    • Preheating the mug in this manner allows the coffee to retain more heat after it brews. If you do not preheat the cup, the resulting coffee might seem lukewarm.
    • Do not preheat the glass if you plan on preparing iced coffee, however.
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    Pour sweetened condensed milk into the glass. Fill roughly 1/3 inch (1 cm) of the glass with sweetened condensed milk. This amount should remain the same regardless of whether you serve the coffee hot or iced.
    • You must use sweetened condensed milk, not evaporated milk. The latter isn't sweet enough to balance the bitterness of the coffee.
    • When preparing iced coffee, consider chilling the condensed milk in your refrigerator before adding it to the glass. Doing so will help drop the temperature of the hot coffee more rapidly.
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    Open the filter. Remove the lid and the top screen of the coffee filter, revealing the open chamber beneath. Set aside both pieces until later.
    • The traditional phin, or Vietnamese coffee filter, consists of three main parts: a filtered chamber, an upper screen, and a lid.
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    Place the coffee press over the glass. Make sure that the holes of the filter are positioned directly over the mouth of the glass.
    • Note that the chamber should have a large ring around its outer base. When setting it up, make sure that this ring sits around the rim of the glass.
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    Add coffee to the coffee press. Fill the open filter with 1 to 2 Tbsp (15 to 30 ml) of ground coffee.
    • The exact amount should vary depending on your personal taste, but traditional Vietnamese coffee is quite strong, so it would be appropriate to use more coffee grounds than you might use for a standard cup of coffee.
    • Also note that you may wish to use more coffee grounds when preparing iced Vietnamese coffee than you'd use when preparing hot Vietnamese coffee. As the ice melts, it can dilute the drink, causing its flavor to gradually weaken.[1]
    • If the coffee blend you use doesn't have chicory and you wish to add it, do so now by mixing it directly into the chamber with the ground.
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    Briefly soak the grounds. Evenly spread a spoonful of water over the grounds. Wait approximately 20 seconds for the grounds to absorb the water and begin swelling.
    • This step isn't strictly necessary, but following it can result in a stronger, deeper flavor.
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    Secure the filter screen. Screw the top screen back onto the filter chamber, making it snug without becoming too tight.
    • Press the screen into the chamber, flattening the grounds in the process. Screw it down until it compresses the coffee grounds, then unscrew it by one full turn to create some headspace and regulate the brewing time.
    • Using this screen is essential since it helps distribute the water more evenly throughout the grounds. It also helps prevent the grounds from sticking to the sides of the chamber as they water level decreases.

Part 2
Brewing the Coffee

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    Heat the water. Boil 1 cup (250 ml) of water in a kettle or saucepan, then remove it from the heat. Let it sit and cool for approximately 30 seconds.
    • The best temperature will be between 185 and 195 degrees Fahrenheit (85 and 91 degrees Celsius).[2] Water within this range should be hot enough to heat the grounds and release their flavor without burning them.
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    Check the dripping speed. Pour the hot water through the filter screen, adding just enough to fill roughly one-quarter of the chamber. Check the water level after 20 seconds.
    • A longer dripping time will result in stronger coffee. Ideally, there should only be a few drops per second.
    • If the entire amount of water dripped through the filter during that time, you will need to decrease the dripping speed.
    • On the other hand, if nearly no water passed through during that time, you will need to increase the dripping speed.
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    Adjust the dripping speed as needed. Alter the dripping speed by either loosening or tightening the upper screen.
    • If the coffee drips too fast, decrease the speed by tightening the filter screen another full clockwise turn.
    • If the coffee drips too slow, increase the speed by loosening the screen one full counterclockwise turn.
    • You may need to loosen or tighten the screen with an actual screwdriver or similar tool if it won't budge when you use your hands.
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    Add the remaining water. Pour the remaining hot water through the filter screen. Continue until you either use the remaining water or fill the entire chamber.
    • After filling the chamber, place the lid on top of the device. Doing so will help retain more of the heat, making it an especially important element if you are brewing hot coffee.
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    Wait for the coffee to finish dripping. After 4 to 5 minutes, coffee should stop dripping out from the bottom of the filter. When this happens, you should be able to remove the filter device.[3]
    • Periodically check the status of the coffee during this time. You can continue to adjust the speed if doing so is necessary.
    • If you used a clear glass, look at the side of the glass. You should be able to see two distinct layers: the condensed milk and the brewed coffee.

Part 3
Serving Hot Vietnamese Coffee

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    Stir the coffee, if desired. Combine the condensed milk and coffee by vigorously stirring the drink with a spoon. The two layers will not combine without being stirred.[4]
    • Technically, this step is only optional. You can drink the two parts separately for an entirely different culinary experience. The condensed milk will not be able to sweeten the coffee, but coffee will gradually flavor the condensed milk as it sits.
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    Enjoy. Drink your mug of Vietnamese coffee immediately to prevent it from cooling down any further.
    • If the coffee is too cold for your liking, you can gently reheat it by resting the bottom of the mug in a shallow saucer of steaming hot water. Stir the coffee as it sits to help distribute the heat throughout the drink.

Part 4
Serving Iced Vietnamese Coffee

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    Stir the coffee. Use a spoon to vigorously stir the coffee and condensed milk layers together. The layers will not combine until you mix them manually.
    • If you would prefer to sweeten your coffee with extra condensed milk or sugar, do so now, making small adjustments to the taste as you stir the drink together.
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    Add the ice. Carefully drop the ice cubes into your glass. Allow the beverage to chill for 30 to 60 seconds, or until the temperature drops to your desired range.
    • Alternatively, you can pour the mixed coffee into a second glass previously filled with ice.[5] Keeping this glass in your refrigerator before using it can help chill the coffee quicker.
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    Enjoy. Once the coffee cools down, it should be ready to drink.
    • Don't worry about the ice diluting the taste. Since iced coffee brews in a stronger, more concentrated form, the ice actually helps mellow the flavor as it melts. This means that as long as the drink remains cool, it should still taste great.


  • Vietnamese coffee is very similar to Thai coffee, but the latter is infused with cardamom and other spices during the brewing process, resulting in a lighter yet more complex taste.

Things You'll Need

  • Vietnamese phin (coffee filter/press)
  • Serving glass or mug
  • Spoon

Article Info

Categories: Coffee