How to Make Vietnamese Coffee – Ca Phe Sua Da?

By Alex Au Yeung

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Vietnamese coffee, with its rich and enticing flavors, has captured the hearts of coffee enthusiasts around the world.

Originating from the vibrant coffee culture of Vietnam, this unique brew offers a taste experience that is bold, robust, and simply unforgettable.

From the moment you take your first sip, you are transported to a world where deep, dark coffee meets the velvety sweetness of condensed milk.

The aroma of freshly brewed Vietnamese coffee permeates the air, tantalizing your senses and inviting you to indulge in its irresistible charm.

What is Vietnamese coffee?

Vietnamese coffee, also known as “cà phê đá” in Vietnamese, is a popular and unique style of coffee that originates from Vietnam. It is known for its strong flavor and is often enjoyed with condensed milk.


How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

Vietnamese coffee commonly uses robusta beans, which are known for their higher caffeine content and stronger flavor compared to arabica beans.

Robusta beans have a more bitter and earthy taste profile, contributing to the boldness and intensity of Vietnamese coffee.

The beans are typically dark roasted to further enhance the robust flavor. The coffee grounds are often ground to a medium-coarse consistency, suitable for the phin filter brewing method.

Sweetened condensed milk

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

Sweetened condensed milk is a key component in Vietnamese coffee, adding a creamy and sweet element to the brew.

It is made by reducing milk and sugar until it reaches a thick and syrupy consistency. The condensed milk provides a rich and indulgent sweetness that complements the strong coffee flavors.

It adds a unique caramel-like taste to the coffee and creates a velvety texture when mixed together.

Vietnamese coffee filter

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

The phin filter is typically made of stainless steel and consists of three main parts: a brewing chamber, a perforated filter insert, and a lid.

The brewing chamber is a small cup-like container with ridges on the bottom to hold the coffee grounds.

The filter insert is a perforated plate that sits inside the brewing chamber, allowing water to pass through while retaining the coffee grounds.

The lid is placed on top of the filter to retain heat during brewing.

Variations of Vietnamese coffee

Cà Phê Sữa Đá (Coffee Milk Ice): This is the most popular Vietnamese iced coffee recipe. It consists of a base of sweetened condensed milk, over which about 2 oz of potent coffee is brewed using an individual serving size filter.

The coffee itself is syrupy and strong, similar to an espresso. Add ice to the brewed coffee and enjoy the combination of the caramel sweetness of the milk, the strong brew of the coffee, and the refreshing addition of the ice.

Cà Phê Sữa Nóng (Coffee Milk Hot): Similar to the previous option, but without the ice.

The sweetened condensed milk is combined with hot coffee, and sometimes the entire glass is warmed by placing it in a cup of hot water.

This creates a wonderfully rich and sweet flavor, perfect for slowly sipping in the morning.

Cà Phê Đen (Coffee Black): This option is simply black coffee, without the addition of sweetened condensed milk.

It offers a strong and intense coffee experience, best suited for those who enjoy the pure taste of coffee.

Cà Phê Đen Đá (Coffee Black Ice): As the name suggests, it is black coffee served over ice. This is a refreshing option for those who prefer their coffee chilled.

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

What does Vietnamese coffee taste like?

Vietnamese coffee has a distinct and unique taste profile. It is known for its rich and bold flavor. The coffee itself is often a dark roast, which contributes to its intense taste.

When combined with sweetened condensed milk, which is a common addition in Vietnamese coffee, it creates a delightful contrast of flavors.

How is Vietnamese coffee made?

To make Vietnamese coffee, you will need a special Vietnamese coffee filter called a “phin coffee” The phin coffee is a small metal filter that sits on top of a cup or mug. Here’s a sample Vietnamese coffee recipe:

Cooking note

  • Yield: 1 serving
  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Total time: 10 minutes
  • Course: Beverage
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese


  • 2 tablespoons of medium to coarse ground Vietnamese coffee
  • 2 tablespoons of condensed milk
  • Hot water
  • Ice cubes (optional for iced coffee)

Instructions for cafe sua da

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

  1. Add the coffee grounds into the phin filter and lightly press them down.
  2. Place the phin filter on top of a cup.
  3. Pour a small amount of hot water into the phin and let it bloom for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Slowly pour the rest of the hot water into the phin.
  5. Put the lid on the phin and let the coffee drip through into the cup.
  6. Once the dripping stops, remove the phin.
  7. Stir the brewed coffee to combine it with the condensed milk at the bottom of the cup.
  8. Optionally, add ice cubes if you prefer an iced coffee.

Some tips when making coffee

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee - Ca Phe Sua Da?

Rinsing the phin filter and the cup with hot boiling water is indeed a helpful step to improve the brewing process. It helps to clean the filter and pre-heat it, allowing the coffee to bloom and drop better. This can enhance the overall flavor extraction and ensure a smoother brewing experience.

Shaking or compressing the coffee grounds can cause them to fall into the filter holes and potentially clog them. This can result in slow dripping or even a complete blockage of the filter. To avoid this issue, it’s recommended to place the metal filter gently on top of the coffee grounds without applying excessive force.

How strong is Vietnamese coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is known for its strong caffeine content. The use of a dark roast coffee combined with the longer brewing process results in a concentrated and potent cup of coffee. It is often recommended to drink Vietnamese coffee slowly and savor its strong flavor.


What makes Vietnamese coffee different?

Climate: Vietnam’s tropical climate provides ideal conditions for growing coffee beans. The combination of abundant rainfall, high humidity, and rich soil contributes to the unique flavors found in Vietnamese coffee.

Bean composition: Vietnamese coffee often utilizes a specific type of bean, typically a robusta variety, which is known for its higher caffeine content and stronger flavor profile compared to the more commonly used arabica beans. This results in a bolder and more robust taste experience.

Phin filter brewing method: The traditional brewing method in Vietnam involves using a small metal filter called a phin. This slow drip process allows for a more concentrated extraction of flavors, resulting in a potent and flavorful cup of coffee. The use of a phin filter also allows for greater control over the strength of the brew.

Why is Vietnamese coffee so bitter?

Vietnamese coffee can be perceived as bitter due to a combination of factors.

  • Firstly, the use of robusta beans, which are commonly used in Vietnamese coffee, tends to have a more bitter taste compared to arabica beans.
  • Additionally, the dark roast often employed in Vietnamese coffee further intensifies the bitterness.
  • Lastly, the strong and concentrated flavor resulting from the phin filter brewing method can contribute to the perception of bitterness.

However, the bitterness is balanced by the sweetness of condensed milk when added, creating a unique and enjoyable flavor profile.

Does Vietnamese coffee keep you awake?

Yes, due to its high caffeine content, Vietnamese coffee can help keep you awake and increase alertness. The robusta beans commonly used in Vietnamese coffee contain more caffeine than arabica beans, making it an energizing choice for those seeking a boost of wakefulness and focus.

Is there too much caffeine in Vietnamese coffee?

Vietnamese coffee does contain a higher amount of caffeine compared to American coffee. With around 100 mg of caffeine in a regular cup, it offers a stronger caffeine kick. However, whether it is considered “too much” depends on individual tolerance and preferences. For those who prefer a beverage with less caffeine, American coffee can be a great option with approximately 65 mg of caffeine per cup.

Can I use instant Vietnamese coffee?

Yes, you can use instant Vietnamese coffee to make a quick and convenient cup of Vietnamese-style coffee. Instant Vietnamese coffee typically comes in single-serving packets that contain pre-ground coffee and often include sweetened condensed milk powder.

To prepare, simply dissolve the contents of the packet in hot water, stir well, and enjoy. While the flavor may not be as robust and authentic as brewing coffee using a phin filter, it can still provide a convenient way to enjoy the essence of Vietnamese coffee.


For coffee lovers seeking a bold and distinct flavor adventure, Vietnamese coffee is a must-try.