Forget fika – this Vietnamese coffee trend is delicious and aesthetic

Vietnamese coffee is the latest caffeine trend, but is it actually any good? I brewed some to find out.

Vietnamese coffee on a countertop with coffee beans and another glass of Vietnamese coffee in the background
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every time I think I've mastered something, a new coffee trend comes along to rearrange my routine. First it was cold brew, then it was coffee smoothies, and now it's Vietnamese coffee.

You'll have probably seen Vietnamese iced coffee all over social media in the summer. It's a little like pour-over coffee, but the coffee is made as a concentrate and mixed with condensed milk. The result is a thick, bittersweet drink that's got people enjoying this candy-like coffee in place of their standard coffee-and-cake fika.

Before diving in, I researched t the right equipment for the perfect Vietnamese coffee. I'm a trained barista, so love to dive deep into details. You can, of course, use your espresso machine or French press to start making Vietnamese coffee. However, if you want to perfect this creamy coffee treat, I've recommend going all-in with the phin, a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter.

Just one glance at pictures of this delicious coffee will make you fall in love. The taste will keep you coming back for more. It's my new fika.

What is Vietnamese coffee?

vietnamese coffee in a glass, on a saucer, on a wooden table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fans of cold brew, bulletproof coffee, and dalgona coffee have to try this. Also known as cà phê sữa đá, Vietnamese coffee has elements of each brewing method: the smoothness of cold brew, creaminess of bulletproof, and the sweetness of dalgona to make one, thick, creamy, caffeinated treat. It's not made to be gulped down; it's brewed to be enjoyed, with friends, along with some good conversation. That's why it's my new fika.

The base coffee is really strong and bitter. The ratio of coffee to milk or water is 1:2, so this packs a serious punch. However, to counter the intensity, traditional Vietnamese coffee is balanced with condensed milk, making a bittersweet brew which is just as delicious cold as it is hot. 

There are a few different ways to brew Vietnamese coffee: over ice, hot, using espresso, and more. I've tried them all to let you know how they differ.

What do I need to make Vietnamese coffee?

Phin drip coffee maker

(Image credit: Nguyen)

Vietnamese coffee requires some specialist equipment, which is relatively inexpensive and very aesthetically pleasing. I'd expect to see it on your social media grid within a month of making your first Vietnamese iced coffee. 

The phin, coffee filter, is generally a pretty cheap contraption. You can find one in some Asian grocery stores, or online. If you're not ready to fully invest yet, a French press or stove-top coffee pot will work just as well. If you don't own a grinder, I'd recommend buying one, because this will deliver the fullest, freshest coffee oils into your cup, meaning it's packed with flavor.

How do I make Vietnamese coffee?

Vietnamese phin coffee maker with a scoop of ground coffee

(Image credit: Future)

The components of a Vietnamese coffee maker are relatively straightforward. Take your cup or jug and place the phin filter onto it. Then sit your cup on top and add a spoon of coffee. The ratio for coffee and water is 1:2, so add as much coffee as you'll need for your servings. Once you have enough coffee, give your cup a shake to even out the grounds. Next, place the phin strainer on top of the grounds and use your kettle to pour boiling water over the grounds. 

Pourinng water into Vietnamese phin coffee maker

(Image credit: Future)

If you have a gooseneck kettle, make sure to use it. You'll get a much smoother flavor, because you can pour with precision, evenly saturating the grounds. If you don't have one, try to pour consistently across the filter.

I would recommend starting by pouring a little water onto your filter — no more than two tablespoons. This will let your coffee bloom, releasing carbon dioxide from your grounds, so that your brew tastes sweeter and smoother. You can add the rest of your hot water after about 30-45 seconds of blooming. Place the phin filter lid on top of your cup and let the coffee drip through. This is quite a slow process, so I often go away and do other jobs, checking on my coffee every five minutes. It takes about 10 minutes for me to make one cup of coffee.

Vietnamese phin coffee maker with glass carafe undreneath

(Image credit: Future)

Once your coffee has dripped through the filter it will look dark and a little thick. These are visual indicators that Vietnamese coffee is strong stuff, a bit like cold brew concentrate.

To balance out the intense coffee flavors, which could be overwhelming and bitter, almost everyone recommends adding two tablespoons of condensed milk to one cup of Vietnamese coffee. Some people use coffee creamer instead: both work well. If you want to put an Italian spin on it, try adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It's decadent, but delicious.

Alternative ways to make Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese phin coffee maker with filter

(Image credit: Future)

If you're using an espresso machine, pour your condensed milk into a glass. Then, add your hot espresso on top. The two won't mix, making a beautiful, Instagram-worthy, color contrast. If you're going to take a picture, this is the time. Once you're happy with the aesthetics, stir the coffee and condensed milk together and enjoy.

If you're using a French press, treat the filter press as you would the phin filter. Pour your coffee grounds into the base. Add hot water and let your coffee brew. Then press it down after 15 minutes and pour your intense coffee into condensed milk.

I wouldn't recommend using pods or capsules for Vietnamese coffee, because you don't have the same controls over strength and flavor. However, if this is really your only option, you can brew your espresso capsules over condensed milk, similar to the espresso method.

How do I make iced Vietnamese coffee?

Iced coffee in a glass on a wooden table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Iced Vietnamese coffee is really a summer drink. However, I see lots of people drinking it in the afternoon, hoping that the combination of coolness and caffeine will wake them up enough to push them through the rest of the day. 

To make your Vietnamese iced coffee, either brew it directly onto ice or chill your coffee in the refrigerator before use. It's that easy. 

If you want to maximise the coffee flavors, I'd recommend freezing either some of your Vietnamese coffee or condensed milk, making them into ice cubes. Then, when you pour more hot Vietnamese coffee over them, these will melt, cooling down the drink, but not diluting it.

Things to avoid

vietnamese coffee with the phin on top and beans in the background

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your coffee is dripping through faster than 3-4 drips per second, your coffee grind is too coarse. You won't get the full, smooth flavors and will instead end up with a very bitter, but weak drink. Try using a finer grind setting on your grinder. Be careful though,  the most authentic, full flavors, come from coarse grinds. I'd opt for espresso roast beans, ground for a French press — medium coarse — but you can go finer. Just be aware that this will mellow the flavors.

You'd be forgiven for avoiding robusta beans. They're harsh and tend to taste more dark and bitter. However, these are almost identical to Vietnamese coffee beans. I'd never drink a black coffee made with these beans, but would strongly recommend you use them in your Vietnamese coffee. They offer the perfect balance.

If you're not blooming the coffee, as in letting a little hot water sit on it for a bit, it's likely that your Vietnamese coffee will taste quite acidic. If you've tried grinding smaller coffee and still think your Vietnamese coffee dries on your tongue, try blooming the grounds.

If the coffee tastes a little weak and watery, make sure that you're heating the water up to boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit). If your water is too cold it won't extract all the delicious oils out of your coffee.


Can I make Vietnamese coffee with coffee pods or casules?

Technically, yes, but I wouldn't. You don't have the same control over you coffee and it's hard to match the intensity of Vietnamese coffee with basic pods.

Is there chicory in Vietnamese coffee?

No, but if you buy Café du Monde coffee, you'll see it has chicory in it. Whilst this isn't traditional, the chicory delivers on acidic and bitter flavors, making this French roast incredibly similar to Vietnamese.

Final thoughts

Vietnamese coffee is like candy. It's bittersweet and delicious. It's also quite rich and intense though, so don't drink it like you're in a race. Sip it, enjoy it, and share it with your friends and family.

Laura Honey
eCommerce Editor

Laura is our eCommerce editor. As a fully qualified barista, she's our expert in all things coffee and has tested over thirty of the best coffee makers on the market. She has also interviewed Q-Graders and world-leading experts in the coffee industry, so has an intimate knowledge of all things coffee. Before joining Homes & Gardens, she studied English at Oxford University. Whilst studying, she trained as a master perfumer and worked in the luxury fragrance industry for five years. Her collection of home fragrance is extensive and she's met and interviewed five of the world's finest perfumers (also known as 'noses'). As a result of this expansive fragrance knowledge, she always puts quality and style over quantity and fads. Laura looks for products which have been designed simply and with thoughtful finishes.