How to Brew Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Vietnamese style iced coffee (ca phe sua da or cà phê sữa đá) is super easy to make and all you need is a stainless steel filter that costs around $7 USD online. If you live in a city with a Vietnamese grocery store, you will likely find them even cheaper.

Vietnamese coffee can be served hot, but for this tutorial we are going to brew an iced coffee that is both strong and sweet.

Although it is traditional to use dark roasted coffee for this drink, I discovered it is perfectly fine to use a medium roast. However, light roasted coffees should be avoid as they tend to be overpowered by the sweetness of the condensed milk.

What You’ll Need

  • Vietnamese Coffee Filter
  • Ground coffee
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Spoon
  • Glass or mug
  • Ice

Vietnamese Coffee Brewer

Vietnamese Coffee Filter Set

#1 Add Condensed Milk to Glass

You don’t need much, as condensed milk is very sweet. Start with just enough to cover the bottom, maybe 1/3 of an inch (~1 cm). You can always add more later. Don’t add the ice yet. That is the last step.

condensed milk and brewer

#2 Remove the Top Screen of Filter

The coffee will go underneath the top screen, so remove it before adding coffee.

#3 Add Ground Coffee to Filter

Add one rounded tablespoon of ground coffee. There are various opinions on the best grind level. Everything from french press coarse to espresso fine. How tight the filter is screwed on will also play a role. Medium grind is a good place to start.

Some variations of this recipe use chicory. This is optional. You could use a coffee such as Cafe du Monde, which has chicory in it or you could add it yourself. If you mix in chicory yourself, you don’t need more than 1/2 a teaspoon.

Add Ground Coffee

#4 Cover with Top Filter

Screw the top filter until it is snug. If you decided to use a coarse grind, you may need to go a little tighter. More on that below.

Remove Top Filter Lid

#5 Set Brewer Over Glass with Stand

The advantage of brewing into a glass instead of a mug is you can watch the brewing take place.

Setup brewer on glass

#6 Add Hot Water

Fill the Vietnamese Coffee Filter with hot water. I usually take water to boil and then let it cool for about 30 seconds before pouring.

The water should take between 4 and 5 minutes to pass through the filter. If it goes too fast, you can either tighten the top filter or use a less coarse grind. If it goes too slow, either the grind is too fine or the filter is screwed in too tight.

There is also a lid you can place on top of the filter. I don’t use it. I prefer to monitor the progress of the brew so I know if I need to make adjustments in the grind or adjust the tightness of the top filter.

fill filter with water

#7 Wait for Brew to Complete

The easiest part. Just wait for the water to pass through the filter. For the first fews brews, use a timer. The coffee will drip through the filter. Aim for between 4 and 5 minutes. See the advice in Step #6 if you are outside that range.

Notice how the coffee layers on top of the condensed milk.

Finished Brewing

#8 Mix the Coffee and Condensed Milk

Stir the condensed milk into the brewed coffee. Some recipes call for adding additional sugar. I found the drink sweet enough, but let your palate be your judge.

Mix Coffee

#9 Serve With Ice

Mix the ice into the drink and enjoy!

Iced Vietnamese Coffee

Photos by Joseph Robertson of Coffee Lovers Magazine

Resources

Vietnamese Coffee Filter Set – Amazon USA

Condensed Milk – Wikipedia page describing how condensed milk is made using steam and sugar so it remains shelf stable for years.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee – Wikipedia page.

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Michael Allen Smith

Michael Allen Smith fell in love with coffee while attending college. Shortly after graduating college, he found himself in the Tampa Bay area far away from the good coffee he had at The Ohio State University. That is when he starting home roasting coffee. Less than a year later in April 1999, he launched the coffee website INeedCoffee.com. INeedCoffee.com has been going strong ever since with hundreds of articles and tutorials submitted by over one hundred contributors.

In 2007, Michael moved to America's coffee capitol Seattle, Washington. He has visited close to two hundred different coffee places in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver and met many of the top roasters and baristas in the country. Since 2009, Michael has been the Organizer of the Coffee Club of Seattle, which is a Meetup group of over 600 coffee enthusiants. Besides the social aspect of the group, the Coffee Club of Seattle partners with local coffee professionals for educational events such as coffee cuppings, brewing demonstrations and roasting tours.

Unrelated to coffee, Michael has a personal blog at CriticalMAS.com which covers several topics including fitness, cooking and finance.

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