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
- Glass or mug
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#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.
#9 Serve With Ice
Mix the ice into the drink and enjoy!
Photos by Joseph Robertson of Coffee Lovers Magazine
Vietnamese Iced Coffee Brewing Tutorial by Inanimate Objects – Comic version of this tutorial.
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.
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 enthusiasts. 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 economics.