Vietnamese Iced Coffee Made Three Ways

I like to sample the local caffeinated beverage of choice when I’m traveling and although I have yet to visit Vietnam, I tried Vietnamese iced coffee at a Phở restaurant and it was love at first sip! So I decided to learn to make these at home since I liked them so much.  Below I give step-by-step instructions for how you can make this delicious Vietnamese Iced Coffee at home too. 

In addition to the original Vietnamese iced coffee recipe, I have also included instructions for two additional drinks you can make using variations of this recipe. Soon you will be able to make Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Vietnamese Coconut Iced Coffee, and a delicious Vietnamese Affogato. 

A Quick Overview

Vietnamese iced coffee or cà phê sữa đá as it is called in Vietnamese is a strong, bitter robusta coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over ice.

It uses a special Vietnamese Coffee filter also called a phin. The phin has three main parts: the brew chamber with drip tray, the spreader, and the lid. The brew chamber is where you put the coffee, the spreader is placed on top of the ground coffee and the lid is placed on last after the hot water has been poured over the grounds.

You can purchase the Vietnamese Coffee Filter/Coffee Maker on Amazon.  And in case you’re not ready to buy one just yet, I will also include tips on how to make this recipe using a French press. So let’s get started!

Vietnamese phin parts

From left to right the parts are as follows: lid, spreader, filter and drip tray.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Step-by-Step Instructions

This Vietnamese iced coffee recipe is simple to make.  The thing that sets this recipe apart is the type of coffee you use.  Purchase a medium-coarse ground robusta coffee for best results. Robusta coffee has a strong bitter flavor that pairs nicely with the sweetened condensed milk.  If you want to learn more about robusta coffee, this article does a great job of explaining the differences between arabica (most common) and robusta coffee beans.

My personal coffee preference for this recipe is either the Trung Nguyen coffee brand or the Cafe Du Monde brand. You can use a French roast as a substitute if you can’t buy the previously mentioned brands. However, you must use a strong flavored coffee. 

Step 1

Boil water. The best temperature to use for this recipe is approximately 200º Fahrenheit. I use this tea kettle to boil water and love that it has different temperature settings! I also recommend for all of the following recipes, that you pour a small amount of hot water in your glass or mug and swirl it around.  This will prevent your hot coffee from cooling down too much as it won’t be going into a cold glass.

Step 2

Prepare a heatproof glass or mug by adding 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to the glass. You can put more or less sweetened condensed milk based on how strong you want your coffee. The purpose of this step is to offset the bitterness of the Vietnamese coffee.

glass with sweetened condensed milk

I typically use about 1/4 inch layer of sweetened condensed milk.

Step 3

Add 3 tablespoons (you can adjust to your personal taste) of medium-coarse ground coffee to your Vietnamese coffee filter.

Vietnamese coffee filter with coffee

Give your filter a slight shake to even out the layer of coffee grounds.

Step 4

Place the spreader (see below photo) on top of the coffee and gently press down and give it a slight turn. This is also referred to as tamping. When you tamp coffee you compress it and give it an even layer, this produces a stronger brew. 

It is important to note that the tighter you pack down the coffee the longer your brew will take.

Vietnamese phin filter

I’m holding the “spreader” in the top photo, then I place on top of the coffee before adding in the hot water.

Step 5

Place the coffee filter with spreader over the glass of sweetened condensed milk. Then add a small amount of the hot water to the brewing chamber. (Approx. 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons)  Wait about 20-30 seconds for the coffee to “bloom“. This causes the coffee grounds to swell and expand.

Step 6

Fill the brewing chamber with hot water to just below the top. Then place the lid on top. Watch as it begins to brew.  It will take 3-5 minutes to finish brewing. (How firmly you packed your coffee as well as how course your coffee is, will affect the brew time.)

Vietnamese phin filter over cup

It’s fun to watch as the coffee drips down into the glass creating the contrasting layers.

Step 7

Once all the water has dripped thru, you will have a beautiful layer of coffee and sweetened condensed milk. Stir the coffee and milk together. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Vietnamese coffee with sweet milk

Look at that beautiful layer of coffee and sweetened condensed milk!

How to Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee with a French Press

If you don’t have access to a Vietnamese Coffee Filter, you can use a single-serve french press to brew your Vietnamese iced coffee instead. Add 3 tablespoons of coffee to your French press and then add about 3/4 cup of hot water (don’t forget to prime the glass by first swirling a little hot water around in your french press prior to adding the boiling water and coffee).  Let sit for approximately 3 minutes. Then pour into a glass with sweetened condensed milk, stir and add ice.

You could also use the smallest cup setting on your Keurig K-cup machine (mine is 4 oz) and brew a French roast blend or if you have a re-usable K-cup you could fill it with a Vietnamese coffee.  Then mix this with the sweetened condensed milk and add ice.

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Vietnamese Coconut Iced Coffee Step-by-Step Instructions

This version makes a creamy iced coffee with a hint of coconut flavor. To make this coconut iced coffee you will follow the steps above for making Vietnamese Iced Coffee, but with a few adjustments.

Vietnamese coconut coffee ingredients

Here are the supplies I used for this recipe.

Step 1

Brew your coffee as instructed above thru step 6 (Do not add the sweetened condensed milk to the glass in step 2 of the iced coffee instructions).

Step 2

While your coffee is brewing, in a blender mix together 1 cup crushed ice, 3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 cup coconut milk (I stir my can of coconut milk first, so the thick cream and “water” mix together). Blend until a creamy mixture is achieved.  

coconut milk and ice mixture

The mixture will look something like this prior to placing in the freezer.

Step 3

Place this mixture in the freezer for about 1 hour.

Step 4

After about 1 hour your mixture should be more like a soft-serve ice cream texture.  Scoop this out and add to your now cold coffee.  Enjoy!

Vietnamese coconut coffee

This creamy coconut flavored “ice cream” mixed with the rich coffee is YU-mmy!

Vietnamese Coffee Affogato Step-by-Step Instructions

This variation is the simplest of all.  We’re taking the standard Italian Affogato, which is at the basic level, just brewed espresso poured over vanilla ice cream, but instead substituting the rich flavor of Vietnamese coffee.

Step 1

Brew the Vietnamese Coffee as instructed in the Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe thru step 6 (Do not add the sweetened condensed milk to the glass in step 2 of the iced coffee instructions).

Step 2

While your coffee is brewing, take your favorite brand of vanilla ice cream and place two scoops into a glass.

Tillamook Vanilla Ice Cream

Tillamook ice cream (and cheese) is a favorite choice here in the Pacific Northwest.

Step 3

When your coffee has finished brewing, pour the hot coffee over the scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy this easy and delicious dessert!

*Optional: Add shaved chocolate on top or try a sprinkle of cinnamon for something different. If you really enjoy a strong coffee flavor, I recommend trying this with an espresso ice cream for a real pop of coffee.

Vietnamese coffee affogato

Dessert or drink? You make the call!

Recipe Tips

Purchase a Vietnamese Robusta style coffee for the most authentic version.  You can find the Trung Nguyen brand at your local Asian market or online.  Many grocery stores carry the Cafe du Monde brand if you are unable to find Trung Nguyen.

You can use a French press as explained in the above post to make this recipe if you do not have a Vietnamese coffee filter.

For the coconut iced coffee recipe, try to find a good brand of coconut milk.  This will make the difference for that coconut flavor.  You may need to try a few brands to find your favorite.

If you do not have a blender you can serve the coconut coffee over a glass of ice instead. Just mix together the coffee, coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk and pour over ice.

Happy Caffeinating!

Printable Recipes Below

Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cà phê sữa đá)

Quick and easy recipe to make Vietnamese iced coffee at home.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time4 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: coffee, iced coffee
Servings: 1

Equipment

  • Vietnamese Coffee Filter (phin)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup hot water (200° F)
  • 3 tbsp medium-coarse ground coffee (preferably Trung Nguyen or Café Du Monde Coffee)
  • 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk (adjust according to taste preferences)
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Instructions

  • Boil Water.
  • Add sweetened condensed milk to heatproof glass or mug.
  • Place the coffee filter on top of the glass of sweetened condensed milk.
  • Add the coffee grounds to the filter, give a slight shake to even out coffee grounds. Place spreader (filter press) on top of the coffee. Push slightly and give a small turn to tamp down.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the hot water to the filter, pouring on top of the spreader.
  • Wait 30 seconds to "bloom". Fill the coffee filter with remaining water to just below the top.
  • Place the lid on top of the filter and wait about 4 minutes for coffee to brew.
  • After the coffee has finished brewing, remove the coffee filter and stir together the coffee and sweetened condensed milk.
  • Pour over ice and enjoy!

Notes

Please see the instructions in the above post for using a French Press to make this recipe if you do not have a Vietnamese Coffee filter (also called a "phin").

Vietnamese Coconut Iced Coffee

A delicious, creamy iced coffee with a hint of coconut!
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time4 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: iced coffee
Servings: 1

Equipment

  • Vietnamese coffee maker (phin)
  • Blender

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp medium-coarse ground coffee (Vietnamese Robusta coffee is preferred)
  • ¾ cup hot water (200° F)
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (mix together the coconut cream and water first)

Instructions

  • Boil water.
  • Place the filter over a heatproof glass. Add coffee to filter and gently shake to create an even layer of coffee. Place spreader (removable filter insert) on top, push down and turn slightly to tamp.
  • Add 2 TB of the hot water to the filter and wait 30 seconds for the coffee to expand. Then add the remaining hot water to the filter and place the lid on top.
  • While the coffee is brewing add crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk to a blender. Blend until soft, creamy consistency.
  • Place mixture in the freezer for approximately 1 hour. After one hour the ice mixture should be a soft ice cream-like texture. Spoon this mixture into your cold coffee and enjoy!

Notes

If you don't have a blender you can serve over ice. Stir together the coffee, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk and pour over ice.  Add a little shredded coconut for a flavorful garnish.

Vietnamese Coffee Affogato

Enjoy this Italian treat served with the rich flavor of Vietnamese coffee.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: coffee, ice cream
Servings: 1

Equipment

  • Vietnamese Coffee Filter (phin)

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup hot water (200° F)
  • 3 tbsp medium-coarse ground coffee (Vietnamese Robusta blend is best)
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

  • Boil water.
  • Place the coffee filter over a heatproof glass.
  • Add coffee to the filter, gently shake to even out the coffee. Place spreader on top, push down and turn slightly to tamp.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the hot water to your filter and wait 30 seconds to let the coffee "bloom" or expand.
  • Fill the filter with the remaining hot water to just below the top. Then add the lid to the top of the filter and wait about 4 minutes for the coffee to finish brewing.
  • Add two scoops of a good quality vanilla ice cream to a heatproof glass. When the coffee has finished brewing, remove the filter and pour hot coffee over ice cream and enjoy!

Notes

Use a Vietnamese robusta style coffee for best flavor. Trung Nguyen brand or Cafe du Monde coffee make for great choices.  Also use a good quality vanilla ice cream with lots of flavor.  Feel free to add some shaved chocolate on top for some extra flavor. 

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