How to Make Vietnamese Coffee (Cà Phê)

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The magic of the Robusta bean is revealed! Vietnamese coffee, or cà phê, is what you've been missing from your morning routine.

If you’re in need of a new daily grind, consider fueling your day with a rich, chocolaty cup of cà phê (Vietnamese coffee). Whether you serve it hot or iced, the earthy aroma of the Robusta bean will whisk you away.

What Is Cà Phê?

Vietnamese coffee special is made using a phin filter and coffee beans grown in Vietnam. Being the second-largest producer of coffee globally, Vietnam grows a wide range of beans to choose from.

However, people most often associate the dark and earthy Robusta bean with Vietnamese coffee. Robusta beans are less common than Arabica beans, which can easily be found in a cafe nearby but have twice the amount of caffeine.

Sahra Nguyen, the founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply, says enthusiastically, “We are proud champions of the Robusta bean!”

See how Vietnamese coffee compares to other coffee around the world.

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee

You can enjoy cà phê using the brewing method of your choice; however, cafes in Vietnam often use a traditional phin filter. This tool combines the best features of the French press and V60 coffee dripper. Part pour-over, part gravity-extraction, phin filters are exceptionally versatile and produce a rich, bold, concentrated brew with low acidity.

If you don’t have a Vietnamese grocery shop nearby, we recommend the 4-ounce phin filter from Nguyen Coffee Supply. To make cà phê for a crowd, invest in a 12-ounce or 24-ounce phin filter. For a truly authentic experience, the True Grit Robusta beans are a must. For grind size, aim for a slightly finer grind than the “medium” coarseness used for pour-over brewing.

You can drink cà phê black in order to taste Robusta beans in all their glory. However, most people have it with a splash of sweetened condensed milk like Longevity Brand—though Nature’s Charm makes a good vegan alternative.

Sahra Nguyen’s Cà Phê Recipee

Ingredients

Sahra’s Tip: To determine the amount of coffee you’ll need, check the size of the brewing chamber of your phin filter. This recipe is for a 4-ounce phin filter and works for either hot or iced preparations of cà phê.

We recommend a starting ratio of 1:2 for coffee to water.

  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) freshly ground Vietnamese coffee
  • 4 ounces hot water (about 200°F)
  • 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk (to start, adjust according to taste)

Tools You’ll Need

Directions

Step 1: Prepare coffee grounds

Place 2 tablespoons (or about 14 grams) of ground Vietnamese coffee into the brewing chamber of the phin filter. Shake the brewing chamber so that the coffee grounds are leveled straight across. This allows for the hot water you pour in to distribute across all of the coffee for an even extraction process.

Step 2: Set up phin filter

Place the phin filter plate atop a mug or glass of your choice, followed by the brew chamber. Using the gravity press, drop it directly atop of the coffee in the brew chamber.

Step 3: Boil water

Boil water to 195º F to 205º F. (If it’s any colder, the water will not fully extract the coffee. But hotter water may “overcook” or burn the coffee entirely.) We recommend 200º for best results.

If you can’t measure the temperature directly, bring your water to boiling point and turn off the heat and wait for approximately 45 seconds before pouring it into the brewing chamber.

Step 4: Wait for the “bloom”

If you’re using freshly ground coffee, expect the bubbles and swirls of the “bloom” in your brewing chamber after adding about an ounce of hot water to the brewing chamber. Wait for about 45 seconds. Then, pour the remaining hot water into the brewing chamber until it is filled to the top and cover with the cap.

If you’re not using freshly ground coffee, do not worry…the coffee you’re making will still be delicious. Just take your hot water and pour it into the brewing chamber until it is filled to the top, before placing the cap on to preserve the heat of the water during the brewing process.

Step 5: Prepare a cup

Once the last drop falls, the brewing process is completed. (It should take about 5 minutes.) Then it’s time to drink your Vietnamese coffee.

If serving hot: Add your desired amount of condensed milk (or nothing at all) and sip away.

If serving cold: Add your condensed milk, mix vigorously and then pour over ice. We recommend using more ice to ensure the hot coffee doesn’t melt the ice too quickly and accidentally dilute the brew’s intensity.

Vietnamese Coffee Tips

Use freshly ground beans

In order to “bloom” (or release the carbon dioxide in) your coffee, it’s important to use freshly ground coffee. Older coffees or those which are pre-ground often do not have the necessary gasses needed to provoke the “bloom” during the brewing process.

Experiment to find the right grind size

Choosing the right grind size for the phin filter is important—grounds that are too coarse will cause the water to flow freely through and extract very little flavor, while coffee grounds that are too fine will block the filter.

The first drip should fall from your phin filter within the first 2 minutes. The last drip should fall around 5 to 6 minutes after pouring in your hot water.

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Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam
Ashley Thuthao Keng Dam is a Khmer and Vietnamese American food researcher and food communicator who grew up in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, but currently lives in Turin, Italy. Even after years of studying eco-gastronomy in northern Italy and discovering the marvels of delicious food and cuisine, Thao still loves instant mac and cheese smothered in sriracha sauce. Thao writes, draws, photographs and speaks about food on under the name @ThaoEatWorld.