What makes Vietnamese coffee different?

Known for its short, thick, and creamy coffee style, Vietnamese coffee has had a surge of popularity in recent years, but what actually is Vietnamese coffee, and what sets it apart from the crowd? Let’s dive in and find out more!

To get that delicious creamy and sweet texture with the strong coffee punch that Vietnamese coffee is known for, you’re going to need a stainless steel or aluminum Phin Vietnamese filter. This concentrated brewing process is what makes Vietnamese coffee some of the strongest in the world. These look like little V60s and sit on top of your coffee mug or pot, allowing for that strong brew to occur.


The ingredients you’ll need to make a Vietnamese coffee are pretty straightforward. You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons of ground coffee (if you can find a Vietnamese brand, it’ll be better!).
  • 1-3 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
  • 6-8 ounces of water, just off the boil so it’s hot but doesn’t burn the coffee. The amount of water will depend on how strong you like your Vietnamese coffee.

In terms of the process, it’s fairly simple.

  1. Rinse your phin filter in hot water.
  2. Add the ground coffee to your filter – do not shake or tamp it down as this will result in a much slower drip time and low-quality brew.
  3. Add the sweetened condensed milk to your mug
  4. Pour around two tablespoons of hot water into your Phin filter so that the coffee starts to drip.
  5. Slowly press down on the filter to slow the drip rate once the water has disappeared for more flavor.
  6. Add the rest of the water to your filter and wait for the coffee to drip through. Depending on the amount of water this should take around five minutes to complete.
  7. Once all the water has gone, remove the Phin filter and stir your coffee to mix in the condensed milk.
  8. Enjoy your delicious Vietnamese coffee!

What makes Vietnamese coffee different?

Primarily, it’s the addition of sweetened condensed milk that makes Vietnamese coffee so different. That being said, plenty of countries have their own version of condensed milk coffee, with Spain having Café bombón, and Singapore having Kopi Peng, so this isn’t entirely unique to Vietnam.

However, this kind of coffee is also super strong, as Vietnamese coffee uses double-caffeinated Robusta beans. The result is a strong, sweet, and thick coffee that leaves you ready to take on the day! The combination of double caffeinated coffee and layers of sugary condensed milk gives immediate energy boosts, which is part of the reason that Vietnamese coffee is so popular.

Why is Vietnamese coffee so thick?

Some vendors in Vietnam add soybean or green bean powder to their coffee to make it thicker and creamier. Essentially, this is the same process as adding cornstarch or corn flour to a sauce or gravy to thicken it up. Adding these thickening agents often makes the coffee taste creamier and richer.

Occasionally, some people have even added egg yolks or butter to their Vietnamese coffee to make it thicker. This might be to compensate for thinner or lower-quality condensed milk or to make it resemble the Instagram-famous, hand-whipped, Dalgona coffee from Macau.

Is Vietnamese coffee strong?

Yes, Vietnamese coffee is a strong coffee thanks to its double-caffeinated Robusta ground coffee. You can make it weaker by adding more water or swapping out the traditional Vietnamese ground coffee for a single caffeinated alternative. This won’t pack as much of a flavor punch, but it’ll still give you the textures of a Vietnamese coffee without the caffeine jitters that often come with it!

Keep in mind, that the addition of the sweetened condensed milk does balance out the Vietnamese coffee, so even though it has a higher caffeine content, it shouldn’t taste bitter or overly strong.

Is Vietnamese coffee very sweet?

Vietnamese coffee can be very sweet depending on how much condensed milk you add. In traditional recipes, it’s always sweetened condensed milk, but the quantity varies depending on your tastes. Anywhere between 1-3 tablespoons can be used, and the more you use, the sweeter it’ll be!

That being said, with the Robusta beans being so strong, the sweetened condensed milk can often counteract the bitterness or strong caffeine taste that comes with traditional Vietnamese coffee. So, if you’re not into super sweet coffee, start with one tablespoon in your Vietnamese coffee and go from there.

Why does Vietnamese coffee use condensed milk?

Well, there are a few reasons why Vietnamese coffee uses condensed milk, but the main reason comes down to practicality. Vietnam is hot, it’s tropical, and many street vendors won’t have huge portable refrigerators to hand.

So, condensed milk is a long-life milk. That means it doesn’t go off as quickly, making it ideal for tropical countries like Vietnam. Practically speaking, it just makes sense. After all, you can’t run a coffee business if your milk keeps going off in the heat and you’re having to throw it all away!

The other reason why Vietnamese coffee uses condensed milk is to add sweetness to the drink. With the high caffeine content and strength of the Robusta beans, the coffee needs sweetened condensed milk to balance it and make it more palatable for the wider customer base.

Can you have an iced Vietnamese coffee?

Yes, you can absolutely have an iced Vietnamese coffee. Vietnam is a tropical country, so sometimes you need a cold caffeinated drink! Making an iced Vietnamese coffee is really simple. You just go through all the standard steps of making a Vietnamese coffee and then pour it over ice at the end. This will also help with the mixing process and ensure your condensed milk doesn’t sink to the bottom of your drink.

If you’re not into a super strong Vietnamese coffee, this might be a good option for you, as the brew will become less strong as the ice melts. So, not only is an iced Vietnamese coffee cold and refreshing, but it can be a great introduction to the wonderful world of Vietnamese coffee!