This is an ironic situation. I am not a coffee drinker. I grew up drinking diluted coffee with sweet condensed milk and lots of water. My mom occasionally made this for me and my siblings for breakfast. I can safely call it condensed milk with coffee-flavored water. We dipped our baguette into the coffee drink and enjoyed the sweet flavor of milk and the bitter aroma of roasted French coffee. This was a treat.
As I grew up, I really never liked the bitter taste of coffee so I did not drink it. I do enjoy the aroma every time I pass a coffee shop. If I have to drink coffee to keep me awake, I would usually add lots of cream and sugar to mask the bitterness of coffee.
I learned that Vietnamese Iced Milk Coffee or also known as Café Sửa Đá has been gaining popularity in the US by leap and bound. So here I am, I thought it would be good that I do my research, make it, and put a recipe together from an unbiased coffee perspective. Plus, Café Sửa Đá has plenty of sweetness from the condensed milk for me to try.
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Vietnamese Coffee Filter – Phin
In order to make Vietnamese coffee, we will need a Vietnamese coffee filter or also known as Phin in Vietnamese. It’s a cute mechanism. I went out bought myself one from an Asian market. You can also make Vietnamese coffee with the French Press.
Originally, there are three different sizes: small, medium, and large.
The small is commonly seen in your average Vietnamese household which yields 6 oz of coffee. The medium size can be found at coffee shops that yield 8oz of coffee, and the large size is not as common which yields 11 oz of coffee the size of a coffee mug.
I just found on Amazon with a vendor that offers 5 different sizes: x-small (4 oz), Small (6 oz), Medium (8 oz), Large (11 oz), or X-Large (15 oz). CLICK Amazon Phin filter or the picture below to see MORE…
There are three components to a Phin:
- The coffee filter – This is where the coffee and hot water will be brewing and filtering through.
- the insert press – This is a screw-on press inserting on top of the coffee. Its job is to provide pressure, allow the hot water to bloom the coffee into the flavor, and slow down the drip of the coffee into the cup. The tighter the press than the slower the drip.
- the lid or cap – the lid traps the heat inside the filter chamber to help the coffee stay hot.
Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French so I assumed the Phin was also a French filter. I asked my French friend and he said that the Phin is a Vietnamese filter and not a French thing. Silly me. As I dug a little more, according to the Trung Nguyen coffee website, the Phin filter may originate from possibly Laos in the 1800s. It is not unique to only Vietnam. Other regions such as Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand also enjoy the simple stainless steel filter.
I found two popular brands of Vietnamese coffee here in the US. The most popular brand is called Cafe Du Monde. The second brand is called Trung Nguyen. The Phin filter requires a medium-coarse grind coffee and both brands provide the right grind. Also, dark French roasted coffee is often used by the Vietnamese.
You can find both brands at your local Vietnamese market or on Amazon.com.
Did you know that Vietnam is the leading producer of coffee in Southeast Asia and the second-largest producer of coffee in the world next to Brazil? Because of the mountainous terrain, altitude, and climate, Vietnam offers half a dozen unique species and varieties of coffee. The terrain and climate of Vietnam are considered ideal for almost any species of coffee.
There are three main ingredients for Café Sửa Đá recipe:
- 1 tablespoon medium-coarse ground coffee (French roasted, Cafe Du Monde, or Trung Nguyen)
- 1 to 3 tablespoons condensed milk (depend on your sweetness of flavoring)
- 1 tall glass of ice
Set your hot water for boiling. While the water is being heated, we can set up the coffee. Remove the coffee insert press from the Phin. Turn the insert counter-clockwise until the insert comes out freely. Depending on how strong you would like your coffee, add the ground coffee into the Phin. I would start with 1 tablespoon of coffee. If it is not strong enough, next time add a little bit more.
Make sure the coffee is spread out evenly inside the Phin. Place the insert back into Phin. This time tighten the insert clockwise with your hand until you can’t turn anymore. Then release the tightness of the insert with one counterclockwise. This process keeps the coffee in place to allow the coffee to drip into your cup at a slow pace.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of condensed milk to the glass or mug you will be using for the drip coffee. I usually add at least 2 tablespoons because I like it sweet. If you add 3 tablespoons, the coffee will taste more like caramel.
Once the water boils, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 30 seconds to a minute or until the water temperature at 185 to 195 degrees. While waiting for the water cooling down to the right temperature, place the coffee filter on top of a mug or a glass. Pour about 2 tablespoons of hot water into the filter. This will help moisten and swell the coffee to bring out its flavor.
Wait for 20 seconds then fill the filter with hot water. Place the lid on top and wait for 3 to 4 minutes. According to the Trung Nguyen coffee website, the dripping process should finish within 4 minutes to achieve the best flavor.
If the water drip through too slow, then you may have your insert in too tight or make the coffee grind coarser. Loosen the insert a little bit. The medium-coarse grind should do well. If the water drip through too fast, then the insert may not be tight enough. You can either tighten the insert, add more coffee, or make the coffee grind finer.
Once the coffee finishes dripping, remove the filter from your cup. Mix the coffee and condensed milk. Fill a tall glass with ice. Remember, the more ice you have the less strong the coffee will be. Pour the mixed coffee into the glass of the ice. You now have a glass of delicious Cà Phê Sữa Ðá. Enjoy!
Here’s a video with details on how to brew Vietnamese coffee:
I learned how to make Café Sửa Đá along with fun interesting facts about coffee. The flavor reminds me of the coffee energy drink. However, I think this coffee may be better for me than the energy drink. I think it could grow on me if allow it to. I know it can be addicting so I’ll have to drink it in moderation. Right now I am going to stick to my boba smoothies or tea.
If you stumble across questions or comments about coffee, I love to hear it. Please leave your comments below.