Friday, August 13, 2010

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnam Coffee

What is your recipe for coffee? Mine is like French statesman I quoted in the picture above and Vietnam coffee I tasted during my recent trip was also black as the devil. My trip to Vietnam brought a small token from my colleague who know me as coffee addict. She gave a me coffee filter which Vietnamese are using for brewing their daily caffeine, the technique is known as ca phe sua da in local language or coffee milk ice. It doesn’t cost much, we can buy in house appliances stores there about US$2. I’m not sure where you’ll be able to find it in Jakarta, any idea?

The first time I had Vietnam coffee was quite long time ago in a restaurant located in Tebet area, next to Starbuck. The restaurant that offer Vietnam cuisine is no longer there, but I still remember how strong the coffee was. Nowadays, there are many choices of brewing coffee, automatic, french press, manual, espresso machine, stove pot, americano, espresso, macchiato, mocha, latte, you name it? and coffee filter is one of them.


Coffee filter make the liquid drop slowly into the glass and leaving the ground in filter’s container resulting a clean look and yet you can still feel the boldness of it. It’s quite simple method compare to espresso machine and great way to enjoy coffee in the street of Ho Chi Minh with friendly people there. Drinking coffee on the side walks caffee using the small table and seats is an ordinary view in Vietnam. I think they still treasure their coffee culture apart from modern coffee shops that threaten their local custom rooted from French colonial.

OK, let’s try our tools as I’d like to share the technique of making Vietnam coffee to you. You may add ice or milk as Vietnamese do for their coffee, but I like it hot, very hot.


First step : This is the tool (no, not picture no.2) for making coffee I explained before, a container with a filter. Use coarse coffee like espresso ground, as such it will not drip to the glass and of course you will need boiled water.


Well, I think the pictures tell enough, get the coffee about 1 table spoon (1 shot), pour into the filter, and put on the glass. Ready to roll ?


Our black gold is now dripping slowly … and yes we will have nirvana sensation (mmm that’s only me exaggerating, you know I’m a coffee addict). Our hot devil is now ready to enjoy, taste slowly in you mouth, feel it on your tongue, and the devil has become an angel. Am I crazy or what ?

Happy drinking from me.

* * * * *

Vietnamese Coffee

by Craig A Haller

Vietnamese Coffee is as much fun to make as it is to watch. A real treat, especially for those who enjoy their coffee strong and sweet.

What is a Vietnamese Filter?

A Vietnamese filter is a small coffee pot. It looks like a hat and sits upon the top of a coffee cup. Inside is a chamber for coffee and room for hot water. It is very basic and simple, and works!

Vietnamese-style Coffee Filter (Pack of 2)

Vietnamese-style Coffee Filter (Pack of 2)

What do I need?

A Vietnamese filter, coffee (optionally with chicory), and condensed milk. Condensed milk typically contains sugar and is heat processed with steam. Steamed milk has different physics from non-steamed milk and tastes better when used in coffee (ask any cappuccino drinker).

Santini Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk, 14-Ounce Can (Pack of 6)

Santini Organic Sweetened Condensed Milk, 14-Ounce Can (Pack of 6)

What type of coffee?

There are two schools of thought here. My understanding is that the authentic answer is coffee with chicory. I have very successfully used canned (!) coffee from Cafe Du Monde or French Market, both available in cans in supermarkets, both are coffee and chicory. (Chicory is a caffeine-free herb whose roots are dried, ground, and roasted and is used to flavor coffee.) I also have had great luck with fresh grinding my own beans without chicory. I often use Peets House Blend beans that I grind between drip and French.

2 (Two) Cans of Cafe Du Monde

2 (Two) Cans of Cafe Du Monde

My personal preference is sans chicory ... but then it’s not Vietnamese coffee. Poetic license, I guess.

What type of coffee grind?

There is controversy here, I have read of anything from fine to coarse grind being used. The cans have what appears to be a French grind; I use a grind somewhere between French and drip. This does not fall through the holes in the filter and tastes great. If you are new to Vietnamese coffee, use a French grind since it is easier to get it right with a coarser grind.

What else should I know?

The typical way to serve the coffee is with condensed milk (not evaporated milk). This adds a wonderful sweetness and mouth feel to the coffee. Additionally, the water temperature is very important, see the notes in the French Press section at what else should I know?

Step 1: Put about 1/3 of an inch of condensed milk in the bottom of a coffee cup. I prefer a glass cup since this is cool to watch! If you store the condensed milk in the refrigerator, it will get very thick but still work fine, and your coffee will not be as hot.

Add milk

Step 2: Open the device and unscrew to remove the filter’s top screen.


Step 3: Place three rounded teaspoons of coffee with chicory OR three and a half rounded teaspoons of coffee into the device. Replace the screen and turn it until it starts to get snug. This takes a bit of practice but note, it should not be "tight" but snug.

Add Coffee

Step 4: Place the filter on top of the coffee cup. Pour hot water into the device until it is about 1/4 full. Wait 20 seconds (yes, look at the clock). If all the water flows through in the time, you need to tighten the filter more.


Step 5: Unscrew the filter two complete turns. If it is too tight, you can typically use a quarter as a screw driver. Only loosen it two turns (but not less, either!).

20 seconds

Step 6: Fill the filter with hot water. Place the cover on and wait. Typically about 5 minutes. The water should not stream through, it should drip.


Step 7: When the dripping stops (i.e., all the water has passed through the filter), carefully remove the device, set aside, and start to enjoy. Personally, I stir up all the condensed milk, others leave it for the end.


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