Vietnamese coffee (café sua or cafe den) has recently become popular with international travelers visiting Vietnam. Just walk up the street and you’ll run into a coffee shop guaranteed. Drinking coffee is part of one’s daily routine, treated as a ritual by old people especially. You’ll find that the Vietnamese drink coffee at all hours of the day however, coffee shops are usually crowded in the morning. Every day, locals visit the same coffee shop, order the same drink, and chat with their neighbours or read a newspaper while perched on their low slung chairs. Every Vietnamese person knows how to make a cup of coffee, an education passed from generation to generation. And today, Christina’s is happy to share this tradition with you. Here’s an all-you-need-to-know about making the perfect cup of Vietnamese coffee!
Making traditional Vietnamese coffee is easy. You only need ground coffee and a Phin filter. The tricky thing is finding good coffee and a proper Phin filter. With this guide, you’ll learn how to make the best cup of Vietnamese coffee from anywhere in the world.
If you just want to skip to the good stuff, checkout your quick video:
How to Choose the Right Coffee
Choosing coffee is usually based on your personal taste. Vietnamese coffee mainly uses Robusta roasted dark. This roasting style creates a strong flavor with hints of caramel, which is very unique and not found in other brewing methods. It’s also perfectly fine to use medium roasted coffee if you prefer a more balanced cup with lighter tasting notes. However, you shouldn’t buy light roasted coffee if you mind the coffee flavor being overpowered by the sweetness of condensed milk.
Vietnamese coffee mainly uses Robusta roasted dark.
There are a plenty of places to buy coffee in Vietnam. Luckily, you can always sample the product before buying. Most cafes in Ho Chi Minh also sell coffee they serve their customers. While the supply of coffee shops is endless, here are the most trusted brands endorsed by coffee lovers.
Chat Coffee Roasters & Bistro, 53 Le Thi Hong Gam, District 1
This small coffee shop is located in an alley in the heart of the city. Unlike other coffee shops, they use coffee roasted in-house. Their roasting style is dark; therefore, you can expect a strong flavor cup with a caramel taste. They also serve Vietnamese coffee as well as Italian coffee.
The Coffee House, 141 Nguyen Thai Binh, District 1 (at various locations in city)
This is a new coffee chain with more than 30 shops around Ho Chi Minh. Opened only three years ago, the coffee house quickly gained its reputation as a place for local people to gather and have coffee. Their coffee is sourced the chain’s own farm in Cau Dat, Da Lat (the most famous coffee plantation in all of Vietnam.) Owning their own farm gives them more quality control, allowing them to produce something unique to their brand. Their roasting style is medium to dark, therefore coffee here tends to be more balanced.
They also serve various kinds of coffee and non-coffee drinks. You can easily find this chain around town.
Nam Long Coffee
This company is a coffee supplier for many coffee shops in Ho Chi Minh city (some of them are pretty famous, such as The Kafe and Fanny). Their signature roast is the Fine Robusta roast, which comes from various farms in Dak Nong province. Fine Robusta coffee is a high-grade coffee that is produced under very strict conditions. That being said, Fine Robusta coffee is characteristically strong bodied, high in flavor, and quite fragrant.
Nam Long Coffee doesn’t have their own coffee shop but you can easily indulge in their product at partner stores. They also can deliver coffee straight to your home. Just simply drop them a call or an email, and you will have your coffee within a day.
- Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Contact Number: +84 (9) 3786 3111
Nam Long Partners Store:
- Fanny Ice Cream: 6 Tran Hung Dao, District 1 (at various locations)
- Farmer’s Market: 496 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Ward 2, District 3
Which Phin Filter Is Good?
Almost as important as the coffee is the Phin filter. It’s easy to buy a stainless steel or plastic one at any market but if possible, you should try to find an aluminum filter. Stainless steel or plastic Phins can be used to make coffee but these materials are not good at retaining heat, which is an important factor in brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Aluminium Phins on the other hand, are purposed to hold in heat and therefore, brew a more balanced brew. You can also try to use a ceramic filter, which comes better designed and can be a great decorative piece in your kitchen.
Almost as important as the coffee is the Phin filter.
Places to Find Phin Filters
For aluminum Phins:
- Trung Nguyen Coffee showroom, 197 Dinh Tien Hoang Street, District 1 (or at any Trung Nguyen Coffee Store)
- Klasik Coffee Roaster, 40 Mac Thi Buoi Street, District 1
- Ben Thanh Market (need to bargain the price at around 50.000 VND – 100.000 VND)
- Nam Long Coffee (delivery only) – contact number: +84 (9) 3786 3111
For ceramic Phins:
- Saigon Kitsch, 43 Ton That Thiep Street, District 1
Step by Step to Make Traditional Coffee
With good coffee and a proper Phin filter, it’s easy to make a great cup of coffee. Just follow the step-by-step instructions we’ve provided and you can have the best cup of coffee every morning.
#1: Preheat Phin filter
This basic and simple step plays an important role in creating the perfect cup of coffee. Pour hot water into the Phin filter to warm it up.
#2: Add the right amount of coffee
Remove the top filter then add one round tablespoon of ground coffee or more. The trick here is trying to add coffee until you reach the mark in the filter (see picture above).
#3: Cover with top filter
Position the top filter until it’s snug. How tight the filter is positioned is really important. If you use a coarse grind, you may need to go a little tighter.
#4: Pre-heat the coffee
Put your Phin filter over a glass. The advantage of brewing into a glass instead of a mug is you can watch the brewing take place.
Slowly pour hot water into the Phin filter. You only need to fill enough water to cover the ground coffee (see picture above). Wait 60 seconds before moving onto the next step.
Tips: You should bring the water to a boil and then let it cool down for about 15-20 seconds before pouring.
#5: Fill up water into Phin until it’s full
Now your coffee is ready for brewing. Fill up the Phin with hot water. The water should take between 8 and 10 minutes to pass through the filter. If it passes too quickly, you can either tighten the top filter or use a less coarse grind. If it passes too slowly, either the grind is too fine or the filter is screwed on too tight.
#6: Wait for brew to complete
This is the relaxing part. Grab a newspaper or a book and wait until the brewing is done. It should take between 8 and 10 minutes to finish brewing.
#7: Keep it dark or mix with condensed milk
If you prefer a strong and bold cup, keep it dark (cafe den). You can also add condensed milk if you love a cup of sweetness (café sua). Serve it with ice or keep it hot, it’s up to you.
So there you go, this is our advice on how to make the perfect cup of Vietnamese coffee. Why don’t you get yourself some coffee beans, a decent Phin filter and try it out? Let us know your results in the comments below. We also have an awesome egg coffee recipe if you would like to try out. Yes, egg coffee! And you can click here for a special surprise.
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like some more fun info about what to see, do, and eat (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s Blog!