I guess it’s time for a true confession. I’m a coffee snob. And when I travel, I have a passion for supporting local roasters and coffee houses. Let’s just say I’ve BEAN Around the World and I’m feeling like now is the time to start sharing the love… and caffeine, one city at a time. Recently, I had a wonderful holiday in Saigon, Vietnam. And though it was hard to tear myself away from the incredible coconut meat and coconut water, I did explore the coffee houses, and I’m glad I did. I drank plenty of coffee, talked with baristas, and I’ve got lots to share with you. Let’s open the TWG cafe society doors and talk coffee, Vietnamese style.
When I travel, I only review and like to support coffee houses that roast their own beans or use locally roasted beans. But before I talk about the one-off coffee house scene in Saigon, I have a very special post for you today. I have Vietnamese friends living in Saigon, and as it turns out, one of them, Huy, had a coffee shop. He and a friend owned and ran it for a few years before moving on to careers in tech. He’s an amazing resource of all things coffee in Vietnam. Huy and his wife Nguyen came to where I was staying and made us Vietnamese coffee! He brought his own equipment and coffee, and it was a ton of highly caffeinated fun. I want to share with you what he taught me because I’ve never been successful when making Vietnamese coffee at home. It’s complicated and requires patience. If you’ve ever tried or want to try making it, here’s the full scoop from a master!
Coffee Making Tools
The grind should be fine. The coffee making tools you’ll need are a phin, a small metal Vietnamese drip filter, a glass that fits under the filter, and sweetened condensed milk.
1. Boil water and get your glass that fits under the phin. 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.
2. For a smaller coffee use 1 1/2 scoops of finely ground coffee. For a bigger cup of coffee use 3 scoops. Traditionally, a dark roast is used and it’s very strong. A lighter roast will tend to be overpowered by the sweetness of the milk.
3. Tap down the grind to compress the coffee. The key is to tap it and compress without squashing it. This takes finese and time to learn.
4. Put the phin on your glass.
5. Pour your boiling water in, but only use a small amount to get started. This step takes about 2-3 minutes because the water drips through slowly.
6. Pour more hot water through, maybe as much as half a cup’s worth.
7. Use a spoon or stick or some utensil with a flat edge to smooth out the drip. In other words, you want the water to be dripping through the phin as uniformly as possible.
8. Let it drip until done.
9. Add a small amount of sweetened condensed milk.
Let’s elaborate on a few of the steps in this process.
I’ve been drinking Vietnamese coffee for many years, usually in the States or in Canada. And from time to time, I’ve also tried to make it at home. It was really different in Vietnam, for a few reasons.
One is that obviously water is different everywhere. One of the mistakes I was making at home was not using a fine enough grind. It was taking a really long time for my water to drip through. Vietnam produces its own coffee so that changes the taste as well. Even if I used a Vietnamese bean or blend in the States, it wouldn’t be nearly as fresh. Thirdly, the sweetened condensed milk in Vietnam was much better because it was not nearly as sweet. I’ll be looking for the brand of milk Huy uses and hopefully I can find it in an Asian market here.
Though Vietnamese coffee can be served hot, I prefer mine iced. It’s called ca phe sua da. It’s found all over the city and from what I was told, most Vietnamese drink at least one a day. I can handle a lot of caffeine, but I was careful as this really is a potent style of coffee. And it’s tooooo good!
So there you have it, a Vietnamese coffee making lesson right from my friend Huy. Vietnamese people are passionate about coffee, and I do have another post coming your way about the coffee houses I recommend in Saigon. I had a wonderful time visiting with Huy and Nguyen, and I totally appreciated all they shared with me.
Have you had Vietnamese coffee in Vietnam? Did you enjoy it? Ever tried to make it at home?
If you liked this post, please check out all the other cities I reviewed in Shelli’s World Coffee Tour.