Guide to Brewing Authentic Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

Make traditional cà phê sửa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) at home with simple tools and about 5 minutes of your time.

March 15, 2024
Guide to Brewing Authentic Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Cà Phê Sữa Đá)

Vietnamese iced coffee balances the bold, punchy flavors of dark-roast robusta with the rich, creamy flavor of sweetened condensed milk. This unique coffee recipe is a morning staple for the busy streets of Vietnam — a country characterized by busy markets and hot, humid weather. 

Here’s how to prepare authentic cà phê sửa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee).

For this recipe, we’ll be brewing coffee using a traditional phin filter, chilled over ice, and sweetened with condensed milk. Feel free to swap the condensed milk with dairy-free sweeteners, syrups, or even ice cream for a Vietnamese affogato.

We’ll also cover some alternative methods using a French press, AeroPress, espresso machine, and moka pot.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Brewing Specs

  • Brew Time: 5–7 minutes
  • Coffee/Water Ratio: 1:2
  • Grind: Fine Grind (Like Sand)
  • Water Temperature: 200ºF (93ºC) 
  • Recommended Coffee: Sai Gon OG, Ha Noi

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Step Summary

  1. Measure & grind your coffee
  2. Add coffee grounds to your phin filter & tamp down with the gravity press
  3. Bloom the coffee for 45 seconds with a small amount of boiling water
  4. Pour the rest of your water over the grounds
  5. Wait 5–8 minutes for your coffee to drip into your cup
  6. Fill a cup with ice, sweeten, stir, & enjoy!

What We Love About Vietnamese Iced Coffee

  • ✅ Perfect for hot summer days.
  • ✅ Eco-friendly (no paper filters or disposable elements).
  • ✅ Versatile and adaptable to personal taste.
  • ✅ The same method can also be used to brew hot coffee (sans the ice).

Tools You’ll Need

To brew traditional Vietnamese iced coffee, you’ll need the following items/ingredients: 

  1. Traditional Phin Filter — This small metal device is the go-to brewing method for all Vietnamese coffee. It requires no filters and no electricity.
  2. High-Quality Coffee — We recommend fresh-roasted, high-quality robusta coffee for best results. All our ground coffee comes pre-ground in the perfect grind size for iced Vietnamese coffee.
  3. Coffee Grinder — We prefer using a burr grinder to ensure an even grind, but cheaper blade grinders work fine too. 
  4. Boiling Water — Even though you’re making iced coffee, it still has to steep hot.
  5. Ice — A critical step for brewing iced coffee! Keep enough ice handy to fill your cup.
  6. Sweetened Condensed Milk (Or Dairy-Free Alternative) — The traditional recipe calls for sweetened condensed milk, but there are plenty of great dairy-free options available these days too.

Detailed Step-By-Step Process & Vietnamese Iced Coffee Brewing Tips

There’s no need to overcomplicate things, Vietnamese coffee consists of strong concentrated coffee poured over ice and mixed with your sweetener of choice.

Here’s the traditional recipe, delivered straight from the streets of Vietnam.

1. Measure & Grind Your Coffee

Phin filters work best with a fine grind. Opt for a consistency similar to sand.

For a standard 4 oz phin (120 mL), you should weigh out 2 tablespoons of coffee (14 grams). This will produce one cup of coffee.

For larger batches, use a larger phin filter (6 or 8 oz) with 3 or 4 tablespoons, respectively.

→ Check out our detailed Phin brew guide for full coffee-to-water ratios using different phin sizing.

2. Assemble Your Phin Filter

The phin filter consists of 4 components. The filter tray goes on the bottom, placed on top of your cup.

Add the chamber on top — this is where you’ll place your coffee grounds and pour the water.

Set the gravity press and lid to the side for now.

3. Tamp Your Coffee Grounds With The Gravity Press

After you’ve added your coffee grounds, give the chamber a light shake to even the grounds out. Add the gravity press and press down lightly to tamp the coffee. This ensures the grounds are evenly spaced so the water extracts your coffee more efficiently.

4. Add Boiling Water

First, add just enough water to cover the gravity press. This is called the bloom stage. This stage is important to get the best flavor from your coffee. Wait 45 seconds for all the gases to escape from between your grounds. You should notice some bubbling during this stage.

After 30-seconds, add the rest of your water. Fill the phin to just below the top of the filter. Add the lid while the brew steeps to keep the heat in.

You should start to see drops of coffee after about 1 minute. The final drop should take about 5–7 minutes.

5. Add Ice, Sweetener, & Stir

Remove your phin, add enough ice to fill the cup, and stir in your sweetener of choice.

Traditional Vietnamese iced coffee calls for 2 tablespoons of condensed milk. 

Dairy-free sweeteners or liquid sugar are great alternatives. Feel free to alter the amount of sweetener you use to match your desired taste, or skip the sweetener altogether.

Other Methods For Brewing Vietnamese Iced Coffee

While the method outlined above follows the traditional process used by the Vietnamese, there are other methods you can use depending on the tools you have at home.

1. French Press Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Brew a strong pot using 2 tablespoons of coffee (14 grams) of fine-ground coffee and 1.3 ounces (40 grams) of boiling water. Let it steep for 5 minutes before plunging and pouring over ice.

2. Espresso Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Brew 1–2 espresso shots, mix with ice, sweeten, and enjoy.

3. AeroPress Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Fill your AeroPress with 2 scoops of fine-ground coffee, fill up to the second line, steep for 2 minutes, and press through the filter using the plunger. Ice an sweeten as usual.

4. Moka Pot Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Use your moka pot as usual — fill the chamber up to the pressure valve with water, fill the basket with coffee, brew over the stove, and pour over ice and sweetener.

Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee FAQs & Troubleshooting

1. What kind of coffee should I use for Vietnamese iced coffee?

Traditional Vietnamese coffee calls for a strong, dark-roast robusta. Our Sai Gon OG and Ha Noi blend to provide the ideal bold, roasted coffee flavor to Vietnamese iced coffee.

You can also use arabica beans, such as our Da Lat, but it won’t be as strong.

Do I need a Vietnamese coffee filter (phin) to make Vietnamese iced coffee?

While the phin is the ideal brewing method for Vietnamese iced coffee, you can also use a French press, moka pot, AeroPress, or espresso to make this traditional drink.

3. How much sweetened condensed milk should I use?

This is a matter of preference, but generally, traditional recipes call for about 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk for every 4 ounces of coffee. Adjust to taste — some like it sweeter, others prefer just a hint of sweetness.

4. What type of ice should I use?

Crushed ice will cool your coffee more quickly, but also dilutes the coffee with water faster. Large ice cubes allow you to sip your coffee more slowly before it melts and dilutes the coffee. 

We like to meet in the middle with medium-sized ice cubes. Give your drink a good stir for about 30 seconds and give it a minute to cool down before drinking.

5. Can I make Vietnamese iced coffee without ice?

The only way to avoid using ice for iced Vietnamese coffee is to brew your coffee ahead of time and keep it in the fridge for a few hours before mixing it with sweetener. Concentrated cold brew coffee works well using this method, but may lack some of the characteristic flavors of traditional iced coffee.

6. Can I use regular milk or cream instead of sweetened condensed milk?

Yes, but this isn’t the traditional method. Milk or creamer of any kind will work to curb the bold flavor of robusta coffee. Some people prefer to add some sugar if using liquid milk or creamer.

7. Can I use Cafely’s Ready-To-Drink coffees to make Vietnamese iced coffee?

Yes! Our cold brew milk coffee, black coffee, and coconut coffee make a delicious cup of iced coffee. Store the cans in the fridge to pre-cool and pour over ice to serve.