What’s the Right Grind for Vietnamese Coffee?

If you’re looking to make a smooth, strong Vietnamese coffee at home, opt for a medium-fine grind size if you’re using a phin filter. However, the grind size will likely differ for other devices. 

May 17, 2024
Coffee beans surrounding a coffee grinder.

When you’re trying to make barista-level Vietnamese coffee at home, pay attention to the grind size. This is super important for making sure you get rich flavor instead of bitterness or a weak cup of coffee. However, the perfect coffee grind size depends on the brewing method you’re using. 

We’ll go over what you need to know about grind size for Vietnamese coffee so you don’t ever have to deal with the disappointment of a weak cup.

What Is the Right Grind Size for Vietnamese Coffee?

Authentic Vietnamese coffee is usually ground medium-fine and brewed with a traditional phin filter.

You can use other brewing methods, though the flavor will be different, and each method might have a different grind requirement.

While some grinds remain the same regardless, a lot of the coffee brewing methods get slightly finer if you’re looking to make Vietnamese coffee. The finer grind means you’ll get that punchy cup of coffee you’re looking for.

Brewing Vietnamese Coffee Without a Phin: Methods & Grind Size Explained

If you don't have a traditional phin filter, it doesn't mean that you can't make Vietnamese coffee at home. You can use a moka pot, espresso machine, French press, immersion cold brew, or Aeropress to get that beautiful, strong, and creamy coffee. You just have to adjust the grind size of your coffee and brewing time accordingly.

We go into greater detail below, but a general rule of thumb is that the coarser the grind size, the longer the brew time. It takes longer for extraction to occur and for the coffee to get maximum flavor. Brewing methods that traditionally don't take a lot of time, like an espresso machine or Aeropress, need finer grind sizes. 

Although the standard grind sizes for coffee vary from brewing method to brewing method, they change again for Vietnamese coffee. It has a reputation for being strong and a little bitter, which is counteracted by the sweetened condensed milk. 

So, knowing what we do about extraction methods and grind sizes, here are the grind sizes needed to make Vietnamese coffee with different brewing methods.

Coffee-Brewing Method

Coffee Grind Size for Vietnamese Coffee

Cold Brew

Coarse

French Press

Coarse or Medium-Coarse

Drip Coffeemaker

Medium

Chemex

Medium

Pour Over

Medium

Phin Filter

Medium-Fine

Aeropress

Fine

Moka Pot

Fine

Espresso

Fine

Ibrik (Turkish)

Extra-Fine

Why Grind Size Is So Important

You really have to dial in the grind size if you want to make delicious-tasting coffee. 

If the grind size is too large, the water passes through the coffee too easily and it’ll be weak or flavorless — and no one wants that!

If the grind size is too small or fine, then over-extraction occurs. Over-extraction sounds complex, but it comes from the soluble flavor makeup of the coffee bean.

On the whole, only 30% of the coffee bean is soluble in water and responsible for flavor. The extraction sweet spot is between 18 and 22% of the compounds, oils, and minerals.

If it's under 18%, the coffee will be under-extracted and taste bland and sour [1]. If it’s above 22%, it’ll be over-extracted and taste too bitter and burnt [2]. 

Different coffees also work better with different grind sizes and brewing methods. Grind size reflects the amount of flavor in your brew, so you'll need the right blend to ensure you don't end up with an undrinkable, bitter or weak coffee.

Choosing the Right Grinder for Vietnamese Coffee

Now you know the best grind sizes for your Vietnamese coffee, it's time to look at the different kinds of coffee grinders. Not all coffee grinders are made equally! Some are a lot better than others for Vietnamese coffee.

While you can buy pre-ground coffee – we have a range of options for whole bean or ground — if you’re using a range of brewing methods at home, buying whole bean and then grinding to suit your brewing style is going to be the best way. 

There are two main kinds of coffee grinders, blade and burr, and they are pretty different. 

Realistically, the burr grinder is going to be the ideal choice for grinding Vietnamese coffee. Burr grinders are known for being super precise and giving a consistent performance which is crucial for Vietnamese coffee.

However, the downsides of a burr grinder are the fact that you can’t use butter-roasted coffee in them (like our delicious SaiGon OG Blend), and these grinders are often a lot more expensive. 

On the other hand, blade grinders tend not to chop as evenly, so there's a lack of consistency, which could result in sediment or an improper grind. The flip side is that they are a lot cheaper and do the job well if you're not overly bothered by the drawbacks. 

If you’re unsure, you can always buy pre-ground. Our pre-ground coffee is specifically designed for Vietnamese coffee — we do all the work for you. You get to sit back and enjoy a delicious brew!

What’s the Grind Size for Different Brewing Methods?

The following chart goes over what grind size is needed for different methods (when making standard coffee).

Coffee-Brewing Method

Grind Size

Cold Brew

Extra-Coarse

French Press

Coarse

Drip Coffeemaker

Medium

Chemex

Medium

Pour Over

Medium

Phin Filter

Medium-Fine

Aeropress

Medium-Fine

Moka Pot

Medium-Fine

Espresso

Fine

Ibrik (Turkish)

Extra-Fine

FAQs: Coffee Grind Size 

Let's finish this guide with a few frequently asked questions about the ideal coffee grind size. 

1. What is the ideal grind size for Vietnamese coffee?

The ideal grind size for a Vietnamese coffee is a medium-fine grind. In practice, this looks and feels a lot like granulated sugar or sand. This is to ensure optimal extraction and balanced flavor without any burnt or bitter aftertaste.

2. How does grind size affect the taste of Vietnamese coffee?

Grind size affects the flavor profile of Vietnamese coffee through the extraction process. In essence, finer grinds can enhance the extraction of flavors, making the coffee more robust, while coarser grinds might result in a weaker brew. Coarser grounds need more time to brew, so if you're looking for rich and flavorful coffee on a time crunch, get a brewing method that works well with fine or medium-fine grind sizes. 

3. Can I use a regular coffee grinder for Vietnamese coffee?

Yes, you can use any coffee grinder for Vietnamese coffee that allows for adjustable grind size. We’d recommend a burr grinder for more consistent results and less sediment at the bottom of your coffee. 

4. What happens if the grind is too fine for Vietnamese coffee?

If the grind for your Vietnamese coffee is too fine, it can lead to over-extraction, resulting in a bitter and unpleasant taste. Check the tables in this guide to find the ideal grind size for your chosen brewing methods. 

5. What type of coffee bean is recommended for Vietnamese coffee?

For Vietnamese coffee, the recommended bean is always a quality robusta, such as our HaNoi beans. These are traditionally used for their strong flavor and higher caffeine content, but you can use any dark roast. 

You want a strong, punchy taste that's balanced by the sweetened condensed milk. The other components tend to overpower beans with a lighter flavor. 

However, there are many kinds of Vietnamese coffee to choose from.

If you’re not used to the strong flavor of robusta and want to ease into it, try DaNang, our robusta and arabica blend, or SaiGon OG, a smooth combination of robusta, peaberry, and arabica.

Related: What’s the Difference Between Robusta and Arabica?

6. How long should I brew Vietnamese coffee?

Brewing time for Vietnamese coffees can vary, but typically, it takes about 4 to 5 minutes using a Vietnamese phin filter. Overall, it’s one of the quickest coffee brewing methods on the market. 

7. What should I do if my Vietnamese coffee tastes too weak?

If your Vietnamese coffee tastes too weak, we'd recommend using a finer grind size to increase extraction or slightly increase the amount of coffee used. When you first start using grinders and new brewing methods, getting your brew to match your taste will be a bit of trial and error.

Related: Why Is Vietnamese Coffee So Strong?

8. Can I make Vietnamese coffee without a Vietnamese drip filter?

Yes, you can make Vietnamese coffee without a phin filter. While this is the traditional method, you can experiment with others, like a French press, though the taste will differ. Anything that gives you a strong-flavored coffee will work well; just make sure you use the correct grind size for your chosen brewing method. 

9. How important is the water temperature in brewing Vietnamese coffee?

As with anything in the coffee brewing process, the water temperature is pretty important! Ideally, use water just off the boil (about 195-205 ℉ or 90-96℃) to ensure proper flavor extraction without scalding the coffee. No one likes the taste of burnt coffee!

10. Can I reuse the coffee grounds to make Vietnamese coffee?

We don't recommend you reuse coffee grounds for Vietnamese coffee (or any method!), as the first brew extracts most of the flavor and caffeine. As a result, subsequent brews may taste weak and underwhelming.

References

  1. Schulman, Jim (February 2007), Some Aspects of Espresso Extraction, archived from the original on 2019-09-21, retrieved 2010-03-28
  2. "The EK43 Part Two - Matt Perger". Matt Perger. Archived from the original on 2016-04-17. Retrieved 2016-04-13.