Ready for a new go-to coffee drink? Try this…

Vietnamese coffee is an amazing, strong and sweet drink with a healthy dose of cinnamon.

Vietnam is a major coffee exporter today. It was brought by the French in 1857 during colonization. Coffee became a major product of Vietnam after the 1986 Doi Moi (means: “Renovation”) reforms as Vietnam began to develop global trading partners outside the Soviet Union.

Coffee grows well in the mountains and teachers all over the globe want coffee, so there you have it.

Vietnamese coffee has a few ingredients–really strong robusta coffee–the type that’ll kick you in the teeth  if you even think about falling asleep during a faculty meeting–cinnamon, which (surprise) also comes from Vietnam, too, and sweetened condensed milk, since historically fresh cream was tough to get in the region. That’s why you’ll see sweetened condensed milk as an ingredient in so many regional drinks (like Thai iced tea).

To make Vietnamese coffee, technically, you should use a Vietnamese coffee filter (Phin). I use a French Press because that’s what I have.

Vietnamese Coffee

  • Servings: Depends
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 Tablespoons of Vietnamese (robusta) coffee . If you have another coffee, use it and say you’re making coffee “in the style of” Vietnamese coffee. That’s what I usually do.
  • Vietnamese Phin-style coffee filter (or just use your French Press)
  • Sweetened condensed milk.

The right way: 

  1. Pour a bunch of sweetened condensed milk in your mug. Put the Phin over this mug.
  2. Next, put 3T coffee in your phin. (If you need an extra boost, just pack a pound in). Pour a couple tablespoons of boiling water onto the coffee to “bloom” it. This is an essential part of the process if you’re a coffee snob or want to impress people with the complexity of your coffee knowledge. Never skip this step if there’s anyone around to see you making coffee. Impress them by telling them you’re releasing gasses and preparing the coffee to take in the water.
  3. After your coffee’s bloomed and you’ve given a PhD lecture about it to anyone who stuck around, put the filter on the top loosely, and pour the water over it. Don’t forget to put it over your cup. This is a pour-over style drip coffee and it’s going right into your mug.
  4. When this coffee has dripped, you’ll have a beautiful layered drink which you can’t see unless you’re a food photographer and used a glass mug. Stir this sucker up and top with cinnamon.
  5. Savor.

Shortcut way:

Triple the recipe so you can fill your ginormous teacher thermos.

  1. Put the coffee in your french press.
  2. Add boiling water. Wait 4-6 minutes to press.
  3. Put in your big teacher thermos cup with a big glob of sweetened condensed milk. I sometimes add a bit of fresh cream to mine, too.
  4. Add cinnamon.
  5. Stir.
  6. Gulp.

Variations: Iced coffee

You can make this iced. Traditionally, it’s served along with a cup of ice. You pour your 6 oz of coffee over that ice. However, I do it this way: I make a TON of this, then put it in a mason jar in the fridge. Easy enough! This is a recipe that doesn’t have that “you were cheap and refrigerated your leftover coffee” feel. It tastes fresh, like you did that on purpose. It’s a great make-ahead for ice coffee fans.

COST: $  Vietnamese coffee isn’t expensive. It’s robusta coffee, the less expensive of the two main kinds of coffee (arabica costs more).

PRO TIP: I very much prefer “the shortcut way.”  “The right way” takes close to a half hour by which time I’m suffering caffeine deficiency. Also, my 20-oz French Press is way bigger than a 6 ounce phin. Yes, the phin looks way cooler–like a budget version of Japanese pour over coffee (if you master this, your’re on the road to enlightenment) but I can’t have a 6-ounce cup of coffee. Go big or go home on this one!


Thank you to the food truck that first exposed me to this drink. I’d credit you but cannot remember your name, only where you were at the town concert night.

Want some other coffee options? Here’s the “Be Your Own Barista” page with a list of the other beverages you should drink for an extra smile during your teaching day.


Photo credit: Fauzan on Unsplash