What is a Vietnamese Coffee Phin?

I still remember the first time I had Vietnamese Coffee. It was a beautiful day after my piano class in Flushing, New York. We went to eat with family at a local Pho shop. I was tired at the time so I asked my mom if I could try a Vietnamese coffee. This is how I was introduced to the heavenly drink called Vietnamese Coffee or (cà phê sữa nóng).

The coffee was flavorful, sweet, and vicious, like nectar from the gods. It is made with condensed milk topped with dark drip coffee. You can make it with iced or just the condensed milk. Just stir up the mixture and you’re ready to enjoy this delicious drink. To make the iced version just pour the mixed coffee into a glass filled with ice.

A Vietnamese Coffee Phin is a metal coffee dripper this is put on top of a cup to brew coffee. It is like a combination of a french press and a drip coffee brewer. Phins are a traditional Vietnamese brewing method and make an amazing cup of coffee without any complex steps.

Today I will show you how you can make the perfect Vietnamese coffee using a Vietnamese phin filter at home with just a few simple tools and materials.

Traditional Vietnamese Coffee Phin

Phins are traditionally a metal coffee dripper with a filter that sits on top of a cup.

This method was used in Vietnam to make a deep, and complex coffee. This coffee is usually served with condensed milk to offset the deep coffee flavors.

This is because it is traditional Vietnamese coffee uses robusta beans which are darker and more bitter than arabica beans. Because of this, it makes it a perfect combination with condensed milk.

What makes up a Phin

Phins are a combination of french press and drip coffee. It has a round perforated plate of metal that is used to hold the dripper on top of a cup.

Then there is the brewing chamber which is a small cup with perforations on the bottom. This holds the coffee grounds and is similar to the brewing chamber of a drip coffee machine.

Next, there is the metal insert which traps the coffee grounds and is also perforated. You pour water on this and it prevents the grounds from floating up and lets the water flow down into the beans and drip out into your cup.

Last, there is the cap which conserves the head of the water while it drips through the Vietnamese phin.

The process for brewing Vietnamese coffee can take several minutes to make a single cup. You should use a cup with good thermal insulation to keep your coffee from getting too cold. A double-walled mug or cup is highly recommended. This also prevents you from burning yourself on the cup because the phin can get hot to the touch while brewing.

How to Make Vietnamese Coffee at Home with a Phin

You have to start with the right grind for the coffee. Try to grind your coffee beans to a medium-coarse ground coffee. Something you would use for a French Press coffee.

If it is too fine the grinds would fall through the stainless steel filter and get into your coffee.

As for the type of coffee beans any robusta coffee works and it would be best to avoid the arabica beans. This is because what we are looking for is the deep bitterness and nuttiness that will work well with the condensed milk. However, please enjoy your coffee however you like. You may actually prefer it with Arabica beans, and you won’t know until you try!

What you Need to Make Vietnamese Coffee

To make this delicious recipe at home you just need to get a few things.

  • Stainless steel coffee filter (Phin filter)
  • Condensed milk (Longevity brand is our favorite)
  • Any type of ground Vietnamese coffee
  • Gooseneck kettle prefered (any kettle will do)

For the coffee, you can use any coffee beans, but there is a staple Vietnamese coffee that we will recommend to you. Every American-born Vietnamese will swear by Café du Monde coffee from New Orleans. It is very good and makes a smooth, rich, and bold coffee.

Vietnamese coffee drippers are not expensive. If you are near an Asian supermarket you will be able to find these drippers in the appliance aisles and they should cost no more than $10 – $15.

You can purchase this Phin from amazon for only $10.99 with free shipping.

Why pay $5 to get Vietnamese coffee at your local Pho shop when you can make it at home as many times as you want with this one purchase?

It has a 4.5-star rating with over 700 reviews on amazon. Most of the reviews praise the ease of use and the great coffees you can make with this little dripper.

Step 1 – Start with the Condensed Milk

Add 2 tablespoons of the sweetened condensed milk into a cup or glass.

You can change this to suit your tastes and preferences. We suggest adding no more than 3 tables spoons.

Step 2 – Boil some water in a kettle

If you make a lot of v60 coffee you may have a gooseneck kettle. This may make the pouring easier, but any kettle will do. Electric kettles also work.

Step 3 – Preheat the Vietnamese phin and the cup

You can preheat the cup and the phin by pouring some warm water through the phin and into the cup. This helps with extraction and will help give you the flavors you want out of your coffee beans.

Step 4 – Fill the brewing chamber with coffee

I usually use 1 tablespoon of ground coffee when I make my Vietnamese coffee. You can experiment with the grounds, but this is what I found works best when I brew. This is around 4 teaspoons for those who don’t have tablespoons.

Step 5 – Place the metal insert on top of the coffee grounds

If you have the phin with a twist-on insert gently twist the metal insert until it gets a little tight. Otherwise, just place the insert on top of the coffee.

Step 6 – Set the brewing chamber and metal plate on a cup

Step 7 – Bloom the coffee by pouring a small amount of hot water over the grounds

If you don’t know what blooming is you can read this article I wrote about what coffee bloom is. A quick summary is there is CO2 trapped inside fresh coffee grounds and some hot water releases it and allows for better extraction of the coffee flavor.

Step 8 – Fill up the brewing chamber

This is the last step for brewing your Vietnamese coffee. Fill up the phin with hot water and it should start dripping. It should drip for 3 – 5 minutes and if it ever runs low on water and you need to brew more coffee add more water. You can adjust the strength of the coffee by how tight your metal insert is so if it looks like it’s brewing light you can tighten your coffee grounds. If it’s not dripping through you may have to loosen them up.

Step 9 – Mix with your condensed milk and enjoy

You’ve earned it! Vietnamese coffee is a unique and tasty way to enjoy a cup of coffee. Savor this taste because Vietnamese coffee is awesome!

Wrapping Up

A Vietnamese Phin is a metal coffee dripper that combines the strengths of both the french press and a V60 brewer. It brews strong delicious coffee simply with tools everyone has at home.

There are many ways to enjoy coffee and Vietnamese coffee is just one of them. If you want to learn more ways you can brew your coffee click here to read the article.


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