How To Use a Vietnamese Coffee Maker: An Easy Phin Filter Guide

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Vietnamese coffee is actually one of the easiest coffees to make yourself, and the equipment is incredibly cheap. Whether you drink it hot and strong or cold and sweet, you’ll want to reproduce it at home once you’ve tasted this dark roasted Robusta street coffee.

In this article, I’ll show you how to use a Vietnamese coffee maker in just a few short steps. We’ll also cover a few tricks for getting the best brew from your Vietnamese coffee maker (also called a phin filter).

How to Brew Vietnamese Coffee in a Phin

Learning how to use a Vietnamese coffee maker is simple, but you need patience. For brewing a delicious, well-balanced cup of Vietnamese coffee, this is what I do:

  1. Grind 2–3 tablespoons (25g) of coarse-ground coffee, preferably a dark-roast Robusta.
  2. Drop the grinds into the coffee filter and screw the filter screen in place. You’ll need to experiment to find the right balance of filter pressure for your grind.
  3. Position the filter over a cup or glass.
  4. Wet the grinds as a pre-infusion stage by pouring a little boiling water into the coffee maker. Let it sit for about one minute until all the water has finished dripping through.
  5. Fill the coffee maker to the top with boiling water and place the lid on top.
  6. Let it sit, slowly dripping through the metal filter into the glass or cup below.
  7. Remove the filter once the water has stopped dripping.
  8. Enjoy!

(If you don’t have a phin yet, I suggest this one)

Tip: If you’re a Baratza Encore burr coffee grinder fan, then set it to a 15–18 grind size. If it drips too slowly, increase it to 20.

How Fast Should Vietnamese Coffee Drip?

You don’t want the water pouring through too fast, as this will make a weak coffee. You also don’t want to wait for too long for the water to drip through.

The boiling water should drip through your Vietnamese coffee filter for between 4 and 5 minutes. If it is faster than that, then your grind is too coarse. Less than 4 minutes, and you need to make your grind slightly coarser.

Part of the magic of using a Vietnamese coffee filter is the relaxed wait as the water passes slowly through the coffee grounds. There’s an expectation that builds as it extracts all the richness and flavor that the beans have to offer.

All you need to do is wait for the extraction process to finish.

Once it’s done, you’ll have a tasty filter coffee just the way they do in Vietnam – add some milk, add some water or drink it just as it is.

Making Iced Vietnamese Coffee

The cold coffee variation is a more popular drink. It was created in the mid-1800s when fresh milk was not available. So sweetened condensed milk was used instead, and a tradition was born.

Add sweetened condensed milk

To make Vietnamese iced coffee, follow the steps above with the addition of 30 ml of sweetened condensed milk to your glass or mug, either before brewing or afterward.

Once the coffee stops dripping, give it a gentle stir to mix in the condensed milk before pouring it over a large glass of ice.

Cleaning The Vietnamese Dripper

Give it a rinse under hot water or pop it in the dishwasher as it’s dishwasher safe.

It’s a sustainable way to brew your coffee as there are no filters needed. That means no filter paper to throw away. There’s also not a lot of mess to clean up afterward.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Vietnamese coffee?

Vietnamese coffee, known as Phin Café, is any coffee prepared by a phin coffee filter. Variations are known as “ca phe den da” (iced black coffee) and “ca phe sua da” (iced coffee with condensed milk), and each has a unique flavor. It’s most commonly prepared by street vendors and is cheap yet delicious.

What coffee beans should I use for Vietnamese coffee?

A dark-roasted Robusta (preferably a Vietnamese robusta coffee) is the minimum requirement. But you’re not going to get the same traditional and authentic flavor without using Vietnamese-roasted coffee beans. They roast with butter, which gives the coffee a fuller flavor.

Is a Phin the same as a French press?

The Phin coffee maker is closer to a drip coffee maker than a French press. The French press uses immersion rather than gravity to produce coffee, putting it in a different category of coffee makers altogether.

Is Phin coffee stronger?

Phin coffee is extremely strong when consumed in Vietnam. This has as much to do with the blend as it does with the design of the filter. The slow process produces a concentrated coffee with complex flavors.

Can you drink Vietnamese coffee hot?

Vietnamese coffee is prepared hot and is served either hot or cold, depending on your preference. You may want to try tweaking the amount of condensed milk differently for hot or cold Vietnamese coffee, though.

Why does Vietnamese coffee take so long?

The boiling water is pulled through the coffee filter under gravity. This movement of water causes a slight vacuum, slowing the flow. There is some degassing as the hot water heats the coffee, which creates upward pressure.

How do you tighten a Vietnamese coffee filter?

It’s important not to tighten the top filter too tight. The trick is to screw the filter down until it is snug up against the coffee grounds, then back the filter off one full turn. That way, the coffee has room to expand.

What’s Next?

Despite its simplicity, learning how to use a Vietnamese coffee maker takes practice to achieve perfect results. And if you have a sweet tooth, the condensed milk-sweetened iced coffee is a treat worth the wait. Just be sure to pick up a good grinder, as stale coffee grounds can ruin your newfound treat.

If you want something a bit less traditional than condensed milk, you can always try some healthy coffee sweeteners or even a good frothing milk. The strong taste of the Robusta beans pairs well with most of those options, but it’s not the easiest coffee to drink black.

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