What's a Phin? Here's Our Guide to Using a Vietnamese Coffee Filter

Coffee cups with phins

Vietnamese iced coffee, or cà phê sữa đá, is currently having its moment in the limelight. You can find this refreshing drink all over the world, from large coffee chains to the smallest and trendiest cafes. But how can you make a truly authentic Vietnamese iced coffee at home? All you need is a phin and some robusta coffee beans. 

Here’s everything you need to know about a phin, how to use it, and Lan’s family Vietnamese iced coffee recipe using a phin.

What is a Phin?

A phin is a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter that has been used for centuries. It is one of the most convenient brewing tools, and it ensures you’ll get to enjoy a flavor-packed cup of coffee. The best way to describe a phin is as a mix between a pour-over and drip coffeemaker. It is traditionally made of metal and typically consists of two parts: a brewing chamber and a filter press. 

Coffee made with phin
Picture courtesy of Pixaby​​

How to Brew Vietnamese Coffee Using a Phin

Before you begin to even brew your coffee, you have to first make sure you’re using the right coffee beans. Sure, you can use arabica beans, but if you want to get that quintessential Vietnamese coffee taste, you MUST use dark roast robusta coffee beans. Robusta beans have a higher caffeine content and a bold, earthy flavor – perfect if you like a strong coffee.

Now with that out of the way, you can start using the phin! First, place the phin filter on top of your cup or coffee pot, and then add the ground coffee beans. For the best brew, we recommend you use medium ground coffee, anything too fine will lead to residue in your cup. 

After that, set the filter press inside the chamber, and evenly pour hot water all the way to the top of the brewing chamber. Remember not to press down too tightly as the hot water and gravity will tamp down the coffee.

Let the coffee brew and drip down into your cup. Once it’s all done, you will be left with a potent black Vietnamese coffee that can be used as a blank canvas to prepare other types of Vietnamese coffee

How to Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee With a Phin

As you can probably tell, preparing a classic cà phê sữa đá using a phin is super easy. In fact, we have a feeling you’ll soon become a “phiend”! Here’s Lan’s step-by-step guide on preparing the best Vietnamese iced coffee the traditional way. 

This recipe is for a single serving, which is about 4oz. 

  1. Set up your phin on top of your cup/coffee pot

  2. Put 2 tablespoons (about 14 grams) of ground coffee in the brewing chamber and place the filter press on top

  3. Boil water to 195-200℉

  4. Pour a little bit of water (about 0.8oz or just enough to cover the filter press) to let the coffee bloom for 30 seconds

  5. Then fill the phin with water 

  6. As the coffee brews, it will slowly drip down the filter and into the cup. This will take about 3-5 minutes

  7. After that, add 1 tablespoon of condensed milk, and a dash of milk, top it with lots of ice, and enjoy your authentic Vietnamese iced coffee!

Or you can just skip these steps and grab a can of SANG 😉 

Should You Use a Phin Filter? 

In short – yes! You should most definitely be using a phin to brew your coffee. If you’re in search of a new coffee brewing tool, phins are an excellent choice. Not only do they make a strong cup of coffee, but they're also sustainable, eco-friendly, and great for travel. 

At SANG, we love phins. This tool has been used for centuries, and it hasn’t changed much since its inception, which only adds to its charm. However, what makes a phin so special is the ritualistic aspect of making coffee. It gives you a few minutes for yourself to just enjoy this process, while also getting to experience a long-standing Vietnamese tradition.