What is Vietnamese Iced Coffee? Here’s Our Guide to Cà Phê Sữa Đá

Vietnamese phin filter

From the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City to large international coffee chains, people all over the world are obsessed with Vietnamese iced coffee. Cà phê sữa đá (its local name) is a strong, sweet, and ultra-refreshing drink, that will quickly become your go-to coffee order. 

But what makes Vietnamese iced coffee so special and where/how can you get a taste of this ngon (delicious) bev? Here’s the SANG guide to a classic cà phê sữa đá.

So, What is Vietnamese Iced Coffee?

The million-dollar question. Vietnam is brewing (😉) with loads of specialty coffees, and if you’re a coffee lover, you HAVE to visit because you’re virtually guaranteed a great cup of coffee, regardless of whether you’re in a remote village or a large city. 

Vietnamese iced coffee has a long history and is deeply rooted in Viet culture, but unlike other traditional coffees, making it is pretty straightforward– although you do need some patience. If you’re wondering what’s in this Vietnamese coffee, the answer is in its name. Cà phê sữa đá literally translates to “coffee, milk, ice”, and the magic happens in the way it’s prepared.

How to Make Vietnamese Iced Coffee

One of the best things about a cà phê sữa đá is that you get an incredibly delicious drink for minimal effort. You just need to combine phin-dripped coffee with condensed milk and top it with ice and a splash of milk. However, there are a couple of things that are non-negotiable for its preparation.

1. The Coffee

Sure, you can use any type of ground coffee, but to get that authentic flavor, opt for dark roast robusta coffee from Vietnam. Robusta coffee has a depth and strength to it that you can never get with arabica coffee beans. Robusta beans also give a bold and nutty taste, that perfectly complements the sweet condensed milk. 

Coffee beans in cup
Picture courtesy of Unsplash​​

2. The Condensed Milk

AKA sweetened condensed milk is a staple in Asian households. This thick and sweet milk product is delicious in tea, coffee, and desserts. The origins of condensed milk date back to the 1800s, and it was used as a substitute when fresh milk was not available. Don’t even think about swapping this for milk & sugar, it won’t taste anything like a cà phê sữa đá, and you’ll definitely feel the wrath of Viet mẹs (moms).

3. The Phin

Have you ever wondered why Vietnamese iced coffee is so strong? Well, that’s because of the robusta beans and the Vietnamese phin. This is a stainless steel filter that sits on top of a cup with condensed milk. The ground coffee is placed into the filter, pressed down, hot water is poured over and the coffee slowly drips down. This Vietnamese drip coffee isn’t only used in a cà phê sữa đá, but it’s also the base for other specialty coffees like Vietnamese egg coffee– think of it as a (flavorful) blank canvas.

Phin filter on cup
Picture courtesy of Pexels​​

Recipe for Vietnamese Iced Coffee 

Fun fact: you can never have the same cà phê sữa đá twice (unless it’s a can of SANG ofc) because it all depends on the condensed milk to coffee ratio. The beauty of this drink is that every person makes it differently and you don’t have to be too precise on the measurements, we recommend you measure with the heart– it always ends up tasting waaay better. Also, jazz it up any way you like, you can top it off with a splash of your favorite milk, or add a dash of cinnamon, just go wild!

Where to Buy Vietnamese Coffee 

There are loads of ground Vietnamese coffee brands that you can buy online, but if you want to try an authentic cà phê sữa đá, try SANG. 

We have a collection of authentic ready-to-drink iced Vietnamese coffee. All you need to do is crack open a cold one and take a sip of this delish tradition. Our canned coffees come in five fiery flavors with both dairy and non-dairy options. 

SANG Traditional and SANG with Oatmilk is our take on a traditional cà phê sữa đá, but if you’re a fan of Vietnamese lattes, be sure to try our Saigon Cinnamon Latte and Saigon Cinnamon with Oatmilk to add a jolt of brightness to your day.