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Vietnamese Iced Coffee (cà phê đá)

The standard question from my husband when we were too tired lazy to cook is where to go eat. My reply is always: "How about Vietnamese or Japanese food?"

One of the restaurants we frequented when we were DINKS (Double Income No Kids) is a place on Main Street called "Cambie Vietnamese" (odd name since Cambie Street is the next major street west of Main Street). The restaurant owner is very friendly and upon stepping into his restaurant, he will call out "Hello my friend". Nothing beats a warm greeting, especially when you are hungry.

It was here where I had my first sip of Vietnamese iced coffee. Funny thing is, for someone who loves food, I'm not very adventurous. I always order the same thing until someone convinces me otherwise. It was my adventurous husband who ordered the Vietnamese iced coffee since he saw a gentleman order one at another table. Looking at the $3 price tag, I told him to order only one so that we can share.

The owner came to our table with two glasses. One glass had the coffee/condensed milk mixture and the other glass was filled with ice. We quickly figured out that you pour the ice (slowly) into the coffee mixture.

I was allowed the honorary first sip, and in the process, I had inadvertently drank 1/3 of the glass. It was heaven as the iced coffee tasted like a cookies and creme frappuccino. For all you coffee addicts, this recipe is a must try. I could drink this every day!

However, the cost of having a $3 iced coffee every day was not in my budget so I set out to make my own Vietnamese iced coffee. It turns out that Vietnamese iced coffee is relatively simple to make as you only need three things: Vietnamese coffee press, Vietnamese coffee and condensed milk (well, four, if you count ice).

The hardest part for me was knowing which brand of Vietnamese coffee to buy. As I was lurking the aisles at the Vietnamese grocery store, I saw an Asian gentleman pick up a couple boxes of Trung Nguyen coffee. I figured this is likely a good brand to buy as I was too shy to ask him. (I have since found out that Trung Nguyen is a very popular brand in Vietnam)

If in doubt, look at what others are buying, or ask for help.
When I got home, I brewed my coffee in the coffee press and added the condensed milk and ice. It tasted just like the one I had at the restaurant but at a fraction of the price!

Without further ado, here is the recipe for you to try at home. You'll likely get as addicted to this as I did four years ago. It is a nice refreshing drink on a hot summer day. Alternatively, you can also enjoy this drink hot (without adding ice) in the winter time.

Sweetened Condensed Milk, Vietnamese Coffee, and Coffee Press

Special Equipment
Vietnamese coffee press

1-1/2 tbsp to 2 tbsp Vietnamese coffee, such as Trung Nguyen
2 to 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk (do not use evaporated milk - see tip below)
Ice cubes

1. Spoon condensed milk into a tall glass.

Sweetened condensed milk, oh my goodness.
2. Take the gravity insert or screw down filter out of the brew chamber. Add the Vietnamese ground coffee to the brew chamber. Tap the side of the brew chamber lightly to settle the coffee. Then, place the gravity insert inside the brew chamber so that it sits on top of the coffee.

Place the gravity filter on top of the ground coffee then add water.

3. Place both the brew chamber and saucer on top of the glass.

4. Fill the brew chamber with boiling hot water (96 to 100 degrees C) so the water fills up to the brim.

5. Place the lid on top of the brew chamber. Adjust the brew chamber (do not lift but gently twist the brew chamber slightly) so that the coffee drips slowly (about 3 to 5 drops per second). Note: you do not want the coffee to drip too fast as it will not have enough time to steep and will impart a weaker flavor.

Rotate the brew chamber slightly to control the rate the coffee drips. You want 3-5 drops per second.

6. Once the coffee stops dripping, remove the brew chamber and saucer from the glass.

7. Fill the remainder of the glass with ice cubes.

Add ice, or leave it out to drink it hot.

8. Stir with a straw until all of the condensed milk is mixed in.

9. Sip and repeat until finished.
Stir, stir, stir. Add more condensed milk if you like it sweeter.

  • You can substitute Vietnamese coffee with dark roast ground coffee. Just know the taste will be slightly different. It is worth seeking out Vietnamese coffee for this recipe.
  • You can also brew the coffee in a regular coffee press or a coffee maker. You want a strong concentrated brew (think espresso).
  • If serving the drink hot, do not add ice and use a small coffee cup.
  • Adjust the ingredients to your liking: more or less coffee and/or condensed milk

  • The Vietnamese coffee press is available in two styles: gravity insert or screw down filter. The gravity filter is the easier one to use (which I have) but others prefer the screw down. With the gravity filter, you would place it on top of the ground coffee. The screw down requires a little more effort to screw in the filter. Hand washing is recommended but I have put my Vietnamese coffee press through the dishwasher (read the instructions included in your coffee press). 

Clockwise from top left: lid, brew chamber, saucer and gravity filter.

Brew chamber and saucer. See those holes? It controls the rate the coffee drips.
  • In 2013, Trung Nguyen had a recall in Canada related to undeclared milk in some of their coffees. 
  • Please contact the manufacturers and read the labels to ensure the products do not contain any allergens you are allergic to.
Source: Frugal Allergy Mom

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