Ever had Vietnamese coffee before?
It’s a trip, both in terms of history and flavor, and it’s unlike any of the other ways that we enjoy coffee from around the world.
Every nation has their own spin on the world’s favorite beverage, but none do it just like the Vietnamese.
Vietnamese coffee isn’t something that you tamper with: you follow it to a tee, and enjoy it just like it is if you want the true authentic taste.
It’s time to take a flavor trip, and as a bonus, we’re even going to teach you how to make the best Vietnamese coffee at home.
What is the Story Behind Vietnamese Coffee?
Not many people know this, but Vietnam is one of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world.
Brazil gets all the credit because of their output and geographical location, but you’ll end up with some of the best coffee from Vietnam.
Initially, in 1857, this was the work of French plantations.
There are very similar flavors in French coffee and Vietnamese coffee (the bean), which is why Vietnamese coffee beans may be thrown into French roasts without negatively impacting or altering the flavor in any way.
There’s not much factual, hard-hitting information behind why the Vietnamese started adding sweetened condensed milk into their coffee, but it’s believed that it was for a bit of a boost for coffee farmers, and the idea just stuck.
What is Different About Vietnamese Coffee?
They’re grown the same way as other coffee plants, they’re harvested the same way as other coffee plants, but there’s a distinct difference in how a cup of Vietnamese coffee is prepared.
First and foremost, there’s a different filtration method. Because Vietnamese coffee beans were initially planted by the French, the standard way to prepare coffee has always been through a French press.
But there’s a different way that they go about it in Vietnam. They use a different filter that extracts more of the coffee flavor. You get a thicker, stronger brew.
So the coffee comes out thicker, but before it’s served to you, your coffee is mixed in with sweetened condensed milk. This is what gives Vietnamese coffee a very sweet flavor, and what changes the color so drastically.
Sweetened condensed milk is thick, so it’s usually spooned into hot coffee and stirred around until it melts and melds with the coffee.
However, since sweetened condensed milk can be stored at room temperature until it’s opened, you can also mix it into iced coffee (before you add the ice), and mix it in that way.
How do You Make Vietnamese Coffee?
To make basic Vietnamese coffee, you need a French press, medium coarseness grinds (best to grind on your own), and a can of sweetened condensed milk.
1. Grind your coffee beans. If you hunt down pre-ground medium coarse coffee grinds, it’s going to take a while. You can use an inexpensive manual coffee grinder without investing too much in this coffee variety.
2. Use a Vietnamese coffee filter or a French press. This method is all up to you, but please try to avoid a standard coffee drip filter system. These can get clogged up and oversaturate medium coarse coffee grinds. It just doesn’t come out as strong.
3. Give the black coffee a little taste test to ensure it’s nice and strong. Some of that strength is going to be cut by our next step, and we don’t want to lose that coffee flavor. If coffee is too weak, consider letting it steep for longer in your French press or Vietnamese filter.
4. In your mug, place two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk for every 6 fl oz of coffee you plan on putting in. This will be some trial and error until you find what works for your preferences, but two tablespoons is a good starting point.
5. Pour coffee straight into the cup, and gently mix the condensed milk around until the colors disappear and meld into your coffee. Let it sit for one minute to ensure everything mixes well together, then drink.
That’s the basic way to get it done without going crazy. But if you want to doctor it up a bit, these are a few things you can do to spice things up a bit.
- Add Nutmeg: For a winter twist on your Vietnamese coffee, you can add some nutmeg right into the medium coarse grinds. For every one ounce of grinds you have, I would add in a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg to get a really strong and seasonal flavor. Since most French presses hold about two to three ounces of grinds, you’re using less than a teaspoon for the entire thing.
- Peppercorns: This isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you want something that’s truly unique, this is just the ticket. You can throw some whole peppercorns in with your grinds when you place them in the Vietnamese filter or French press, and you’ll make something that I can guarantee you’ve never tasted before.
- Whipped Cream: One favorite American method of making iced coffee (which you can do with Vietnamese coffee) is adding whipped cream into the bottom of the cup before stirring. You could do the very same thing with traditional Vietnamese coffee to lighten up the taste.
- Espresso: Grind up some espresso beans to make up about ⅓ of your overall grind volume for some added kick. The whole point of espresso beans is to prepare them in a pressurized space, but you can still get some of that light-roasted flavor while maintaining a strong consistency.
- Ice Cream: If you really want a decadent Vietnamese coffee, you could always consider adding a small scoop of ice cream alongside the sweetened condensed milk. This is going to work better on larger cups of coffee, otherwise you could end up with 30% of your cup being dairy. The good thing about this is that you can try multiple flavors of ice cream to switch it up.
- Ginger: Ginger is used in a lot of classic Vietnamese recipes, and while it adds a bitter kick, some people prefer their coffee that way. This is a healthy little boost to your coffee if you use freshly ground ginger.
Why is Vietnamese Coffee so Sweet?
Traditionally, sweetened condensed milk is what goes into Vietnamese coffee to give it that sugar rush feeling. There’s a high volume of sugar in sweetened condensed milk, which we’ll cover more in-depth in a minute.
There’s condensed milk, and then there’s sweetened condensed milk, and it’s important to make that distinction if you’re planning on making it at home.
Condensed milk does have sugar in it, because milk inherently has sugar in it, but without the added bit, it’s just not Vietnamese coffee.
Is Vietnamese Coffee Fattening?
Yes, traditional Vietnamese coffee can be very fattening if you drink more than one cup per day (and in some cases, more than three cups in a week will also expand that waistline).
We’re not trashing traditional Vietnamese coffee (because it is delicious), but the nutritional facts speak for themselves. Coffee does not inherently have many calories.
In a single 8 fl oz cup of black coffee, you may find as little as 4 calories, and as many as 9. That’s virtually nothing on the average 2,000 calories diet suggestion.
The fattening part comes directly from the sweetened condensed milk. In a single ounce, you can find 3.3 grams of fat, 21 grams of carbs, and 21 grams of sugar.
For some context on just how much sugar that is, there are 44 grams of sugar in an entire can of Coca-Cola.
That means once you’ve ingested about 2.1 fl oz of sweetened condensed milk, you’ve drunk the sugar equivalent of a can of Coke.
Sugar is the number one ingredient that causes fat. Actual fat, such as that 3.3 grams I just talked about, isn’t what actually adds fat to your body.
In most instances, your body needs fat: it’s something to burn for energy, which is what mankind was doing before we had added sugar in everything under the sun.
If you had one 8 fl oz cup of coffee and added 2 fl oz of sweetened condensed milk, and had one cup every day, that’s 10.1 oz of sugar every single week, and a total of 1,109 calories per week.
Time to Try it a Different Way
It’s unique, it’s fantastic, and you probably didn’t come into this article assuming that everything for Vietnamese coffee was available from the supermarket shelves.
Take a quick trip down the lane, grab what you need, and find your new favorite way to enjoy the morning grind (get it?).