Cheap DIY: Vietnamese Cà phê sữa đá

If you’re already a fan, then you already know – Vietnamese coffee is some of the best in the world. If you aren’t familiar with Vietnamese coffee (cà phê) and you love coffee, this is something you must try.

Cà phê sữa đá
There are a couple of problems, however. Vietnamese coffee is typically only offered in, well, Vietnamese restaurants. If you don’t happen to be convenient to your favorite pho shop when the jones kicks in, you’re pretty much out of luck. Add to that the average $3 price tag and this gets to be a pricey habit.

So I’ll try to take the mystery out of making cà phê yourself – it’s not hard and you’ll save big bucks in the process. There are two drinks I’m going to focus on: cà phê sữa nóng (warm coffee with milk) and cà phê sữa đá (iced coffee with milk). They’re the same thing, one just has – ice…

All you need

The setup requires a few special, but easy to find and inexpensive, items to get started. I picked up everything at the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market. I spent less than $14 and estimate the average cost per cup to be about $0.20!

Trung Nguyen coffee – You can use any coffee with a French press grind, but you’ll be missing out. In addition to Arabica and Robusta beans, Trung Nguyen includes Chari and Catimor as well. The beans are roasted in butter oil and a small amount of cocoa is added.

Cà phê phin – this is the simple drip filter used in Vietnamese restaurants. Again, you could use a French press, or even a drip coffee maker.

Ca Phe Phin

Sweetened condensed milk – if you can find Longevity brand, it’s traditional. Otherwise, any sweetened condensed milk will do – be sure there are no fillers, though (read the label). (Note: you don’t need to refrigerate after opening – this is what has encouraged its use in the hot climate of SE Asia).

Now that you have everything you need, the rest is simple.

  1. Place 1 tablespoon of coffee in the bottom of the phin. Make sure that it’s evenly distributed and place the filter insert on top (some of these screw down, others just sit on top of the coffee).
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk to the cup (not the phin!).
  3. Place the phin on top of a cup and add a little hot water to swell the grinds. Wait about 15 seconds, then fill to the top.
  4. The water should drip through in about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir together the coffee and milk.



Drink it straight and you have cà phê sữa nóng. Pour over ice and you’ve got cà phê sữa đá.



You’ve just saved $2.80!


  1. Good stuff. When you say you bought everything at BHFM, does that include the cà phê phin as well? I love Vietnamese coffee and it never occurred to me to try making it at home!

  2. Yes it does – the phin’s are right next to the coffee on the Viet aisle. I usually find Longevity condensed milk on one of the metal racks facing the freezer section (dumplings, etc.). I believe they have a couple of options (plastic, metal). I actually made a pot in the Bunn coffee maker in my office today – needs a bit of tweaking, but it works great (and better than that Charbucks crap we normally brew).

  3. Awesome. Thanks! I may just make the trip up there to grab myself a ‘starter kit’ this weekend.

  4. Hi there-

    Sorry to ask a stupid question, but where exactly on Buford Highway is the BHFM? We used to live in the area (Chamblee) and I don’t remember this particular market. We moved away from Atlanta 4 years ago and will be back in a few weeks. As we’ve been in Vietnam, we have 2 of the coffee makers and are happy to know we can find the Trung Nguyen brand in ATL.

    I was thinking the DeKalb Farmers Market may also have TN coffee as well.

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