Many countries have a coffee culture centred on espresso-based drinks, but not Vietnam.
If you have been to Vietnam, or even just your local Vietnamese restaurant, you will have seen the famous coffee filters that dominate the local coffee scene.
Called a ‘phin’ these nifty little gadgets are the backbone of Vietnamese coffee culture. Millions of cups a day are served on Vietnam’s streets with this simple yet effective brewing method.
The beauty of this traditional coffee brewing method is its simplicity. With a Vietnamese coffee filter worth a couple of dollars and a bit of know-how about how this method works, you can enjoy Vietnamese coffee at home.
Let’s take a closer look at how the famous Vietnamese coffee filter works and how to use it for the best results.
A Simple and Elegant Coffee Brewing Solution
Simplicity is at the core of Vietnamese coffee. When coffee was first introduced to Vietnam by French colonizers, there was no hope of an espresso machine or even fresh milk for making popular European coffee drinks.
The solution is the ‘phin’ a small aluminum coffee filter that is so simple to use that it can be done at the ubiquitous street stalls all over Vietnam.
The phin consists of the following:
- Main chamber/body
- Base dripper
Using a phin to make a traditional Vietnamese coffee couldn’t be any easier.
Mixing coffee with condensed milk is a holdover from times when fresh milk wasn’t readily available, but is now such a part of this coffee style that it is indispensable. Many think the sweetness of the condensed milk balances the strong Robusta beans used in Vietnamese coffee.
First, fit the phin body to the base dripper and place it on a scale. You will find the perfect amount to add with experimentation but we generally recommend 20g of coffee per serving.
Next, add 30ml of boiled water once it’s cooled down to about 92-96 °C and wait for 60 seconds. After the bloom you can tamp the coffee down lightly with a damper and move the phin filter onto your cup.
Next, it’s time to pour 50ml of water over the coffee and add a lid on top of the filter.
Now you can sit back and watch coffee gently drip down into the glass below. When you believe most water has filtered through, remove the lid and place it on the table.
Transfer the phin and base dripper onto the lid to catch any final drops.
If you want, you can add ice, milk, sugar or condensed milk to your cup and enjoy the aromas!
Which Coffee Beans to Use?
Vietnamese coffee is not just different for the brewing method. It also uses the far less popular Robusta bean.
Arabica is the darling of the Western coffee world and is what you are most familiar with.
Robusta gets a bad rap for its intense flavour profile. This isn’t helped by a tendency for cheaper Robusta to be over-roasted.
On the streets of Vietnam, a cup of coffee can be as cheap as 10 000VND (40 cents). These cheap brews typically use cheap, mass-produced Robusta beans with little quality control.
The easy way to upgrade your Vietnamese coffee is to use higher quality coffee that has been roasted to perfection, highlighting the intense flavours of the Robusta bean.
Belvico is a producer of Vietnamese coffee dedicated to quality.
In stark contrast to mass-produced Robusta coffee, Belvico works directly with local producers to choose only the best beans and then roasts them in our own facility to ensure quality.
An Amazing Coffee Culture
As you may have noticed, Vietnamese coffee is not as fast as espresso, or even other pour-over methods.
This slow and deliberate pace is a feature of the Vietnamese coffee culture. This serenity stands in stark contrast with the typical Vietnamese town or city’s organised chaos.
For millions of coffee drinkers across the country, the slow drip of coffee into their cup is a time to relax and take in the world.
Go ahead and try this brewing method for yourself at home and capture the essence of Vietnamese coffee culture for yourself.