Sweetened condensed milk is the key to making Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee. It is rich, sweet and a cooling refresher on hot summer days.
After I figured out how to make dairy-free sweetened condensed milk without refined sugar, I couldn’t wait to try it in Vietnamese-style Iced Coffee.
I don’t dare to call this original or traditional Vietnamese iced coffee (ca phe sua da). My version is similar in that it uses sweetened condensed milk and strong brewed coffee as well. But my Vietnamese iced coffee is not half as sweet and maybe only half as strong as any iced coffee I have had in Vietnam.
Traditionally a ca phe phin is used to brew Vietnamese coffee. It’s similar to a pour over coffee. The phin sits on top of a cup, there is a compartment that holds the grinds and hot water is poured in on top. Then the coffee drips slooowwly, one drip at a time, through a built-in filter, right into the cup.
Just recently I learned, that the reason for Vietnamese coffee being so strong and bitter, is the use of Robusta coffee beans. While our North American palate is more used to the milder Arabica beans.
No wonder then, that usually one quarter to half as much sweetened condensed milk is stirred together with the strong coffee. This results in a very sweet beverage. In Vietnam it is often considered dessert.
I, however, like to sip away on my iced coffee to cool down on hot afternoons. So to make my Vietnamese-style Iced Coffee a little more refreshing, I use less sweetened condensed milk, more (not as bitter) coffee, and also add a splash of regular milk or half & half.
(These days I love brewing my coffee as a manual pour-over. Check out this guide I wrote about 7 ways to make GREAT coffee at home!)
Although not quite authentic, like this, Vietnamese iced coffee goes down a little easier. I could sip on it all summer long. And since I am in Thailand (with perpetual summer temperatures), it’s actually all year long.
Which brings me to the topic of Thai iced coffee (Oliang). It also is served with sweetened condensed milk. Just other day I had a traditional iced coffee from a street cart vendor – served Thai-style in a plastic bag.
The modern version simply uses instant coffee, but traditionally it is brewed in a coffee sock with coffee beans, corn, soy and sesame and more in the mix. The whole set up looked a little complicated and I can’t say I enjoyed it enough to justify the effort of recreating it at home. Especially not, if I can get it down the street for less than $1.
For home enjoyment, I’ll stick to my Vietnamese-style Iced Coffee with homemade sweetened condensed milk.
I posted my preferred ratio of sweetener, coffee and ice (and milk) below, but you can easily adjust to your own taste.
Regular sweetened condensed milk will work, of course, and feel free to substitute your favorite dairy-free creamer as well.
- 1-2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
- ⅓ cup (90 ml) strong brewed coffee
- milk or half & half to taste
- enough ice to fill a tall glass
- Fill sweetened condensed milk into a tall glass and top with ice.
- Pour in strong coffee and stir vigorously to combine and cool the coffee.
- Add (dairy-free) milk or half & half to taste. Enjoy!