We confess, our favorite version of Southeast Asian coffee is this Vietnamese iced coffee, flavored with sweetened condensed milk. You’ll find it served in restaurants and also at street stalls. If you’re having Southeast Asian coffee first thing in the morning, you might want to drink it hot, with no ice. As the day warms up, the iced version becomes irresistible, on its own or to finish off a meal.–Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
LC Well Worth the Wait Note
Bear with us for a brief history lesson: Coffee came to southeast Asia during colonial times, introduced by the French and grown in the mountains of Indochina, er, Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia. As Alford and Duguid describe it, the preferred cuppa is bracing, hot, thick, and smoky, brewed in an individual Vietnamese coffee filter stacked atop each cup or sturdy glass and designed to force boiling water to slowly, slowly drip through the grounds. Sweetened condensed milk, as the story goes, came into play because fresh milk was a little too perishable to be practical in this climate—either that or the French simply sneered at goat milk. Anyways, the cloyingly sweet tinned pantry staple worked like a charm, especially with the robust coffee mixed with chicory that was common in the colonies (not to mention New Orleans). You can see where we’re going with this. Just stir a little gooey sweet goodness into any strongly brewed iced coffee or espresso, regardless of whether it’s hot-brewed, cold-brewed, or Vietnamese-brewed, and succumb.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
- Quick Glance
- 5 M
- 15 M
- Serves 4
- 12 to 16 ice cubes
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk, at room temperature
- 3 cups hot, strongly brewed coffee or espresso, or, if using the filter-and-drip method, about 4 rounded tablespoons ground coffee (try making this with a robust chicory coffee, such as Café du Monde, and you won’t regret it.)
- 1. Place 3 or 4 ice cubes and a long-handled spoon in each of four tall glasses.
- 2. Pour 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk in each of four small cups and then pour in some coffee.
- 3. Vietnamese iced coffee calls for some pageantry, so set in front of each person a tall glass of ice cubes a spoon, a small cup of coffee, and a small spoon. Instruct your guests to stir the coffee thoroughly with the small spoon while it’s still quite hot (otherwise the condensed milk won’t dissolve so well). Then instruct them to pour the coffee over the back of the spoon and into the tall glass. (The long-handled spoon will prevent the hot liquid from shattering the glass.) Stir it briskly, making an agreeable clatter with the ice cubes.
- 4. Sip slowly.
Filter-and-Drip Variation (as in the above photo)
- Place 3 or 4 ice cubes in each of four squat glasses.
- Pour 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk into each glass.
- Place a small Vietnamese metal coffee filter on top of each glass, fill it with a heaping tablespoon ground coffee or espresso, then pour in enough almost-boiling water to nearly reach the rim of the filter. Place the lid of the filter in place. Now wait. The coffee ought to drip, rather than stream, through the filter, taking anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. When done, instruct everyone at the table to remove the filter from the glass and stir briskly.
- Sip slowly.
Recipe Testers Reviews
I’ve only had one iced coffee drink that I enjoyed since I normally only like my hot and black. This was really refreshing though. I made some for my daughter and myself as an after-dinner treat. Great for a hot summer night. I’ll be making this again. Very easy and refreshing.
A very straightforward, simple recipe. I ground some wood-smoked coffee beans and made very strong coffee. Since I wasn’t making espresso, I felt the coffee needed to be quite strong to offset the sweetness of the milk. A fun way to end a meal and a nice touch to have the guests pour the coffee over the spoon into the glass. This is a perfect sweet treat on a hot summer evening. This is also delicious served hot. I would avoid any temptation to use other types of milk, it just would not be the same!
This tastes better than the so-called iced coffees from the various chains out there. It’s very easy to make and extremely delicious. It’s also excellent hot or cold, however, nothing beats it cold with lots of ice on a hot day. Better than iced tea in my opinion! I’ll continue to make this regularly.
Since I usually drink my coffee, whether hot or cold, black without sugar, I wasn’t so sure I’d like this. Boy was I wrong! It’s creamy, sweet, and rich without the heaviness of cream. What a delight. It’s the perfect sweet pick-me-up treat to cool off with. And making a small ritual out of serving the coffee separately from the ice and having your guests blend the two at the table is fun.
I LOVE ca phe sua da. Although I much prefer the cold version, the hot version is nice if you’re in a colder climate. It’s such a simple recipe that you can almost serve it as a dessert if you want something simple at the end of a meal. It’s important to note the use of small cups for the coffee. Anything bigger and there wouldn’t be enough condensed milk. Also, the coffee has to be very strong. If you use regularly brewed coffee, you don’t get the full flavors of ca phe sua da. If you use chicory coffee, the bitterness is mellowed nicely by the sweetened condensed milk. I used the Vietnamese drip cup, a French press, and a coffee maker. For ease of use and making enough so everyone gets their coffee at the same time, I’ve found the French press to be the best option.
I love the taste and the whole experience of stirring your own coffee, thus allowing you to further smell the aromas!
The Vietnamese iced coffee I’ve made in the past requires using a special filter, and the coffee takes seemingly forever to pass through. This recipe gets results more quickly. I actually used slightly less condensed milk per serving than the recipe calls for, more like 1 1/2 tablespoons, but this of course will vary according to personal taste. My suggestion would be to first add the condensed milk to the coffee, rather than the other way around, in order to figure out what your desired sweetness level is. I also tend to add ice after combining the condensed milk and coffee as it’s easier to dissolve condensed milk that way. Regardless, this makes for a lovely treat on a hot summer day.
This is delicious for a nice brunch. It does need strong coffee, so espresso works great, but if you don’t have an espresso machine just make your coffee really strong—a bold, rich-bodied coffee like a French roast works well. I simplified the recipe a bit by letting the coffee cool just a bit, then pouring it into a pitcher with a long handled spoon (this DOES work to keep a glass pitcher from cracking) and then adding the condensed milk. I whisked it to make sure it was blended, then added the ice cubes to the pitcher and served it. I found the amount of sweet milk to be a little much and would reduce it to 1 or 1 1/2 tablespoons per cup next time. I also added 1/8 tsp of Chinese five-spice powder to the whole batch and it was a nice, unique addition. Note: I made regular-size cups of coffee, not small cups as written. I just made it extra-strong using ground espresso.
I know the recipe is terrific when, even after I’ve tested it in all suggested variations, I’m still making another batch! I started with the hot version in the morning with croissants, freshly baked at my local Vietnamese bakery, to take full advantage of the French connection to Vietnam. Sooooo good! So I thought I’d best also test the iced version. Picked up Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches at the same bakery after work, carried them home, made iced coffee, and, again, sooooo good. (Though I used espresso each time, it was decaf espresso in the evening, so we wouldn’t be up all night!) This morning, since I was spending a few hours in the kitchen, I made the hot version again, just a single cup, and I think I’m hooked. (This recipe easily divides for one or two servings, if you don’t have a quartet of coffee drinkers available.) The first time, my can of sweetened condensed milk was new and already at room temperature. The second time, I pulled the can from the fridge just before I wanted to use it, and immediately understood the need to have this milk at room temperature: pouring the cold milk from the can was very slow since it is so thick. I used four ice cubes per glass, and would suggest offering some extra ice cubes as the first ones melted quickly. Since the coffee is strong and we were sipping slowly, the addition of a couple extra ice cubes kept it iced, as opposed to allowing it to warm.
This recipe is so simple and would be great to serve to guests to top off a BBQ on a warm summer evening. The sweetened condensed milk adds creaminess and richness to the coffee and just the right amount of sweetness. No need for additional flavorings. This has it all with just a couple of ingredients. A definite keeper!
It’s so easy and would be fun to serve at a small dinner party—or at lunch if you don’t want to have insomnia from the caffeine. The coffee takes on a richness that’s more intense than if you used regular milk, but not as fatty tasting if you used half-and-half or heavy cream. Plus the condensed milk adds just the right amount of sweetness. I made it with Zabar’s French-Italian Roast which is pretty strong. I agree that chicory coffee would be sensational.
During a hot day, when the afternoon heat starts to wear you down and you need a little pick me up, this drink fits the bill. I find that recipes with condensed milk often are overly sweet, but I didn’t find this to be the case with this recipe. The coffee offsets the sweetness and pouring it over ice provides the chill needed to make this a refreshing drink. Some tips: I found that all of the ice melts pretty quickly, especially with very hot coffee. I used 4 ice cubes per glass because it seemed just right for a fast chill and helped get the 3/4 cup of liquid closer to the top of my tall glasses for a nicer presentation. I wish I had made my coffee extra strong or used frozen coffee ice cubes to offset the watered down flavor that resulted once all of the ice cubes melted. Pouring the coffee into the tall glasses was a bit of a mess unless my pour speed and the tilt of the glass and cup were just so. I think it would be easier to mix the condensed milk and coffee together in a measuring cup with a spout or use small individual pitchers instead of coffee cups.
This was delicious and easy! I used Cafe du Monde coffee with chicory and made it very strong. When mixed with the ice and sweetened condensed milk, the coffee had mellowed without becoming diluted. It was a perfect sweet treat after spending the day in the hot afternoon sun.
This creamy, sweet coffee couldn’t be simpler. Coffee + sweetened condensed milk = this delicious drink. To me, it’s perfect as a dessert or a mid-afternoon treat. I make my coffee ahead of time, chill it, add the milk, and then add an ice cube or two.
Summer for us means drinks are on ice, even our morning coffee. A version of iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk is something I haven’t had before. I found that coffee prepared in this way really brought out the caramel flavor of the buttery, sweet condensed milk. This recipe is sinful, particularly if you try using a chicory coffee like I did. After enjoying the coffee as the author intended, I tried a few variations. While warm, I added a little ground cardamom to create a creamy rendition of Turkish coffee. That was fantastic. In my third batch (yes, we liked it so much we made batch after batch) I halved the condensed milk. This variation became my preference as sweetened condensed milk is very rich. Using one tablespoon per serving, the coffee became less decadent like a dessert and more of a beverage I could enjoy as a pick-me-up through out the day. By the time we were up to our third batch, we’d dispensed with the author’s ritual of service and were adding the ingredients to a mason jar to mix and store in the fridge. When we were ready for another fix, we just shook the jar and poured the mixture over ice. It was a nice touch to have that little creamy foam as well.
This was a fun drink to make with my family. Everyone chose a glass with some ice and a long-handled spoon with their cup of coffee. We poured the hot coffee into the iced glasses and began to stir. It was fun to hear all the clanking sounds while we stirred the coffee in our glasses. We did need more ice to cool the coffee down once it was combined in the glass, but the finished result was quite nice. It tasted slightly sweet with a silky feel—a bit like a bottled iced coffee drink. It was flavorful but less expensive than going to the local coffee stand.
This is so easy and the sweetened condensed milk adds a unique twist. I’m Vietnamese, and this brought back memories of when my parents would make this on the weekends and let us kids have a small cup as a special treat. They would toast French bread and let us dip it in the extra sweetened condensed milk. I don’t drink much coffee anymore and just used what I had on hand, but the note about the chicory coffee is accurate. We always had Cafe du Monde in our house growing up. Enjoy!
As soon as I read the recipe, I could not believe it. My mother and aunt always used to make this while I was still living at my parent’s house. Since I moved out I still do it often as my breakfast coffee during summer months. You HAVE to like your coffee sweet, though. I usually do not take my coffee as sweet as this but I do love to indulge in this occasionally. How can you go wrong with coffee and sweet condensed milk? The end result is a strong coffee with the richness and smoothness of the sweet condensed milk yet extremely refreshing for summer days. Another way we used to do it was to blend it all together and create what now is known as a type of frappuccino!