Whenever the weather begins to turn warm, a hot cup of joe in the morning just won’t cut it anymore. To beat the heat and fuel up for the day, I eagerly style my daily fix after the Vietnamese Ca Phe Sua Da.
The story goes that French colonialists planted the crop in Vietnam, where fertile soil yielded remarkable results. But the country’s lack of dairy cows meant the café au lait-loving French needed some kind of alternative. Enter the sticky, sweet tins of condensed milk.
To fight the suffocating heat, the dark, bitter coffee and creamy, sweet milk would be shaken together over ice. And thus, the Ca Phe Sua Da (or iced milk coffee in English) was born.
Vietnamese immigrants to the United States found the watery drink that pleased Americans a sad replacement for their richer variety.
Some decided that the coarse-ground chicory blend at the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans was a suitable alternative. The habit of putting chicory in Vietnamese iced coffee continues in America to this day.
A true Ca Phe Sua Da utilizes a special type of maker, which can be found quite inexpensively.
Vietnamese Coffee Filter available on Amazon
While I’ve yet to make one of these rich versions for myself, I love adding a heaping spoonful of homemade sweetened condensed milk to my cold brew in the morning.
Just mix the grounds and water in a French press the night before, and you’ll have a quick and simple way to enjoy a little caffeination on a hot summer’s morning (or any time when you’re in the mood for a sweet, chilled jolt of java).
Cold brew is not just a quick and simple method to make iced coffee, it produces a tasty, longer-lasting drink as well. Because the grounds never come into contact with heat, the resulting brew is less acidic.
Not only does this make for a smoother drink, it will stay fresh in the fridge for up to two weeks (if you manage not to drink it all sooner)!
- 4 cups cold water
- 3/4 cup coarse ground coffee (medium or dark roast, or for a special treat try Café du Monde chicory blend)
- 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- The night before, mix the water and grounds in a French press. Place in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 10 hours.
- In the morning, press and pour that liquid gold into a pitcher. Mix in the sweetened condensed milk. Serve over ice.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Cold Brew
For a smooth cold brew, mix your grounds and cool water in the base of a French press. Either a medium or dark roast works best, so as not to be overpowered by the sweet milk.
For a fun American-style Vietnamese Iced Coffee twist, try using Café du Monde’s chicory blend.
Cafe Du Monde Coffee & Chicory available on Amazon
This recipe will fit a standard 32-ounce press, but if you only want to make a single serving, you can cut the ratio down to 8 ounces of water and 3 tablespoons of grounds. A variety of excellent French presses are available on the market today – check out our top picks here, so you can add one to your culinary arsenal just in time for iced latte season.
Place the lid on the press, but don’t push the handle down! Let it sit in the refrigerator at least ten hours – the longer it sits, the stronger your drink will become.
Step 2 – Press, Mix, and Serve
In the morning, press the plunger down to filter the brew. Pour it into a pitcher to mix with the sweetened condensed milk. If you have opted for a single serving, you can pour straight into a cup – a tablespoon of S.C.M. will do.
Serve over ice (with a straw, if you like!) and take a big, refreshing sip.
This tasty treat might not be a true Ca Phe Sua Da, but its simplicity cannot be beat. After you give it a try, your once sluggish summer mornings will never be the same.
For more tips on brewing the perfect cup of joe and a few more warm weather-friendly serving suggestions (and others that are perfect for any time of year!), check out our Coffee 101 article or see all of our coffee recipes.
If you want to truly immerse yourself in the world of coffee, bone up on coffee terms and lingo here.
Don’t forget to share your own twists on this sweet, satisfying beverage in the comments!
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Photos by Kendall Vanderslice, © Ask the Experts, LLC, except where otherwise noted. Vietnamese press filter photos courtesy of Thang Long and Cafe Du Monde can photo courtesy of Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans, LA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details.
About Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall’s love of food has taken her around the world. From baking muffins on a ship in West Africa and milking cows with Tanzanian Maasai, to hunting down the finest apfelstrudel in Austria, she continually seeks to understand the global impact of food. Kendall holds a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and has worked in the pastry departments of many of Boston’s top kitchens. Based in Somerville, Massachusetts, Kendall helps to run a small community supported bread bakery and writes about the intersection of food, faith, and culture on her personal blog, A Vanderslice of the Sweet Life.
16 thoughts on “Sweeten Up Your Mornings with Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee”
Hmmmm, never heard of a Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee, I bet it is delocious to the core, can’t wait to have my hands on that if I get a chance!
This looks like a very rich coffee drink. I wouldn’t have thought to use sweet condensed milk at all. It is fun to see how people in other countries like to sip their cup of joe in the morning. Now that the summer time is here, iced drinks are the way to go.
This actually looks pretty good, I loved the fact that you made up a new and cheaper way to do this type of coffee, and also, as a person who always drinks cold coffee in the morning (yes, even in winter) I have never heard about adding condensed milk to it, and actually a few days ago I found a recipe here about a homemade condensed milk, I really need to try this, it’s like the best of both worlds, lol.
Thanks for sharing!
What a way to start off the day! I am a huge cold brew fan although I don’t make it in a French press. Usually I just dilute with hot water for a nice hot cup of coffee, but the mornings are getting hot here and I’ve been looking for a good iced coffee ratio. This is probably too sweet for me to drink every day, but it looks like a great treat. Thank you for providing a recipe for four servings as well as the individual ratio – I just may need to get some sweetened condensed milk and invite some friends over!
This looks absolutely delicious! As a coffee lover I am always looking for new ways to change up my routine, but it gets difficult in the summer months because I’m limited by the heat This is a great solution! I’ve never tried condensed milk in my beverage, so I’m really curious as to what the results will be. Mostly I think it will live up to the pictures, which are almost desert worthy. Yum!
This is new to me but looks like it’s worth a sip. Kendall, your love for food and beverage is very impressive. You are a true food traveller. I would love to try this to experience another of your many delicious discoveries. It looks easy to make and cost effective also.
We have a small restaurant close to where I live that makes the most amazing Vietnamese Iced Coffee. The only difference (I think) is that they use crushed ice instead of cubes. It is absolutely amazing. But thanks to your post I will be able to try and make it myself.
Oddly enough, I’ve never considered using condensed milk in my coffee!! This alone, and the fact that I’m always wanting to try new things, is enough to have me running to the store to get a French press so I can try this. I usually still drink hot coffee in the mornings because my husband and I love to freeze the house throughout the night but during the day, when I need a pick-me-up, is when I can try this. The presses are cheap enough that I can buy one for a home and one for the office too!! Cold coffee here I come….
I really love this easy step-by-step alternative to going and placing expensive orders at local coffee shops. No more Starbucks! I will definitely be trying this seemingly tasty drink to start my mornings in the future. I also really love how simple and practical the ingredients are…I can use milk and grounds for more than just this recipe. This is super practical and I can’t wait to create it for myself.
Well! I’m from South Africa and I have never seen an ice coffee before I’m not sure if we have it in our country but I must say that looks so tasty my taste buds are tingelling. I really can’t wait to make it and see for myself. Thank you for the recipe.
I’m not the biggest coffee fan but I wouldn’t say no to this vietnamese-styled one, looks pretty delicious and I’m sure I can sweeten it up a little bit so it’s made for my likings. Nothing like a good iced coffee on a summer morning!
This is the first I have heard of Vietnamese style iced coffee. My only concern is that it would bother my stomach. I am a huge coffee drinker to the point that I only drink black coffee because the milk and sugar will bother me after several cups. Black iced coffee was hard to adjust to, but I have come to like it. With the condensed milk, I have a feeling that several cups of this would be too rough on my stomach as well.
My daughter would love this – it sounds a bit rich for me. I do love iced black coffee on hot mornings.
I don’t really drink coffee much but of late I’ve been craving for the iced version pretty often. I tend to go for the ice cream blend but I’m also a huge fan of condensed milk. I can eat the better part of a tin by the spoonful. This definitely looks like it’ll be a delicious alternative to my ice cream and plain milk mix. Can’t help thinking that coconut would make a lovely addition to the Vietnamese style.
This sounds extremely addicting! It’s so hot right now, that just seeing this almost made me feel cooler. I’m going to have to try it now.
I was thinking that making ice cubes from any leftovers (as if there would be leftovers, ha ha), would also be great. Doing so would keep this fresh and cold without watering it down with regular ice.
I may be over thinking it though. It probably wouldn’t last long enough for the ice to melt and water it down!
This definitely is one of the drinks I have always wanted to try, but I have never had the chance to because I basically did not really know how to make it, now I see it is not as hard as I used to think it was! I will surely try this soon, my mom will definitely love this, thank you for sharing this, it’s really nice!