Cà phê sữa đá…Large Batch Vietnamese Iced Coffee made easy

Individual Stainless Brew Filter and glass
Espresso/Cafezinho/Cuban Coffee

I love strong Espresso or French roasted coffee. I picked up the taste for this style of coffee while traveling often to Brazil years ago. There they make a little demi-tasse pour of sweetened espresso called cafezinho, very similar to Cuban coffee. Even longer ago I discovered Vietnamese iced coffee and loved it, but it wasn’t until I spent time in Brazil and upon moving back to the U.S. that I always drank small strong coffees this way. The commonality of these styles is that they are heavily dark roasted and full bodied and brewed to be bitter and intense.

The intense bitterness of these styles is assuaged with the addition of sugar and or cream/milk of some kind. It can be as sweet or bitter as one likes, but almost always has some sugar in it. But in intense heat and humidity like, say, in Vietnam, it can be a little oppressive to drink hot coffee…thus the addition of ice is a natural progression for coffee as is with tea.


Sweetened Condensed Milk


In tropical locations around the world the use of sweetened condensed milk is a staple for many dishes and drinks. It certainly is in Brazil, (leite condensada, or leite moça in colloquial terms) where I became accustomed to its use in drinks and desserts. Canned, concentrated and sweetened, it was a way to preserve milk for hot humid climates and for it to be readily available on shelves in markets. This meant that in earlier days it very likely was the only milk available to most people. It thus became an important ingredient for tropical tastes and cultures around the world.


Cà phê sữa đá

The popularity of this style of coffee in the U.S. really began after the end of the wars in South East Asia and with the influx of refugees and immigrants from there in the mid to late 70’s.

My visits to Vietnamese restaurants in the late 70’s with my Vietnamese friends led me to Cà phê sữa đá (this means “iced coffee with sweet condensed milk”) Traditionally it is brewed table side into a glass with ice and sweet condensed milk at the bottom and a spoon for you to mix it up.

An individual coffee press full of dark french roast with hot water is brought to table. Brewed and mixed and iced and done.

3 Pieces of Brew Cup
Coffee ready to be tamped

The coffee brand that is very traditional here with the Vietnamese community in the US is Cafe Du Monde of New Orleans fame. It is a blend of drip grind French roast coffee and chicory . It really is a great coffee for this drink. There are other coffees from Vietnam, most popular of which is Trung Nguyen. It has cocoa added to the ground coffee, which I add to the grounds before brewing, but I find it a bit weak and too sweet when balancing the condensed milk. I don’t have that problem with Cafe Du Monde.

Milk, coffee, cassia, cocoa nibs

This recipe for iced coffee has notes of burnt chocolate, cinnamon, dark coffee, the silky smooth texture that isn’t watered down. There is a rich, complex flavor and the balance of bitter and creamy and sweet that calls for sipping, not gulping.



How To Make More Than One At A Time

I would crave one of these on a hot summer morning, but doing the whole brewing thing each time I wanted one was just not going to happen, so I thought “why not make a huge batch already mixed and keep it in the fridge?”

That was that.

Anyone can do it with no special tools or equipment.

Here is my large batch version of Cà phê sữa đá:

I use a run of the mill 10 cup drip coffee maker which goes to 11 if you push it. Feel free to use a French press or whatever method you prefer. I use the drip maker since I can easily brew the amount I want without too much fuss.

I do two brewings to get to about 1.6 litres.  In my 10 cup drip maker I do one full brew, and a half brew using the same grounds. This is the perfect amount and strength to balance exactly one whole 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk and it all fits perfectly in a French 2 Litre Carafe.

I fill the filter as full as possible and then add some ground or whole cassia cinnamon along with some cocoa nibs on the grounds. This is to your taste, but don’t overdo it.

Cafe DuMonde, Ground Cassia, Cacao Nibs

I brew the first batch and add it to the carafe and begin the second brew.

Carafe with first brew (hot)

I then add the whole can of sweetened condensed milk to the hot coffee and mix while I wait for the second brew.

Mixed first brew

I then add the next brew to top off the carafe.

Full batch of Cà phê sữa đá

You’re done!

This is also delicious hot and I often have a little cup before cooling.

Allow to come to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.

To serve, pour over ice in small glass. I prefer large cubed ice, like Kold Draft, so you keep the chill and have a little melt, but not too much melt. Like a whiskey with a cube or two.

Cà phê sữa đá on ice

This can easily be made into an iced coffee cocktail by adding a favorite liqueur and/or spirit like dark rum, Kahlua or coffee liqueur, chocolate liqueur, hazelnut, mint etc…

It is great made into a frozen blender drink…. with or without alcohol.


4 thoughts on “Cà phê sữa đá…Large Batch Vietnamese Iced Coffee made easy

  1. I love Ca Phe Sua Da. I had this for the first time in Vietnam and wondered why on earth we didn't have it in the states.

    Thanks for posting a way to have a version that is made and ready for morning or night!

  2. This looks so temptingly delicious..! I think I will make some changes in what I drink and don't drink after reading some of your posts here…lol..

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