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Have you ever wondered why Vietnamese coffee stands out with its sweetness and robust flavor profile? It’s all in the distinct way it’s brewed, and the ingredients are chosen. In this article, we’ll dive deep into Vietnamese coffee, uncover the magic behind the delectable taste, and learn why it is so strong!
Why Is Vietnamese Coffee So Strong?
Vietnamese coffee tastes strong due to its key ingredient – robusta coffee. Boasting almost double the caffeine content of its cousin, Arabica, and other coffee varieties, robusta gives Vietnamese coffee its signature strength and intensity. Moreover, using a phin filter, the traditional brewing method concentrates the flavor into a smaller volume, resulting in a more robust cup.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of what makes Vietnamese coffee so strong.
1: Coffee Beans Used
A big reason why Vietnamese coffee is so strong is because of the unique coffee beans they use. Vietnam grows a lot of Robusta beans. These beans taste stronger and have more caffeine than another type called Arabica.
For instance, in a 6-ounce cup of robusta, there are 200 mg of caffeine ( that’s like 3-4 espresso shots!), while an equivalent cup of Arabica has just 130 mg.
This higher caffeine amount gives Vietnamese coffee its potent and energizing kick. The way the coffee beans are ground in Vietnamese coffee is also essential to its boldness. They use beans that are ground from medium to fine, which helps to get the most flavor out and increases the caffeine in the final drink.
2: Brewing Method
The primary ways to make Vietnamese coffee are through the phin filter, French press, and AeroPress. Each technique brings its own unique touch to the bold and rich taste that people associate with Vietnamese coffee. Let’s explore each one by one:
- Phin Filter: A Phin filter sits over a cup, drips the coffee through tiny holes, and makes the coffee strong and flavorful. The phin’s slow brewing pulls out a lot of tasty oils from the coffee beans, giving the drink a rich and slightly tangy taste.
- French Press: The French press is another way to make Vietnamese coffee. Coffee grounds are mixed with hot water in a container. After 50-60 seconds, a plunger pushes the ground down, leaving flavorful coffee on top. This method gives a strong coffee taste, much like the Vietnamese style, especially if you don’t have a phin.
- AeroPress: The AeroPress is a modern machine that makes strong coffee. It has two parts: one where you put coffee and hot water, and another to push the liquid through a paper filter. While it makes rich coffee, it might not capture the unique taste of traditional Vietnamese coffee made with a phin.
4: Darker Roast
Vietnamese coffee is distinctively strong, primarily due to the dark roast applied to the beans, which infuses it with bold flavors and intense aromas. This dark roast yields richer and more robust coffee than the Arabica coffee.
For example, some people use Death Wish Coffee, one of the strongest types of coffee, to prepare Vietnamese coffee.
These factors ensure that Vietnamese coffee offers a unique and unforgettable taste, standing out as a favorite for coffee lovers globally.
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5: Grind Size
Grind size plays a significant role. Vietnamese coffee’s strength comes from using medium to fine coffee grounds. This grind lets the water flow through the beans just right, pulling out a lot of flavors.
Coarse ground coffee doesn’t control water flow, causing it to run through the grinds too quickly without thorough extraction. That’s why coffee from coarse grounds often tastes milder.
Conversely, finer grounds expose more of the coffee bean’s surface, which means you get more caffeine and flavor out of them.
6: Special Ingredients
Vietnamese coffee’s most significant features include special ingredients like sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Long ago, when Vietnam was under French rule, it was hard to find fresh milk. That’s why they started using sweetened condensed milk in coffee; people in Vietnam have loved it ever since.
These ingredients make the coffee creamy, silky, and smooth. The condensed milk also helps make the strong taste of the coffee beans sweet by balancing the bitterness of robusta beans.
7: Flavor Profile
Several elements shape the unique taste of strong Vietnamese coffee:
- Chocolate notes: Vietnamese coffee stands out with its smooth, chocolate-like flavor.
- Rubbery hints: Certain robusta beans add a distinct rubbery touch to the coffee’s taste.
- High acidity: Vietnamese coffee tends to be more acidic than other types, giving it a vibrant and robust flavor.
Traditional Vietnamese Coffee Variations
Since many people do not enjoy robusta alone because of its super bitter flavor, they often tweak their Vietnamese coffees with different ingredients. The following are some of the most common variations of Vietnamese coffee available throughout the country:
1: Coffee with milk (ca phe nau or ca phe sua)
Up north in Vietnam, the blend of black coffee and sweetened condensed milk is known as ca phe nau or brown coffee, while in the south, it’s called ca phe sua or milk coffee. It’s typically served chilled with ice, yet a hot version is also available.
2: Coffee with Yoghurt (sua chua ca phe)
The concept of yogurt, like coffee, was introduced to Vietnam by the French and has been ingrained into the local food scene. The rich, creamy yogurt, often served with varied toppings such as fresh mango, fermented rice, or even coffee, is an unusual yet delightful combination.
3: Coffee with Egg (ca phe trung)
The innovative fusion of egg yolk whipped into a fluffy froth with condensed milk and dark coffee offers a Vietnamese spin on tiramisu. Café Giang in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the birthplace of egg coffee, still serves this decadent blend, yet several other establishments offer their own versions, often surpassing the original.
4: Coffee with Coconut (ca phe cot dua)
It’s a unique mixture of black coffee, a dash of condensed milk, coconut milk, and ice, creating a shake-like beverage. A more conventional version, often served in local shops, combines ca phe nau or brown coffee with coconut and fresh milk.
5: Coffee-based Smoothie (sinh to ca phe)
Today, coffee has found its presence in smoothies. Juice shops have added a hint of Vietnamese coffee to their creamy fruit blends, sometimes mixing in yogurt or cashews. Try sinh to ca phe chuoi bo, a blend of coffee, banana, and avocado in Hanoi. In Ho Chi Minh City, sample sinh to ca phe sapoche, a combination of coffee and sapodilla, a tropical fruit with a custard-like taste.
Undoubtedly, Vietnamese coffee stands out in its bold and robust flavor. But remember, individual preferences play a role, and an all-robusta espresso might not be everyone’s cup of coffee.
Hence, we suggest experimenting with different brewing methods and adjusting the coffee-to-water ratios. Given that robusta in Vietnamese coffee doubles the caffeine punch, you might need to tweak the water amount based on your caffeine comfort level. Embrace this as an exciting journey to tailor your perfect brew!
Classics like Vietnamese Iced Coffee and Egg Coffee also offer delightful ways to savor robusta. Adding condensed milk tempers the robusta’s strength, producing a sweet and smooth drink. Happy caffeinating!