Vietnamese Iced Coffee is a simple thing to make, but there are some subtleties, and the equipment you need isn't of the sort usually found at your usual big-box grocer-mart. The techniques are also simple, but there are a few things to pay attention to if you want to whip the pants off of your local coffee joint.
Step 1: The Equipment
- Vientamese-style press pots
- Tall glasses, preferably made of clear glass
- Spoons with long handles
- Something to boil water in (tea pot, sauce pot, old coffee can, whateva')
The tall glasses could be of any size as long as the press pot fits over the top of the glass, and holds at least 12 oz.; a "highball" is usually a good size.
Long handled spoons just randomly appear in certain places. If you only have regular spoons, you can use your wire-feed, shielded MIG welder to weld a small extension onto your existing spoon, or you can just live with the fact that your fingertips might get a little wet. Don't be ashamed, just lick the sweet coffee off your fingers.
Step 2: The Ingredients
- French Dark Roast Coffee with Chicory (Cafe Du Monde, for instance)
- Sweetened Condensed Milk (Longevity brand?)
- Ice (good old Frozen Water)
- Boiling Water (good old, uh, Hot Water)
The sweetened condensed milk I have is called Longeivity Brand, and it features some Vietnamese writing, and an image of an old man. I just bought it because it was interesting looking. What you want however, is anything that lists as its ingredients "Whole Milk, Sugar" and that's it. Sometimes the cheaper brands have vegetable oil or weird stuff in them. Screw that, get the real stuff, your palate is worth it. If you are vegan, I recommend trying coconut milk with a regular sugar syrup, or the pre-sweetened "cream of coconut" you can get for making pina coladas (available in the alcohol aisle, popular brand being "Coco Lopez"). Even if you aren't vegan, give it a try with the coconut, its tasty too!
Ice and Boiling Water are actually made from the same basic ingredient, H2O. You can get a steady supply of this from your Municipal Water Authority, who has likely provided a tap directly into your home. Actuate the tap by turning a knob or moving a lever located near or above your sink. If you are uncertain of how to operate your tap, call your local water authority, or consult a professional plumber. Once you have dispensed some liquid water, simply place it in a suitable container, such as an ice tray, plastic bottle, or dixie cup, and put it in your freezer. In a few hours, you will have fresh, delicious ice. To make boiling water, simply place the water in a heat-proof container, such as a tea pot or empty coffee can, and heat on your gas or electric stove. After a few minutes, the water should turn into boiling water.
If your water tastes bad out of the tap, so will your coffee. If your water isn't very tasty, then run it through a filter, or use a bottled spring water to make your coffee. It makes a difference!
Step 3: Getting Started
Then put about two tablespoons of coffee into the press pot. Again, I don't measure, I just scoop in enough so that it almost covers the threaded part inside the pot. Put the little lid to the pot underneath it while you pour in the coffee, and then tap the pot lightly against the lid to shake out the dust onto the lid. This will limit the sediment you get in the coffee.
Step 4: Assemble the Pot
Step 5: Moment of Truth - Add the Water
Add water all the way up to the tippy-top of the pot, but be careful not to spill on yourself. After you've poured in the water, put the lid on top to seal in the heat, and let it go. If you are using fresh grounds, you might get some 'bloom' frothing over (this is due to the CO2 in freshly roasted beans). Don't worry about it, the worst thing that will happen is that you will need to wipe up some froth.
Step 6: Patience...
The dripping is very nice, and is a pleasant visual as well as an amusing thing to watch. If you are serving this to people, make sure you serve the glasses with the milk already in them, and the pot on top, then pour the water in front of the person. They will enjoy seeing the process begin, and watch their cup slowly fill up with a few inches of black goodness.
Step 7: Coffee Time!
Now is the time to mix the milk and the coffee, for best dissolving. I have made the mistake of adding ice before mixing the two; the cold coffee isn't able to properly dissolve the thick syrup, and you end up with uneven coffee.
Once the two are properly blended, give it a taste. If you want, you can add more condensed milk at this point if isn't sweet and creamy enough. It should taste like really good melted coffee ice cream. Think Haagen Daaz stuff. If it were cold outside, you might like to drink it warm like this. But since it is summer now, I like to ice it.
I usually just throw a few ice cubes in the glass and call it good, but if you are doing it with style, you'll pre-chill another glass of the same type, fill it with crushed ice, and pour the coffee over the crushed ice. This dilutes the coffee less, because the ice doesn't need to cool both coffee AND the glass, but only the coffee. Less melting = less dilution. But I don't have many glasses, so I just add the ice to the brewing glass, and it works nicely.
Now just sit back, and enjoy! It took some time, but really wasn't much harder than drip coffee, and you will enjoy it much more. Plus, no yucky paper filters to deal with.