Why Does Vietnamese Coffee Taste So Strong? – BaristaHQ

If you've tried Vietnamese coffee, you might be wondering what ingredients make Vietnamese coffee so strong!

Here, we'll provide you with everything you need to know, from coffee farming to the roasting process, caffeine intake, the different beans, and much more.

So, why exactly is Vietnamese coffee strong? One of the main reasons is because Vietnamese coffee is brewed with Robusta beans which have much higher caffeine levels than Arabica beans. [1]

In addition, Vietnamese coffee has a unique brewing method. The Vietnamese brew it in a Phin (a metal cup that can fit over most mugs and essentially acts as a coffee filter). As a result, the coffee brews incredibly slowly, which produces an intensely strong coffee that resembles a heavier espresso.

Vietnamese Coffee Beans

Robusta Beans

Essentially a coffee bean, Robusta beans have amplified caffeine content as they contain higher chlorogenic acids compared to other coffee beans out there.

Robusta beans are relatively inexpensive to reproduce and have a bitter taste profile to them. However, they are also widely diverse and can be produced and nurtured in a range of conditions.

Dark Roast

When it comes to the roasting process, Vietnamese coffee is brewed with a dark roast which contributes to its robust taste and chocolatey flavor.

One of the main reasons why the roast is dark is because the majority of individuals drink their Vietnamese coffee with sweetened milk, otherwise known as condensed milk. The smokey notes from the roasting go perfectly with the creaminess from the dairy.

Brew Method

When it comes to making Vietnamese coffee, this is done with a Vietnamese Phin - a metal filter. The filter is placed on the top of a cup, and the bottom of the filter has tiny holes for the coffee to go through. The brewing time is relatively long and takes about three to five minutes for a small cup.

Want to make your own Vietnamese coffees? Though not the most traditional method, you can do so with a French press. The French press is similar to the Phin as it lets the coffee grounds steep in hot water.

Grind Size

If you're making your Vietnamese coffees with a Phin, you will use a finer grind; however, the grind shouldn't be overly small (like you’d use with instant coffee in a paper filter), as this could end up clogging the holes within the Phin.

With a finer grind, it helps to control the flow rate and ensures the water wouldn't just drip through. In addition, more surface area is also exposed, which enhances the extraction of caffeine.

Local Palate

When it comes to what Vietnamese people enjoy eating, they traditionally have vibrant and flavourful dishes with liberal use of fish sauce and fresh herbs. With that, punchy, more robust flavor profiles with a rich taste like Vietnamese coffee is what they enjoy.

While getting a Vietnamese coffee in the morning is part of the coffee culture for most Vietnamese, they won't be drinking their coffee on the go and instead prefer sitting down and sipping their coffee at coffee shops.


So How Strong Is Vietnamese Coffee Then?

Is Vietnamese coffee strong? It definitely is. As mentioned earlier, Vietnamese coffee is made with Robusta beans that have about 2.2 to 2.7% caffeine content. To put things in perspective, Arabica coffee beans typically only have a 1.2 to 1.5% caffeine content.

So, how much caffeine is that in a coffee drink? Well, when compared with regular black coffee drunk in the United States or Europe, here's the difference:

Black coffee has about 50 to 200mg of caffeine per 8 oz, while Vietnamese coffee has about 265mg of caffeine per 8oz.

Is Vietnamese coffee stronger than espresso? Well, espresso has about 64mg of caffeine per 1oz serving. Vietnamese coffee has 265mg of caffeine in the same 8oz cup, which is equivalent to four shots of espresso.


All About Vietnamese Coffee

Here are some brief insights into the history, production, and taste of Vietnamese coffee.

Brief History

The history of Vietnamese coffee all started in France. When the French colony arrived and colonized Vietnam in the 19th century, not only did French people arrive, but also French culture.

A big part of that included coffee, and plantations started appearing everywhere. While French imports included everything from bread to food, coffee was what resonated most with the Vietnamese people, and they became avid coffee drinkers.

Bean Production

When it comes to bean production, Vietnam has one of the highest yields of coffee produced globally, with a total production of about 30 million bags. Out of those bags, around 95% are Robusta coffee beans.

Coffee production is massive in Vietnam and has been a major source of income for the country since the early 20th century. [2]

The Taste Of Vietnamese Coffee

As Vietnamese coffee has a higher caffeine content and is a darker roast, it has a strong and bitter flavor that makes it a potent brew.

It also has higher acidity than an average cup of coffee which adds to the overall difference in flavor.

Due to its bold taste, Vietnamese coffee is typically drunk with sweetened condensed milk. Adding sweetened condensed milk can help with both lightening and sweetening the coffee.

For those that want to have Vietnamese coffee black, it's typically drunk iced rather than hot to mellow out the sharp taste and thickness of the drip.

How Vietnamese Coffee Is Made

The traditional way to brew Vietnamese coffee is with a Phin (a stainless steel drip filter that produces drip coffee) and Vietnamese beans - specifically coffee beans of the Robusta variety, of course.

How to make Vietnamese coffee:
  • 1
    You add the desired amount of coffee grounds into the filter and place it over the mug.
  • 2
    Then, you pour a little bit of boiling water into the filter and wait a few seconds for the grounds to expand.
  • 3
    You can choose to compress the coffee in the filter before adding the rest of the water to have a more flavourful brew.

As seen above, the brewing method isn't overly complicated, and you can easily make your own Vietnamese coffee.

As mentioned previously, you can also use a French Press if you'd like, but never a standard coffee maker as you want to ensure that the coffee is as unprocessed as possible.

Popular Types of Coffee In Vietnam

You'll see a few different popular types of coffee at coffee shops in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

This particular coffee is coffee and water, along with a bit of condensed milk. It's a refreshing way to drink Vietnamese coffee, and it tastes great. You're more than welcome, however, to also drink it hot.

Yogurt Coffee

Have you ever had yogurt coffee? This delicious combo is made with plain yogurt, condensed milk, crushed ice, and Vietnamese coffee.

Egg Coffee

This unique coffee is an old Hanoi tradition and consists of whipped egg yolk along with condensed milk and coffee.

Well-Known Brands To Look For

When it comes to Vietnamese coffee, here are some well-known brands to look for:

  • Trung Nguyen
    Trung Nguyen Coffee Supply has beans that are a blend of Arabica beans and robust beans. It has a robust aroma and an intense flavor. As the beans are grown at high altitudes, they have a sweet taste that coffee drinkers will surely enjoy.
  • Chestbrew Moonbear
    This brand uses just Arabica beans that contain no additives. While it doesn't have the usual bitter flavor as it isn’t made from robusta beans, it still provides the perfect brew.
  • Saigon Phin Daklak
    Grown by a family-owned business, this company produces a blend made for traditional Vietnamese iced coffee. As for the blend, it consists of Arabica, Robusta, Peaberry, and soybean.
  • Dalat Peaberry Robusta
    This brand has a strong taste and flavor profile with decadent chocolate notes. It has low acidity but comes with more caffeine than some of the other brands hence making a strong Vietnamese coffee.
All About Vietnamese Coffee

How Is Robusta Coffee Different?

Robusta Is Easier To Grow And More Sustainable

Robusta plants are hardy and, unlike Arabica, don't require such high altitude. It is also less labor intensive, less susceptible to diseases, and can deal with harsher temperatures [3]

An interesting fact, however, is the altitude that its grown can affect the flavor. Coffee grown at a slightly higher elevation level will allow the beans to develop more refined and complex tasting notes.

What Do Robusta Coffee Beans Look Like?

Regarding appearance, Robusta beans are smaller, puffier, and almost round in shape.

When it comes to the line in the middle, Robusta coffee beans have a straight line instead of a slant.

What Does Robusta Coffee Taste Like?

As Robusta coffee has a high caffeine content, it has a stronger, bolder, and richer taste. It also has nutty profiles and a warm roasted aroma.

In terms of flavor, Robusta coffee is relatively bitter and typically paired with sugar and milk or sweetened milk.


Frequently Asked Vietnamese Coffee Questions

Is Vietnamese coffee always safe to drink?

Yes, Vietnamese coffee is always typically safe to drink. Millions of cups of coffee are sold every day. If you’re unsure, always read the label to make sure the ground coffee doesn’t come with any artificial ingredients.

Are there any reported side effects of Vietnamese coffee?

If you're not used to drinking Vietnamese coffee, your body might react to the high caffeine levels with twitching, jitters, and shaking. If you're extra sensitive, it can even cause headaches.

How does Vietnamese coffee compare to energy drinks?

An 8oz cup of Vietnamese coffee can actually contain more caffeine than your average energy drink. So if you’re looking for an energy boost, Vietnamese coffee might be a better choice than an energy drink.

Is Vietnamese coffee stronger than pre-workout?

Pre-workout has more caffeine than Vietnamese coffee. In fact, it has about one to two times the caffeine level per serving.

Does Vietnamese coffee always use condensed milk?

No, Vietnamese coffee doesn't just use condensed milk; that's just one of the typical sweeteners.

Is Vietnamese coffee bitter?

Yes, traditional Vietnamese coffee is bitter because of the Robusta beans. If you want to avoid the bitterness, we recommend drinking it with sugar or condensed milk.


Conclusion

If you've always wondered what makes Vietnamese coffee so strong, it's largely attributed to the Robusta beans and the traditional brewing process.

If you’re not used to this traditional coffee, you’re more than welcome to either drink Arabica coffee or add sugar or other natural sugars to your drink.

References:

1. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/arabica-vs-robusta-coffee-beans

2. https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-25811724

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/robusta-coffee