Cafe Phin - What Is It And How To Use It

Cafe Phin – What Is It And How To Use It!

Last updated on January 22nd, 2024 at 13:37

Cafe Phin, also called coffee phin and cà phê phin in Vietnam. It’s the stand-out coffee brewing device from South East Asia and an integral part of Vietnamese coffee culture. 

This article details the cafe phin drip coffee maker, what it is, how to use it and gives you a delicious and tasty authentic recipe for making Vietnamese coffee using this iconic coffee brewer. 

What Is A Coffee Phin? What Is Cafe Phin?

Cafe phin, phin coffee, or simply cà phê phin as it is known in Vietnam is their unique and stand out individual drip coffee filters that you see sitting on top of a coffee cup dripping away.

It’s a unique brewing method in its own right, just like an Aeropress, moka pot or Hario V60.

It’s the stand out Vietnamese coffee brewing method, and still dominates the local coffee culture, you’ll see several in every Vietnamese home, sold in every shop – literally! And on every street there is someone drinking coffee with this iconic phin coffee filter dripping away making their beverage.

Cafe Phin
Cà Phê Sữa Đá – Vietnamese Iced Coffee With Milk

Read: How to make ca phe phin

Vietnamese Phin Filter

A traditional Vietnamese Phin Filter Device has four main parts and is available in two distinctive styles.

  • Screw in strainer.
  • Gravity strainer.

The most commonly seen and best in my opinion and 3 years experience of using the Vietnamese coffee filter is that the gravity strainer is best and most convenient to use.

The screw in version has the issue of being unable to measure the pressure. It is too easy to use too little pressure or too much.

Here are the four parts that make the traditional Vietnamese coffee filter, the Cafe Phin (also known as Coffee Phin).

The Brewing Chamber

The brewing chamber is also known as the filter chamber as this is where the coffee is placed and where the built-in coffee filter is and where you put your hot water.

The Bottom Filter Plate

The bottom filter plate is placed below the brewing chamber and sits on top of your coffee cup. Some cafe phin coffee filters have only three parts with this part incorporated into the brew chamber.

The Strainer

The strainer is placed on top of your ground coffee. Your hot water is poured over it with the weight of the water holding it in place.

The screw in type, you screw then strainer in on top of your coffee grounds.

The Lid

The lid, the cap. This is placed on top of your coffee phin coffee maker to help the hot water to retain its temperature while the coffee grounds are steeping and as it drips out of the bottom and into your cup below.

Phin Coffee Grind Size

The ideal grind size to use to make your coffee using your phin coffee maker is a medium coarse grind.

If you own a Baratza encore coffee grinder, use numbers 14 to 16.

It’s important to get the grind size correct as if you use too small a grind size your coffee will be over brewed and too bitter…if the grounds don’t block the tiny holes at the bottom.

If your grind size is too large, your coffee will end up too weak and watery.

Ca Phe Phin
You Can Take Your Cafe Phin Camping

Phin Coffee Ratio

Another key and important factor to get right is the coffee to water ratio. Get it right, and you will have a beautiful and tasty Vietnamese coffee.

Get it wrong, and your coffee will just not taste at all that great. For phin coffee, no matter what coffee beverage you make the ratio is 1:8

Peculiarly for Vietnamese iced coffee, the coffee to water ratio is not more focused. If your iced coffee tastes a little watery towards the end, try a more concentrated coffee to water ratio of 1:7 and then 1:6 until it is perfect for your own personal taste.

Phin Coffee Recipe – Cà Phê Sữa Đá

Phin coffee is so easy to make and is completely effortless. And above all, it makes a high-quality and tasty coffee.

Time for a quick Vietnamese language lesson!

Cà Phê Sữa Đá

Cà Phê, meaning coffee, Sữa meaning milk and Đá meaning ice, the translation is literaly iced coffee with milk.

Depending on the coffee shop your Cà Phê Sữa Đá may be made with the ca phe phin drip coffee maker, but when you see Cà Phê Phin on the drinks menu, it will always exclusively refer to a black drip coffee with no milk.

Cà Phê Sữa Đá Ingredients

Let’s get making an outstanding iced coffee with milk and to do that with your cafe phin filter you need to have all the right ingredients.

For making a strong 4 oz cup of coffee:

  • 1/2 Oz (15 grams) of medium-coarse coffee grounds.
  • 120 ml of bottled water.
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.
  • Ice.

For best results, use Vietnamese specialty coffee beans; these are easily available online or from your local Starbucks. Using Vietnamese coffee beans will get you a more authentic experience. At Latte Love Brew we encourage you to enjoy the authentic experience. 

The Method – Instructions

Start by heating your water to 195F to 205F (92C to 96C) and use some of the water to preheat your brewing equipment and your cup.

While your water is heating up, weigh half an ounce (15g) of whole coffee beans and then grind them to medium-coarse grind size.

Put your coffee grounds in the brew chamber, and place the bottom filter plate below the brew chamber. Add one or two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk into your cup. Put the Phin coffee filter over your cup.

Place the strainer over your coffee grounds. Pour a little hot water over the strainer and wait for your coffee grounds to bloom.

Once they have bloomed, continue to pour the rest of the hot water until the cafe phin filter is full. Put the lid in place and wait for your coffee to drip down into your cup.

When it is ready, stir well to mix the condensed milk. Add your ice and viola, you have a perfect Vietnamese iced coffee with milk.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cafe Phin

Is A Phin The Same As A French Press?

Cafe phin is a cross between the full immersion steeping method of a French press and the dripping action of a drip coffee maker.

How Do You Drink Phin Coffee?

Sip by sip! Phin coffee can be used to make a number of different coffee beverages from regular iced coffee to Iced coffee with milk, always made with condensed milk and all the famous Vietnamese coffee drinks from egg coffee to coconut coffee and their straight black drip coffee.

You can make all kinds of coffee beverages with your phin coffee maker.

Can You Use A Phin For Regular Coffee?


there is no specific need for you to use specialty grade coffee or even Vietnamese with your phin cafe coffee maker.

Is Vietnamese Coffee The Best In The World?

The best is very subjective, yes, the coffee from Vietnam is good, very good. What they are best at is their very unique and stand out healthy coffee culture where shots of coffee are added to fruit smoothies.

It’s great, tasty and a must try for any coffee lover.

Is it safe to drink coffee in Vietnam?

Absolutely! I spent 3 years in Vietnam and absolutely loved it and never had a single problem at all!

It is perfectly safe to drink coffee, everywhere in Vietnam. I’ll go a step further and say that in my 10 years in the South East of Asia I have never been sick due to any food or beverage (coffee or otherwise) and I have a penchant for the tasty and delicious delights of street food.

I know as a matter of absolute fact that street food venders are regularly inspected and spot checked for food hygine. A good personal friend, it is his job to conduct such checks and monitor the venders.

What Is The Most Famous Coffee In Vietnam?

The most famous coffee in Vietnam is their egg coffee, the cà phê trứng which is available everywhere. It’s tasty, warms you up and gives you a nice energy boost.

Made with coffee, condensed milk, egg and a sprinkling of cocoa.

Final Thoughts – Cafe Phin

A cafe phin is easy to use and very easy to get great, tasty coffee with it. It is, in my humble opinion, an essential coffee maker to have as you can easily take it anywhere due to its size and light weight. 

A weekend away – take and make coffee easily in your room. Going on a camping trip – easily make your morning coffee with it.  

Join our active online coffee community on Facebook/Meta and share your fabulous cafe phin images, creations and, if you are a fun type of person, share your favorite coffee memes and coffee jokes.

Derek Marshall, a certified barista by the Specialty Coffee Association possesses over two decades of experience in specialty coffee shops. He holds professional certifications for coffee brewing and barista skills. Derek is also an author with authoritative books covering various coffee topics including specialty coffee, sustainability and coffee, coffee brewing, coffee recipes, coffee cocktails and books focusing on Brazilian coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Indonesian coffee and Malaysian coffee. As a barista for over two decades, Derek Marshall has worked in specialty coffee shops across the United Kingdom, Spain, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam. His expertise extends to the distinct coffee cultures, specialty beverages, and brewing techniques of each nation. Functioning as a coffee consultant, Derek charges US$50 per hour. To learn more about Derek Marshall and Latte Love Brew, visit his About Me Page. For coffee inquiries, contact him at +34-639-410-375 or, mentioning your name and location

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