Is Vietnamese coffee strong?

Photo of Vietnamese coffee being prepared. Is Vietnamese coffee strong?

If you know a little about coffee, you’ve probably heard that Vietnamese coffee is in its own category. But is Vietnamese coffee strong? Read on below to find out!

Vietnamese coffee is native to Vietnam, naturally, and it’s a slow-brewing, extremely strong, rich, and thick coffee. It’s created using Robusta beans grown in Vietnam, which have double the caffeine of classic Arabica beans (which makes it equivalent to 4 shots of espresso). These beans have a bitter yet slightly peanut-buttery-y taste to them.

Vietnamese coffee has a similar taste as a creamy espresso. It’s served by adding in milk, sweetened creamers, and, most commonly, egg yolks. This isn’t a coffee for beginner coffee drinkers, but it is a unique look into the world of coffee for experienced, exploratory coffee drinkers!

Why is Vietnamese coffee so strong?

As you read above, Vietnamese coffee is strong because it’s created using a Robusta coffee bean, different from most North American-bound beans. It has double the caffeine level of classic beans, and it’s brewed slowly, which further amps up the caffeine level.

The brewing is done similarly to a drip coffee machine, but it’s done in a single serving with a metal drip pan sitting over the cup for the Vietnamese coffee. While it takes a while to brew, it’s well worth the wait for those who want a robust and knock-your-socks-off cup of coffee! 

How strong is Vietnamese coffee?

Not to be dramatic, but the answer to this is: impressively, unbelievably strong. The best way to understand that is to break it down into its ingredients and how it’s used in Vietnamese culture! Per 8 oz serving, there is 265 mg of caffeine. Typically, a classic cup of coffee has around 100 mg of caffeine. Most adults should have 400 mg of caffeine daily, so having two Vietnamese coffees would put you over that amount!

This coffee has more caffeine than the most popular energy drinks, including those 5-hour energy shots in little bottles. 

As far as getting a sense of how it’s used in the culture, think of it this way: Vietnamese natives use this kind of coffee to amp them up before a workout. Having a cup of Vietnamese coffee is an excellent choice for those looking to get more out of their exercise routines, particularly strength training.

Which is stronger: Vietnamese coffee or espresso?

Any guesses? If you remember what I said above, a Vietnamese coffee will be as strong as four espresso shots (70 mg of caffeine each). Even if you’re an avid double-espresso drinker, you’ll still find Vietnamese coffee a whole other level of delicious, bitter caffeine!

What is the difference between regular and Vietnamese coffee?

Since it can be a little difficult to comprehend the difference because it’s simply a different kind of coffee, let’s take it apart and compare Vietnamese coffee with regular coffee in all of its key components.

You know that the caffeine level will be much higher than a classic cup of coffee, but there’s much more to this coffee. Its flavor is strong, very bitter, and often acidic. It’s so strong and harsh that even Vietnamese drinkers rarely drink it black. ItOurVN states that you can drink it black, but very few do. Foreigners always enjoy it with sweetened milk, creamers, yogurt, or egg whites!

Fun Fact:

Egg whites are amongst the most popular way to sweeten and break up the taste of a cup of Vietnamese coffee.

Vietnamese coffee comes from Robusta beans with a distinctive, slightly peanut butter-like taste. The tangy peanut butter taste comes forward if you cut the bitterness and acidity with sweetened milk. 

One cool detail is that you can consider mixing Robusta coffee beans with a few cocoa beans. This gives a touch of chocolate. If you mix that with the peanut butter, you have a peanut butter cup in your mug. Okay, not really. It’s not nearly as sweet. But it is a neat combination if you want to explore your tastes and combinations far and wide.

Is Vietnamese coffee bitter or sweet?

If you serve Vietnamese coffee black, it’ll be bitter and harsh. Honestly, from what I’ve read, not many people enjoy this coffee without at least a bit of sweetness added in! I would recommend going with some sweetener that you know you like- maybe even some chocolate powder or syrup! 

From there, you can work to reduce those additives and get a distinctive sense of flavor at your own pace. OPB’s article explains that any kind of drink made with Vietnamese coffee (classic coffee, lattes, etc.) would be stronger since the bean itself is stronger.

Can foreigners drink Vietnamese coffee?

Yes, foreigners can drink Vietnamese coffee. However, since it’s so strong, you should always be mindful of how strong it will be in both flavor and caffeine content. You might be sick of hearing that since this has come up a few times a month, but it’s essential to understand the difference in its flavor strength.

Even experienced coffee and double espresso drinkers, as well as though who enjoy energy drinks regularly, are blown away by the sheer difference in this particular kind of coffee’s taste and strength.

If it’s your first time enjoying Vietnamese coffee, you’ll want to strongly consider asking the coffee shop seller (or whoever is making it) what kinds of beans are used. If they say that they’re using Robusta beans, you can ask that Arabica beans be switched out. Or using half and half.

Also, don’t assume that you’ll be able to drink an entire cup full of it in the first sitting. Just have a few sips and see how it feels! There is no “rule” that you have to finish the cup your very first time.

How to drink Vietnamese coffee

If you’re exploring Vietnamese coffee at home, you can try all sorts of variations on the classic, straight cup of coffee. After all, there are lots of ways to do so! Below, I’ve put together a list of combinations that would be excellent choices for starting.

Try it over ice

Many places offer ca phe nau da, which is iced coffee made using Vietnamese coffee rather than classic coffee beans. This is a great way to try Vietnamese coffee for the first time since the ice will mellow out the harsh coffee bitterness. You can also add flavor shots and creamer to this if you want.

This is a popular drink by Vietnamese drinkers that want to cut the taste and/or beat the heat of the day! It’s also popular with foreigners.

Try it in a latte or other mixed drink

Another great choice is using Vietnamese coffee in a latte, cappuccino, or any other mixed drink you love. The best way to do this is to try a drink you know you like to see how it compares to the traditional way of making it. Many coffee shops offer this, and you can easily do this at home if you are used to making those drinks at home.

Add it to a smoothie or milkshake

If you love these kinds of milky, fruity, sweet drinks, you’ll find the kick of bitter and strong coffee to be a unique twist on a smoothie or milkshake. However, there are many recipes online that you can try out, so it gives you the opportunity to explore.

Pour it over ice cream

If you have a thing for ice cream, you’ll probably find this idea appealing, too! For this one, pick your favorite ice cream (I recommend vanilla or something lighter if you want to taste the coffee) and brew some Vietnamese coffee. Let it cool or room temperature, and then pour it over your ice cream! You can pour it over hot, but it will melt your ice cream!

Bake it in your favorite recipe

This is probably my favorite opinion for Vietnamese coffee variations, but that’s because I love coffee-themed desserts! Just substitute Robusta beans for the classic coffee beans you typically use. It’ll also really add some scope to your baking-related tastebuds.

Regardless of your method, be mindful of the jitters, which are very common after Vietnamese coffee for inexperienced drinkers!

So, as you’ve learned by now, Vietnamese coffee is very strong. It’s a rich, thick coffee brewed from the caffeine-rich Robusta beans native to Vietnam. This has the same caffeine content as a quadruple espresso and is stronger than energy drinks as far as its caffeine content. This coffee has a slight peanut butter taste but is very bitter and acidic, so you’ll need to sweeten or soften it to bring the flavor out.

If there’s a special someone in your life that enjoys coffee as strong as it comes, you’ll definitely want to share this with them!

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Robert Knowlton is an expert barista with more than 15 years of experience. Robert's main goal is to make sure everyone can enjoy the perfect cup of coffee regardless of their skill level.