Vietnamese coffee vs Thai coffee

Photo of Vietnamese coffee on the left and Thai coffee on the right. Vietnamese coffee vs Thai coffee

Vietnamese and Thai coffee is the same thing, right? Wrong, actually. They’re very different, and understanding what you’re ordering will help you get what you expect! Take a look at the key differences between Vietnamese coffee vs Thai coffee.

There are quite a few subtle differences between Vietnamese and Thai coffee. Whether served hot or cold, Vietnamese coffee is condensed, and sweetened milk is added generously to the coffee to help cut the bitterness. Thai coffee is served with both condensed, sweetened milk and evaporated milk.

When you compare the two, Vietnamese coffee is sweeter because it relies entirely on sweetened milk, whereas Thai coffee has two types of milk and less sweetened milk. Both are brewed differently, though, so read on for more details!

Key Takeaways:

  • Vietnamese coffee and Thai coffee are not the same; they have significant differences, and understanding these differences helps you order what you expect.
  • Vietnamese coffee is brewed with a phin, a tiny metal filter, and is sweetened with sweetened milk, egg yolk, and occasionally flavored syrups. It is robust, caffeine-rich, and often enjoyed as a pre-workout energy drink.
  • Thai coffee is brewed using a “coffee sock filter” and is a blend of Thai coffee beans with spices like cardamom for a unique flavor. It is served with both evaporated and sweetened milk, making it less sweet than Vietnamese coffee.
  • Thai coffee adds spices during the brewing process, giving it a distinctive tea-like flavor that can appeal to tea drinkers.
  • Vietnamese coffee is stronger in terms of coffee taste, while Thai coffee has more of a spiced coffee taste due to the added spices during brewing.
  • Vietnamese coffee generally has more caffeine than Thai coffee, likely due to the longer brewing process.
  • Vietnamese coffee is dried with the skin still on the beans and then mechanically separated, while Thai coffee is washed, fermented, and dried, resulting in a more uniform flavor in the beans.

What is Vietnamese coffee?

 Besides being the most popular kind of coffee in Vietnam, this particular kind of coffee is very bold and brewed using a phin — a tiny metal filter that sits on top of the mug. I’ve written more about what Vietnamese coffee is if you want more information on it specifically!

Vietnamese coffee is sweetened with sweetened milk, egg yolk, and occasionally flavored syrups. It’s a robust and caffeine-rich coffee often enjoyed as a pre-workout energy drink!

What is Thai coffee?

As you can guess, Thai coffee is native to Thailand and is a popular kind of coffee there. This is brewed using a “coffee sock filter,” and it is a blend of Thai coffee beans with spices such as cardamom to help offer up an original flavor.

The spices blend always tends to include cardamom, but it can have many other spices to provide a unique experience from shop to shop!

Also very bitter, Thai coffee is served with evaporated and sweetened milk rather than just one type.

Is Vietnamese coffee the same as Thai tea?

Most people are more familiar with Thai tea than Thai coffee. So, are they the same thing? In general, no. Thai tea is made from Assam tea, and Thai coffee is made from, well, coffee beans.

They’re so often confused because Thai coffee adds spices to the brewing process, which adds a distinctive tea-like flavor to it.

Tea drinkers often really enjoy the creativity in Thai coffee for this reason! It offers a unique experience compared to other traditional types of coffee.

What is the difference between sweetened milk and condensed milk?

If you’re feeling confused about the difference between sweetened and condensed milk, don’t worry — I was too! While both come in a can, the similarities end there!

Evaporated milk is unsweetened milk that is condensed into smooth, rich, shelf-stable milk. It’s often used in many recipes for those who want a rich texture without any other changes. 

Sweetened milk is thick sugary milk that often has lumps if not stirred properly. It is excellent for coffee and other drinks where you need that sweetening effect. It doesn’t have as stable a shelf life as evaporated milk, though. 

The Kitchn explains that many think the two are interchangeable, but you should use them differently for the right effect.

Is Thai or Vietnamese coffee stronger?

I’m going to be honest with you guys — there was so much debate over this! Everyone seemed to have a different opinion, and some conversations got so heated! Here’s what I gleaned from it all, though, for your benefit.

Vietnamese coffee is strong, bold, and very concentrated in its coffee taste. It’s a great energy boost and fun to serve with egg yolks. The keywords here are “coffee taste.” 

On the other hand, Thai coffee is also robust and bold and has a great energy boost. The differences between the two will be purely in the coffee taste. Where Vietnamese coffee is distinctively bold coffee, Thai coffee is very much like spiced coffee. If you like experimenting with coffee tastes and spices from tea, this is a great way to do just that!

So, what about caffeine? There was a lot of debate about this, too! While some argued that both were equal, most research stated that Vietnamese coffee came out just ahead of Thai coffee. This is probably because Thai coffee has added spices to the beans, whereas Vietnamese coffee doesn’t. The other factor is that Vietnamese is very slow to brew, so the longer process extracts more caffeine!

Vietnamese coffee vs Thai coffee key differences

Okay, let’s take a moment to get more familiar with the differences between these two strong coffee types, going deep into their backgrounds and processes!


These coffee beans are harvested the same way as you can imagine. For “high-end” coffee, the beans are handpicked so that only the ripe cherries are selected and processed. Some larger institutions strip the cherries mechanically just to help speed up production.


Vietnamese coffee is often dried with the skin still on it, and then it is mechanically separated during the wash cycle after the fact to offer up a rich flavor.

Thai coffee is most commonly washed, then fermented, and then dried. This gives it a more uniform flavor in the actual bean itself. 


Both Vietnamese and Thai coffee use natural sunlight to dry. Where Vietnamese coffee relies more on brick patios, Thai coffee uses bamboo shelving. The sun does a great job drying the beans out when turned properly and also locks in the intense flavor! Occasionally, they can be mechanically dried during rainy periods.


Both coffee types are considered dark roast and roasted in their country of origin (Vietnam and Thailand, respectively). Vietnamese coffee is roasted at a high temperature and for a long time to achieve its strength. The coffee is bitter but has less acidity. This kind of coffee can often give you the jitters if you’re not used to it.

Thai coffee is roasted at a lower temperature and for a shorter period. This coffee has less of a bitter taste but more acidity to it. Most people don’t find this kind of coffee gives them jitters.

TIP: Vietnamese coffee will be a better fit for those who find acidic coffee upsets their stomachs, though both will be more acidic than classic American-style coffee!

Which is sweeter: Vietnamese or Thai coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is considered sweeter than Thai coffee, mainly due to sweetening it before serving it. Since Thai coffee uses evaporated and sweetened milk, it doesn’t have the same strength of sweetness. Of course, it partially depends on how you mix it, too, on the overall taste and sweetness. 

Which is better: Vietnamese or Thai coffee?

These coffee types are lovely for those who like a strong, no-nonsense cup of coffee. Mostly, it depends on whether you like an overpowering coffee taste or a unique taste profile that explores a little bit. For straight coffee lovers, Vietnamese coffee is hard to beat. For those coffee and tea lovers that want to explore, Thai coffee is a beautiful choice.

The other consideration point is just what you like most about the sweetness. Since Vietnamese coffee relies entirely on sweetened milk, this will have a distinctive milky and sweet taste. Thai coffee will have a strong milky flavor but little to no sweetness.

Interestingly enough, most of the coffee type’s sweetness depends on the choice of beans. That’s assuming you try both the same way and get a good feel for how they compare directly. If you’re just trying both for the first time, I’d definitely recommend going for that approach!

While commonly confused for each other, there are a lot of differences between Vietnamese and Thai coffee. Vietnamese coffee is caffeine-rich, bitter, and has low acidity. It is served with sweetened milk and/or egg yolk. Thai coffee is also caffeine-rich, less bitter, has high acidity, and often contains spices. It is most commonly served with both evaporated and sweetened milk, giving it a distinctive milky taste.

Both are excellent choices for experienced coffee drinkers, though unique enough from each other that you’ll want to try both to see how they compare for your specific tastebuds and preferences!!

Know someone who will enjoy having this kind of knowledge to explore their coffee preferences? Please share it on!

FAQ: Vietnamese coffee vs Thai coffee

What is the difference between Vietnamese coffee and Thai coffee?

Vietnamese coffee and Thai coffee are both popular in Southeast Asia, but they have some key differences. Vietnamese coffee is typically made with dark roast coffee grounds and is known for its strong flavor. It is often brewed using a small metal filter and served with sweetened condensed milk. Thai coffee, on the other hand, is usually made with a blend of robusta and arabica beans and is known for its milder taste. It can be served hot or iced and is often sweetened with sugar.

How do you make Vietnamese coffee?

To make Vietnamese coffee, you will need a Vietnamese coffee filter, also known as a phin filter, ground coffee, and sweetened condensed milk. Start by placing the desired amount of ground coffee into the filter. Then, place the filter on top of a cup or mug. Pour hot water into the filter and let it drip through slowly. Once all the water has dripped through, remove the filter and add sweetened condensed milk to taste. Stir well and enjoy!

What is Thai iced coffee?

A: Thai iced coffee, also known as “Oliang” or “E-Tong” in Thailand, is a popular cold coffee beverage. It is typically made by combining strong brewed coffee with sweetened condensed milk and serving it over ice. Some variations of Thai iced coffee may include additional flavors such as cardamom or coconut milk.

How is Vietnamese iced coffee different from Thai iced coffee?

Vietnamese iced coffee and Thai iced coffee have a few differences. Vietnamese iced coffee is typically made with dark roast coffee and sweetened condensed milk, giving it a strong and sweet flavor. It is often served over ice and enjoyed as a refreshing drink. Thai iced coffee, on the other hand, is usually made with a blend of robusta and arabica beans and can be sweetened with sugar. It may also include additional flavors such as cardamom or coconut milk.

What are the differences in brewing methods for Vietnamese and Thai coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is typically brewed using a small metal filter called a phin filter. Ground coffee is placed in the filter, hot water is poured in, and the coffee slowly drips through. Thai coffee, on the other hand, can be brewed using various methods such as a traditional coffee machine, a French press, or even a sock sieve. Each method produces a slightly different taste and strength of coffee.

What type of coffee beans are commonly used in Vietnamese and Thai coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is often made using dark roast coffee beans, while Thai coffee is usually made using a blend of robusta and arabica beans. Robusta beans are more commonly used in both Vietnamese and Thai coffee due to their strong flavor and higher caffeine content.

Can I use regular milk instead of sweetened condensed milk in Vietnamese coffee?

While sweetened condensed milk is traditionally used in Vietnamese coffee, you can use regular milk if you prefer. However, keep in mind that it will change the taste and sweetness of the coffee. Experiment with different types of milk to find your preferred flavor.

What is the traditional way to make Vietnamese iced coffee?

The traditional way to make Vietnamese iced coffee involves using a phin filter to brew strong coffee, and then serving it over ice with sweetened condensed milk. This creates a refreshing and sweet drink that is perfect for hot weather.

Is Vietnamese coffee stronger than Thai coffee?

Vietnamese coffee is generally stronger in flavor and caffeine content compared to Thai coffee. The dark roast coffee beans used in Vietnamese coffee and the longer brewing process contribute to its stronger taste. However, the strength of the coffee can also depend on personal preferences and the brewing method used.

Can I make Vietnamese coffee without a phin filter?

If you don’t have a Vietnamese coffee filter, you can try using a French press or a pour-over coffee maker as an alternative. Simply follow the instructions for your chosen method using the appropriate grind size for Vietnamese coffee. While it may not produce the exact same taste as using a phin filter, it can still give you a delicious cup of Vietnamese-style coffee.

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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.