Drinking Nostalgia with Vietnamese Coffee

4 min read.

Vietnamese Coffee
Photography by Blisters & Bliss

It’s a hot morning during the summers of 1995 in Phoenix, Arizona. The air looks like it’s seething with heat yet we go outside anyways and hopped into my dad’s messy, rickety truck, with newspapers strewn all across the seat. We started on our way to the pho place that we always frequent. As we arrived at the pho place, my dad greets all his buddies and I trail behind him, smiling and waving as people shout out greetings. We sit down at a table and my dad orders two of the usual. Around me is the sound of the hustling and bustling of a Vietnamese restaurant during a busy weekend morning.

Around me is also the smells of noodle soups, coffee, and soy milk; mismatched tables and chairs; waiters and bussers going from table to table with their notepad, food, and cleaning cart. People coming and going, to and from our table, talking to my dad. At this pho place, most people were usual guests and all knew each other from the tight knit Vietnamese community.

A few minutes later, the waiter appears with two glass cups, filled partially with condense milk, two stainless steel coffee filters, two glass cups with ice, and a kettle of just boiled water. We prep the coffee filter and place them on the glass cups, it fits over it perfectly. My dad picks up the kettle, and slowly pours the boiled water into the coffee filters. The coffee starts dripping slowly into the glass. I watch as the coffee drips, drips, drips into the glass cup disturbing the condense milk that laid at the bottom. Then the dripping slowed and stopped. We lifted the coffee filter, picked up long metal spoons, and stirred the coffee to combine it with the condense milk. Once it was a light brown color, we stopped and poured the hot coffee into the glass cups with ice. The coffee cools, and we take a sip. Ah, sweet creamy iced coffee. This was my typical weekend morning as a little girl.

20 years later, although I’m not a daily coffee drinker, I’m still a fan of Vietnamese coffee. Not really for the convenience or taste, although both are benefits of Vietnamese coffee, but mostly for the nostalgia. It gives me all the feels and takes me back to the mornings when I was a little girl drinking coffee with my dad. When I was little, it was just how coffee was made on the daily. Now I appreciate the simplicity and functionality of the stainless steel coffee filter. Easy to clean, compact, lightweight, and sturdy. Perfect for car camping, so of course, when I recently went camping in the backcountry of Arizona, we packed the Vietnamese coffee filter and had a nostalgic cup of coffee for breakfast.

Vietnamese Coffee

First, you fill your cup with condensed milk. However much you like. The more you put, the sweeter and creamier your coffee will be. Typically, cow’s milk is used. Here, we used coconut condensed milk. You can also skip the condensed milk and just have super strong, black coffee.
Vietnamese Coffee

Then place the coffee filter onto the cup, and fill the filter with around one and half tablespoon of ground coffee. Wet the coffee grounds with just a little bit of hot water.
Vietnamese CoffeeVietnamese Coffee

Now screw on the press and pack the coffee tight.
Vietnamese Coffee

Slowly pour boiled water into the coffee filter and cover it with it’s little hat. Now the coffee will start dripping into the cup slowly. It’ll take around five minutes for it to finish brewing, depending on how tight you screwed the filter.
Vietnamese CoffeeVietnamese Coffee

The longer it takes, the stronger the coffee will be. To make it drip faster or slower, just take a spoon or tip of a knife to screw the press on tighter or make it looser.
Vietnamese Coffee

While it’s dripping, enjoy your camp view!
Vietnamese Coffee

Once it’s finished, remove the coffee filter and stir well to combine the condensed milk and coffee. (You can set the coffee filter onto it’s lid to avoid dripping onto the surface of whatever you’re using, in this case, a boulder.)
Vietnamese Coffee

And there you go! Vietnamese coffee and all the feels of nostalgia.*

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese Coffee

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 1 person
Author Blisters & Bliss


  • 1.5 tbsp Ground Coffee
  • Boiled Water
  • Condensed Milk (we used coconut condensed milk)



  1. A Vietnamese coffee filter

  2. A kettle or pan to boil water

  3. A cup for the coffee

At Home

  1. Ground the coffee (if not grounded already) and place in a container. Get enough condensed milk and place in a container with a twist cap so it doesn't spill. Don't forget the water!

At Camp

  1. Boil water.

  2. While the water is heating up, fill the coffee cup with condensed milk.

  3. Set the coffee filter on the cup and add the coffee grounds. Wet the coffee grounds with a little bit of hot water.

  4. Screw on the press and pack the coffee tight.

  5. Pour boiled water into the coffee filter and cover with it's little hat. Now the coffee will start dripping into the cup slowly. It’ll take around five minutes for it to finish brewing, depending on how tight you screwed the filter.

  6. Once it’s finished dripping, remove the coffee filter and stir well to combine the condensed milk and coffee. Stir until it's well blended. Once blended, take a sip and enjoy camp!

Vietnamese Coffee

*Not pictured, a large ant trying to get a taste of the Vietnamese coffee and a bee attracted to the sweet smell of the condensed milk. The dark side of camping, bugs and all.

Maker of Blisters & Bliss. I write stories with photography, get dirty with hiking and camping, explore by traveling, and share experiences with design.


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