Cold-Brewed Vietnamese Iced Coffee

When it comes to iced coffee, I’m convinced that cold brewing is the winning method. Pouring piping  hot coffee over ice generally results in a flavorless, diluted mess. That has been my experience anyway. Cold brewing doesn’t require any heat at all–just a little time and patience. 24 hours of patience, in this case.

I will spare you from my full blown cold-brewing spiel. (If you’re interested, you can just mosey on over to this post that I wrote last summer from Montana) But I will say that this method works especially well for Vietnamese-style iced coffee, which requires very concentrated coffee to stand up to the sweet condensed milk.

Traditional Vietnamese iced coffee is of course brewed using a small metal drip filter, or a cà phê phin. I know I badmouth kitchen unitaskers all the time, but I do own a cà phê phinActually, I own four–not gonna lie. I love them! They make the best Vietnamese iced coffee on the planet. They also take for eternity to extract mere drops of glorious coffee goodness from the grinds. It’s basically like watching water boil.

Sometimes you just want a little instant gratification, which is why I like to keep a jar of concentrated cold-brewed coffee in the fridge. When you want a Vietnamese-style iced coffee, just bust this stuff out, and mix with sweetened condensed milk, normal milk, and ice. Easy peasy.

If you’re entertaining, this is also a great way to prepare multiple iced coffees quickly. On a side note, Trader Joe’s now sells sweetened condensed milk in a squeeze bottle. GENIUS.

This recipe is originally from Food & Wine magazine. It calls for 2 ounces (about 4 tablespoons) of sweetened condensed milk, which was a little too sweet for my tastes. I recommend starting out with about 3 tablespoons and adding more to taste. You can always add more sweetness, but you can’t take it away once it’s in there! I think the ratios that Food & Wine magazine used are pretty spot on. But feel free to play around with the measurements until you make your perfect Vietnamese iced coffee.

Cold-Brewed Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Adapted from Food & Wine
Yield: About four drinks

For the coffee concentrate:

  • 4 1/2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 pound coarsely ground dark-roast coffee

For each drink:

  • 3/4 cup coffee concentrate
  • 3-4 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk (add more to taste)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Ice
  1. Brew the coffee concentrate: In a bowl, stir the cold water into the coffee. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve, or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. (Don’t forget to compost the spent grinds!) The concentrate can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
  2. Make the drink: Pour condensed milk into a tall glass. Add the coffee concentrate and milk. Stir well. Top with ice.

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee

We spent the past glorious week in Missoula, Montana–hiking, sleeping in, cooking, eating bison burgers, and just unwinding in general. Jeff’s mom has a beautiful house that sits on top of a mountain overlooking miles of tree-studded rolling hills. It’s a completely picturesque environment and always feels like a retreat from reality when we come to visit. And who doesn’t need to escape reality every once in a while.

It was in the mid to high 80s and sunny last week, which many in Seattle consider to be uncomfortably hot. But secretly I love those hot summer days. Every once in a while I crave that kind of heat–the kind that practically demands an ice cold beverage and legitimizes booty shorts as acceptable attire. Must be the Californian in me.

Cold  brewing has been making the rounds for a few years, and I just haven’t gotten a chance to try it until now. Now that I have, I don’t think I can ever go back. I’ve tried various methods for making iced coffee (french press, electric, stovetop percolator, you name it), and all have resulted in a diluted, disappointing mess. Cold brewing defies conventional logic by steeping the coffee at room temperature for an extended period of time rather than using heat to expedite the process. While this method takes more time (12 hours or overnight), it results in tastier, less acidic iced coffee. I recommend doubling or tripling the recipe and keeping the concentrated coffee on hand.

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee
Adapted from New York Times

Yield: 2 servings

  • 1/3 cup ground coffee (medium-coarse grind is best)
  • Milk and sugar to taste

1. In a lidded container or jar, stir together coffee and 1 1/2 cups water. (Alternately, you can do this in a french press to allow for easy straining). Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight or 12 hours.

2. Strain twice through a coffee filter, a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. (Or strain through the french press if using). In a tall glass filled with ice, mix equal parts coffee concentrate and water, or to taste. Top with milk and/or sugar if desired.

After waiting 12 hours for the coffee to steep at room temperature, I used a coffee filter-lined sieve to strain the liquid. You can also use cheese cloth if you’ve got some handy.

You can keep the coffee concentrate in the fridge for up to a week so it’s ready when you need a caffeine fix. Check out the view from the kitchen–how could you not want to cook in here!

I used a 2:1 coffee to water ratio because I like my coffee strong. There really isn’t a science to this. It’s all about personal preference–some people even like to drink the concentrate straight. Add a splash of soy creamer and…bliss.

During our trip, Jeff and I spent a day at the magnificent Glacier National Park, which is about two hours outside of Missoula. I had big dreams of taking pictures of the gorgeous landscape with our nice SLR camera. In true Jeff and Lauren form, we forgot to charge the batteries. True story. After a brief moment of pure chaos and finger pointing, we just looked at each other, determined that we were both big idiots, and started laughing.

And thus the iPhone saves the day once again. Here are a couple of snapshots I took using Instagram:

Lake McDonald. Sadly, part of Going-to-the-Sun Road was closed because of late snow. While we couldn’t make it all the way to the top, we still got to see some magnificent sights.

Avalanche Lake–a four mile hike round trip. This picture really doesn’t do it justice. It is completely surreal to be surrounded by these enormous mountains. Here’s Avalanche Lake in 1901–it’s amazing how little has changed.

Warm and happy on a hike at The Loop. If you like adventure, you can actually hike in about four miles and stay at The Granite Park Chalet which was built in 1915. In the morning, you can hike all the way up to Logan Pass which is sure to have some amazing views. The Chalet is only accessible by trail and you have to bring all of your goods–food, water, linens, etc. Not exactly a five star hotel, but an experience none the less. This is definitely on the books for us when the whole park is open!