When it comes to coffee, there are endless options of where to source beans from and roast them in your own unique way. But when it comes down to two powerhouse countries in Southeast Asia, who makes the better cup of joe? Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee?
Coffee is a beloved drink worldwide, but there are regional differences in how it’s made and enjoyed. In Thailand and Vietnam, for example, coffee takes on different flavors depending on where you drink it.
Coffee is coffee, right? Not quite. There are big differences in how coffee is made and prepared throughout the world, and two of the most popular styles are Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee. So what’s the difference between Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee? Let’s take a closer look.
Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee
Coffee is a cherished part of many cultures, and the way it’s brewed can be as varied as the countries it comes from. Thailand and Vietnam are two such countries, each with its unique coffee traditions.
Learning the difference in beans is the first step in making a great cup of either Thai or Vietnamese coffee. Let’s explore each country’s coffee a little more in-depth and take a closer look at these two types of coffee to see how they compare.
1 The type of beans:
A.) Thai Coffee
When you talk about Thai coffee, are we referring to the iced coffee drink made with condensed milk that’s popular in Thailand? Or are we talking about the coffee beans grown in Thailand? The answer is both!
Thai iced coffee is referred to as “Oliang” in Thailand and is made with a specific coffee bean. These beans are called Robusta beans, and they’re known for their high caffeine content and earthy flavor.
Instant coffee uses Robusta beans, which are not as popular as Arabica beans in the coffee world. This is because Arabica beans have a more complex flavor profile and higher acidity. Arabica beans have a more complex flavor profile and higher acidity than other types of beans.
These beans are known for their strong, bitter flavor. The beans are ground and brewed using a special drip filter before being combined with sweetened condensed milk. This method results in a strong, flavorful cup of coffee that’s perfect for those who need an extra energy boost in the morning.
What are Robusta beans?
Robusta beans are coffee beans that have more caffeine and a harsher flavor. These beans are typically found in instant coffees and coffees that have been flavored. They are also used in some espressos.
Robusta beans are used more often in instant coffee and coffee blends because they are less expensive than Arabica beans. The flavor of Robusta is also more harsh and acidic than Arabica. For these reasons, Robusta is not the best bean for making a great cup of coffee.
B.) Vietnamese Coffee
Vietnamese coffee, on the other hand, is made with Arabica beans. Their flavor is sweeter, and they contain less caffeine. The beans are roasted and then ground into a coarse powder. This powder is mixed with hot water and condensed milk and then brewed using a special phin filter. This method results in a smooth, rich cup of coffee that’s perfect for those who want to relax and enjoy their cup of joe.
What are Arabica beans?
Arabica beans are coffee beans that have a sweeter flavor and less caffeine. They are typically used in specialty coffees and are considered to be of a higher quality.
On the other hand, Arabica beans are more expensive but produce a sweeter and smoother tasting cup of coffee. Arabica beans are also less acidic than Robusta beans. If you want to make a great cup of Thai or Vietnamese coffee, use Arabica beans. For example, in Vietnam, they use a particular Arabica bean called the Trung Nguyen coffee bean.
2 The roasting:
Thai coffee is often roasted at a lower temperature for a shorter time. This results in a coffee that is less bitter and has more acidity. The lower caffeine content is also less likely to give you the jitters.
Conversely, Vietnamese coffee is roasted at a higher temperature for longer. This results in a coffee that is more bitter and has less acidity. The higher caffeine content is also more likely to give you the jitters.
3 The brewing:
One of the differences between Thai and Vietnamese coffee is how it is filtered. Thai coffee is brewed using a coffee sock drip filter (also known as “tungdtom” filter), while Vietnamese coffee is extracted using a phin filter.
What is Phin filter?
The phin filter is a traditional Vietnamese coffee filter made of metal and has small holes in the bottom that are placed on top of the cup. The filter holds coffee grounds, and hot water is slowly poured over the grounds. The coffee drips through the filter into the cup. This filter allows for a slow, steady drip that results in a strong, rich cup of coffee. You can find this on Amazon.
What is tungdtom filter?
Traditionally, “oliang” coffee was made using a “tungdtom” filter. The coffee sock drip filter is a cone-shaped cloth filter attached to a metal handle that sits over the cup. We place the grounds in the filter and slowly pour hot water over them, and the coffee drips through the filter into the cup. This filter allows for a faster drip, which results in a weaker cup of coffee.
A coffee sock drip filter produces less bitter, more acidic coffee—the phin filter results in a more bitter coffee with less acidity.
Does filter coffee taste better?
The answer to this question is subjective. Some people prefer the taste of drip coffee because it is less bitter and has more acidity. Phin coffee is usually stronger and richer tasting, which is why some prefer it. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which type of coffee you prefer.
4 The milk:
What makes Thai coffee?
The addition of sweetened condensed milk makes Thai coffee unique—adding this thick, sweet milk to the coffee after brewing makes it taste great. It is then stirred and served over ice. It is important to note that not all Thai coffees are made with sweetened condensed milk. Some people prefer to add regular milk, sugar, or even honey.
What makes Vietnamese coffee?
Condensed milk is commonly used to make Vietnamese coffee, although you can also use evaporated milk. The condensed milk gives the coffee a sweet and rich flavor, while the evaporated milk gives the coffee a lighter and more refreshing taste. If you want to try something different, add cinnamon or chocolate to your Vietnamese coffee.
Why does Vietnamese coffee use condensed milk?
The French influence in Vietnam has led to the widespread use of condensed milk in coffee, which is not common in other Southeast Asian countries. But the Cà phê đá of Vietnam, which is strong and sweetened with condensed milk, is very different from Thailand’s version of iced coffee.
What is Cà phê đá?
Cà phê đá, or Vietnamese iced coffee, is made with coarsely ground dark roast coffee beans and a small metal drip filter. Water is dripped slowly over the grounds, resulting in a very strong brew. This coffee is then poured over sweetened condensed milk and ice. Cà phê sữa nóng, or hot Vietnamese coffee with milk, is made in the same way but without the ice.
What is condensed milk?
Sweetened condensed milk is thick, sweetened milk used in many desserts. The process involves boiling the milk until all the water is extracted. This results in thick, sweetened milk that you can use to add sweetness and creaminess to coffee.
How about evaporated milk?
Evaporated milk is a type of milk that has had the water content removed. It is often used in coffee because it adds creaminess without making it too sweet.
5 The taste:
The taste of each coffee is different.
Thai coffee is typically brewed with Arabica beans, resulting in a coffee that is less bitter and has more acidity. The condensed milk adds sweetness and creaminess to the coffee.
Vietnamese coffee is made with dark roast beans, producing a strong and bitter beverage. The condensed milk gives the coffee a sweet and rich flavor.
The two coffees are quite different in taste and strength. So, while Vietnamese coffee is made with dark roast beans and condensed milk, Thai iced coffee is made with Arabica beans and condensed milk. Which one you prefer is a matter of personal preference.
6 The grind:
The ground grain of Thai coffee is typically finer than Vietnamese coffee. Due to this, Thai coffee is more concentrated and contains more caffeine.
Vietnamese coffee is normally ground coarser than Thai coffee. Fine-grind coffee would fall through the phin filter, so a coarser grind is used. The less water can pass through the coffee grounds, the stronger the coffee will affect brew time and caffeine levels. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how you want your coffee to taste.
7 The caffeine content:
Thai coffee generally has more caffeine than Vietnamese coffee. This is due to the type of bean that is used as well as the grind. Because Thai coffee is made with Robusta beans and is ground finer, it is more concentrated and has more caffeine.
By contrast, Vietnamese coffee has a darker roast and is ground coarsely. This results in a coffee that is less concentrated and has less caffeine.
8 The price:
There is a connection between the type of bean used and how it is ground. Thai coffee is often less expensive than Vietnamese coffee. Also, because Thai coffee is more popular, it is produced on a larger scale, resulting in lower prices.
9 The availability:
Thai coffee is more widely available than Vietnamese coffee. This is due to the popularity of Thai coffee as well as the fact that it is produced on a larger scale. You can find Thai coffee in many cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores. Vietnamese coffee is not as widely available, but you can find it in some specialty cafes and restaurants. But now, with the rise in popularity of Vietnamese coffee, it is becoming more widely available.
10 The aftertaste:
Thai coffee has a more bitter aftertaste than Vietnamese coffee. This is due to the type of bean that is used as well as the grind. Vietnamese coffee has a sweeter aftertaste because of the condensed milk used. Aside from the aftertaste, the two coffees are quite different in taste and strength. Which one you prefer is a matter of personal preference.
Which one is best for your taste?
If you’re a fan of strong and bitter coffee, then Thai coffee is the best choice for you. Vietnamese coffee is the way to go if you prefer a sweeter and richer cup of coffee.
In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. So, try both coffees and see which one you like better!
How to make Vietnamese coffee?
If you want to make Vietnamese coffee, I made a detailed blog post on it. You can find it here: How to Make Vietnamese Coffee (step-by-step guide with video).
You can also find the recipe for Thai Iced coffee here.
To summarize, these are the main differences between Thai coffee vs Vietnamese coffee:
- The type of bean used: Arabica beans are used for Thai coffee, while dark roast beans are used for Vietnamese coffee.
- The grind: Thai coffee is finely ground, whereas Vietnamese coffee is coarsely ground.
- The aftertaste: Thai coffee has a more bitter aftertaste, while Vietnamese coffee has a sweeter aftertaste.
- The caffeine content: Thai coffee has more caffeine than Vietnamese coffee.
- The price: Thai coffee is often less expensive than Vietnamese coffee.
- The availability: Thai coffee is widely available in Thailand, while Vietnamese coffee is widely available in Vietnam.
In a nutshell, Vietnamese and Thai coffee may look the same, but they’re actually quite different. From the type of bean used to the grind and even the aftertaste, these two coffees offer distinctively different experiences. The differences include the filtering method (phin and tungdtom), the type of bean used, the grind, how much caffeine is in each coffee, and even the price.
While Thailand prefers to keep its tradition with coffee, Vietnam is more willing to experiment. As a result, you can find a greater variety of coffee drinks in Vietnam. If you’re looking for a traditional coffee experience, Thai coffee is the way to go. But if you want to try something new, Vietnamese coffee is worth trying.
If you dig deeper, you may even find that you prefer one over the other. But at the end of the day, it’s all up to personal preference. So, go ahead and give both a try! You may be surprised at which one you like better.