When you think of brewing coffee, the V60 and Aeropress frequently comes to mind.
However, before the V60 got its fame, the Vietnamese have already been enjoying their daily cuppa with an underrated coffee brewing tool – the Phin.
The phin aka the Vietnamese coffee brewer is a highly underrated coffee brewing tool.
But despite its functionality and ease of use, the phin or Vietnamese coffee brewer hasn’t received much attention. This could also be in part, due to the bad rap that robusta coffee has received, in comparison to its popular sibling, Arabica coffee. This guide aims to cover everything you need to know and answer all your frequently asked questions.
What is the Vietnamese Phin Filter?
The phin is a decanter that is usually made of either stainless steel or aluminum. If you’ve been to Vietnam, you’ll find it a familiar sight. It is also referred to as the “Vietnamese coffee brewer” or “Vietnamese Coffee Filter”.
The phin brewer provides a mix of immersion and pourover brewing, very similar to using an Aeropress, except for the fact that you don’t need to physically stop the extraction.
How does the phin work?
It consists of two main components – the brewing chamber and the press filter which is used to ‘tamp’ or keep the coffee grounds down. After water is added, the brewing chamber acts as an immersion chamber where most of the coffee extraction happens. As water moves through the brewing chamber, coffee is extracted. Fresh coffee drips into your cup from the bottom.
Our phin comes with an additional base filter that allows the brewing chamber to seat on top of most cups.
Some variations of the phin may not include the base filter. After initial testing and brewing, we’ve decided to switch over to this current design as it significantly reduces the amount of grounds that may end up in your final cup.
How do you make coffee with phin?
In essence, a phin is a stainless steel filter.
To brew coffee,
- place base filter and brewing chamber on your cup
- add 1 – 2 teaspoons of coffee grounds (depending on how strong you’d like your coffee)
- level coffee grounds with the press filter
- pour hot water (if you are using fresh beans, wet your grounds, let the coffee bloom for 20s, then add the remaining amount of water)
- wait for freshly brewed coffee to drip into your cup,
- add desired condiments (condensed milk is a common choice)
Refer to our kopi brewing guide for instructions and recipes on how to brew kopi with phin. You can shop for the phin or vietnamese coffee maker here.
Common phin brew troubleshooting questions
Why is my coffee taking so long to brew?
If you find that your coffee doesn’t drip, your phin may be choked. You’ll want to use a coarser grind size on the next brew. If you’re using pre-ground kopi, you’ll want to reduce your dose.
If you’re going after a traditional Vietnamese coffee experience, be patient and give it time. The Traditional Vietnamese coffee on a phin usually uses more coffee powder and takes about 3 to 5 mins for the coffee concentrate to fully filter through a phin. The coffee concentrate would then be sweetened with condensed milk.
My coffee tastes diluted but the extraction will choke if I increase the dose.
There are two ways around this:
- Brew your coffee in a separate cup for a longer period before using the phin to filter the coffee grounds.
- Reduce the amount of water you use in your brew process. If you’re using the single serving phin, a good volume of water to start with is between 180 to 200ml. Adding more water will naturally dilute your final cup.
Can I do a second brew in the phin by pouring one more round of hot water?
We usually don’t. But nothing’s stopping you, if you like very, very light and bitter coffee.
How to make Vietnamese coffee?
The brewing recipe is similar to that found here.
If you’re looking to brew Vietnamese coffee similar to those you’d get on the street of Vietnam, add a teaspoon of condensed milk into your cup before brewing your robusta coffee.
For an authentic experience, you’ll want to source for traditional Vietnamese coffee blends.
What beans are used for Vietnamese coffee?
Traditional Vietnamese coffee blends feature robusta coffee, usually with a medium dark to dark roast profile. Depending on the roaster’s process, Vietnamese coffee can be roasted with rice wine, salt and butter and come with varying amount fillers like corn and soybeans that provide the characteristic smoky, dark chocolate and hazelnut notes.
These days though, it is common to find dry roasted Vietnamese coffee beans of varying roast levels in the market. Do note that it is impossible to replicate the thick bodied Vietnamese coffee you get in Vietnam with dry roasted coffee because of the differences in their roast profiles.
Dry roasted beans refer to coffee beans roasted without any added ingredients. Roasters adopt methods from the specialty coffee industry and apply them to robusta beans.
Dry roasted robusta blends are said to be cleaner and healthier. *If you’re on a keto diet, this is a good alternative to your kopi. Speak to us to learn more.
Robusta coffees have a higher amount of caffeine, you’ll want to go easy on the quantity if you’re new to this.
Can I replicate the Vietnamese coffee with nanyang kopi?
You can get something that’s very close.
Ask your roaster for kopi blends with a good amount of fillers. As a gauge, these are usually the cheaper blends.
If possible, ask for a finer grind size too.
Can I brew specialty coffee with the phin?
Yes you can.
You’ll need to experiment with the grind size and coffee dose, depending on the profile of your coffee.
How do you grind coffee for phin?
Grind as fine as your phin allows. You may find that the sizes of the holes of a phin differs depending in their manufacturer.
A good starting point is to grind slightly coarser than the size of the holes on your phin brewer. The finer your coffee grounds, the longer the immersion process will be with the phin. If you find your coffee over extracted or too bitter, loosen your settings and grind slightly coarser on the next brew.
As a gauge, a good starting point would be to use a V60 or filter grind and adjust with each brew.
Everything else you know with regards to grind size and brewing applies.
Can I brew store bought pre-ground coffee using the phin?
Yes you can. Just note that such coffees may not be as fresh.
You will want to get coffee grounded for filter rather than espresso.
What else can I brew with the phin?
The possibilities are endless.
We’ve used it as a filter for flower teas, black teas, Chinese herbal tea and specialty coffee. As long as you’re brewing a drink that requires a filter, you would appreciate the phin as a handy, no frills brewer.
Just make sure you clean it thoroughly so that your next brew comes out clean.
Do I need a paper filter?
The phin is an environmentally friendly, all in one coffee brewing tool – no paper filter (less waste, yay) or additional accessories required.
Where to buy Vietnamese coffee filter?
We retail the Vietnamese Phin, you can browse our coffee sets and other kopi kits here.
Do phins come in different sizes?
Yes, they do. Depending on which part of the world you’re in, you may find phin sizes of 150ml to 750ml, or 1 cup to 4 cup variations.
At Alliance Coffee, we retail the single cup phin as it has been the most popular option thus far.
How do you clean a Phin?
A phin is usually made from stainless steel and is easy to clean and maintain.
To clean your phin, simply wash it down with soap to remove any coffee oils and air dry for next use.
Depending on the design of your phin and the grind size of your coffee, you may find grounds lodged in your filter. Use a brush or a dishwashing sponge to remove the stuck grounds. Running the filter under a strong current of water will also help.
For proper maintenance of your phin, avoid scratching the surfaces of your phin while cleaning.
Ideally, use a smooth dishwashing sponge or cloth when washing your phin. Avoid using scrubbing balls or steel brushes to remove stains or dislodge grounds on your phin.
Is the phin dishwasher safe?
Just make sure that your phin filter doesn’t get lost during the dishwashing cycle.
Got more questions?
I’ve covered the common questions that we get above. If you have an unaddressed question, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.