Imagine this — woken up by your alarm at 9:00 a.m., you hit the snooze about four times and try to rub the drowsiness out of your eyes, but it doesn’t seem to work and you’re still yawning incessantly. Getting up, you realize there’s only one solution to this — a solution that happens to take the form of a bitter, yet satisfying, beverage. You walk into the kitchen and in five minutes, you have a cup of coffee that is able to cure this drowsiness in just a few sips. Even the smell of it brewing has an alluring quality to it. After starting your day off right, you’re ready to head off to class energized throughout the whole day.
Coffee, a staple found in almost every college student’s diet — an essential perhaps — is a versatile and delicate art as many have remarked. As one of these said college students who start almost everyday with a cup of coffee each morning, I have been able to experiment with different types and forms of this caffeinated drink.
Most days, my go-to coffee comes from my Nespresso machine where the hot drink can be ready instantaneously at the press of a button. Recently, however, my more laid-back summer schedule has given me the time and opportunity to explore alternate ways to prepare and drink my coffee. While one method is not significantly better than the other, I’ve noticed that I personally enjoy visually seeing the process of my coffee bean grounds become the strong liquid that coffee is.
After only drinking Vietnamese coffee from my local Vietnamese restaurants and eateries, I was interested in finding a way to potentially make this delicious drink at home myself. The phin is a Vietnamese engineered coffee filter that can produce highly concentrated espresso used in either a hot latte or iced coffee. These Vietnamese coffee grounds are said to originate from the Robusta bean which made its way to Vietnam's central highlands in the early 1900s. This Robusta bean, known to be strong and intense in flavor, is filtered through the phin — which I believe perfectly accentuates these flavors through its concentrated drip method. I purchased my phin off of Amazon for about $12, and it arrived just two days later at my front door. Eagerly, I opened up the package and it contained the phin which resembles a cute little metal cup with a small tray at the bottom.
There are four separate parts to this coffee filter. First to note is the tray at the bottom peppered with holes to allow the coffee to filter through. On the top is the cylindrical cup, resembling a small pot with tiny handles on each side, that is also sporting the same holes as the bottom. Inside the phin is a flat and circular piece of metal — with the same holes — that presses the coffee grounds and filters them into an espresso liquid through the bottom of the phin. It’s essentially a press of sorts that fits perfectly within the base of the phin cup. Finally, there’s the lid that is placed on top of the phin which preserves the heat, allowing for the espresso to stay steamy and hot. The phin’s diameter is no larger than about five inches and can fit over most normal sized cups.
Now, you may be wondering, how do I use this small contraption to brew coffee? Well, if you take these next few and simple steps, you’ll be sipping a strong cup of coffee in only a couple of minutes.
This recipe only consists of three ingredients — condensed milk, Vietnamese coffee grounds and hot water. First, remove the press from the inside of the filter and place it next to you — you’ll need that soon. Then, take your choice of Vietnamese coffee grounds — I highly recommend Cafe Du Monde — and roughly measure out about two tablespoons of the grounds and put them into the filter. After that, you will want to flatten out the layer of grounds by lightly tapping the phin to make sure there is an even coat at the bottom of the filter. You will then place that press back into the phin and on top of the coffee grounds you just added.
Before adding the liquid into the cup, add a generous layer of condensed milk at the bottom of the cup you are planning to use. Depending on your sweetness preference, you can add as little or as much as you’d like. Although not necessary, I personally like to use a clear glass cup, so that I can watch the coffee drip from the phin and into the cup. You'll be able to see the almost black espresso drip down from the filter onto the milky white condensed milk found layered at the bottom.
Afterward, place the phin filter on top of your cup. With your boiled water, you will add about 0.8 ounces into the filter and wait a little. This allows for the coffee grounds to bloom before being filtered. Blooming is when you dampen the coffee bed, allowing a release of carbon dioxide which is trapped in the bean due to the roasting process — carbon dioxide adds sour notes to the coffee so it is preferable to avoid this. After waiting about half a minute, you’re ready to pour in more water — enough to fill the phin cup. The coffee will start to filter immediately and you’ll be able to see it drip down into the cup.
After all of the water has filtered through the coffee grounds, you’re left with a cup of condensed milk and espresso. You then mix these two, creating a caramel-colored liquid. The condensed milk is able to balance out the strikingly bitter espresso and turns it into a sweet and slightly creamy flavor. With these summer months, I have recently been cooling the coffee down and drinking it iced, making it a refreshing drink to enjoy in the hot weather.
This delicious coffee is made through three simple ingredients and a few short steps — all thanks to the Vietnamese phin. This tool has been a delightful and easy way to make a cup of coffee for me this past summer and I hope that this article has convinced you to get one yourself for the upcoming school semester!