Thai vs Vietnamese Coffee: The Difference Between Them

Thai coffee and Vietnamese coffee are not the kinds of coffee that you will find in all the coffee shops that you visit. But this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need our attention. Both of these drinks offer a unique flavor that you will not find in just any cup of coffee.

These two drinks can seem quite similar on the surface, but they are not the same. The main difference is that we use different methods of filtering the coffee. Thai coffee is made with a tungdtom filter whereas Vietnamese coffee is prepared using a Phin filter. There is also some variation in the ingredients of these two drinks, which, I will discuss in a moment. Furthermore, both of these are quite often found in the shape of iced coffee, which I will cover in this article.

What is Thai Iced Coffee?

In Thailand, this kind of coffee is called “oliang” or “oleang”. The direct translation for this is “black iced coffee”.

Thai iced coffee is made from a combination of some of the following ingredients:

  1. Dark roasted robusta beans
  2. Evaporated milk
  3. Sweetened condensed milk
  4. Brown sugar
  5. Cardamom
  6. Maize
  7. Soybeans
  8. Rice
  9. Sesame Seeds

However, in reality, you can buy what they call oliang powder which is a blend of ground coffee beans with other ingredients such as sesame seed, soja bean, maize, etc. This mixture is then put in the filter to make the coffee.

What is a Coffee Sock Drop Filter (tungtdom)?

The filter used for this delicious drink is called a tungdtom. This kind of filter is a coffee sock filter which is basically a fabric bag connected to a metal ring and handle. It is placed over the cup when filtering the hot water through to brew the coffee.

This filter has quite a high drip rate, resulting in a lighter cup of coffee.

How to Make Thai Iced Coffee

What You Need to Make Thai Coffee:

  1. Oliang powder
  2. Sugar
  3. Sweetened condensed milk
  4. Evaporated milk
  5. Ice cubes

Here are the steps to make Thai iced coffee:

  1. Put the oliang in the Tungdtom and gently pour hot water over it
  2. The filter process will take about 10 minutes
  3. Add sugar
  4. Allow the drink to cool
  5. Add sweetened condensed milk or evaporated milk to taste
  6. Add lots of ice

Some sources mention using plain milk instead of some of the other dairy options that I mentioned, but according to Temple of Thai, the Thai like their coffee sweet and that street vendors tend to use sweetened condensed milk in their iced coffee.

In the end, however, you can adjust the amounts according to your personal preferences. For example, if you prefer a sweet flavor over the bitter taste of strong coffee, consider adding cardamom or even more condensed milk to your

What is Vietnamese Iced Coffee?

This kind of delicious iced coffee is known as cà phê sữa đá (cafe sua da) in Vietnamese.

When coffee was brought to Vietnam in 1857 by a French Catholic priest, fresh milk was not widely available. This is why they started to use sweetened condensed milk with their coffee. 

In Vietnam, they use a phin filter.

What is a Phin Filter?

A phin filter is a filter used for authentic Vietnamese coffee. It is made of metal and has small holes at the bottom. The final result of using this filter is a smooth, rich, and strong cup of coffee.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee Recipe

Here is a list of ingredients for Vietnamese Iced Coffee:

  1. Grounded dark roast coffee beans
  2. Sweetened condensed milk
  3. Boiling water
  4. Ice cubes

How to Make This Delicious Coffee:

  1. Put the filter over the cup
  2. Put two tablespoons of coffee grounds in the filter
  3. Pour a tablespoon of boiling water over and wait a bit
  4. Next, add the rest of the boiling water
  5. After about two minutes it should start to drip through
  6. In the meantime, put 1-2 tablespoons (or to taste) of condensed milk in a glass
  7. Pour the coffee over the condensed milk
  8. Add ice (optional)

Vietnamese Iced Coconut Coffee

This version of iced coffee is pretty close to its other Vietnamese counterpart. The difference is that with this drink you add coconut milk or even coconut cream if you are looking for a creamier texture. This balances the bitterness of the coffee and adds a wonderful rich flavor.

Other Vietnamese Coffee Drinks

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

This coffee is what the name suggests, coffee made by adding egg yolks. Tasty Touch has a wonderful recipe for Vietnamese egg coffee if you are interested in trying it out.

Thai Coffee vs Vietnamese Coffee: The Differences

The Brewing Process

This is one of the very big differences between these two coffees. Vietnamese coffee is made using a Vietnamese phin filter whereas Thai coffee is made with a tungtdom (coffee sock drip filter).

The Difference Between a Phin Filter and a Tungtdom Filter

Other than the obvious visual differences, coffee made using a phin filter is more bitter as compared to a more sour cup of coffee that is made using a tungtdom filter.


While both these drinks are made with robusta coffee beans and contain condensed milk the other ingredients are quite different.

Thai iced coffee has added things such as evaporated milk, sugar, cardamom, maize, soybeans, rice, and sesame seeds.

On the other hand, Vietnamese iced coffee doesn’t contain any of those extra ingredients.

The Grind

In order to prevent the coffee grounds from going through the filter, Vietnamese coffee uses a less fine grind as opposed to the fine grind that is used for Thai coffee.


Due to the different methods of making these coffees and the different ingredients, there is a difference in the taste of these drinks. Where Vietnamese coffee can be bitter or sweet it also tends to be bolder than Thai coffee.

Thai coffee tends to be less sweet as compared to Vietnamese coffee because of the other ingredients added that Vietnamese coffee doesn’t contain.

Final Thoughts: Thai Coffee vs Vietnamese Coffee

While many people switch out authentic Thai or Vietnamese coffee with espresso or instant coffee, that is not quite what these drinks should be like. A big part of them lies in the way that they are brewed. However, if you don’t have access to the right filters, there is nothing stopping you from using those methods.

The next time that you are craving your daily coffee fix on a hot summer day, but are simply not in the mood for hot coffee, try one of these drinks that originates from southeast Asia and let me know what you think of them.

Other Coffee Comparisons

Cortado vs Piccolo Coffee

Both a piccolo and a cortado is quite a small but potent coffee drink. This makes it hard to decide which of them you want.

In this post, I explore the differences between a cortado and a piccolo.

Cortado next to piccolo coffee.

Macchiato vs Espresso

These two espresso drinks will both give you a great caffeine boost in their own way.

In this post, I walk you through the differences between a macchiato and an espresso.

Macchiato vs Espresso: the differences.
Vietnamese and Thai Iced Coffee

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