If you have ever had the opportunity to enjoy Vietnamese coffee, after the first sip you probably thought “Dang, this coffee is strong.”
Experiencing Vietnamese coffee for the first time is sure an adventure. You may think an Italian roast is bold but then you try Vietnamese coffee and BOOM your mind explodes with the strong coffee flavor.
Why is Vietnamese coffee so strong?
Western culture is not used to this common Vietnamese treat. The reason for this starts with the kind of coffee beans the west enjoys compared to what the Vietnamese are used to.
What Kind of Beans Does Vietnamese Coffee Use?
To understand why Vietnamese coffee is so strong, we must understand the kinds of beans that produce this powerful drink. The answer is Robusta coffee beans.
What are Robusta coffee beans?
Coffee essentially comes from 2 different species of coffee plants. The Robusta plant and the Arabica plant. The beans come from the seeds of these plants and are later roasted to produce the coffee beans we can purchase at a store.
You’ve probably seen coffee bags with the label “100% Arabica.” This is the kind of coffee that western culture primarily drinks.
Arabica blends of coffee tend to be lighter, fruitier, and smoother.
Robusta, on the other hand, happens to be grown and largely consumed in Vietnam. The Robusta beans produce coffee that is much more bitter, stronger, and bolder.
Check out our detailed post on the differences between Robusta and Arabica coffee beans!
Vietnamese Coffee Undergoes a Different Brewing And Roasting Process
We have discussed the foundation of what makes Vietnamese coffee so strong, but there is more to it!
First of all Robusta beans are roasted very dark. This doesn’t change the strength of the coffee in terms of caffeine but it certainly makes it much more bold and bitter.
Also, Vietnamese coffee is almost always brewed via the drip method. And I’m not talking about our fancy automatic coffee drip machines. The Vietnamese drip method often utilizes very simple drip filters with cups.
These filters drip-brew the coffee very slowly for maximum extraction of coffee. In the end, you are left with a very strong and bitter cup of coffee. Not something your average westerner could handle. Careful, it bites!
However, you don’t typically drink Vietnamese coffee black. Almost always it is enjoyed over ice and with sweet condensed milk to cut that bitter taste.
The result is a quite delicious treat. Not to mention a very energetic kickstart to your day!
How Much Caffeine is in Vietnamese Coffee?
Vietnamese coffee is not only stronger in terms of taste but also in terms of caffeine.
As I mentioned above, Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta coffee beans as opposed to Arabica. It just so happens that Robusta coffee beans contain more caffeine.
How much more? Twice as much! Scientists have determined the caffeine content in Robusta coffee beans (And therefore Vietnamese coffee!) is 2.7% as opposed to 1.5% in Arabica coffee beans.
If you are dependent on coffee like me, and you have kids that keep you up at night, then that extra 1.2% of caffeine sure does wonders!
Man, I wish I knew about that in college…
Why Don’t More People Drink Vietnamese Style Coffee?
Clearly, I talk very favorably about Vietnamese coffee. On occasion, I really enjoy a strong cup of coffee. So why don’t more people enjoy a strong cup of Vietnamese style coffee? Why is it only popular in Vietnam and fringe groups of coffee connoisseurs?
Well, the answer is simple. The western world has grown to love Arabica coffee beans and sadly the appreciation for Vietnamese-style coffee made from Robusta coffee beans is just not there.
The result is that Robusta coffee has become a filler to use for cheap coffee mixes and instant coffee. Primarily because the Robusta coffee plant is more resilient and it can be grown in greater yields which results in a cheaper product.
To conclude, the reason why Vietnamese coffee is so strong can be boiled down to 2 reasons.
The first reason is that Vietnamese coffee is made using Robusta coffee beans. Compared to Arabica coffee beans, Robusta coffee beans are more bitter, bolder, and more caffeinated.
The second reason has to do with the brew method. Vietnamese coffee uses a very simple, gravity-operated drip method. The drip is slow and allows for a condensed coffee.
And that’s pretty much it!
Vietnamese coffee is strong and it can be very delicious. Do yourself a favor and experience this Vietnamese delicacy.