I had no idea!

Vietnam today is recognized as the second largest coffee producer in the world after brazil, yet not many people are actually aware of it.

Therefore I took the challenge to change the awareness by creating a modern version of the Vietnamese phin to get people more curious about the Vietnamese coffee culture.

Vietnamese coffee is mostly consisting of dark robusta beans.

Whereas the majority of the world enjoys arabica beans.

Vietnamese Coffee is strong!

What is the difference between Vietnamese Coffee and ‘normal’ coffee?

Vietnamese Coffee is mainly consisting of robusta beans. Arabica beans contain between 1% to 1.5% caffeine whereas robusta has between 1.6% to 2.7% caffeine.

The higher caffeine content and the low sugar amount gives robusta coffee a stronger and more bitter taste.

The street culture of Vietnam - things are moving more slow over here!

The Vietnamese Coffee Culture

Vietnamese coffee is not intended to be consumed on the run. The slow-drip coffee takes an important place in the daily life and reflects the relaxed and laid back Vietnamese culture.

The most common way to drink the strong and flavorful coffee is by mixing it with sweetened condensed milk.

But another very popular version of Vietnamese coffee for hot summer days is the Iced coffee (Cafe Sua Da) where the hot coffee is mixed with a glass full of ice cubes.

The traditional brewing process of Vietnamese Coffee
Ca Phe Sua Da - Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Understanding the 'phin'.

Understanding how the traditional phin works was important for the redesign.

Coffee was introduced to the country during the french colonization in the 19th century and ever since the traditional version of the “phin” hasn’t changed much.

Basically the phin works very much like a french press coffee maker.

The coffee ground goes into the Metal Filter and is kept tight by pushing the Press on top. Hot water is then poured into the Metal Filter and goes through the coffee ground to drip into the cup.

How vietnamese coffee works

The Good

  • simple and cheap solution
  • fast manufacturing
  • can be used with different cup sizes
  • coffee oil still in the coffee to increase flavor

The Bad

  • Small coffee ground can go through the holes into the coffee cup
  • coffee ground can get stuck in the holes
  • material not the best for coffee enthusiasts

The Redesign

Concept & Design

At the beginning I bought a couple of different products to see which material is suited best for the filter. I combined different materials such as stone, glass and ceramic to see if they are a good match.

My biggest concern with the traditional phin filters is the metal and therefore I decided to go for porcelain which is neutral in taste compared to metal.

After deciding on materials I sketched out the design. I designed the porcelain and glass in a way that the materials go seamless into each other to create the perception that the set was made from one piece.

For the glass I wanted to use double wall glass for the reason of heat preservation. It also adds a nice effect to the Vietnamese coffee with the sweetened condensed milk floating above the bottom.

I spent night and days refining the design until I came to a point where I needed to build a prototype to test my product.


Prototyping is a crucial part in the design process. Time is much better spent on prototyping than wasted on building theoretical assumptions.

Luckily we live in a world where 3D printing became so affordable and you actually can get simple prototypes in just a matter of days.

The prototypes gave me an opportunity to play around with real coffee and see if the filter actually works.

Sometimes this is a long and frustrating process with lots of failures (I like to call it learnings) but in the end it will save you from losing time and money during mass manufacturing.

Tools to build 3D Data

  • Solidworks
  • Cinema 4D
  • vRay

3D Printing Services

I can't really say that my very first 3D printed prototype was a success!
...or even my second one.

My real world experience

Creating a real product and bringing it to the market is for sure not an easy process.

It takes a lot of patience and perseverance.

I am currently talking to manufacturers and try to get the samples to a point where I can go into mass manufacturing.

If you are more interesting in the details of the whole process, I created a free “HOW TO” – Guide on my blog.

And if you want to checkout the product, here is the website for the Vinabrew Coffee Set : www.vinabrew.com