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Sep 21, 2008 12:15 PM

Help! W/ Vietnamese Coffee Maker


I bought a Vietnamese coffeemaker in NY's Chinatown, down on Mulberry Street. It looked like the typical thing, and it cost what I was told was the going rate, around 4 dollars. I brought it back to school with me in hopes of avoiding the awful deli that rips off students and makes horrid coffee, as well as Charbucks...the problem is, I can't seem to use it properly (insert laughter here). I spoon in 2 tablespoons of coffee, and then screw down the filter as tight as possible. However, the boiling water just runs through the grinds very quickly, rather than slowly dripping through. I have tried coffee ground in both (a) french press and (b) drip grinds, so I think the grind is coarse (but not too coarse). As far as I can tell, I'm not putting too much in, since the filter still screws down. No matter how much I screw down, though, it still spins a bit.

I'm a little lost as to what to do. Have I bought a defective model? (There is a very slight gap between the side of the top filter and the wall of the pot, but that seems to be there on all of the makers I look at online, from what I can tell). Is there something I should be doing with the two black screws on the side (what do those do anyway? I've tried screwing them and loosening to no avail.

Any advice appreciated - I'm getting more sleep deprived by the hour, which is bad news when I've got chapters of bankruptcy to read....

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  1. Assuming your coffee maker isn't defective, it might be the step where you are screwing down the upper screen. It should be tight enough to hold the first soaking of the grounds without much of a drip at all. This initial soaking primes the grounds. If you are getting water percolating through, then the top screen needs to be screwed down tighter - it takes a little practice.

    The quantity of grounds you are using might be too light as well. I know these makers usually don't come with instructions, but I think the standard is 3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons per serving - this would increase your dosage by at least 50% which could make a huge difference in this little coffee maker's function. Your top screen might not be screwing down tight enough because there's not enough grounds for it to press down upon...

    The grounds aren't supposed to be really coarse or really fine. Too coarse, and the water will flow through and not get enough exposure. Too fine, and the bottom screen will clog or even result in grounds flowing through.

    Check out this step-by-step that I found online - I hope it helps, and best of luck with your reading...

    2 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      I get about the right flow rate with 2 'approved coffee scoops' - ie. 4 T. I use either the Cafe du Monde or a Vietnamese brand, which I'd class as French Press or even Perc grind.

      I screw the screen on till it presses on the grounds but does not compress them. Without the screen, some of the grounds get stuck in the holes and actually block the flow. So the screen should be on tight enough to hold the grounds in place, but loose enough to allow them to expand.

      I should add that this is for a mug, about 10 oz of coffee, more than the glass shown in the 'ineedcoffee' instructions. So I end up filling the 'cone' about twice. Basically I'm using the same amount of coffee that I use for paper drip, just a coarser grind.

      1. re: bulavinaka

        I agree. You need more coffee in your pot! I have one of these at work - we have a small appliance ban so this is my way around that. Their coffee (of the Folger's variety) is dreadful, and who wants to pay $4 for a Starbucks that is also not far from dreadful?

      2. This is the gold standard, in my opinion. More expensive but essentially foolproof:

        1 Reply
        1. re: ferret

          I totally agree; in fact, I was going to mention this, but it sounds like the OP is a student (I remember those days), and has already committed to the product. The Aerobie is very simple, but the Vietnamese coffee maker is even more basic in terms of its design. Yes, it takes much longer to make a cuppajoe than the Aerobie, but it requires no filter pads, is 6-7 times cheaper, takes up about 1/3 the space (important in a dorm) and the flavor profile is vastly different to me. Maybe the OP can try out the Aerobie on the next go-around (when an extra thirty or forty bucks shows up!).

        2. errrrggg that aerobie is intense!
          i just use my 0.50$ that i bought in saigon... (student!)

          anyway, for coffee grinds, i've had good results with this order of grindiness: french press (rather coarse), drip, vietnamese drip, turkish (like face powder!)