With more and more of us staying at home and cafes closing across the world, we’re reminded of what that first sip of the day really means.
It’s not just the caffeine (though that certainly helps!); it’s the simple act of treating ourselves during our morning routine to a little something special. Something frothier or differently flavored than we could have made at home.
Well, making coffee at home is a given for most of us these days. So we’d better make it special. Enter Dalgona coffee (also known as “whipped coffee”).
Drawing on a South Asian tradition of whipped coffees, Dalgona coffee flips the traditional latte on its head, resting a thick, creamy dollop of coffee flavor atop a bed of milk. Its blend of bitter and sweet, creamy and light, white and tan have made it a star on Tik Tok…and better yet, you can make it in three minutes from a recipe you’ll have memorized by the time you finish this article.
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A Winding Road to Overnight Success
Korean actor Jung Il-woo, whose popularity extends throughout Southeast Asia, discovered the drink on a trip to Macau. And there the story might have stopped, except for Jung’s coincidental appearance on a popular Korean reality show.
The Korean show Pyunstorang challenges celebrities to come up with high-end dishes with enough popular appeal to sell in convenience stores. Naming the drink Daolgona after a popular Korean sponge toffee, Jung introduced it to viewers on Pyunstorang, which in turn brought it to the attention of his many fans in China, Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia. Tik Tok introduced Dalgona to the world.
How to Make Dalgona Coffee
If you’ve ever made whipped cream, baked a lemon meringue pie, or even gotten serious about the fluffiness of your scrambled eggs, you’re ready to try your hand at Dalgona coffee. In fact, the one ingredient that might not be in your cupboard already is the recipe’s humblest: instant coffee.
The recipe’s easy. The technique is only a bit less so. Here’s what you’ll need:
2 Tbsp instant coffee or espresso powder (decaf works just as well, if you must)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp hot water
2 cups milk (lactose-free and non-dairy alternatives work just fine)
That’s it. If you can count to two, you know the recipe for Dalgona coffee. If this seems like an especially sugar-heavy ratio, don’t worry: the bitterness of the coffee will come through, followed shortly by a nicely sweet finish, with each taking the edge off the other.
To get started, mix the coffee or espresso powder together with the sugar in a small bowl. Then add the hot water.
This is where tools and technique enter the equation. With vigorous-enough whisking over enough time, even a fork should be able to create the elusively magical reaction that occurs to make a frothy wonderment out of instant coffee and sugar. More often, first-time Dalgona coffee makers armed just with a fork will produce a runny-but-delicious goop that works best as an ice cream topping.
For best results, use a whisk or a blender. Hand-held blenders are ideal for the job; if you use a stand mixer, it’s wise to double the recipe.
With enough wrist action or attention to your trigger finger, you should quickly see the mixture begin to come together. A whisk might be the quickest way to get the results you’re after, as long as you have the wrists for the job. Manual whisking can take as little as a few minutes; a hand mixer might take five, and a stand mixer might take all of 15 minutes (that’s the tradeoff for keeping your hands free).
At first, you’ll notice that the coffee-sugar-water combination grows markedly lighter in color, from a dark coffee shade to a light latte. You’re done when the mixture reaches the consistency of soft whipped cream, or gently peaked meringue. That’s the point at which the greatest possible amount of air has been introduced to the mixture, so unlike those other examples, you won’t end up with butter or grainy egg whites.
All that’s left is to serve it up. Most Dalgona coffee drinkers prefer cold milk as a base, and to achieve a finer distinction between layers, some chill the glass as well. Pour the milk, spoon the coffee mixture on top, and you’re done.