If you’ve been spending too much time on the Internet lately (has, presumably, everyone is) you’ve probably seen pictures of glasses of milk topped with a weird brown foam on just about any social media site. They’re called Dalgona coffee, a crazy upside-down cappuccino made out of whipped instant coffee.
While the drink was technically first made in China, the trend is often said to have originated in South Korea, after the Korean actor Jung Il-woo likened it to dalgona, a Korean candy and popular street food. The trend took off even further as Korean TikTok users filmed themselves trying to whip the coffee by hand. And, as the Kpop stans did their thing, it slowly began to diffuse into Western aesthetic blogs and food porn accounts.
Kpop stans aside, a good deal of why this trend has had such growth is because it allows people to have their Instagram-worthy coffee without having to break stay-at-home orders. Plus, it’s simple to make and requires only a few, pantry-staple ingredients, making it an easy way to liven up the monotony of people’s quarantines.
So now, before I officially turn into one of those recipe blogs where they put the author’s whole life story before each recipe, let’s make this shit.
The recipe for the foam is fairly simple: combine equal parts instant coffee, sugar (although after a little more research I’ve found that the sugar can pretty much be done to taste), and water (hot or cold, allegedly), and then beat it to death. For one portion, that means 2 tablespoons of each , and, conveniently enough, the only instant coffee I could find came in 1 tablespoon packets. And yes- it has to be instant coffee, as instant coffee has soy lecithin in it that will emulsify the foam.
It took about 5 minutes to whisk by hand. Using an electric mixer probably would have taken less time and potentially could have gotten a little fluffier, but I did by hand because I was born to suffer. Gotta admit, it made me a little nostalgic for the days back in culinary school where people would compete to see who could whip cream the fastest (yeah, college me knew how to fuckin PARTY.)
All that’s left is to pour over milk or your milk substitute of choice.
Yes, it’s very pretty, but how does it taste? Well, it’s a lot like drinking a cappuccino, in that when you go to tilt the glass to take a sip the foam floats up and you mostly just get the liquid underneath. Except that in this case, that liquid is slightly becoffeed milk, which is a little disappointing considering that that isn’t what this drink is meant to be all about. Sure, stirring the foam in would incorporate it into each sip, but that would ruin the aesthetic.
The instant coffee is, as you could probably guess, not exactly the best coffee I’ve ever had. However, I will say that it also wasn’t especially bad, so it’s possible the instant coffee industry has come a long way since whenever their bad reputation came about. That, or the 2 tablespoons of sugar were enough to cover any unpleasantries. That being said, the recipe does call for about twice as much as a regular cup of instant coffee, so it is a bit strong. If you’re dead-set on not using instant coffee, this guy (read: his wife, who apparently did most of the actual work) developed a recipe for turning your fresh coffee of choice into dalgona coffee by making it into an Italian meringue, which just seems like so much extra work for a silly gimmick like this.
Tastewise, it ultimately isn’t anything out of the ordinary. But, unlike other Instagram food fads, it isn’t particularly difficult to make. It makes a good substitute for those of us who miss the occasional weird coffeeshop specialty drink but don’t have an espresso machine at home. I’d also say it’d make a good party trick for brunch, but seriously folks, it’s still not safe to meet up like that just yet. At least we’ll have some time to practice the technique and/or get that whisking arm swole.