Quarantined people all over the world are using their extra morning time to try out Dalgona coffee. Named after a type of Korean candy, the drink first gained popularity in South Korea, and by late March became a sensation on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.
Several of my friends tried it for themselves and posted their results. While the attempts came in all shapes and sizes, the feedback on taste was all the same: “Oh my gosh, it’s SO GOOD. You have to try it.”
I, however, still had my doubts.
Deceivingly simple, the coffee drink only contains four ingredients: instant coffee, sugar, water, and milk. The first three ingredients (in a 1:1:1 ratio) are vigorously whipped together to create a stiff-peaked foam. It’s dolloped onto a glass of milk and it can be served hot or cold—whichever you prefer. It’s a super easy process. But, like most people, I have an inherent distaste for instant coffee. It’s always been the absolute last option for caffeine and (in my opinion) is usually only acceptable if you’re at a hotel in the middle of nowhere. How could a latté-like coffee drink taste good with instant coffee? However, at the prompting of my friends (and Minnesota Monthly’s editor), I decided to give it a go. (Spoiler: I am now a huge fan.) Read on for my process, mistakes, tips, and takeaways.
Ingredients & Utensils
Before heading to Target to buy the necessary ingredients, I researched the best instant coffee. I was still skeptical, so I wanted to make sure I was buying the best of the best! Roasty, a coffee-focused website and blog, named Waka Instant Coffee as its top choice, but since Target doesn’t carry that specific brand, I went with the classic Nescafe Taster’s Choice House Blend instead. You can really use whatever kind of instant coffee you prefer or have on hand. You can also use drip coffee if you have that set up available.
You’ll want to use granulated sugar for this drink. I used normal white granulated sugar. To get the stiff peaks, make sure to keep the sugar ratio equal to that of the instant coffee and the water, otherwise it won’t whip correctly. If you want to make a healthier version, you can try coconut sugar instead.
Just…you know, from the tap. But, like the sugar, make sure you’re careful about the ratio. If you add too much water, you won’t get the foam to whip.
Whatever milk you like in your lattes works perfectly fine for Dalgona coffee—coconut, oat, soy, and regular milk are all viable options.
All you need to make the foam is a large mixing bowl, a round whisk, and a rubber scraper—plus whatever glass you want to drink out of. The large bowl is necessary to give the mixture room to breathe and air as you’re whisking. To save yourself some of the vigorous whisking in the process, you can also use a handheld mixer, but it is in no way necessary to the recipe.
The Step-by-Step Process
1. In your large mixing bowl, whip together an equal ratio of instant coffee, sugar, and water.
For my first try, I chose a ratio of 1 heaping teaspoon of each ingredient. When I first started whisking, the mixture was dark and thin. I was pretty skeptical, but I kept whisking, and sure enough the mixture soon became lighter in color and whipped, with stiff peaks. It’s important to hold your bowl at a tilt, too! Some recipes will say that 400 whisks will get you the stiff peaks that you need—others just say 2 minutes and 40 seconds should be enough. Some even say 5 minutes is necessary. I ended up whisking for 3 minutes, but I think it only took that long because I stopped quite a few times to freak out over the fact that it was really working.
My note for next time: I did not make nearly enough foam for the glass jar I wanted to use, so I ended up whipping two servings of foam. For an 8-ounce glass, I would try a ratio of 2 teaspoons, instead of one. I may even try more next time! Just remember that the more you make, the longer it will take you to whisk.
2. Pour milk into your glass of choice and add ice if you prefer. Using a rubber scraper, dollop your whipped foam on top of the milk.
I was worried that the foam wouldn’t float, but it did! The ratio of foam to milk is pretty much your own prerogative. Some examples show lots of milk and just a little foam. Other examples show lots of foam with just a little milk at the bottom. For my first experiment, I erred on the side of more milk, but in the future, I will probably use less.
3. Enjoy your creation! (And plan for the next.)
Ta-dah! My first creation did not look nearly as pretty as I was hoping, but I was very pleased with the taste. Instead of sipping it with the foam on top, I chose to stir it up. I was surprised by how much it actually tasted like a latte. It reminded me a bit of a crafted cold press from Caribou. And with so little work, too! For extra taste, you can sprinkle some cinnamon on top. I’m also thinking about adding vanilla or caramel syrup to spruce it up a bit more. One thing’s for sure—practice truly makes perfect with this coffee drink, so keep at it! You’ll have your dream creation in no time.
My note for next time: According to other creators, the foam actually keeps pretty well in the fridge for a day or two. In the future, I may make enough for two or three cups to keep on hand, either for an afternoon pick-me-up or a busy workday.
For more examples, and alternatives to making Dalgona Coffee, check out this informative blog post at kimchimari.com.