What Is Dalgona Coffee?
Dalgona coffee is a whipped, frothy iced coffee drink made with instant coffee, sugar, water, and milk. Dalgona coffee has two distinct layers made from whipped coffee cream sitting on top of iced milk. As a result, folks also call dalgona coffee by other names like “whipped coffee”, “frothy coffee”, or “fluffy coffee.”
What does dalgona coffee taste like?
If I had to describe dalgona’s coffee taste, it would be this: yes, it tastes kinda like a Starbucks Frappucino. In the best way possible. It’s less icy and milkshakey, somehow? Actually, maybe it’s more like those Starbucks iced cloud macchiatos—except the coffee is the cloud instead! It mostly tastes like milky iced coffee, but with a layer of foam that’s reminiscent of the frothy milk in espresso drinks like cappuccinos and lattes.
How do you drink dalgona coffee?
When I first shared my tutorial for dalgona coffee on my Instagram account, I received one snarky comment: “But how do you drink it?!”
The commenter argued that doing so would be a logistical nightmare. Specifically: drinking through a straw would only enable you to taste one layer at a time, whereas drinking without one would leave you with a nasty coffee foam mustache. I patiently explained that you stir the drink before drinking for best results. The commenter then clapped back—how was that any different from just drinking instant coffee the regular way?
But here’s the thing: recipes instruct you to make dalgona coffee by whipping together instant coffee, sugar, and hot water. You then keep whipping until it turns into a coffee-flavored whipped cream/marshmallowy meringue. Even when stirred with the iced milk, this coffee cream keeps its frothy, fluffy texture. It creates a drink that’s more similar to a Starbucks Frappucino than a drip coffee or instant coffee from a vending machine.
Why is dalgona coffee popular?
Dalgona coffee recently started trending in South Korea in February 2020. Folks started making dalgona coffee at home to replace their typical coffee shop routines. Along the way, many shared short video tutorials on TikTok and Instagram using the hashtags #dalgonacoffee and #달고나커피. These videos were a hit. In fact, one of the first dalgona coffee tutorials on YouTube now has over 4 million views.
The dalgona coffee trend arrived later in the United States at around mid-March. Ben Mims, the cooking columnist for the Los Angeles Times, described how the drink went viral in South Korea. I discovered the drink after a friend of mine, Edd from @theboywhobakes, shared Ben’s article on Instagram Stories. A few days later, dalgona coffee really took off in the States. Many popular websites like Vice and The Cut published their own recipes and similar articles a week later.
Why is it called “dalgona” coffee?
Dalgona coffee gets its name from dalgona, a spongy South Korean coffee candy. I actually got to try some when I was in South Korea this past December. It is similar to the type of honeycomb found in American Butterfinger or British Cadbury Crunchie candy bars. The candy has a bubbly texture and surface, appearing very similar to the pockmarked texture of dalgona coffee foam against the side of a glass.
Although I know this drink as “dalgona coffee”, I’ve seen many tutorials that call it by other names. The most common variations include names that describe the coffee’s appearance: “fluffy coffee”, “frothy coffee”, and “whipped coffee.”
Where is dalgona coffee from?
Okay, this question is the reason why it took me so long to publish the accompanying blog post to my dalgona coffee Instagram tutorial last week. Although it recently resurged in popularity in South Korea, it’s not actually from South Korea. But when I was researching the origins of dalgona coffee, and simply could NOT find a clear answer. But many of my Instagram followers from all around the world commented that they had something similar in their countries and cultures. Here’s a round-up of places that have a similar drink:
India and Pakistan
Both India and Pakistan has a “beaten coffee” recipe that’s very similar to dalgona coffee. Similar to dalgona coffee, recipes instruct you to beat instant coffee and hot water together to create the frothy coffee. The frothy coffee is then served with hot milk, a selection of spices, and salt. In India, this drink is also known as an “Indian style cappucino.”
Frappé coffee is a Greek iced coffee made from instant coffee, water, and sugar. Recipes instruct you to shake the ingredients together to create the frothy coffee cream, and serve it over crushed ice. While dalgona coffee recipes instruct you to whisk the ingredients together by hand or with a mixer, frappé coffee recipes instruct you to make it with a cocktail shaker. Very cool.
According to the Wikipedia article for dalgona coffee, a South Korean actor named Jung Il-Woo was primarily responsible for dalgona coffee’s popularity in South Korea. At the start of the year, Jung Il-Woo visited Macau. Later, in interviews, he described that while he had encounter a coffee beverage that reminded him of dalgona candy while in Macau.
Now tell me—did I miss any other places? Let me know in the comments and I can update the list accordingly!
Ingredients to Make Dalgona Coffee
Now that I’ve convinced you to make dalgona coffee, here is the shopping list to make this dalgona coffee recipe:
Dalgona Coffee Recipe Shopping List
- instant coffee
- sugar (granulated is preferred, but brown and coconut sugar will work)
- cow or alternative plant-based milk
And let’s talk about these key ingredients and their substitutions:
You need 2 Tablespoons instant coffee to make dalgona coffee. Yes, instant coffee is key to this dalgona coffee recipe. Don’t be a coffee snob!
Can I use ground coffee from coffee beans or a pre-ground coffee bag?
No! It won’t work if you use fancy ground coffee, no matter how finely you grind it.
Contrary to popular belief, instant coffee and ground coffee are different things! Ground coffee is made by grinding coffee beans into a coarse or fine powder. You can easily make ground coffee at home with a coffee grinder.
Instant coffee, on the other hand, is made from whole coffee beans that are roasted, ground, and brewed. The water is then removed from the brewed coffee either by flash-heat drying or freeze-drying, leaving behind dehydrated crystals. You then add water back to these crystals to make a cup of coffee.So while ground coffee literally looks like ground up coffee, instant coffee looks more like Demerara or raw sugar crystals. Most folks are unable to make instant coffee crystals at home (since you’d need a freeze-dried machine to do so).
So why does this recipe only work with instant coffee?
I’ve also been researching why the recipe only works with instant coffee. The best explanation I found was in this Reddit thread. A biochemist explained that the frothiness can be attributed to emulsifiers (specifically, soy lecithin) added to the coffee dehydration process.
Between you and me, I have no idea if this is legit. But I’m inclined to think that it’s true. Why? Several years ago, when I was trying to reverse-engineer a recipe for chewy cocoa brownies for my book, I read the ingredients of many different box mix brownies. No matter how much I replicated their ingredients, I could never get the consistency of my batter to be the same as that of a box mix. I was missing the key ingredient: soy lecithin, the emulsifier the biochemist credits.
Can I use the coffee in a K-Cup or a coffee pod?
No, sorry. The coffee inside K-Cups or coffee is equivalent to ground coffee. It won’t work for the same reasons I described above.
Can I use instant espresso instead of instant coffee?
Yes! My friend Edd used instant espresso for his dalgona coffee variation and it worked like a charm. However, I think that instant espresso tends to be stronger than instant coffee—you may want to halve the recipe to reduce the drink’s overall intensity.
Can I use this technique with other ingredients like matcha (green tea powder) or instant tea?
No—take it from my experience. I’ve also tried to make that signature foam with other ingredients like matcha powder and instant Thai tea powder. Neither worked. Again, the foaming comes specifically from the way instant coffee is processed—see the section above for more information.
What’s the best instant coffee to use for dalgona coffee?
Gah, I honestly don’t know. I live in Portland, Oregon, and as a result, I’m a low key coffee snob. It’s pretty embarrassing. I’m the kind of coffee drinker who only makes coffee at home with a French press, whose favorite local roaster is Heart because “I like the Scandinavian style of light roasting better”, and the pretentious jerk who drags you to places like Felt Coffee in Seoul and Arabica Coffee in Kyoto. I never thought I would fall in love with a coffee drink made out of instant coffee, lol.
So, when standing in the instant coffee aisle of the supermarket, I panicked and just bought the cheapest container of instant coffee I could find. It was Folgers Instant Coffee. It works well in this recipe. Is it the best? I have no idea. This article is probably better in helping you figure it out.
That being said, a few of you guys reported that you made this recipe with Starbucks instant coffee. Many of you didn’t like it. But that’s not dalgona coffee’s fault, I promise! Starbucks instant coffee is traditionally more bitter than other instant coffee. I suggest going with another brand.
You need 2 Tablespoons sugar to make dalgona coffee.
The sugar in the recipe helps stabilize the foam and whip it up to its utmost fluffiest state. But watch out—you use the exact same amount of sugar as you do instant coffee. If you are a black coffee drinker or like plain coffee drinks like cappucinos and Americanos, it’s likely you’ll find dalgona coffee too sweet.
Do I have to use sugar for dalgona coffee?
TECHNICALLY you can skip the sugar, but I don’t recommend it. While the coffee cream DOES whip up, it doesn’t get as light, fluffy, and stable as the coffee cream you see in my pictures. Because in addition to flavor, the sugar is definitely there to help whip the coffee up into a foamy, meringue-like structure. Without the sugar, yours will never look as fluffy and airy as mine. If you insist on reducing the sugar, I wouldn’t reduce it past 1 tablespoon.
You can also substitute the sugar with other types of sugar. Although dalgona coffee is traditionally made with white granulated sugar, I’ve successfully made it with brown sugar (however: it never got as airy and creamy as it did when I made it white sugar). Other Instagram followers of mine have also reported successes with coconut sugar and artificial sweeteners like stevia and xylitol granules. See more information below.
Can I use brown sugar or coconut sugar instead of white sugar for dalgona coffee?
Yes! You can use either light or dark brown sugar for dalgona coffee, along with coconut sugar. I’ve done it before and it’s plenty tasty—however, note that the coffee doesn’t whip up quite as well as it does with white sugar. That’s because both brown sugar and coconut sugar are “heavier” than white sugar and contain more moisture. You can see a visual representation of this over on my friend Cassy’s blog, where she experimented making dalgona recipe with various white sugar substitutes.
Can I use a non-refined sugar alternative like stevia or xylitol for dalgona coffee?
Yes, technically, you can. However, your dalgona coffee won’t whip up as well as mine. You can see a visual representation of this over on my friend Cassy’s blog, where she experimented making dalgona recipe with various white sugar substitutes.
You need 2 Tablespoons hot water to make dalgona coffee.
This dalgona coffee recipe works best if the water is hot, hot, HOT and fresh from being recently boiled. The hot water will help dissolve both the instant coffee and sugar instantly, leading to a frothier, fluffier dalgona coffee.
You need 1 cup cow’s or alternative plant-based milk to make dalgona coffee.
The LA Times dalgona coffee recipe instructs you to scoop the dalgona coffee cream over a glass of 1 cup of milk and iced cubes. This is where you have flexibility in the recipe. For folks who want a stronger cup of coffee, use less milk (however, because of dalgona coffee’s intensity, I wouldn’t recommend anything less than ½ cup. For those who want to keep things light and sweet, use as much milk as you need.
Can I use non-dairy milk?
Yes! You can use non-dairy alternatives for dalgona coffee. I personally like the coffee cream best when it’s paired with cow’s milk, oat milk, and nut milk.
Can I use hot milk?
Yes! Like I said before, in India, they serve a variation of this drink but with hot coffee. It is called an Indian cappuccino.
How to Make Dalgona Coffee
It is super easy to make dalgona coffee. All you need to do is:
- Combine the instant coffee, sugar, and hot water. (Prep Time: 1 minute)
If you’re using a stand mixer to whisk the ingredients together, combine them in the stand mixer bowl. This recipe works best if you combine the dry ingredients (the instant coffee and sugar) first, then add the water and immediately proceed to the next step.
- Whisk, whisk, whisk until the coffee is light and fluffy! (Work Time: 3 minutes)
If you’re using a stand or electric mixer, it’s likely that the ingredients will whip up into a cream in less time, about 1 to 2 minutes. If you’re using your own man power and whisking by hand (which, I see you and respect you), it’ll likely take longer, about 3 to 5 minutes. In either case, the longer and more vigorously you whisk the mixture, the fluffier and airier it will be.
- Use a rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to spoon the coffee cream into a glass of iced milk.
Because I am extra, I usually also garnish mine with a sprinkling of cocoa powder (which is what I did in my Instagram Story tutorial for this recipe). Serve with a straw, and stir, stir, stir to enjoy!
Dalgona Coffee Recipe Troubleshooting and FAQ
FAQ: Tools to Make Dalgona Coffee
What tools do I need to make dalgona coffee?
Technically, you can get away with just using a whisk and your arms to make dalgona coffee cream. But oh boy, get ready for a workout! By hand, you’ll be whipping for at least 2 to 3 minutes. More if you want your coffee to look as fluffy as mine. And yes, in my Instagram Story tutorial, I whipped mine by hand—but don’t compare. I literally do this for a living. Not to mention do a HIIT workout five days a week, and rock climb on the other two. I have weirdly strong arms and good cardiovascular endurance.
So, TL/DR, you don’t need to be a hero. You can use the following tools instead and make your life much, much easier:
- A stand mixer fitted with an electric whisk
- A handheld electric mixer (this is the one I use, and I love it so much that The New York Times even asked me to review it lol)
- An electric milk frother
Caveat about that last one: while you can make a perfectly fluffy Dalgona coffee cream with an electric milk frother, it takes twice as long to whip it up than if you were to use a stand mixer or handheld one. Just be warned!
For more specific recommendations, check out this interview I did for CNN on how to make dalgona coffee!
FAQ: Dalgona Coffee Recipe Results
Why didn’t the dalgona coffee recipe work?
First, check your coffee. This recipe does NOT work with ground coffee. It only works with instant.
Now, let’s talk water. Remember: hot water helps dissolve both the instant coffee and the sugar more quickly, helping it whip up into its foamy state. The hotter the water, the better. You want the water to be freshly boiled.
Finally, how long and how much did you whisk for? If you didn’t whisk for long enough, keep going—the mixture will eventually thicken. If it has thickened but doesn’t look as fluffy as mine, it’s likely that you either haven’t done it for long enough or haven’t been doing it vigorously enough. The more you whip and the faster you do it from the get go, the fluffier the coffee will be.
Why does your dalgona coffee look fluffier than mine?
Did you use a different sugar? Like I said above, this recipe works best with white sugar—although you’ll still get decent results with brown sugar, coconut sugar, and some sugar alternatives, they don’t whip up as airy and fluffy as white sugar.
Beyond that, I’m a freaking maniac, baby. The more you whip and the faster you do it after combining all the ingredients together, the fluffier your dalgona coffee will be. This is why it’s handy to use an electric mixer. Immediately after combining the ingredients, turn on your mixer and whisk, whisk, WHISK at a medium-high speed. The only downside to doing this is that the ingredients have a tendency to splatter from the bowl—you can use one of those fancy bowl covers (they have them for both stand mixers and handheld mixers), or just throw a towel around the top of the bowl to catch splatters.
Best Dalgona Coffee Recipe Tips
Best Serving Tip
- The recipe below is adapted from the LA Times recipe and makes just one dalgona coffee. All in all, it’s about the size of one grande drink at Starbucks. If that’s too much for you to handle, no worries! Halve the recipe into two servings by splitting the milk into two glasses and dividing the dalgona coffee cream in between them. Alternatively, you can also just halve the quantities of the recipe below and make just one serving of dalgona coffee. However, I wouldn’t recommend splitting it further than that—small quantities of ingredients don’t whip up as well.
Best Storing Tip
- Dalgona coffee keeps for a surprisingly long time. If you don’t want to use the coffee cream right away, simply scoop the cream into an airtight container like a tupperware or jar. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. That being said, storing it away works best if you’ve whipped it into oblivion. Whip it to the point where it has the consistency of whipped cream; a whisk quickly dipped into the center of the foam and turned upside down should hold peaks. However, after 3 days or so, it loses its fluffy texture and starts to turn back into liquid coffee.
Video Tutorial for Dalgona Coffee Recipe
Use the video player below to watch my Instagram Story tutorial on how to make this dalgona coffee recipe! The arrows to the left and right of the frame allow you to skip through the different recipe steps. You can also hit the “pause” or “enlarge” buttons on the upper right hand side of the frame to pause or enlarge the frames accordingly.
Alternatively, head to my Instagram profile to watch these Stories on mobile! The circles underneath my bio indicate saved Instagram Story highlights depicting various recipes. Clicking on one of the circles will play the videos you see above. You may need to scroll right to find this dalgona coffee recipe.
Dalgona Coffee Recipe
For the Dalgona Coffee
- 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons hot (freshly boiled) water
- ½ cup ice
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) cow or plant-based milk of your choice
- cocoa powder, for garnish (optional)
For the Dalgona Coffee
- First, make the dalgona coffee cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a medium bowl if using a whisk, handheld electric mixer, or milk frother), combine the coffee and sugar. Add the hot water and immediately whisk on medium-high speed until light, airy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 4 minutes.
Variation: Pumpkin Spice Dalgona Coffee Recipe
In honor of the fall and winter months, I also decided to develop a pumpkin spice dalgona coffee modeled after Starbucks’ famous pumpkin spice latte! My pumpkin spice dalgona coffee is made with pumpkin spice flavored milk and dalgona coffee cream.
Below is your shopping list for the recipe:
Shopping List for Pumpkin Spice Dalgona Coffee
- cow or alternative plant-based milk
- canned pumpkin purée
- pumpkin pie spice
- granulated sugar
- instant coffee granules
And let’s talk about some of the key ingredients:
You need 1 cup milk (cow or plant-based) to make this pumpkin spice variation.
Similar to the original recipe for dalgona coffee, you can use whatever kind of milk you want—cow, or plant-based—in this pumpkin spice variation. However, since this recipe is modeled after Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte, I recommend sticking with cow milk.
Warm Milk versus Cold Milk
However, note that, unlike the original recipe that instructs you to use cold or iced milk, the pumpkin spice version instructs you to use warm milk. Why? Again, I modeled the recipe after Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte. They serve their lattes warm. There’s no need to warm the milk to a specific temperature—use your judgement!
But can I make it an iced pumpkin spice dalgona coffee instead?
Absolutely! Instead of warming the milk, simply whisk together the cold milk, pumpkin purée, and pumpkin pie spice in a tall glass. Then, add ice and the whipped dalgona coffee cream. That’s it!
You need 2 Tablespoons canned pumpkin purée to make this pumpkin spice variation.
What is canned pumpkin purée?
Pumpkin purée is cooked pumpkin that is blended or mashed in a food processor to create a smooth pulp. Typically, manufacturers in the United States process pumpkins in bulk by roasting them and selling them canned and pureed. My favorite canned pumpkin brand is Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin.
Is canned pumpkin and pumpkin purée the same thing?
Yes! Typically, when recipes instruct you to use pumpkin purée, they’re talking about the canned stuff.
What about canned pumpkin pie filling? Is that the same thing? Can I use it in this pumpkin spice variation?
You can, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Canned pumpkin purée and canned pumpkin pie filling are different things. While canned pumpkin purée is simply cooked, pureed pumpkin, canned pumpkin pie filling has been sweetened and flavored with spices.
In a pinch, you can probably use canned pumpkin pie filling in this drink recipe and still end up with a pretty tasty drink. But because you can’t control the amount of spices you actually use and are instead relying on the manufacturers’ blend, your drink might turn out bland. You can do better than that!
I can’t get canned pumpkin purée where I live. What can I use instead?
You can use homemade pumpkin purée instead! Prepare a pumpkin by slicing it in half. Scoop out all the pumpkin seeds and any stringy flesh. Roast at 400°F until fork-tender, around 40 to 50 minutes. Purée the softened flesh in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use any leftover purée in any of my other pumpkin recipes.
Pumpkin Spice Dalgona Coffee Recipe Ingredients
For the Pumpkin Spice Milk
- 1 cup (8 ounces or 227 grams) cow or plant-based milk of your choice, warmed in the microwave or stovetop
- 2 Tablespoons canned pumpkin purée
- ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more for garnish
For the Dalgona Coffee
- 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons hot (freshly boiled) water
Pumpkin Spice Dalgona Coffee Recipe Instructions
- First, make the pumpkin spice milk. In your favorite coffee mug, whisk together the milk, pumpkin purée, and pumpkin pie spice.
- Next, make the dalgona coffee. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a medium bowl if using a whisk, handheld electric mixer, or milk frother), combine the coffee and sugar. Add the hot water and immediately whisk on medium-high speed until light, airy, and doubled in volume, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Serve immediately. Use a rubber spatula or cookie dough scoop to scrape the dalgona coffee cream over the pumpkin spice milk. Garnish with a dusting of pumpkin pie spice. Serve immediately with a straw.
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Over the past several years of running Hummingbird High, I kept a crucial aspect of my life hidden from my readers: I had a full-time, extremely demanding job in the tech world. In my debut cookbook, Weeknight Baking, I finally reveal the secrets to baking delicious desserts on a tight schedule.
This post was last updated on 9/4/2020.