Trying Dalgona Coffee with Specialty Instant

We tried the viral whipped coffee sensation using specialty instant packets … this is what happened.


Photos by Katrina Yentch

I could go into a detailed article that explains the origin of Dalgona coffee, what it means, and where it came from, but the whipped coffee treat has been a viral sensation long enough that there’s more than enough content about its origins circulating in the media. All you need to know is that it’s a whipped coffee topping over milk, and its popularity rose on the video app TikTok—most likely for the sensual effect that the whip creates as it slides off a spoon into the chosen liquid.

Dalgona coffee is a massive trend as people look to make coffee at home during the pandemic. Photo taken as a screenshot on YouTube.

The recipe typically involves a couple of heaping tablespoons of Nescafé or any other powdered instant coffee with equal parts sugar and hot water. They all get aggressively whipped together into a creamy foam.

There are a couple of common challenges that make Dalgona coffee a complete fail for many users. One is the substitution of substances other than powdered instant coffee for the whip. Some have tried regular ground coffee, while others have even tried Keurig coffee pods. However, the chemical components of powdered instant coffee are what makes it whip-able since the powder dissolves. Another element is the whisking action itself; many have resorted to hand-whisking sans baking hand mixer, which takes a considerably long amount of time—who will make it to the other end? Lastly, the ratio of sugar to instant coffee makes it a wiry sugar rush that may result in an instant high, followed by a crash and burn. The recommended two tablespoons of instant coffee result in a lot of strong, caffeinated robusta, and two tablespoons of sugar is about 25 grams!

I tried to tweak the recipe a few ways to help you get a tastier treat. With the help of James Hoffmann’s own experimentation on YouTube, here’s how you can make Dalgona coffee with specialty instant coffee.

One tablespoon of sugar is equivalent to 13 grams—keep this is mind when choosing the amount of sugar to put in your Dalgona coffee recipe.

1 packet of instant specialty coffee (I used Olympia Coffee Roasters’ Big Truck Blend, which no longer exists as instant but came as a Swift Cup product), equivalent to 5 grams of coffee
1 tablespoon cane sugar, equivalent to 13.5 grams
1 tablespoon hot water

8-10 oz/236-295 ml milk of choice

Swift Cup makes excellent instant powders for specialty coffee; they work with plenty of roasters, likely allowing you to support a local business with your choice.

A big tip I learned from both my own hand-whisking and James’ notes is that, with specialty instant coffee (and perhaps even other instant powders), you should cool off the mixture somehow as you’re whisking it. If you think about it, whipped cream is cold. Frappes are powders blended with ice to maintain creamy textures. This is because whisking hard enough creates friction, which creates heat, which will ultimately melt your whip. Use hot water at first to quickly incorporate your dry ingredients together. Once they’re emulsified, you take the water out of that mixture by aerating, hence a whipped foam!

That all being said, find some way to keep the liquid cold as you’re whisking. For me, this meant sticking my mixing bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to get the ingredients to chill. For my roommates, this meant taking it a step further to whisking the ingredients as they were sitting in a bowl in the freezer. Folks, you can try this at home, but proceed with caution.

Find some way, any way, to keep your mixed ingredients cold as you’re whipping them …

It took the three of us about 15 minutes to really whip it good, but what resulted was a pretty sweet treat that tasted like melted coffee ice cream! Mix the whip with milk though to avoid sugar overkill.

It’s definitely the enticing looks of the whip that’s making Dalgona coffee a viral sensation on the internet.
Pictures show the whip sitting on top of milk, but you should mix the two together to make it something you can actually drink.
About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.