Dalgona Coffee: Is it really worth the hype?

While many of us are under quarantine, new trends have been rising all over social media. One of which is Dalgona coffee: a frothy, whipped take on coffee. The popular drink with South Korean origins has taken the internet by storm. The simple recipe consists of just three ingredients: instant coffee granules, water, and sugar. All of these items can easily be found in a kitchen without any hassle. All you need to do is mix equal parts instant coffee, sugar, and hot water until you achieve that desirable frothy consistency. Although a hand mixer would certainly save you some energy, a whisk is a suitable substitute as well. To serve, add to a cold glass of milk already filled with some ice cubes or heat the milk for a latte-like drink. Simple enough, right? Think again. If you choose to whisk by hand, it will take about 400 whisks to be finished, or around 8-10 minutes of continuous beating, until the mixture’s color lightens and texture thickens.

Dalgona coffee first gained worldwide attention when it was featured on a well-known South Korean show called “Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant” this January. South Korean actor Jung Il-woo was clearly in shock when he took a sip of the velvety, two-toned coffee. He compared it to dalgona, a popular South Korean street candy. Thus, the name stuck and dalgona coffee – almost overnight – became a new online sensation. People from all over South Korea were fascinated by the previously unheard of frothy coffee and immediately jumped to put the method to the test.

Part of its appeal is that anyone, whether you have a background in cooking or not, can easily perfect this drink. Only three ingredients are needed and all can be easily located in a typical pantry or cupboard. Its appearance and simplicity drew people in. Especially on the social media platform TikTok, people all over the world have been posting their attempts at making the drink. It is quite surprising to see how the initial dark liquid suddenly transforms into an almost whipped-cream like blend. Korean YouTuber 자도르J'adore's “quarantine coffee challenge” has amassed over 9.6 million views and the #dalgonacoffee hashtag on TikTok has gained a whopping 170.4 million views so far. Not only was the drink popularized on TikTok, but also on YouTube and Instagram, which helped it reach an even larger audience.

Feeling inspired by all these videos, I decided to step up to the plate and try the challenge. I chose to whisk it by hand rather than using an electric mixer because that was the original method shown and I felt I could take on the extra arm work. Into a large bowl, I added three tablespoons of instant coffee, three tablespoons of sugar, and three tablespoons of hot water to make three servings. I was taken aback by the amount of sugar required for this drink but continued nonetheless onto the next stage: whisking. I had originally planned to count how many whisks it took, as many claimed it would take 400 whisks by hand. After continuously beating rapidly, I had unfortunately lost count. I was intimidated by the daunting task at first, but I was not as sore as I thought I would be. However, I could see the color of the paste change over time and noticed the much thicker consistency. After around 10 long grueling minutes, I was able to achieve the light brown color and whipped texture I wanted. I filled three glasses with ice cubes and poured in milk until it reached the halfway point. I grabbed a spoon, scooped up the mixture, and carefully spread it around the top of each glass, just like in the videos. Now, it was finally time to taste my creation. I could only hope it was worth the effort and time put into making it.

The first thing that hit me was the sharp, bitter flavor of the instant coffee with subtle, sweet undertones. The frothy texture tasted light and fluffy, just like whipped cream. I mixed some of the brown mixture into the milk, which gave it an even creamier taste. Overall, I found it to be very delicious and quite rewarding. I still do not fully understand how mixing these three ingredients results in such a thick paste, but even so, I was hooked. The reaction seems to occur between the coffee crystals and hot water, so the sugar can be adjusted to your preference. Dalgona coffee was a much different play on traditional coffee but definitely lives up to the hype. I was already sold on the concept just by taking a glance through all the videos being posted on the Internet, as the picturesque drink is perfect for posting on social media. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, but also to the tongue. I love coffee, so I appreciated this lighter version of it. However, the caffeine soon started to kick in, more than usual. Little did I know I was in for a long, restless night. I probably will not be making this again anytime soon, but I would highly recommend for those who can deal with the effects of caffeine. With many having much time on our hands, I encourage everyone to make this simple treat (and put your endurance to the test)!