Despite its recent climb to Tik Tok fame, the concept behind the Dalgona coffee trend is not new – nor is it a byproduct of too much time spent in isolation. While pandemic conditions have certainly helped bring dalgona to the spotlight, cultures around the globe have been making and enjoying variations of the whipped coffee for decades.
Dalgona Goes Viral
Also known as the “400x coffee” for the supposed number of times it needs to be whipped, dalgona is only the latest poster child for this specialty category. Dalgona coffee first made its debut in January when it was introduced on the South Korean television show, Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Stuarant.
During this episode, actor Jung Il-woo tasted the coffee on a visit to Macau, likening the drink to a popular Korean spongy toffee candy called dalgona. Of course, the drink didn’t really go viral until a month after the episode aired, when Korean Youtuber “ddulgi” posted a video showing viewers how to make the tasty beverage.
Boasting flavor similarities to its candy namesake, dalgona coffee has become wildly popular in and outside of Asia. For Korean consumers specifically, it stirs up a sense of nostalgia for the street candy enjoyed by many during their childhoods. Meanwhile, the West has discovered the drink’s simple recipe and Starbucks-quality aesthetic satisfying during a time when many of our favorite coffee shops have been forced to shut down.
Making a dalgona coffee is easy and budget friendly. All you need to do is heat up two tablespoons of water, then whip in two tablespoons each of instant coffee and sugar. Once the solution has formed frothy, stiff peaks, just scoop it into a glass of your favorite cold or hot milk. The result is creamy, fluffy, sweet and, most importantly, caffeinated.
The Science Behind Whipped Coffee
A traditional whipped coffee consists of three simple ingredients: instant coffee, sugar, and water. So how does it get its signature foam?
No milk or eggs are necessary here. Thanks to the dehydration process that instant coffee goes through, only a small amount of water is needed to make the drink’s characteristic foam. Typically, spray-dried instant coffee is used because it contains almost no oil – just tiny coffee solid particles, a variety of molecules responsible for flavor and taste, and caffeine.
When dissolved, spray-dried coffee forms a simpler and more stable colloid relative to traditionally brewed coffee. This allows foam to form, and the absence of oil makes it longer lasting. Sugar also helps maintain the foamy texture, as it increases the viscosity of the drink. Using an electric hand mixer rather than doing it by hand can also contribute to a longer lasting foam, as smaller and more uniformly sized bubbles have a reduced pressure gradient.
Whipped Coffee Around The World
Since dalgona coffee went viral, other long-standing whipped coffee traditions have quickly come to light. From India to Cuba, everyone seems to have their own version of a whipped coffee.
The Indian Cappuccino
India and Pakistan have been making a version of whipped coffee for years that goes by many names. Whether you call it Phenti Hui, Phitti Hui, Pheta (for “Beaten” Coffee), or simply the “Indian Cappuccino,” it’s made exactly the same ways as dalgona: just whip together instant coffee, water, and sugar, then serve the creamy mixture with milk.
As with Korean consumers, Pheta coffee stirs up a sense of nostalgia for families who grew up whipped the coffee drink in their kitchens – and even disbelief and anger for their cultures not being acknowledged alongside the current trend. As Twitter user AksharPathak put it, “I’ve been phetoing coffee with a spoon to make foam since bachpan, I just didn’t know it’s called dalgona coffee.”
Greece has its own whipped coffee that long pre-dates the dalgona – and it was created by accident. In the September heat of the 1957 Thessaloniki International Fair in Greece, Nestlé representative Giannis Dritsas successfully engineered an instant chocolate milk drink that could be enjoyed all summer.
Soon after, Nestle’s instant coffee mix was mistaken for the chocolate powder, creating the first the café frappé or “whisked coffee.” While still primarily marketed by Nestlé, the frappé remains a Greek staple, found at nearly every café in the country and variations of the frappé have become popular worldwide.
Meanwhile Cuba is known for its highly caffeinated and richly flavorful coffee drinks – and they don’t mess around when it comes to sugar. This cultural sweet tooth may have derived out of necessity, thanks to shortages of Cuban coffee in the 1960s. With less available on the market, the government began rationing out a mere 4 ounces of coffee a month to citizens. Cut with ground chicharo bean (or cafe con chicharo), the resulting brew was incredibly bitter, saved only by massive amounts of sugar.
Since then, traditional Cuban coffee recipes have continued to call for an even match between rich coffee and sugar, resulting in their own form of dalgona – though Café Cubanos combine sugar with hot espresso instead of instant coffee. Add steamed milk to get a Cuban Cortadito.
With a delightful aesthetic, cloud-like texture, and sophisticated taste, dalgona coffee is just the latest evolutionary take on our universal love of coffee.
Whipped coffee has changed what the world is drinking – and you can too! If you’ve got an idea for a great coffee beverage, the development experts at Flavorman can help you bring it to life. Just fill out this web form or give us a call at (502) 453-0152 to get started.