If you have spent even the tiniest bit of time on the internet or social media, which I assume we all have during this worldwide medical crisis, then dalgona coffee has popped up somewhere on your feed. I first heard of this trend from one of my favorite YouTubers, Gabie Kook. From there, I delved into the youtube world coming across one of the original dalgona Coffee videos and other further iterations (you can seriously spend forever looking up different types of dalgona coffee on Youtube. There are even matcha versions now!)
Dalgona coffee earned its name from a popular South Korean street toffee. Dalgona, also known as ppopgi, is made by mixing sugar and baking soda to make a light brown creamy mixture. It then quickly hardens into a sweet and nutty flavored honeycomb-like toffee. If you would like to make the candy, I wrote a post about ppopgi a while ago. You can easily buy the necessary tools to make ppopgi via amazon!
As South Korea hunkered down during the virus, the hand mixing dalgona coffee trend spread across the country. It then continued to spread out from the South Korean borders via Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. Now, the whole world is following this COVID-19 trend. After all, the entire world now has something in common, too much time on their hands while being cooped up in their homes.
Dalgona coffee consists of four ingredients: instant coffee, sugar, hot water, and milk. There are many variations, but the easiest is equal parts coffee, sugar, and hot water. The consensus across the internet is to use two tablespoons of each to make 1 serving. You can slightly reduce or add the amount of sugar if you find it is too sweet or too bitter. Once combined, mix the ingredients until it becomes thick and light brown. It should turn into the color of the original ppopgi. Continue to whip until the texture is that of whipped cream or a meringue. You can flip the bowl upside down if you like. It will stick!
But, why does it work? If you notice, there are just as many fails on the internet as successes. So, why do some become light and fluffy while others fall flat? What I can gather, it has to do with two things:
- Protein: Scientists, like chemist Tom Kuntzleman in this article by Popular Mechanics, suggest that making dalgona coffee is similar to whisking egg whites into a meringue. The proteins in egg whites are key to the foaming process. When you beat egg whites, the complex structure of the protein “unfolds” into linear chains, allowing outside air to interact with the “hydrophobic” proteins. The air ultimately gets trapped and creates a thick foam. Usually, instant coffee crystals contain more protein per ounce than normal ground coffee. With more protein content to trap air, instant coffee yields better result in creating a meringue-like foam.
- Solubility: Unlike your typical coffee grounds, instant coffee dissolves in water (for the most part). Instant coffee’s higher solubility is due to the added emulsifiers. The emulsifiers make instant coffee water-soluble, allowing you to destroy the protein structure of the coffee more easily. Have you ever tried to dissolve normal coffee grounds in water? It just doesn’t work. With instant coffee, when all are combined and agitated, your dalgona foam appears just like egg whites forming into a meringue!
Honestly, it is all a bit confusing and I spent a lot of time dissecting the science to make it easier to understand.
Fun little fact: you can technically make dalgona coffee without the sugar if you are ready to put in significantly more elbow grease. Besides its sweetening effect, the sugar acts as a binding agent or “glue,” which makes it all a little easier for us to whip this up!
Below are step-by-step pictures of the whipping process:
1. Before mixing, combine the instant coffee, sugar, and hot water. This is what your mixture should look like.
2. After starting to whisk, blend, mix, etc., you will notice the mixture starting to foam/get bubbly.
3. Once fully whisked, the mixture will thicken and turn light brown. It is ready once it looks like this!!
Once you’ve finished mixing, fill a glass with milk and ice. Top the drink with your dalgona mixture. Then, snap a pretty picture before stirring the dalgona into your milk. Drink, and enjoy!
In the end, it is that easy to make!
So let’s pull out our handy dandy hand mixer and make some Dalgona Coffee. If you want to try the real challenge by hand mixing, good luck! It can sometimes take up to 4000 whips to complete.
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