Dalgona Coffee

The Recipe, Origins, Science & How to Improve it

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

You’ve probably seen this sweet coffee drink somewhere on social media. Looks delicious and it’s easy to make with a few things you have around the kitchen. However, you maybe looking for more information. Where did it come from? How does it taste to a coffee snob? Also, is there a way to improve a Dalgona coffee? Continue reading to get these questions answered and more.

During the Coronavirus pandemic there was a little internet sensation that swept over America & the world and it wasn’t Tiger King.

Where did it start?

layering dalgonaThis sweet coffee drink that is claimed to have originated from Macau, China. The origins is confusing because of the vast amount of nationalities that made this drink. Variations of this drink are common in many parts of the world. The drink is said to have gotten it’s name in Macau. A South Korean actor name Jung-Woo ordered the drink at an eatery. He said it reminded him of a South Korean street snack which translates into honeycomb toffee.

How do you make Dalgona Coffee?

A big part of the sensation is probably the simplicity of it. The drink consists of 3 things just about everyone has at home. Even coffee snobs like us at Java Groove Coffee have instant coffee laying around.

Most recipes state the ingredients volumetrically. Meaning by the volume, not weight. Doing it this way you’re going to end up with a very sugary drink with a lot of caffeine. Consider 2 tablespoons of instant coffee is much less than 2 table spoons of sugar.

Although the recipe is easier this way it comes out very sugary.  The benefits of this recipe is because of all the sugar is thickens sooner.

Note: Doesn’t work well with 3-in-1 or Starbucks instant coffee.

whip dalgona coffee in bowlOnce you have all the ingredients gathered simply throw them in a bowl. Whisk it up until you get the thick, poofy, gooey, meringue like foam that you see in the images all across Instagram. 

Your arm will feel like it’s going to fall off and it seems like you’ve been whipping for a very long time. In actuality it should take about 5-10 minutes.

If it doesn’t start to foam consider cooling it down in the freezer for about 15 minutes. The water may still be too hot and not allowing you to get the right consistency. If it still doesn’t foam then add more sugar.

If it doesn’t start to foam consider cooling it down in the freezer for about 15 minutes. The water may still be too hot and not allowing you to get the right consistency. If it still doesn’t foam then add more sugar.

Why does instant coffee foam like this?

Experts in the coffee field have different opinions about why this happens. That is why you may read different takes on how it happens.

The first time I saw it looked like meringue before it’s cooked. What is meringue? It consists of egg whites that give the foaming properties, and sugar that keeps that foam in place. It’s commonly used for pies.

In this case you have coffee that is causing the foaming agent. When roasting coffee you create a compound called melanoidins. This is the foaming agent in espresso which allows the crema to occur and create a stable foam.

The foaming agent in the dalgona is suspected to be happening here as well. They are called surfactants, which is a shortening of surface acting agent. They are the molecules that wrap around bubbles to make them strong. In cappuccinos the milk is playing the role of surfactants.

why dalgona thickIn coffee, simply having surfactants doesn’t make a perfectly stable foam. We know that because the crema on your espresso disappears in less than 2 minutes. It bubbles away and fades quickly.

What is happening in the dalgona is we’re whisking the ingredients to form a foam. However, the liquid we’re trying to make a foam out of is extremely viscous.

In the volumetric recipe you have 20 grams of sugar with 20 grams of water, which is 1 to 1. Then you add 6 grams of a soluble material.

Congratulations, you have a thick, gooey liquid. When you create a foaming liquid out such a viscous liquid it means your drainage is very slow. The smaller your bubbles can be, the stronger your foam is going to be. A small bubble is stronger than bigger bubbles.

That’s what is happening with the dalgona coffee. You have basically whipped air into a sweet coffee liquid. We’ve whipped it constantly in order to make the bubbles tiny, which is why you have a stable foam.

That is why in order to finish the drink you need a couple more things. You need milk (or milk-like alternative) and ice is optional. Once you have your milk in the cup, you add a couple spoons of the foamy concoction you just created.

It a foam so it will float because it’s a bunch of tiny bubbles. Don’t forget to take a picture before you mix it together.

Does dalgona coffee taste good?

If you ask us at Java Groove, no. Not with run of the mill ingredients found in most households. But, if you think instant coffee tastes good, then may like like it.

If you’re a coffee snob then you’ll think it’s a bitter, burnt tasting stale coffee concoction. No amount of sugar can mask that taste.

To put it in perspective, you can’t use bad ingredients and transform them into something very flavorful. You can mask it with sugar, but coffee snobs will not rejoice. It tastes exactly what it is. Sweet instant coffee in milk, but sexier! It’s not absolutely terrible, it’s milk, sugar and coffee, but I hope you understand what we’re trying to convey. There is no magical transformation.

Can you make Dalgona Coffee with Espresso?

No. Espresso is too thin and diluted. Making it with 6 grams of instant coffee to 20 grams of water makes it very strong. Much stronger than one could hope to achieve with espresso. Perhaps you could somehow make the espresso even thicker somehow but it would taste terrible. If you tried to sweeten the espresso you will get a foam, but it won’t be stable. It’s too thin and viscous enough, and you won’t get enough likes on internet from strangers which may leave you feeling sad.

Is there another mixing technique to get the thick foam?


You can use a paddle mixer. The same one used to make the aforementioned meringue. Chances are you’ve seen people using an electric whisker and that works well. Stick blenders and milkshake makers work too.

You can use just about anything, but consider that a small amount may be difficult to whip.

Is there a way to improve the taste of a Dalgona coffee?


Thankfully there is a way to get a better tasting Dalgona coffee for us coffee snobs out there. The way to do it is to throw the volumetric system out the window. 2 tablespoons of instant coffee is enough for 3 standard cups of coffee. It’s a lot of coffee. Not to mention the 20 grams of sugar. Which is what makes it look Instagram cool, but it may give you the caffeine tremors.


A better method is to use a quality instant coffee that isn’t usually found at your local grocery store. The recipe calls for equal parts by mass (weight). Using mass instead of volume helps keeps the drink a little less sweet and takes away that caffeine kick.

dalgona recipie1 pack of instant coffee is about 10 grams. Then add 10 grams of sugar and 10 grams of water.

The problem you may have is that it won’t be as thick. This is because the hot water won’t allow the foam to stabilize.  To create a work around is to put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes or until cool. Then you should able to whip it into shape (sorry).

When you use a specialty instant coffee and use an equal mass ratio you won’t get the harsh, bitter, burnt and unpleasant taste that is normally associated with instant coffee. You’re going to get a smoother coffee ice cream flavor.

Nutrition Facts

1 Cup

• Calories: 101
• Carbs: 19g
• Fat: 2g
• Protein: 3g


dalgona coffeeIf you’re trying to make an internet perfect concoction that will give you a rush of dopamine from both likes and sugar then this is your drink. 

We tried to share a better recipe for all the coffee snobs that want to get in on the action as well. If you’re okay with the copious amounts of sugar that will try to mask the taste of bitter instant coffee then the original recipe will do fine.

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