Why Dalgona Coffee Tastes Better than Starbucks?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

Have you watched videos of people creating the 3-ingredient only coffee on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube yet?


This stay-home quarantine coffee is the trending across all social media channels. With the current COVID-19 situation that calls for people to stay home and practise social distancing, most of us do things which we would not have time for previously. More people are spending time in the kitchen trying out new recipes and carrying out food experiments like this Dalgona coffee recipe which requires only 3 simple ingredients – instant coffee powder sugar and milk. If you need some ideas on how to spend your day quarantined at home, you can read my article here.

Watching those decadent videos on Dalgona coffee have propelled me to get out of my comfortable seat and start whipping up this velvety smooth coffee too. The coffee-foam based drink looks like the next best thing after bubble milk tea and looking at those videos just make it want to taste it for myself. So far, none of those content creators, who tried the recipe, described the taste of the coffee. Most of them say it’s nice and full-stop. At the back of my head, I was wondering how it tastes like as compared to freshly-brewed coffee made by baristas. Is this better than Starbucks? And why instant coffee mixed with sugar and some water can foam up so easily when whipped?

How did this food trend started?

All thanks to this Korean TV show called Pyunstorang where celebrities compete to develop new food products that will eventually be sold at Korea’s convenience stores. One of the Korean celebrities on this show was actor Jung Il-woo. He was inspired by the hand-beaten coffee he had tasted in Macau and decided to introduce this version of coffee during the show.

He nicknamed it as ‘Dalgona coffee’. Why? To Jung Il-woo, this whipped coffee resembles ‘Dalgona’ or ppopgi (뽑기) which is this crunchy Korean candy.

Genius, I must say!

In Macau, it is nicknamed as the 400 coffee where the coffee is whipped 400 times with a spoon in a cup. If you watch the video above, the Macau-version is prepared slightly differently to the way how Dalgona coffee is prepared. In that particular Macau eatery, the man actually added hot water to dilute the coffee. However, in Jung Il-woo’s version of Dalgona coffee, the drink is not diluted with hot water.

But actually, this type of whipped coffee has been around for ages and it is probably going viral right now because most of us have the time at home to whip up some coffee. Phitti Hui Coffee, a Pakistan-style latte, is also made using the same way. Some referred to it as the coffee stirred 400 times or frothy coffee. Whatever it is, this unique and simple way of making coffee has existed long before it started going viral.

Is it that easy to make?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

Yes, it is! In fact, you can even whip the coffee mixture with a spoon in a small coffee mug.

The coffee and sugar mixture actually whips up into this whipped cream-like texture quickly if you know how to do it right. It actually did not take me more than 10 minutes to get that foamy consistency.

If it is taking too long for the mixture to foam up, then it’s either you add too much water or you did not add enough sugar. I believe it’s the sugar that gives body and shape to the coffee foam. If you want to achieve a stiffer peak, then add icing sugar instead. There’s a reason why bakers using icing sugar instead of granulated sugar to make icing cream.

How long does it take to make Dalgona coffee?

After going through two attempts of making this coffee, I would say that it will probably not take you more than 15 minutes if you are using a hand whisk to froth up the coffee-sugar mixture and serve it up on the table. If you are using a mixer, I reckon it will take you less than 5 minutes.

What are the tools needed?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

You just need a mixing bowl along with a spoon, whisk or hand mixer. I’ve seen people whipping the mixture with a spoon and it worked too. But if you want to prepare it quick, then you got to rely on a hand mixer.

Is there a fixed ratio or quantity for the ingredients used?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

Most recommend using the ratio of 1:1:1 (coffee powder to sugar to hot water) for simplicity sake. For me, I would definitely stick to two tablespoons of coffee powder to 1 and a half tablespoons of raw granulated sugar, mixed two tablespoons of room temperature water. You don’t really need to add two spoonfuls of sugar unless you really have a sweet tooth.

As to how much milk to add in the coffee, I would say its all up to your preference. I can’t really take a lot of milk (as it makes me bloat) so I stick to their ratio of 1:1 for milk to coffee foam.

How to make Dalgona Coffee?

Add coffee, sugar and some water into a bowl then whip up the mixture until it reaches this thick creamy icing-cream like consistency. Scoop up the coffee mixture and place it over a glass of milk with some ice cubes.

Why does Dalgona Coffee taste so good?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

During the whipping process, the aromatic bitter compounds of the coffee were broken up, releasing this strong coffee aroma as you beat the mixture. Thus after the whipping process, the coffee mixture doesn’t have much of that astringent after-taste. It also tastes less acidic after incorporating all the air into the mixture. I believe that some of the compounds in the coffee could have oxidised during the process.

Thus, what you get it this thick and smooth layer of coffee foam which is less complex in flavours, but embodies this mild but pure coffee flavour that would appeal to anyone’s tastebuds, even for non-coffee lovers. When mixed with milk, the acidic taste of the coffee mellows down, even more, leaving this sweet caramelise after-taste on your tongue.

I’m not a coffee connoisseur but this is what I could gather after tasting my homemade dalgona coffee which I made using Nescafé instant coffee powder.

Is this better than Starbucks?

In my opinion, I like this version of coffee because it doesn’t have that acrid after-taste. Dalgona coffee is sure worth the buck as compared to Starbucks!

What else can you do with Dalgona coffee?

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

I tried it with some granola and it makes a perfect coffee parfait for breakfast. You can also swop coffee powder for Matcha powder or Milo powder but those two ingredients do not foam up as well as coffee powder. You might have to add in some heavy cream to the matcha or Milo mixture to thicken and stiffen it up.

Dalgona Coffee Recipe deeniseglitz

In my version of Dalgona coffee parfait, I added granola along with some cinnamon and Milo powder to enhance the taste of it. It’s heavenly and you should try it for yourself at home. Besides, now that most Starbucks stores are closed now, this is one easy way of getting your caffeine fix.

Watch how I did it below!

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