Dalgona Coffee: A Dive Into What Makes The Internet’s New Favorite Drink Foam & Whip Up Like That
“Where do I line up?”
This was my first thought as I came across Dalgona coffee a drink that, according to my friends on social media, is the Internet’s latest trendy drink (3.4 million views in March alone).
And they were right!
It’s the coolest looking drink I’ve seen in a while: velvety smooth, sweet coffee foam sometimes served on top of refreshing, cold milk.
Little did I know, this was a DIY drink. Usually, I’m standing in a Starbucks lineup when I discover a new favourite drink.
But as my friends like to say: “I did it for the Gram!” and so I set off to make it.
Thankfully there’s just three ingredients required (Optional: Milk & Ice for Serving) – all of which you probably have at home already:
1. Water – Yeap, the tap should have plenty
2. Instant Coffee or Espresso Powder – Morning coffee drinker? You probably have some stashed in your kitchen
3. Sugar – If you love making anything sweet, you definitely have it
Continuing with the pursuit of perfecting this quick and easy recipe, the directions require following just two simple steps:
Step 1: Add two tablespoons of each ingredient (1:1:1 Ratio) mixed into a medium-sized bowl. A hand mixer will definitely make the process faster, but a whisk, some elbow grease, and a healthy dose of patience and endurance will also get you there too.
Step 2: Fill a glass about 3/4 full with ice & milk or water, as an alternative. Then add the whipped coffee mixture by swirling it on top.
And there you have it, the silky smooth and foamy drink is ready to drink!
But, let’s face it though, coffee has been around for ages, so why hasn’t anyone’s regular morning coffee ever gotten this much attention before?
Well, I have a hunch.
What makes dalgona coffee unique from other hot beverages is its unmatchable creamy texture, which tastes great and is very Instagrammable.
So, what is it about dalgona coffee’s recipe that makes it so creamy, thick, and frothy?
Well, it turns out there’s some science behind it!
Water – The Principal Base Ingredient
Foam is essentially bubbles of air that get trapped within a liquid or solid state. And if you’ve ever eaten whipped cream or baked goods, you’ve definitely encountered foam.
So in the case of dalgona coffee, we’re trying to find a way to introduce air and trap it within the coffee to make it foamy.
Well if you’ve ever tried whisking water into a foam you’ll know that’s not true. That’s because water molecules are inseparable due to its chemical composition, which means you need to add something to water to break it apart and make room for those precious air bubbles.
Instant Coffee Powder – A True Surfactant
“Surfa……what?” If you’re wondering whether this is the same chemical found in your laundry detergent or dish soap? You are correct!
Relax, relax. You’re not drinking Tide!, Surfactants are just an abbreviation for “surface active agent”, which are organic and naturally occurring compounds that make great emulsifiers for cleaning products and food products – like instant coffee powder!
In a nutshell, creating foam in coffee requires the presence of surfactants. Without getting too technical, the molecular forces between surfactant and water molecule are much lower than between two water molecules making it possible to froth. So, when you whisk water along with the Instant coffee powder, which is high in surfactants, it becomes easier to create small air bubbles of foam.
However, just adding instant coffee to water usually isn’t enough to get the same stability of foam, as it will shrink quite considerably in just a few minutes. Thanks to gravity, it will pull the liquid down, causing the air bubbles to float up and merge together again.
And that’s where the third and final ingredient comes in: sugar!
Sugar – An Ultimate Stabilizer
Sugar is a type of soluble carbohydrate and made from the combination of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.
Okay, let’s put the science aside and just call it what it is: “nature’s oldest & well-known versatile sweetener”. But besides being very sweet, it also plays a crucial role in making that super fluffy foam for drinks.
You see, when it gets added to the water mixture, it increases volume and gets dissolved very easily, making the liquid very thick and frothy.
A point to note though, adding sugar into other liquids will not always affect its texture the same way. So you can hold off on setting your expectations for seeing any impact on volume when, for example, you decide on adding a spoonful of sugar onto your egg whites.
(Note: the reason egg whites fluff up so easily is because of their protein profile.)
You can blame science for that!
But for coffee, adding sugar into the mixture keeps everything together, making it harder for the bubbles to merge again, as well as for gravity to separate the bubbles from the liquid. And as a result, the foam’s longevity and stability is increased tremendously.
And there you have it, combining all three ingredients results in a perfectly stable, foamy and creamy Dalgona Coffee. Assuring you that the foam is not only created, but it will remain that way, allowing you plenty of time to grab your camera and take a quick snap to post on all your social media feeds.
And don’t forget, next time you take a sip of that coffee, thank chemistry for it!?
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