Dalgona Coffee — A Home Chef’s Best At-Home Arm Workout

The internet craze whipping Hour Detroit’s dining editor into shape
Dalgona coffee
Dalgona coffee photograph by Lyndsay Green

No, I’m not that quintessential quarantiner, getting fully suited for Zoom calls and committing to a daily fitness routine. I am, however, the quarantiner developing new recipes like a Food Network star and mastering old ones — update: I’ve officially mastered a years-long attempt to make the perfect, not-mushy-nor-crunchy pot of rice. And as a perpetual scroller double-tapping the fun recipes my fellow home chefs are cooking up in their kitchens, I’ve been inundated with images of an oddly satisfying beverage trend imported from South Korea.

Dalgona coffee, first introduced by a Korean actor and eventually becoming a hit among YouTube vloggers, is inspired by a traditional Korean toffee made of caramelized sugar. Instant coffee is whisked together with sugar and water, creating a fluffy, whipped topper for a glass of iced or hot milk. The robust flavor of the coffee and sweetness of the sugar lends for a burnt sugar taste — much like any toffee treat.

Outside of a daily morning walk around my neighborhood — I’m also the couch-confined, binge-watching quarantiner becoming a professional consumer of books, podcasts, and reality TV — my newfound obsession with making daily cup(s) of dalgona coffee has become my most faithful workout routine. As someone with limited electrical appliances in my kitchen, for me, the whisking process is a manual one. And it’s labor-intensive. For up to 15 minutes or so, I whisk the ingredients together, rotating a medium-sized mixing bowl and allowing myself periodic breaks to stretch my cramping hands. Because I prefer a hot beverage, the fluffy dollop only lasts a few moments before dissolving into the glass of steamy milk, so I’ve learned to accept a silkier consistency rather than whipping the mixture into a stiff meringue. If you’ve got a hand mixer or blender — and are already satisfied with a more traditional arm workout, say with weights and resistance bands — by all means, save yourself the sweat equity.

I’ve tested quite a few versions of this instant coffee marvel and I’m sharing a recipe that I’ve developed of my own, here. One thing to note: Substituting instant coffee with coffee grounds will not lead to promising results. I failed so you wouldn’t have to.

Spiced Brown Sugar Dalgona Coffee

(2 servings)

Ingredients

16 oz. 2% milk (any non-dairy alternative can be substituted)

2 cardamom pods

1/2 tsp. cloves

1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped

1/3 cup Instant Espresso Coffee (Café Bustelo preferred)

1/3 cup light brown sugar (white sugar can be substituted)

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

Directions

In a small sauce pan, combine milk, cardamom, cloves, and ginger and bring to a light simmer on low-medium heat.

Add coffee, brown sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a medium mixing bowl and whisk together until the mixture is light brown in color and whipped in texture. You should be able to turn the bowl upside-down with little to no movement from the mixture.

Once the milk has simmered for 2-3 minutes, strain it into two glasses and let cool for about 2 minutes. Place a few dollops of the whipped coffee on top of each glass of milk and enjoy. The fluffy topper is fun for photos. Once you’ve gotten that part out of the way, allow the mixture to dissolve into the milk for a sweet-spicy caffeine fix.

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