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How to still work in a coffee shop from home

Being able to wake up every morning and go to a coffee shop is what’s keeping me going through the lockdown. This particular shop is the perfect place – I never have to fight over a plug-socket, or hotspot from my phone because of unreliable Wi-Fi. I don’t have to pay £3.50 for two shots of coffee. This is because the coffee shop is mine; I have christened it Starf*cks (a joke stolen from my dad) and it’s run from my kitchen. Only two fancy drinks are served, but that’s enough to trick my caffeine-and-ambient-interior-design-dependent brain into working. 

Maybe it ​is​ just me, but there’s something about drinking coffee that isn’t homemade, while listening to gentle lo-fi chatter, that gets my creative juices flowing. In my café, achieving the sound effects are the easy bit (I recommend this).​ However, the fancy coffee aspect remained a problem. This was solved (partially – I still like my filter coffee) by the rise of dalgona coffee to TikTok stardom. It is, as my favourite coffee nerd James Hoffman describes in his weirdly thorough video on the subject, iced milk topped with a “thick, glistening, glorious, unctuous, creamy, rich beautiful foam.”

James Hoffman’s as he tries Dalgona Coffee – “it’s the internet sensation sweeping the world and I love it [long pause] when coffee is a thing that is everywhere…” 

Great, this sounds amazing – but how do we make it? It’s incredibly simple, actually – this is the recipe I’ve been using. 

Dalgona Coffee Recipe

Ingredients

2 teaspoons of instant coffee (about 8g) 
2 teaspoons of warm water
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar 
250ml milk of your choice

Method

Don’t try and make this fancy. Espresso, AeroPress – anything that is not straight-up, instant coffee from a jar won’t foam, and you won’t realise this until you’ve wasted 15 precious minutes of quarantine-café-time whisking. 

  • In a bowl, mix together everything except the milk, and whisk with a hand-held mixer or a whisk. Having tried both, I would advise using the mixer, which takes roughly one minute compared to ten minutes with the whisk 
  • Stop whisking when the mixture starts forming stiff peaks, and turns a light caramel colour
  • Fill a glass with ice and pour over your choice of milk, leaving room for the foam mixture
  • Spoon in your ‘dalgona’ foam mixture and smooth with the back of a spoon

This is your standard dalgona coffee, the one seen in the TikToks. The problem, as James conspiratorially whispered in the video, is that “what you get out of it is as good as you put into it.” I will grant that dalgona coffee looks really pretty in the glass, but when you go to take a sip, you get a clump of super-sweet, super-strong coffee with just a tiny bit of milk. To make it drinkable, you really have to stir it, and that defeats the whole object of the layering process. 

However, it seems that limitation does, indeed, breed creativity. In more carefree times, I would have stopped there and gone out to get a cappuccino. Instead, I had a long think about what to do with this sugary, concentrated coffee foam, and this is what I came up with. 

In an effort to maintain some semblance of normality, I have tried to make it look like the original drink. It is still caffeinated, but it is also boozy. I call it: ‘Dalgona Coffee’. Or at least I do to anyone who may be worried by my early morning alcohol intake. For us, it can be the ‘Quarantine Iced Coffee’. It is essentially a White Russian cocktail with a spoonful of ‘dalgona’ foam on top. I have been hankering after espresso martinis, which are almost impossible to make without genuine espresso, due to textural issues – the Quarantine Ice Coffee works well as (hopefully) a stop-gap. 

Quarantine Iced Coffee Recipe

Ingredients

60ml vodka
30ml coffee liqueur (Tia Maria, Kahlua etc.)
30ml double cream (substitute with milk if you want it lighter​)
‘Dalgona’ froth as above

Method

  • Fill a cocktail shaker (or a to-go coffee mug) with chunky ice and pour in the vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream
  • Shake for around 20 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is frosted
  • Filter into a coffee cup filled with ice
  • Spoon in the ‘dalgona’ foam like you would normally. If you want to make it even fancier, you can add a teaspoon (or three) of coffee liqueur, or Cointreau, or whatever – go crazy, there are no rules anymore – to your dalgona and whip it in before spooning the foam in

Perhaps our James would like this more – it doesn’t taste anything like instant coffee and milk, and would definitely go well with some quarantine banana bread. My only advice would be to go easy on the foam; it’s easy to accidentally drink six cups’ worth of instant coffee in just a few glasses.

The Quarantine Iced Coffee is designed to be sipped undetected in the living room, gently smoothing out your reactions to fellow inmates flatmates when they question “what time [do] you call this” or “where you picked up these alcoholic habits”. In these tense times it is social glue. You’re welcome.