In 2020, TikTok was swarmed by videos of users — most of them housebound and bored thanks to the early pandemic lockdown — blending up a fluffy, somewhat frivolous caffeinated concoction: dalgona coffee, better known across the internet as whipped coffee or TikTok coffee. The trend was born from an episode of popular Korean TV show “Stars’ Top Recipe at Fun-Staurant” in which South Korean actor Jung Il-woo tried a fluffy coffee beverage and pointed out that it tasted similar to a Korean sweet made with melted sugar called dalgona. After the clip went viral on social media, users began making at-home interpretations of the coffee, and its popularity spread.

This drink wasn’t necessarily revered for its taste or quality, but rather for its cloud-like texture and appearance generated by fervorous mixing. Its general recipe involves mixing instant coffee, sugar, and boiled water together until it reaches — as baking instructions would put it — soft peaks. The process is quite labor intensive, with some claiming it took 30 minutes of mixing to achieve the perfect consistency. The fluffy mixture is then served on top of a milk of your choosing, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing pick-me-up boasting a tall, frothy head.

Though many viral fads come and go, the allure of fluffy coffee has persisted. The concept has since taken on a life of its own in coffee shops both local and national across the U.S., as baristas replicate and expand upon the trend in more creative — and practical — ways. In addition to DIY-dalgona videos, our social feeds are also now filled with content starring these whimsical new menu items. It turns out the visual appeal of a fluffed-up, foamy beverage is undeniable no matter the setting.

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Here are four ways baristas are making “fluffy” coffee these days.

Going heavy on the cream

Some baristas are making fluffy coffee by going heavy on the cream.
Credit: Ten Thousand Coffee

To achieve the desired fluffy texture, many coffee shops have resorted to fortifying their typical drinks with an added layer of cream. Ten Thousand Coffee, a chain with locations in New York, Taiwan, and Australia, makes its popular Einspänner drink by adding a signature blended cream to two shots of espresso. By adding a big dollop of the sweet, light-as-air cream to the middle of the drink, the overflowing froth provides that cushiony look that customers flock for. Similarly, Los Angeles-based shop Maru Coffee is well known for its Cream Top Coffee that features a thick layer of foamy cream laying on its surface. While these drinks are technically a little far off from the original whipped coffee recipe, we’ll take any excuse to add mounds of whipped cream to our morning cup.

Making foamed milk the star

Some coffee shops are embracing the fluffy coffee trend by making foamed milk the star.
Credit: Ten Thousand Coffee

Typically, a cappuccino boasts the heartiest amount of milk foam among the most popular coffee drinks. But allow us to introduce you to the Freddo Cappuccino at New York City’s Mean Bean Café, a drink that takes the texture to the next level and makes the typical foamy latte look like child’s play. Popular coffee shops like Mean Bean Café and Do Not Feed Alligators have taken the concept of frothed milk and run with it, serving large cups of coffee that appear to be at least 75 percent foamed milk on top of a thin layer of espresso. The shop’s baristas also theatrically long-pour the drink into patrons cups, creating the appearance of a frothed milk waterfall — the makings of social media gold.

Shaking drinks like cocktails

Some baristas are making fluffy coffee by shaking their drinks like cocktails.
Credit: Blank Street

One of the more conventional ways to add some dimension to coffee is one you’ll see most often behind the bar: shaking your drink. The back-and-forth motion adds an airy texture to the liquid, similar to the effect of shaking an egg white cocktail. Even popular chains like Blank Street and Starbucks are now employing this method as an efficient way to lure in the fluffy coffee crowd.

Cheese foam?

Some baristas are making fluffy coffee by using cheese foam.
Credit: Little Fluffy Head Cafe

Even tea isn’t safe from the fluffification movement. Shops like Los Angeles’s Little Fluffy Head Café have embraced the trend with something called cheese tea, or iced tea topped with a layer of mousse-like cheese foam. The shop calls the creation “fluffy tea,” with whimsical flavor options like the Dirty Mess (black milk tea with crème brûlée cream and crushed Oreos) or the Strawberry Cheesecake (strawberries blended with jasmine green tea and topped with cheesecake cream). The menu also offers cold brew with the cheese foam floating on top.

On its website, Little Fluffy Head Café explains that it crafts a fresh mixture of cheese, cream, milk, and pink salt each morning to use for the fluffy teas. The café also explains that it serves the drinks in a specially shaped cup to encourage customers to drink the tea in the proper fashion — at a 45-degree angle — to get the optimal mixture of sweetness from the cheese cream and savory, bitter notes from the tea.