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What Is Dirty Coffee? (And How To Make It)

You finally tried trendy dirty coffee, and you loved it?

Me too, it’s amazing!

But, now you want to know if you can make it at home?

Yes, you definitely can. And it’s not that demanding as it looks.

I recreated a dirty coffee at home and wrote down a simple recipe for you.

Follow my instructions, and you’ll have the most beautiful, swirly delight in front of you in no time.

Let’s start!

What Is Dirty Coffee?

dirty coffee in a glass
Photo from: @ammmy.cafehopping

Dirty coffee is a relatively new beverage, but it caught the attention of coffee lovers immediately.

However, I won’t judge you if this is the first time you’ve heard about it.

It originated from Asia, but there are some disagreements about whether it came from Tokyo, Japan, or South Corea. Either way, it became an overnight hit in Asia and started taking the world coffee scene.

To put it in simple words, dirty coffee is a hot espresso shot gently layered over super-cold milk.

Because of the big difference in temperatures between the two layers, espresso floats on top of the cold milk for a few minutes.

I can almost hear you thinking – this is so simple!

Well, you’re right. The preparation is indeed simple.

However, its taste is complex and elevated.

First, you will feel hot, strong, and robust espresso in your mouth. It should be thick and rich. But seconds after, it is followed by cold milk.

Here’s the interesting part:

Because of the strong and bitterish espresso, milk tastes even sweeter than usual. These two combined in your mouth create something new, creamy, lukewarm coffee. You’ll taste different nuances in just one sip.

Now, you must be wondering – where did the name come from?

And, I know, dirty coffee can imply a lot of things (I’m talking about dirty coffee makers!) Fortunately, it’s not anything like that.

Here’s the deal:

Its name comes from the mesmerizing visual aspect of this coffee drink.

First, you have signature thin layers of hot coffee on top of the milk. It’s a chemistry thing (which I don’t understand so much), but espresso won’t dissolve into milk because it’s too cold.

But, when the milk starts to get warmer, two layers start to combine. And that’s when it starts to look like a piece of art.

You’ll see espresso making funky, marble-like swirls. White milk will start to look messy or even “dirty” on top. Hence the name.

Although it’s not all about good looks, I think we all agree this is one very photogenic coffee (one of those that makes you drool just by looking at the picture).

How To Make Dirty Coffee 

pouring coffee in a glass with milk
Photo from: @tha_ma_da.dada

Dirty coffee is very easy to make. If you have an espresso coffee maker at your home, you’ll be able to make this beautiful coffee easily.

If you’re scared by these distinctive layers, don’t be! It’s not that hard at all, and I’ll give you some tips on how to do it.

With just a little bit of practice, you’re going to make Instagram-worthy-looking coffee!

Since this is a relatively new coffee, there is no standard way to make it. Every barista will add his own special touch.

So, you can find different recipes, from using double espresso shots to using just a ristretto. Also, the amount, type, or temperature of milk can vary.

But, all in all, those are just shades, and the overall drink is mostly the same and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • Fine ground coffee (for espresso)
  • 4-6 fl oz milk of your choice (milk with a higher percentage of fat works best)

Equipment

  • Espresso machine
  • Cup or glass (seethrough glass is definitely a better option since you really want to enjoy the aesthetics of this coffee)
  • Teaspoon (optional)

Step-by-step instructions

Now, if you’re ready, let’s make some (coffee) art!

  1. Cool down milk and glass

You need to think ahead when you want to make this coffee.

Take your serving glass and pour in 4 to 6 fl oz of milk in it (that is the amount of milk most barista use for dirty coffee). Put it into the freezer 15 minutes before you want to make dirty coffee.

Some people only cool down the milk in the fridge, but I find it better when you cool down both the milk and the glass. And the layers will form better if it’s straight out of the freezer.

PRO TIP
When it comes to the type of milk, it’s easiest to make layers with full-fat milk or even creamer. Also, the thicker texture of milk will give you a rich mouthfeel. But you can definitely use any other milk that suits your needs.

  1. Pull the espresso shot and add it to the milk

Now, here’s the tricky part.

You should pull your espresso shot and add it on top of the milk. This should be done super carefully, so the layers don’t mix up immediately.

There are two different ways to do this.

  1. You can pull your espresso directly into your serving glass.
  2. You can first pull a shot into the espresso cup and then add it to the serving glass with milk.

You need to have a little patience for this step. There is a high chance that you won’t be satisfied with the first few attempts.

But don’t worry, you’ll be there soon. You just need some practice.

Here are some tips that will help you with it:

  • Be gentle and slowly add espresso. Try not to make a big move, so espresso can form a layer on top. Don’t pour it from a height. You want it close to the surface of the milk.
  • Don’t pour the espresso into a single spot. Move the stream of coffee, so the espresso layer forms evenly on top of the milk.
  • If you’re directly pulling a shot from a coffee machine to a serving glass, put something underneath the glass to reduce the distance between the spout and the glass. Also, move around the glass to get an even layer.
  • A teaspoon can be very helpful. Place the teaspoon upside-down between the espresso and the milk. This way, you will slow down the espresso, and it will form a layer more easily.
  • If you like your coffee sweet, you should add sugar or your sweetener of choice to the milk before adding espresso.

So, you have your dirty coffee ready?

Congrats!

Take a second and admire this beautiful creation of yours. And enjoy!

How to drink dirty coffee

If you want to taste the characteristics of this coffee, you want to follow these two rules:

1. Don’t stir it. You’ll ruin the espresso layer, and this whole coffee will lose its point. 

2. Drink it right away. Espresso and milk will start to mix very fast. So, if you want actually to feel separate hot espresso and cold milk, don’t leave it to rest for too long. 

Coffee Drinks Similar To Dirty Coffee  

iced latte

This coffee gets easily mistaken for some other popular beverages.

Let me break this down for you.

Dirty coffee vs Iced Latte 

These two are often mistaken for each other. But they don’t have much in common.

An iced latte is an iced coffee made by mixing an espresso shot, steamed milk, and ice cubes.

Commonly, you stir it before drinking since layers in coffee are not a thing.

Dirty coffee vs Dirty Chai Latte  

A dirty chai latte is a specific drink. It is made with chai tea, also known as Masala chai, traditional Indian tea made from different spices.

It is made by pouring espresso coffee over milk and chai tea. That gives a similar muddy look to dirty coffee. That’s where the confusion is coming from.

Dirty coffee vs French Press 

Dirty coffee is a less-known nickname for French press coffee. It refers to leftover coffee sediments in a brew.

If you have ever drunk Frech press coffee, you know what I’m talking about. Coffee particles floating in your coffee resemble dirt or mud.

Some people hate it, and some love it. Personally, I just leave it to settle down on the bottom of my cup.

Dirty coffee vs Starbucks Undertow  

Undertow is Starbucks’ take on dirty coffee. But it’s not quite the same. 

As you may guess, Starbucks coffee shop adds sweet, flavored vanilla syrup to the milk.

pouring coffee in glass with milk

Dirty Coffee Recipe

Creamy and cold milk with a bold espresso punch on top
Prep Time 5 mins
Servings 1 glass (6-8 fl oz)

Equipment

  • Espresso machine
  • cup or glass
  • teaspoon (optional)

Ingredients
  

  • fine coffee ground
  • milk

Instructions
 

  • Cool down milk and glass
  • Brew espresso shot
  • Gently add espresso over the milk.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

Wait 15 minutes for chilling the milk before consuming your drink.

Conclusion

And that’s all, folks!

This trendy coffee is really a no-brainer, and you can easily make it at your home.

If you do it right, you’ll enjoy an interesting coffee. Rich espresso is followed by extremely cold milk, creating quite an experience for your taste buds.

Bonus, it looks out of this world.

Looking for the best espresso beans for your dirty coffee? Here’s our list of the best coffee beans for superautomatic espresso machines.

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Photo of author
Tijana Veljovic
Tijana spent a few years working as a barista. Now she’s enjoying writing about everything she learned about coffee and sharing it with you. Her weapon of choice for making it through the day is a hot latte. Besides writing and coffee, she loves traveling, camping, cooking, and good music.