What Is Dirty Coffee? Unraveling the Secrets of This Brew

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Have you ever wondered what happens when your favorite morning ritual, coffee, takes an unexpected turn?

Enter the intriguing world of “dirty coffee.”

No, it’s not about unclean brewing practices, but rather a creative twist to your conventional cup of joe.

In this post, you will learn more about this unconventional trend and how it adds a surprising twist to your daily cup.

We’ll also show you how to make it!

What Is Dirty Coffee?

Dirty coffee is a distinctive beverage created by pouring hot espresso over cold milk, resulting in a captivating visual display and a flavor profile that stands out.

Its origin is attributed to the Bear Pond Espresso coffee shop in Tokyo, Japan, and it has since gained popularity across Southeast Asia.

The name “dirty coffee” is a nod to its appearance, as the espresso seamlessly mixes with the cold milk, giving it a distinctively “dirty” look.

Not only does dirty coffee offer a unique mouthfeel, featuring a luscious, warm layer of espresso atop the chilled milk, but it also allows for diverse tasting experiences.

While it can be enjoyed without stirring, blending the espresso and milk provides an alternative flavor profile.

Moreover, dirty coffee is adaptable, accommodating various milk choices like oat milk, almond milk, or coconut milk, catering to individual preferences.

What Does It Taste Like?

Dirty coffee combines bitter espresso and sweet milk for a delightful interplay of hot and cold sensations.

The rich, toasty, and slightly acidic notes of the hot espresso complement the smooth and creamy undertones of the cold milk, resulting in a unique and enjoyable drinking experience.

How Do You Make Dirty Coffee At Home?

To make dirty coffee with an espresso machine, you will need cold milk, a clear glass, and a double shot of espresso or a single ristretto shot.

Follow this step-by-step guide:

Step #1: Preparation

Ensure both the milk and the glass are cold.

For an extra chill, place the glass in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before starting.

Step #2: Espresso Shot

Extract a single or double shot of espresso using your espresso machine.

We recommend using about 18 grams of coffee grounds for the double shot.

Step #3: Pouring Technique

Use a spoon to pour the espresso over the milk.

Place a spoon above the surface of the cold milk.

If pulling the shot directly over the milk, minimize the gap between the portafilter spout and the milk, and rotate the coffee cup during brewing for an even distribution.

Step #4: Creating a Layer

Pour the hot espresso over the spoon, allowing it to gently spill onto the milk’s surface, forming a distinct and beautiful layer of coffee.

Step #5: Enjoy

Savor your delectable dirty coffee!

Remember, there’s no universally accepted method for making dirty coffee, so feel free to adjust the recipe to suit your preferences.

The key is to achieve a visually appealing layer of hot espresso over cold milk, delivering a unique mouthfeel and visual charm.

Here are essential tips to perfect your dirty coffee:

  • Cold Ingredients: Use cold milk and a chilled glass to preserve the layered effect. Pre-freeze the glass for an extra touch of coldness.
  • Gentle Espresso Pour: Maintain distinct layers by using a spoon to gently pour the espresso over the milk. Reduce the gap between the portafilter spout and milk for an even distribution.
  • Use a Spoon: Enhance precision by incorporating a spoon during the espresso pour. This helps control the flow and ensures a visually appealing layering.
  • Immediate Enjoyment: Savor the unique layers by consuming your dirty coffee immediately. This ensures the layers remain visually appealing without blending.
  • Customization: Tailor your dirty coffee to your taste preferences. If you want a sweeter cup, add sugar or syrup to the milk before pouring the espresso.

How To Drink Dirty Coffee?

The unique charm of dirty coffee lies in its beautiful layers and the intriguing blend of hot and cold sensations.

To fully appreciate this beverage, it’s generally advisable to avoid stirring before indulging.

Stirring can disturb settled particles, resulting in a more bitter taste and a less enjoyable drinking experience.

As the coffee sits, grounds settle at the bottom, and stirring can disrupt this sediment, causing it to mix with the liquid and alter the flavor profile.

Moreover, it’s recommended to savor your dirty coffee promptly.

The espresso and milk layers tend to combine quickly, and delaying consumption can result in a lukewarm drink.

To preserve the distinct temperature contrast and layered aesthetics, enjoy your dirty coffee sooner rather than later.

Is Dirty Coffee Served Hot Or Cold?

Dirty coffee is intentionally served at a fluid temperature, which results in a unique blend of sensations.

Served with the espresso slightly hot and the milk intentionally cold, the result is a delightful lukewarm drink that gradually cools over time.

The cold glass facilitates rapid cooling of the espresso, creating a unique experience from the typical hot espresso taste.

For those inclined towards an iced experience, an iced latte might be a suitable alternative.

The ideal presentation is in a clear glass, allowing the observer to appreciate the marbled effect formed by the layers of espresso and milk.

The drink is meant to be sipped and savored, and the temperature changes as the hot espresso combines with the cold milk over time.

What Are Some Variations Of Dirty Coffee?

Here are some enticing variations to explore when it comes to dirty coffee:

Dirty Cream Coffee

Enhance the richness by using half-and-half or heavy cream instead of regular milk for a creamier indulgence.

Dirty Chai Coffee

Embrace the spice by adding a shot of espresso to your favorite chai tea blend for a flavorful twist.

Dirty Spicy Coffee

Infuse your cup with warmth by incorporating a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom into your dirty coffee.

Dirty Fruit Coffee

Introduce a fruity flair by mixing in a shot of sweet fruit juice like pineapple, orange, raspberry, or pomegranate.

Dirty Chocolate Coffee

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a blend of unsweetened cocoa powder, honey, and a hint of vanilla extract in your black coffee.

Dirty Bourbon Coffee

Cozy up with a shot of bourbon and a splash of maple syrup, perfect for chilly evenings.

Dirty Bailey’s Coffee

Explore alcoholic blends by adding Bailey’s Irish Cream, Amaretto, or Kahlua to your coffee for a delightful kick.

Dirty Vegan Coffee

Opt for plant-based options by using almond or soy milk, and consider adding a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream for extra decadence.

Dirty Black Tea Coffee

Combine strong coffee with brewed black tea for a unique fusion, adjusting sweetness with milk or sugar to your liking.

Starbucks Undertow

Experience the Starbucks undertow with a shot of espresso, a splash of cold brew, and a touch of cold milk, carefully layered for a captivating “undertow” effect.

Coffee Drinks Similar To Dirty Coffee  

Now that you know some popular variations of Dirty Coffee, let’s take a look at some other popular drinks that are similar but not quite the same:

Dirty Coffee vs Iced Latte

Dirty coffee and iced lattes, though occasionally confused, present distinct characteristics.

Dirty Coffee involves pouring hot, potent espresso over extremely cold milk, resulting in a visually captivating layered effect.

Served typically in a clear glass, the layers remain visually distinct, offering a unique aesthetic appeal.

On the flip side, an iced latte follows a different composition.

Comprising espresso, milk, and ice, it doesn’t emphasize a layered presentation.

The preparation of an iced latte involves pulling a double espresso shot, adding ice cubes to the cup, and frothing the milk with a steam wand before gently pouring it over the coffee.

Unlike dirty coffee, the iced latte is often mixed or stirred, ensuring a consistent temperature throughout and without the distinct layers found in its counterpart.

Dirty Coffee vs Dirty Chai Latte

The primary distinction between a dirty chai latte and dirty coffee lies in the unique infusion of chai tea.

While a chai latte typically features spiced tea and steamed milk, the dirty chai latte takes it a step further by incorporating a shot of espresso.

This addition imparts a robust coffee flavor, setting it apart from the traditional chai latte.

The presence of espresso not only elevates the taste but also increases the caffeine content, making the dirty chai latte a preferred choice for those seeking a bold coffee profile.

Interestingly, the inclusion of espresso in the dirty chai latte results in a similar visually enticing, “muddy” appearance akin to that of dirty coffee.

This is why most people are confused between the two.

Dirty Coffee vs French Press

The distinction between dirty coffee and French press coffee frequently centers on the issue of sediment.

With French press coffee, the presence of sediment, perceived by some as contributing to a “dirty” taste, sparks a noteworthy debate.

Renowned for its robust and full-bodied flavor, French press coffee achieves this richness by allowing coffee grounds direct contact with water during the brewing process, surpassing the taste profile of traditional drip coffee.

However, the absence of a paper filter in the French press method can lead to sediment settling at the cup’s bottom, a characteristic that may not align with everyone’s preferences.

Dirty Coffee vs Starbucks Undertow

Both dirty coffee and Starbucks Undertow stand out as visually striking and unique coffee beverages, sharing a similar appearance that captures attention.

However, a pivotal distinction sets the two apart.

In the case of Starbucks Undertow, the addition of sweet syrup elevates the experience, offering a sweeter and more layered taste compared to the conventional dirty coffee.

The infusion of syrup adds an extra dimension to the flavor profile, marking a notable departure from the traditional elements of dirty coffee.


In the world of coffee, dirty coffee emerges as a fascinating and visually captivating twist to the conventional cup.

With its distinctive layers, a dance between hot espresso and cold milk, and a flavor profile that intrigues the taste buds, dirty coffee is more than a beverage—it’s an experience.

Whether you drink it slowly, observe the marbled effect in a clear glass, or experiment with different variations, dirty coffee invites you to explore the boundaries of your coffee palate.

So, why not enhance your coffee routine and indulge in the delightful nuances of dirty coffee—where layers meet flavor in every sip!

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Jacob Harris

Jacob is a coffee enthusiast who turned his passion into a career. As the owner and editor of Karma Coffee Cafe, he shares his extensive knowledge and recommendations, captivating fellow coffee lovers.

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