Dirty Coffee: What is it & How to Make It (+ Easy Recipe)

Last updated on October 5th, 2023 by Garret Jacob

Dirty Coffee

If you have ever been backpacking through Thailand or visited Japan, South Korea, or China, you may have seen Dirty Coffee being served at coffee shops everywhere. From the beaches of Thailand to the megacities of Japan, Dirty Coffee has been a favorite of locals and tourists alike for years.

So, it should come as no surprise that those backpackers and tourists would bring their love for Dirty Coffee home to the US.

But what exactly is Dirty Coffee and how do you make one?

Let’s go ahead and take a deep dive into everything Dirty Coffee, from its origin and how it is made, to how it compares to other popular coffee drinks when it comes to calories and caffeine content. 

What is the origin story of Dirty Coffee?

What is the origin story of Dirty Coffee
Why is it called Dirty Coffee?
Photo by Luis Reyes

Dirty Coffee is said to have originated at the Bear Pond Espresso coffee shop located in Tokyo, Japan. Bear Pond Espresso is famous for its espresso being extremely thick and syrupy. To take the edge off of the extra-thick and rich espresso, milk had always been used.

However, one day the folks at Bear Pond Espresso got the idea to serve the famously thick espresso by pouring it over a spoon and into a small glass of ice-cold whole milk. 

Because of the temperature of the milk, and because the espresso had such a syrupy viscosity, once poured, the espresso sat on top of the milk and slowly seeped down into the glass. Watching the espresso slowly seep into the milk, the drink was nicknamed, “The Dirty”. 

Soon after, it did not take long for the drink to become popular in other cities of Japan and eventually Asia and now the US. 

How is Dirty Coffee made?

How is Dirty Coffee made
How is dirty coffee made?
Photo by The Oero

Making Dirty Coffee is easy. Typically, to make Dirty Coffee, you will want a chilled glass, 4 to 6 ounces of fresh chilled milk, and one to two shots of espresso. 

When it comes to the milk, you will want to use whole milk to ensure the drink is extra creamy and delightful, and you will want to make sure it is served ice-cold and in a chilled glass.

If you want to use a different form of dairy or a non-dairy substitute like almond milk, that is perfectly alright, however, the temperature of the milk needs to be as low as possible when the one or two shots of espresso are poured on top. Having extremely cold milk will enhance the spectacle of the espresso mixing and seeping into the glass. 

To prepare dirty coffee, make one or two shots of espresso and then slowly pour the espresso into the 4 to 6 ounces of ice-cold milk by pouring the espresso over a spoon and letting it dribble into the milk.

How is Dirty Coffee different from other popular coffee drinks?

dirty coffee from other popular coffee drinks
What are the differences between Dirty coffee with other coffee drinks?
Photo by pariwat pannium

Dirty Coffee vs. Latte

The main differences between Dirty Coffee and a Latte are temperature, preparation method, and texture. 

Lattes are served hot with steamed milk and hot espresso whereas Dirty Coffee is served hot and cold with a layer of hot espresso and a layer of ice-cold milk that mixes. 

Also, a Latte has a consistent texture throughout the drink whereas Dirty Coffee has two distinct textures that can be felt if the drink is consumed quickly and before it has mixed completely. 

Dirty Coffee vs. Iced latte

The main differences between Dirty Coffee and an Iced Latte are consistency, preparation method, and drinking method.

Iced Lattes are mixed or stirred and served with ice giving it a consistent texture throughout that is meant to be sipped on for long periods of time. Dirty Coffee is served in a small glass with two distinct layers, one ice-cold milk, and the other hot espresso. 

Also, there is no ice in Dirty Coffee and it is meant to be drunk quickly. 

Dirty Coffee vs. Cappuccino

The main differences between Dirty Coffee and a Cappuccino are temperature, consistency, texture, and preparation method.

Cappuccinos are made with hot espresso, steamed milk, and a layer of microfoam, all of which are incredibly hot when served. Also, cappuccinos have a layered consistency like Dirty Coffee, however, the texture is completely different because of the microfilm layer. 

Dirty Coffee is served cold with a layer of hot espresso and it does not require any steamed milk or microfilm giving it a completely different texture and feel. 

Dirty Coffee vs. Breve

The main differences between Dirty Coffee and a Breve are the type of dairy, temperature, and ratio.

Breves are made with steamed half-and-half whereas Dirty Coffee is made with ice-cold whole milk. That being said, it is possible to make a Breve Dirty Coffee by using ice-cold half-and-half instead of whole milk.

Lastly, the ratio of a Breve provides a much stronger flavor with a 1:1 ratio of espresso to dairy whereas a Dirty Coffee could have either one or two shots of espresso to 4 to 6 ounces of milk.

How much caffeine does Dirty Coffee have?

How much caffeine does Dirty Coffee have
How strong is Dirty Coffee?
Photo by Eiliv Aceron

The caffeine content of Dirty Coffee depends on whether you order or make it with a single or double shot of espresso. A single shot Dirty Coffee can have approximately 63 mg of caffeine whereas a double shot can have close to 125 mg.

Dirty Coffee ingredients

The ingredient list for Dirty Coffee is quite basic:

  1. Single or double shot of espresso.
  2. 4 to 6 ounces of ice-cold whole milk or other dairy or non-dairy substitute.

If you order one in a coffee shop, the default dairy will almost always be whole milk.

Dirty coffee calories

If you order Dirty Coffee prepared with 4 to  6 ounces of whole milk, then you can expect to consume approximately 74 to 110 calories plus 3 calories for each shot of espresso. For example, a double shot poured into 6 ounces of whole milk would be a total of 116 calories.

Dirty coffee does have caffeine content, but if you are looking for something stronger, you can also check out Dead Eye Coffee.


What’s a Dirty Latte?

A Dirty Lattes is two-thirds of fresh cold milk topped with a single or double shot of espresso or ristretto. Typically, the espresso or ristretto is poured slowly into a clear glass of fresh cold milk using a spoon to help keep the two layers visibly separated. 

What temperature is Dirty Coffee?

The temperature of Dirty Coffee changes over time. At first, there are two distinct layers of hot espresso and ice-cold milk, but as the drink slowly begins to mix, the temperature becomes lukewarm. 

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