How to Make Fake Coffee for Food Photos

June 17, 2014

Whenever we do food photoshoots, our props are subdivided into two categories; food, and non-food props. Food props are perishable ingredients that would only serve as background elements to indicate what the components of the main dish are. It can also compliment the subject to indicate a certain mood. Non-food props on the other hand, are the non-perishables. They come in the form of baskets, chopping boards, and utensils scattered around the set to complete the shot.

Cake Shot for Mary Grace with fake coffee food props.

Fake coffee falls under the former, and immediately associates your subjects with ‘breakfast’. It goes well with so many types of dishes too, particularly pastries and sweets, that learning how to fake it in a photoshoot can be one of the most convenient cheats you can have in your arsenal.

Fake Coffee Final Output

Faking coffee is a simple, and fun food styling technique that I discovered when I was ten, albeit unknowingly. It has come to be such a useful trick in my work that looking back on it now, my life was probably bound to take on this whole food photography route just to utilize this childhood breakthrough in the art of playing with food.

I first discovered this secret technique during one of those Chinese dinners my parents brought me to as a kid. They’d impose this system where grown-ups would sit together in one table, and the few kids, unfortunate enough to be brought along this tortuous endeavor, would be isolated in another. These affairs were the very definition of boring. I’d have rather watched Ren and Stimpy on mute.

I was quite the plump kid growing up (let’s not use the F word), and I never found the need to socialize with unidentified members of my younger generation. Food was all it took to make me behave, and it was a given that every excess serving of the cold-cuts meat platter, steamed lapu-lapu, and garlic prawns would automatically find its place on my plate.

My favorite part was always after the meal—mom and dad would be so absorbed in a conversation about the newest and most effective remedy for dry cough (it was always either that or morning allergies) that they were as good as blind (and deaf) to any possible mischief beyond their little forum. Having no reason to pry or listen to the newest theories on self-medication, I entertained myself with a pair of chopsticks, house water, and the condiment tray. I mixed potions.

Recipe for Fake Coffee

Fake Coffee1

Step1: Prepare a coffee cup, one tablespoon of soy sauce/black vinegar and a small spoon.

Fake Coffee2

Step 2: Pour one table spoon of soy sauce (or black vinegar) into a cup.

Fake Coffee3

Step 3: Pour in a cup of water.

Fake Coffee4

Step 4: Add more soy sauce for a darker shade if needed. Stir thoroughly.

Upgraded additional formulation:

Fake Coffee5

Step 5: Prepare a bowl, sponge and dishwashing soap.

Fake Coffee6

Step 6: place the sponge in a bowl and pour in half a cup of water.

Fake Coffee7

Step 7: Squeeze in half a teaspoon of dishwashing soap on the sponge.

Fake Coffee8

Step 8: wring out the sponge to create a pool of soap suds.

Fake Coffee9

Step 9: spoon out the soap suds.

Fake Coffee10

Step 10: circle around the fake coffee while carefully placing the soap suds on the surface a few clumps of bubbles at a time.

Fake Coffee11

Step 11: to make it even more believable, dip the dull end of a toothpick in soy sauce and circle around the edges of the bubbles. This adds some brown color to the bubbles and makes the coffee even more realistic.

Fake Coffee12

Tada!! Oh and you can also use this to prank your friends!

Mylene Chung Mylene Chung Mylene Chung is a food photographer and prop stylist for and PhotoKitchen. She’s worked with companies like Resorts World Manila, Reader’s Digest Asia, Manila Peninsula and has been featured in several publications and tv shows. Over the course of her career, she has already gained a whopping 20 pounds, which she has been desperately trying to lose. For more updates from her, you can add her up on instagram @mylenechung. FOLLOW
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Sprite + soy sauce = fake Coke you can use to prank your friends with. 😛


Add ice, to make it even more like Coke.

Abbey Sy

I can relate a lot to the kids table thing and experimenting with condiments after dinner :)) At least the concoction is being put to good use now! Hahaha.

Addi dela Cruz
Addi dela Cruz


Patrick Corrales
Patrick Corrales

You’re the best Ms. Mylene Chung!!!

Raxenne Maniquiz

HAHAHA. Nakakaloka kapag may biglang nagkamaling uminom nito.

Thanks for the tip master mommeh Mye! 3M!



to shot a pipping hot dish, they puff cigarette to the food being shoot

Lady In Pink
Lady In Pink

This is cool… i will try this 🙂


Why make fake coffee when real coffee is readily available?


Because it’s cheaper than a sachet of 3-in-1 coffee.


Nooooo. I think buying 3in1 coffee or the smallest sachet alone doesn’t cost too much, not more than P10.

Mike De Guzman
Mike De Guzman

very cool and informative post, especially to those who are curious about food styling


oh wow thanks for this! =)


great post! you can prank your friends but make sure they dont drink it! the soap will cause food poisoning.


Keep on