Coffee creamer available in disposable plastic cups provide an extremely convenient option to spruce up the morning java. There’s no requirement for refrigeration and it lasts much longer than opened containers that always need to be chilled, but one problem they generate is a lot of plastic waste. In Germany, there’s a new way that can be just as convenient as the containers but without the unnecessary trash.
Scientists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have developed a capsule that’s able to contain the creamer without milk spoiling inside of it. Sugar moves to the outer edges of the milky solution and crystals form, hardening the product. There’s still no need for refrigeration. It has a shelf life of three weeks or more. It may not last as long when compared to the plastic containers, but you can still keep it at room temperature, making it pretty convenient.
So, how does this work in practice? Thankfully, it's pretty simple. To use them, just brew the favorite coffee of choice and drop the capsule in. Three different capsules will be available in varying degrees of sugar. Sucrose capsules are for those that love plenty of sugar in their coffee while erythritol capsules has a more mild approach. An undisclosed version coming down the road will be an unsweetened, sugar-free edition.
Capsule creamers have been in the works for a few years now. A patent was filed for the product back in 2015. Engineering professor Joachim Ulrich stated in the school’s report that capsules were studied for different reasons, but this new finding could replace the plastic counterpart.
"We have already studied different encapsulation processes as part of other PhD projects, however with other aims in mind. For example, the capsules could replace the small, extremely unpractical coffee creamer packaging that is used in great quantities at conferences or on airplanes."
The encapsulation of liquids doesn’t stop with coffee creamer. Martha Wellner, who studied engineering sciences at the university, notes that the invention “can also be used for other liquids...[like] fruit juice concentrate.” Basically, any hot liquids will be able to dissolve the crystal shell.
Daily coffee routines can provide massive plastic waste and it’s not limited to coffee creamers. Keurig coffee cups can be a bigger waste as they’re bigger than the standard creamer cups. Don’t forget the plastic straw used to stir together the java and creamer. All of these products are used once and disposed, with a lot of it heading into the garbage. That trash certainly adds up when you consider how many people fuel themselves on multiple cups of coffee every day.
At the moment, there’s no retail product of the coffee creamer capsules as it still needs to go through testing. If it ships to the United States, it will have to go through the Food and Drug Administration. Perhaps when there’s a capsule system developed for coffee grinds, we can make mornings much more environmentally friendly, but changing the way we use creamer is a good start.