Grabbing a quick coffee from a fast food joint means it's up to you to add as much coffee and cream as you need. But future generations may never need to deal with those tiny, easy-to-spill milk cups as scientists from the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany have invented capsules that dissolve away to release a perfect portion of cream and sweetener into your coffee.
Reminiscent of hard lollies filled with a soft, chewy centre, manufacturing these capsules is relatively easy, thanks to years of research on crystal formation by the university's Professor of Engineering, Joachim Ulrich. A solution of milk and a sweetener is created (using sugar or other materials) and then heated and poured into a mould. As the solution is cooled using a proprietary process, excess sugars move towards the edge of the solution, forming crystals and creating a hard outer shell which traps the sweetened milk inside.
Once removed from the mould, the capsules can be stored at room temperature for up to three weeks without the milk inside going bad. When dropped into a hot cup of coffee, the outer sugar shell dissolves away, releasing the milk inside, allowing everything to be stirred together.
Aside from being easier to use, the capsules drastically reduce the amount of packaging that's typically used to deliver cream and sugar to customers. The only drawback is that the product is currently only available in versions for coffee drinkers that like both cream and sugar in their drinks. The researchers are looking for alternative materials to use to create the outer shell that doesn't deliver sweetness, but still dissolves away without altering the taste of the coffee.
[Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg via New Atlas]