Why Does Cream Curdle In Coffee?

We all love to play with our coffee. There are days you’ll devour your coffee as it is and there are days when you’ll want to add some cream to your coffee to make it richer. But when adding cream to your cup of joe, you may have observed cream curdling immediately and wondered why.

So why does cream curdle in coffee? As your cream ages, it develops lactic acid in it which eventually curdles your cream. Certain coffees have more acidity that could make the lactic acid act quickly and curdle your cream just as you pour it in your coffee. The temperature of your coffee is also another reason why your cream curdled.

Science Behind Cream Curdling In Coffee

Like we mentioned above, the acidity of your coffee plays a major role when it comes to curdling your cream.

Though Lactic acid is available in your cream, its build up increases significantly only when it’s aging and nearing expiry. If your cream is fresh and nowhere near expiry, then the acidity of the coffee might be the culprit.

If you’re sure that your coffee isn’t that acidic, then you might want to check your coffee machine. 

We all love to use vinegar or other acidic cleaning solutions to clean our coffee machines. If this was the case, then you may have to neutralize the acids used during the cleaning process.

The second culprit is the temperature of your coffee.

If your coffee is too hot, then pouring your creamer right away could cause curdling. Regardless of how fresh it is, you will see this effect often so make sure you wait for a while to bring down the temperature before adding cream.

This sort of curdling can be observed often when you use plant-based creamers like almond milk cream, soy milk cream, oat milk cream, coconut milk cream, and so on.

The third and the most obvious reason is that your coffee creamer has expired. Your cream has already curdled before you have even added that to your coffee and may have not noticed it. Even if your cream is very old (not expired), you might experience curdling quite often.

There is also a fourth reason, your water.

If your water is hard, then you might have some issues when making coffee. It could make your coffee more acidic and this can make your creamer curdle when you add it in.

If you doubt your water, then you can try making a cup of coffee with distilled water and see if it curdles your creamer. If it doesn’t then your water might be the problem.

How To Prevent Cream From Curdling In Coffee?

If you want to not waste any more of your coffee because of curdling, then these 4 simple tips can help you. 

Prevent Acidic Coffee

The acidity in coffee is the main reason why you observe the creamer curdling in your coffee. 

Whether you are using dairy milk or a creamer based on almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, or any other plant-based milk, if your coffee is acidic, the chances of it curdling your creamer are high.

If the pH of your coffee is in the acidic range, then you might want to change it if you have experienced cream curdling. 

So we highly recommend going with a low-acid or a no-acid coffee that will allow you to add the creamer of your choice without any issues.

Use Plant-based Creamer

Using a dairy coffee creamer comes with a lot of unfavorable quirks like too many calories and sugar content. They also are quite susceptible when it comes to curdling in your coffee.

If you want to switch to a healthier option that also won’t curdle as frequently, then plant-based creamers made from almond milk, soy milk or soya milk, and others are good options.

These creamers are less in calories but will give you a rich coffee. Most of them are also unsweetened so you don’t have to deal with the extra sugar.

Most people prefer using a half and half creamer made from almond milk and coconut milk as it comes with a lot of benefits and also makes your coffee super-rich making it a great choice for the health-conscious.

Avoid Expired Cream (or Milk)

Make sure to keep an eye on the expiry date of your cream.

Regardless of whether you’re using dairy cream or a plant-based cream, you might want to make sure that the cream you’re using is fresh and not expired or nearing expiry.

Expired milk or cream can curdle in your coffee even if everything about that coffee is fine. Not only that, drinking that coffee can make you sick as well.

Avoid Hot Temperature

Like we have mentioned above, when your coffee is too hot, adding cream to it can cause curdling. 

It is always smart to wait for your coffee to lose some kelvins so that you don’t cause your cream to curdle. 

Another thing to keep in mind is to check your water for hardness. This is not a very defining factor but can make a difference at times.

What Happens If You Drink Curdled Cream Coffee?

Before we give you the answer to this question, let’s consider two scenarios.

Scenario 1 is when you have used an expired creamer and it has resulted in curdling. There is just too much lactic acid in your cream and it has already initiated the curdling process.

In scenario 2, you are quite sure that you haven’t used an expired creamer and everything else is fine. The fresh your heavy cream is, the little lactic acid there is in it. This means even if your creamer curdles it isn’t because of its intrinsic qualities but because of the coffee’s acidity or temperature or even your tap water.

Using a creamer that is fresh and not nearing expiry is always recommended as it reduces the chances of your creamer curdling in your coffee. 

So Is It Ok To Drink Curdled Cream In Coffee? Can Curdled Cream In Your Coffee Make You Sick?

If your cream has expired, then drinking curdled cream in your coffee isn’t a great idea. There is a chance that you might get sick because of the curdling that happened.

If your cream hasn’t expired, then you don’t have to worry about the curdling that happened in your coffee. 

Nestle introduced the concept of “Beverage Feathering” which is similar to that of the curdling effect physically but nothing has gone bad. You are less likely to get sick when you drink this coffee.

Wrapping Up

No one likes to see milk or cream separating as soon as you add them to your coffee. Curdled milk in your coffee isn’t a very good look either.

We have discussed above that the acidic nature of the coffee and the lactic acid content in your cream are the main reasons for cream curdling in your cup of joe.

If you can handle these two things (and a few other factors), then you may not see your cream separate in your coffee. You can also try switching to a plant-based creamer for the best results.

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