Milk capsules and packet

Milk capsules created to prevent tea drinkers from splashing

Image credit: Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg

Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have developed a dissolvable capsule of milk and sugar which can be added to hot drinks.

Researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have developed a dissolvable capsule of milk and sugar that can be added to hot drinks.

Gone would be the days of splashing a serving of milk down your shirt in an attempt to make a cuppa, if this innovation finds commercial success.

The researchers, based in the university’s Centre for Engineering Sciences, were motivated to create the milk capsules in order to contribute to waste reduction, and in order to “[prevent] consumers from getting splashed” when making hot drinks.

The small plastic containers of single milk servings commonly used in catering, transport and hotels, are, according to the researchers, an inefficient use of packaging, as well as frustrating to use.

In order to do away with packaging, the researchers set about developing a new way to serve portions of milk in solid shells; these must be edible, stable, prevent air and water passing through their coats, and entirely dissolve in hot liquids to prevent lumps of coating appearing in cups of tea or coffee.

“A crystalline crust forms a type of packaging around the capsules that easily dissolves in hot liquid,” said Martha Wellner, a PhD student in nutritional science at Martin Luther University.

The capsule is formed by pouring a hot solution of milk and sugar into a mould. As the solution cools, the sugar moves to the edge of the mould, crystallising into a solid coating encasing the milk.

This crystalline coating is made of one of two types of supersaturated milks: either sucrose-milk or erythritol-milk. A sucrose coating can be used to create tea or coffee with a high level of sweetness, and the erythritol to make a drink of lighter sweetness. The capsules can, according to the researchers, be made in different shapes, and the milk can be kept for at least three weeks in its coating.

This encapsulation process was developed by Professor Joachim Ulrich, a professor of engineering at the university, and patented in 2015. Since then, Professor Ulrich has been working with his colleagues to develop applications of the process in industry, for instance, to produce pills.

“The capsules could replace the small, extremely unpractical coffee creamer packaging that is used in great quantities at conferences or on airplanes,” said Professor Ulrich.

According to Wellner, a similar process could be used for other liquids. “For example, we can also encapsulate fruit juice concentrate,” she suggested.

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