Last Updated on May 14, 2022 by John Moretti
Curdles in your morning coffee does not necessarily mean your cream or coffee is bad. However, it is a lot less appetizing than seeing that perfect cup of joe. It is better to be on the safe side to avoid possible food poisoning and know why your brew ends up with curdles in it.
Creamers can curdle in coffee when the acidity of the brew is too high, the acidity of the creamer is too high (often attributed to expiration), or the coffee’s temperature is too high. Different types of creamers (such as those with added calcium) also have increased chances of curdling.
Almost anyone would prefer a velvety, creamy coffee above one full of curdled cream. Texture plays a large part in any gastronomic experience. Therefore, it is important to understand why creamers can curdle in coffee to prevent it from happening again.
The Four Reasons Why Creamer Curdles In Coffee
Curdling creamer is almost always a natural chemical reaction, much like what happens every time you cook an egg or how rust forms over time in the right conditions. The explanation is thus much simpler than one would think! There are four main reasons why your creamer could be curdling:
1. The Acidity Of Your Coffee Is Too High
Black coffee is rather acidic and has an average Ph balance between 4.85 to 5.10 (with lower Ph values relating to higher acidity levels). There isn’t a set Ph at which your coffee will certainly make your creamer curdle, but the more acidic it becomes, the more likely curdling becomes. This usually occurs around a Ph of 4.5.
A couple of factors can influence the acidity of your brew. The most common determinant would be the type of beans and roast you are using for your coffee. The beans in darker roasts are roasted for a longer time and are exposed to higher temperatures; as a result, they tend to be less acidic. So, if your creamer is curdling in your coffee, the chances are that you are using a lighter roast that has a higher acidity.
The water you are using in your brew is just as important as the beans themselves. Since water is generally the most highly concentrated ingredient in a cup of coffee, it is clear that it will influence the taste and the Ph level of your coffee alike. Water is neutral with a Ph balance of 7, but the tap water we often use gets treated, making its Ph levels more acidic.
Two more factors can influence the acidity of your coffee. These are the brewing method and the ground size. Coffee brewed with cold water is less acidic than hot coffee, and coffee brewed for longer tends to be less acidic. Lastly, if your ground coffee is very fine, there is a larger surface for chemical reaction, thus making your coffee more acidic.
2. The Acidity Of Your Creamer Is Too High
Traditional dairy-based creamers are naturally acidic due to the presence of lactic acid, but it is closer to neutral at a Ph of 6.5. That being said, the acidity of dairy creamers can rise as it ages since bacteria found in milk and cream start producing more acid over time. Therefore, it is important to check the shelf-life of your creamer (as well as checking for curdles in the creamer itself) before adding it to your coffee.
3. Your Coffee Is Too Hot
Rapid extreme temperature change has been attributed to spontaneous curdling taking place. Extremely hot coffee, however, is more likely to heighten the chances of curdling when the coffee is already very acidic or the creamer is on the verge of expiration. This is because heat catalyzes the natural chemical reaction, and the higher the temperature, the higher the chance of curdling becomes.
4. Your Choice Of Creamer In Your Coffee
Almond milk, for instance, is a plant-based creamer that takes much longer to expire but is often believed to be more likely to cause curdling in coffee. This is because almond milk may be more prone to react to the acidity of the coffee, causing the protein in it to thicken.
Baristas use different types of creamers produced specifically to avoid curdling when it comes into contact with acidic coffee. These barista grade creamers work better because they contain stabilizers such as vegetable gum and may have added calcium (which is known to be an acidity regulator).
How To Prevent Creamer From Curdling In Coffee
Now that the possible causes of curdling creamer have been introduced, you can avoid these issues to have a better coffee drinking experience. The following tips will help you brew the perfect (curdless) cup of joe:
- Check for freshness. See the expiration date on your creamer packaging and smell the contents to ensure it’s fresh.
- Change your beans. Use a darker roast unless you are extremely picky about having a light roast or try a different source of beans.
- Check the Ph of your water. Test your water at home or buy distilled water for brewing.
- Try a cold brew. Make some iced coffee on a hot day for a refreshing java experience devoid of curdles.
- Try roughly ground beans. Do not grind your coffee too fine to avoid excessive acidity.
- Add creamer first, then pour the coffee over. This will allow the heat to be distributed more slowly through the creamer.
- Add some of the hot coffee to the creamer. Ensure it is emulsified before adding the mixture to the rest of the coffee.
- Warm up the creamer. Pop the creamer in a microwave for a little while before adding it to the coffee to avoid rapid temperature change. Avoid heating it too much as this can cause the proteins found in most creamers to thicken and form curdles.
- Try different creamers. Different creamers could have different results.
- Try specialized barista creamers. These are almost guaranteed to work.
- If nothing seems to work: Consider drinking your coffee black, or rather get your fix at a local coffee shop.
There are certainly more ways to avoid having curdled coffee. Perhaps pouring the creamer into the coffee in a different way, say over a spoon, could help. Be creative – you might come across your own trick two to ensure nice and creamy coffee every time!
Creamers can curdle in coffee for a wide variety of reasons. Most of them relate to the overall Ph balance of the mixture and the temperature of the coffee. Knowing these details and using some of their related tips will help you brew the perfect cup of joe in no time!