You pour your morning coffee, add your half and half, then go to take a sip. Just before you begin to indulge in your morning ritual, you spot it—curdled chunks floating in your coffee. The half and half just curdled and you don’t know why.
Now, at this point, some people have a minor freakout. They might dump out the coffee and decide to start all over. Well, you don’t have to do that. While it is unappealing, half and half curdling is safe for most to drink as long as it’s not expired.
What is half and half?
Many coffee drinkers prefer to sweeten up their drink of choice with things like sugar, cream, or milk. Half and half is equal parts milk and cream. The reason that they are mixed is to control the percentage of fat.
The fat content in cream is typically around 36% to 40%. Milk falls generally around 3.25%. Half and half fat percentages are around 10% to 18%. Because of this, half and half is used in a wide variety of recipes that need a bit of fat, but not as much as what cream has.
Why does half and half curdle in coffee?
Curdling is something that happens to half and half, creamer, and even milk from time to time. In relation to coffee, a lot of it has to do with the acidity levels, how old the half and half is, how long it was left open, and other factors.
Adding cold half and half to really hot coffee can cause an instant curdling reaction. Some coffee drinkers prefer to add the half and half before the hot coffee. This can help prevent curdling by allowing the half and half to rise in temperature a bit.
Acidity levels of your coffee
All coffees are not created equal—each one has a different taste, feel, texture, and acidity level. The Ph level (how acidic something is) of coffee can lead to an increased chance of curdling. There are many options to reduce the Ph level in your coffee from choosing a dark roast, cold brewing, and switching to a mushroom-based coffee.
Half and half has to be stored properly so it doesn’t go bad or start to curdle on its own. Uncovered half and half starts to build up lactic acid and this starts the curdling process. Combine this with the other factors mentioned and you get a high chance of curdling your half and half.
Can you prevent it from happening?
So, the big question is, can you prevent half and half from curdling? Yes, you can! In fact, here are some quick tips that you can follow to help cut down on those half and half chunks.
1. Make sure that your half and half is fresh
This one should be a no-brainer but make sure that the half and half in your fridge isn’t expired or getting too old. It can be an easy thing to forget but make a habit of checking the expiration date every now and then.
2. Make sure your half and half is properly stored
Half and half needs to be stored properly so it doesn’t begin to spoil early or build up too much lactic acid. This means making sure that it’s in a covered container and placed somewhere appropriate. Some half and half don’t have to be refrigerated but some do, so just double check the label.
3. Add the half and half first
Many coffee drinkers add their half and half to their cups while their coffee is brewing. This lets the half and half set and get to the right temperature to accommodate the coffee better. When you add it after the coffee, and the creamer is cold, curdling could happen much more often.
4. Use a low acidic coffee
Using a low acidic coffee, like a dark roast or cold brew, can help a lot in preventing curdling. It’s important to understand that cuddling is just a slight chemical reaction involving acidity and temperature. As long as you can control both, you can prevent a lot of curdling.
Is drinking curdled half and half safe?
If you’ve accidentally drunk some curled creamer or half and half—don’t panic. As long as the half and half, milk, or creamer that you use isn’t expired, you should be fine. Curdled half and half is more of a texture issue than anything else.
In fact, this curdling is so common that it has its own name, “beverage feathering”. When a beverage feathers it just means that the cream that’s added is curdling or flaking. Harmless, but it can be a turn-off for coffee aficionados.
Alternatives to half and half?
If you’re still having trouble with half and half curdling then there are some alternatives that you can try. You can switch to a low-fat milk, non-dairy creamer, or use a plant-based creamer. Some coffee drinkers even take half and half, milk, and creamers completely out of their coffee. There are a lot of options out there so feel free to experiment!
Coffee drinkers have been dealing with beverage feathering, or curdling, for a very long time. Half and half is the main culprit but things like milk and creamer curdle too. This makes sense because half and half is just milk and creamer in a one-to-one mix.
Curdling is a chemical reaction brought on by too much acidity and too much heat. This is why how you store half and half can make a big difference. Switching to a low acidic coffee, like a dark roast, can also keep acidity levels in coffee low.
If you do drink curdled coffee, no worries. As long as it’s not expired, then you should be fine. Besides the “ick” factor, curdled coffee is just a texture issue for most people. Keep those tips in mind about reducing curdling and you should be on your way to one great cup of coffee.