The Engineer – The world’s first environmentally friendly compressed gas siphon for whipped cream

Whipped cream and frothed milk add value and customer satisfaction to coffee bought on the high street, but are harmful to the environment.

Currently, nitrous oxide (N2O) as a propellant and foaming agent, supplied in disposable aerosol cans and siphons that can be refilled with N2O charger lamps.

N20, however, has a global warming potential almost 300 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2).

In its 2018 Baseline Environmental Report, Starbucks said that the N2O used in whipped cream was responsible for half of global Scope 1 emissions that year. The report declared an N2O emission value for the company equals almost 160 million kilotons of CO2, represents the use of 67 million steel N2O charger lamps in a year.

Now Cambridge Start-up Triple Line Technology has created TLT-Foamer, the world’s first environmentally friendly compressed gas siphon for whipping cream and frothing milk using compressed air or nitrogen.

Both can be passed through a series of alternating sliding fields with a foamable liquid to generate microfoams with bubbles less than 100 microns in diameter, suitable for the whipped cream and frothed milk used in coffee drinks.

Company co-founder Mark Nicmanis explained that when a cream whipper is accused of N2Oh, the gas dissolves in the cream or other food product. When the product is dispensed, it experiences a rapid pressure drop from the inside of the beater to atmospheric pressure, causing the dissolved N2O to quickly boil out the solution in the product.

“This creates a huge volume expansion of the gas that ‘aerates’ and beats the cream or other product,” he said.

However, compressed air or nitrogen have low solubility in pressurized foods. Nicmanis added that a conventional cream whipper would have compressed air or nitrogen in the headspace and act like an air spring, forcing out liquid or poorly aerated product as it was dispensed.

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“Using compressed gases such as air or nitrogen in a beater requires a new mechanism to incorporate the gas into the product while achieving the desired gas levels and volume increase in the product (overrun),” he said. “The technology developed by TLT is a flow path geometry, which is fed with a specific ratio of liquid product and compressed gas, creating a two-phase flow.”

Nicmanis continued: “As this two-phase flow passes through an alternating series of bends within the flow path, small bubbles are torn off from larger gas parcels. This process is iterative and results in a homogeneous end product.”

Customer feedback shows that the TLT-Foamer produces texture characteristics very similar to those of traditional whipped cream products.

“However, our cream whipping method has two distinct differences from nitro-based methods,” says Nicmanis. “It is possible to vary the geometry of our system so that different gas levels are processed in the whipped cream. This allows our system to deliver creams with a wide range of textures, from slightly thickened creams, with an air content of approximately 20 percent, to very stiff, stiff creams, with an air content of 60 percent and more.

“The gas bubbles in whipped cream that are released by our system are much more monodisperse than those in an N2O-based whipped cream. Therefore, our system tends to form much more stable whipped cream due to the reduced degree of Ostwald ripening that occurs in our whipped cream.”

TLT said the compressed gas siphon can be charged using small charging lamps containing compressed air or nitrogen. It can also be charged via a compressor or compressor base unit, a gas cylinder or a nitrogen generator, eliminating the need to manufacture, fill, ship and dispose of the charging lamps.

The company added that its patented solution could also provide an alternative to single-use foam aerosols in other retail and industrial sectors.