How McDonald’s Messed Up Styrofoam

I’m posted before about how wonderful McDonald’s Premium Roast coffee tastes. I’ve also expressed how that seems to go against everything that’s right in the universe. I mean, really good coffee? From McDonald’s??!?!?!. But alas, it’s true.

That being said, while they may understand how to brew good coffee, they apparently haven’t figured out physics. Or perhaps they haven’t figured out Styrofoam. Let me explain.

In the photo above, you’ll see that McDonald’s has taken a regular Styrofoam cup, and covered it with paper. Perhaps so no one realizes they are still using Styrofoam, since it’s so environmentally taboo? Who knows. Anyway, you’ll see the mysterious coffee that happens to be under the paper. Anyone who drinks McDonald’s coffee very often has had a cup drip from the bottom. It’s very frustrating because you don’t expect a drip from the bottom, and since it’s dripping from underneath the paper sheath — there is no way to stop the drip. It stains your pants, your shirt, your desk, your paperwork, etc.

How does the coffee get there you might ask? Well, the answer is physics. Look at the following photo:

What starts as a small imperfection in the top of the Styrofoam cup, turns into a physics dynamo, which pumps coffee directly from under the lid onto your pants. If the paper weren’t there, you’d get an occasional drip, which your thumb would catch, at which point you’d simply adjust the lid so it no longer leaks. Thanks to the paper coating, however, the drip is quietly and sinisterly absorbed into the paper. It then wicks all the way down the cup, and begins randomly dripping from around the entire bottom of the cup.

The first few months of this were maddening. I thought I just kept getting leaky cups. It turns out it was much more complex. So my only suggestion to fellow McDonald’s coffee drinkers? Drink fast. Wicking is relatively slow. And the most frustrating part? Throw the cup away after you’re finished. I tended to use my McDonald’s cup all day, to save on disposables. If you keep using the flawed design, the dripping gets worse and worse.

So there you have it, your lunchtime physics lesson. πŸ™‚

5 thoughts on “How McDonald’s Messed Up Styrofoam”

  1. Just to be sure one last time – this McDonald’s is THE McDonald’s, the one which sells burgers, wraps and shakes, has a signature yellow M logo on a red background, with Ronald McDonald as their mascot? THEY SELL COFFEE TOO? :-O

    They don’t yet, here in India πŸ™

  2. There’s an easy solution to that Shawn–get a metal travel coffee mug. They’re insulated, they’re environmentally friendly, and some places (Starbucks is one) will give you a 5 cent discount on your coffee.

  3. Where can I purchase paper covered styrofoam coffee
    cups like the ones used in coffee vending machines at convenience stores.

  4. Shawn,
    I think that there is a very logical reason for this dilemma. The coffee cools on it’s way down the paper covering, thus protecting McDonalds from major lawsuits involving hot coffee. After all, you really don’t enjoy hot coffee, do you?

  5. McDonalds has messed up my order of COFFEE (and ONLY coffee, that was my entire order) the last THREE (3) times (in a row), and I need to tell the internet about it.

    I always (have to) order my cream and sugar ON THE SIDE, because when I’ve trusted them to put it in for me, they always put EQUAL instead of sugar, which makes it unfit for anyone to drink. Even after taking the hardest part of the equation out for these morons, they’ve managed to royally screw up my coffee EVERY TIME.

    Day one (3 days ago): They gave me coffee with TONS of coffee grounds inside, because the idiot doesn’t know how to brew the stuff. I realized this only after driving all the way home, getting out of the car, bringing the cup inside, and adding sugar and cream. I promptly drove back to their store, and they didn’t even offer me a dang coupon or anything. When I got this second cup home, there was a crack in the upper realm, and the coffee leaked all over my car, my desk and hands, while burning me. It was a terrible experience, but of course I’m still addicted . . .

    Day two (2 days ago): The girl at the window hands me my cup of coffee and tells me to have a nice day. I asked if I could get my creams and sugars. She told me it’s all inside already. I show her my receipt (which I only get sometimes) and showed where it explicitly said, “ON THE SIDE” so I make her take it back and pour me another, with my add-ins on the side. She does this and hands me a bunch of Splenda packets. I stop her again and say, “See? THIS is why I can’t trust you. I need SUGAR, not this stuff.” After I finally get my sugar, I have to get her attention again for my SIR STICK (that they ALWAYS forget).

    Day three (today): I go inside to make sure I get my creams and sugars with a stir stick. “How can they mess up a cup of coffee?” I think to myself. I even went to a different McDonalds, drove further away, hoping they’d be more competent. This chick aggressively puts the lid on, bending the edge of the lid, so its edge scrapes and cuts into the styrofoam. The styrofoam broke into little pieces and little balls that were floating in the coffee. Luckily, I caught this new way to mess up my coffee and told her she tried to poison me with styrofoam-balls, and made her do it over.

    Why do I keep torturing myself this way??


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