Vending machines pose particular challenges for allergies!

Vending machines can be tricky and probably best avoided if you have a dairy allergy. The problem is, that even if the ingredients travelling down their own little tubes are kept completely separate they all meet at a central point – just above your waiting mug – so you can often end up with coffee flavoured tea, or even soup if you’re really lucky!

A recent experience alerted me to the problem that the milk dispenser continues to drip for some time after vending a refreshment, so your black coffee could end up being anything but unless you crouch hawk like ready to deftly whisk your almost filled mug out of the way before it… too late!

This picture here illustrates the problem quite nicely and also rather interestingly shows the next two people in the queue! A very clean vending machine I have to admit!

The only way to attempt a dairy free beverage was to ensure I arrived for coffee before everyone else, and thus dispensed the first drink from the machine. This did work but is probably not the safest solution. Requesting a flask of black coffee and/or hot water seemed like a good idea but in practise never actually materialised.

I stuck to cold water from the chilled water machine and notched another experience into the everyday struggle just to be normal! The vending machine no doubt saves the staff time and effort but the final drink loses a great deal in the taste department – or so I was reliably informed.

It is a great shame that wherever you go, having allergies labels you as the odd one out, which of course you are! Last week I attended a week long course (hence the lack of blog posts) but it was rather maddening to enjoy watching my fellow students enjoying their cappucino, biscuits, cake and even scones on one occasion. Despite alerting the establishment to my allergies at the beginning of a week long course, do you think there were ANY break time snacks suitable for me to eat? I don’t ever expect this and consequently always come prepared, but just for once it would be very nice to be pleasantly suprised rather than disappointingly right! Not even an apple! Lucky I had a bag full or tasty dairy free snacks on hand.

Luckily I discovered a fantastic independent coffee shop just around the corner so I was able to get my guaranteed dairy free coffee fix first thing so I started the day smiling and wide awake.

Has anyone else had vending machine experiences? Would you risk it? Ever had a reaction after drinking something from a vending machine?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.


  1. There are many ‘under the cover’ trip-ups awaiting those of us with sensitivities. Attention and on-alert are our guide lines. It’s also laden with stress. Our need to remain alert, to keep us in a healthier path, is also adding to our illness, discomfort and compromised health. So, yes, it is disheartening to find at nearly every turn, we are the ‘oddity’; the ‘problem’ … as-it-were.

    One of my guards again being hit by such encounters is the guideline for shopping the market: browse the outer edges – fruits, vegetables, meats; steer clear of dairy and fee the wasteland of the interior of the store. Thus I provide my own basic elements and do not purchase anything from ‘public access’. Those deliveries must be made in a, one-size-fits-all, formula; they have to, to be profitable.

    That is a good rule-of-thumb: If the reason for using – a service – is convenience, then don’t, because it’s not.

    Good article.

    • Thanks Les, it’s good (though for all us odd ones out) to hear from people who understand. I have learned over the years to just let it all wash over me and to smile, safe in the knowledge that I will remain slim while others gorge on snacks, biscuits and cakes aplenty.

  2. I went to the theatre last night and visited the terrace for a coffee first – a treat as I rarely have coffee, but I just fancied one. I asked for a plain filter coffee. It came as a latte in a wine glass with milk and chocolate sprinkled on top. Err – how that constitutes a black coffee I don’t know! I appreciated them making it all pretty for me, but back it went with clear instructions. The next one came in a glass as before, mostly black but with a huge amount of crema or foam on top. Now, call me cynical, but I don’t believe any coffee machine can achieve that much crema from a plain black filter coffee! Back it went and out came my bottle of water. Harrumph. Show was great though – City Madam at the RSC in Stratford, Go and see it if you get a chance. Very funny. Just don’t ask for a coffee in the terrace bar.

    By the way – when getting a coffee from a coffee shop, I always ask that they flush the pipes first and watch them do it. I ask for a fresh jug too. P and I used to have fun making the coffee sound the longest ever. We got to ‘a fairtrade, decaff, soya milk latte in a glass with half a caramel shot, flush the pipes, use a new jug, please’! Ha. Revengei s sometimes sweet!

    • Coffee in a wine glass? (Perhaps you should have had wine in the glass instead?) Now that’s just weird. Good point though regarding asking coffee vendors to flush through the system. I usually stick to herbal tea to be on the safe side but I too often crave coffee. And what is that froth? Where does it come from? I’ve been told before by coffee vendors that that froth isn’t anything to do with dairy… but now I’m not so sure. Can anyone confirm? Any expert coffee connoisseurs or experts out there who can shed some light on a particularly frothy subject?

  3. I will have to look into this, but I have heard that that froth can include egg (white?) in it – I have something in the back of my mind from when I resarched my food allergy book. It *may* be worth checking with the larger coffee chains – those who may have ingredients lists or allergy information available.

  4. Nothing would surprise me, unfortunately. And, yes, I would have preferred wine, but have recently found it causes migraine, regrettably. I think, so far, it is something to do with sealing casks with wheat flour and, on investigating some of the additives used to make most commercial wine, it seems some can come from corn. Aargh!

    A lovely company has today sent me a pure ‘natural’ wine kept in stainless steel to age and I will be trying it this weekend so wish me luck. And I have found champagne is OK too – matured in the bottle and double-filtered. Suffice to say I’ve cut down to almost nothing with the price of champers!

    Apparently Spanish Cava is made the same way – used to be called the ‘method champagnoise’ or something until the EU decided it couldn’t call it that as it is not made in Champagne. I have yet to try it though. Coffee and Champagne – I know how to live!

    • WOW would love to hear what the wine is that you’re trying. There are some interesting comments on some of my blog posts about wine. Someone said Spanish wine is safer… can’t remember why. My local wine shop did a talk in natural wines but I missed it as i had a tennis match. Must go in and pick their brains some time. Champagne is good for me too – but only the very expensive stuff of course – which we have about once a year! ;o)

  5. Domestic coffee machines leach heavy aluminum from their brewing lines directly into your coffee, and before long, simple homemade black coffees make you sneeze etc. Major problem – avoid.

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