Empty capsules now come in so many different sizes, colors, materials, and even flavors, that it can become confusing or even overwhelming to choose one. I’m only going to cover information on capsules that are available to the everyday person, not those who are wholesaling with pharmaceutical companies. To make things simple, let’s start with the basics.
Common Materials that Capsules are Made From
This is the most popular material available for empty capsules. Gelatin capsules are made from beef gelatin (like Jell-O, but thin & crunchy). They are readily available in all sizes and they are the most affordable option.
There are two types of vegetarian capsules. The less common and harder to locate is a capsule derived from tapioca starch. Those who are, or have to be, hyper-health conscious, may find these to be an ideal choice although they are not available with as many size options as the others. You can often find them called pullulan capsules.
In more common use, is your standard vegetarian capsule. They do not contain any animal products or by-products, but they don’t contain any vegetables either. Don’t let the name fool you, even if it says vegetable cellulose. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a little misleading to some. Most vegetarian capsules are made from the cellulose pulp of trees (usually pine). A material that has more in common with paper than vegetables.
They do cost a little more than gelatin capsules, but if you’re trying to avoid animal products, this is the most convenient choice.
Choose the size capsule you will need
Capsules come in a variety of sizes, the largest being the 000 (triple zero). Lots of people are able to swallow a capsule this size and it is widely used in popular supplements, but fair warning, it is referred to as a horse pill by many.
The most popular size capsule and most commonly used in supplements is the size 00 (double zero). Five of these capsules will equal a teaspoon of powder. Learn more about teaspoon dosing here: How Many Capsules Make a Teaspoon?
The next size down is the 0 (zero). This size is easy to swallow because of its smaller size, but can still hold up to 800 mg. (chart below).
Even smaller than the size 0, is the size 1. Now this is where capsule sizing numbers get confusing. As the numbers go up, the sizes goes down because the size 2 is even smaller than then 1. When you start getting into the smaller sizes of 1 through 4, you’re usually getting these capsules for pets or children.
When choosing a capsule based on it’s milligram capacity, keep in mind that different ingredients have different densities. A capsule filled with a light, fluffy powder will weigh less than a capsule filled with dense clay.
If you’d like to see all the sizes before you commit to buying a big bag, you can get a seven-size variety pack to try them out. The package features a dozen or more of each popular size, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, 00, and 000. Plus it comes with a simple to understand chart to help you calculate milligrams based on the different densities of powders. Check it out HERE on Amazon.
Do you need them to come pre-separated?
Many of the new generation capsule filling machines operate most efficiently with already separated capsules. These new machines make it easy to set up your filling station by pouring in the capsule tops and letting them settle into the proper holes. This goes for the bottom portions of the capsules, as well. When you’re doing 100 capsules at a time without the separated capsules, you will be required to remove all the tops manually, increasing the time by about 2 minutes per 100 and also increasing your frustration.
With capsule filling machines, such as the Cap M Quik and The Capsule Machine, separated are helpful too, but not as frustrating to use because you’re working with a smaller quantity. The professional capsule filling machine, The ProFill 100, a wonderful machine by the way, is best used with closed capsules as the machine separates them for you.
Expect to pay a little more for the convenience of separated capsules, about $5 more per 1000.
How about flavored capsules?
Alternative or other options
How about enteric coating or acid resistant coating to delay dissolution.
How many do you need?