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1. Overview

As Java developers, we often write code that iterates over a set of elements and performs an operation on each one. The Java 8 streams library and its forEach method allow us to write that code in a clean, declarative manner.

While this is similar to loops, we are missing the equivalent of the break statement to abort iteration. A stream can be very long, or potentially infinite, and if we have no reason to continue processing it, we would want to break from it, rather than wait for its last element.

In this tutorial, we’re going to look at some mechanisms that allow us to simulate a break statement on a Stream.forEach operation.

2. Java 9’s Stream.takeWhile()

Let’s suppose we have a stream of String items and we want to process its elements as long as their lengths are odd.

Let’s try the Java 9 Stream.takeWhile method:

Stream.of("cat", "dog", "elephant", "fox", "rabbit", "duck")
  .takeWhile(n -> n.length() % 2 != 0)

If we run this, we get the output:


Let’s compare this with the equivalent code in plain Java using a for loop and a break statement, to help us see how it works:

List<String> list = asList("cat", "dog", "elephant", "fox", "rabbit", "duck");
for (int i = 0; i < list.size(); i++) {
    String item = list.get(i);
    if (item.length() % 2 == 0) {

As we can see, the takeWhile method allows us to achieve exactly what we need.

But what if we haven’t adopted Java 9 yet? How can we achieve a similar thing using Java 8?

3. A Custom Spliterator

Let’s create a custom Spliterator that will work as a decorator for a Stream.spliteratorWe can make this Spliterator perform the break for us.

First, we’ll get the Spliterator from our stream, then we’ll decorate it with our CustomSpliterator and provide the Predicate to control the break operation. Finally, we’ll create a new stream from the CustomSpliterator:

public static <T> Stream<T> takeWhile(Stream<T> stream, Predicate<T> predicate) {
    CustomSpliterator<T> customSpliterator = new CustomSpliterator<>(stream.spliterator(), predicate);
    return, false);

Let’s look at how to create the CustomSpliterator:

public class CustomSpliterator<T> extends Spliterators.AbstractSpliterator<T> {

    private Spliterator<T> splitr;
    private Predicate<T> predicate;
    private boolean isMatched = true;

    public CustomSpliterator(Spliterator<T> splitr, Predicate<T> predicate) {
        super(splitr.estimateSize(), 0);
        this.splitr = splitr;
        this.predicate = predicate;

    public synchronized boolean tryAdvance(Consumer<? super T> consumer) {
        boolean hadNext = splitr.tryAdvance(elem -> {
            if (predicate.test(elem) && isMatched) {
            } else {
                isMatched = false;
        return hadNext && isMatched;

So, let’s take a look at the tryAdvance method. We can see here that the custom Spliterator processes the elements of the decorated Spliterator. The processing is done as long as our predicate is matched and the initial stream still has elements. When either of the conditions becomes false, our Spliterator “breaks” and the streaming operation ends.

Let’s test our new helper method:

public void whenCustomTakeWhileIsCalled_ThenCorrectItemsAreReturned() {
    Stream<String> initialStream = 
      Stream.of("cat", "dog", "elephant", "fox", "rabbit", "duck");

    List<String> result = 
      CustomTakeWhile.takeWhile(initialStream, x -> x.length() % 2 != 0)

    assertEquals(asList("cat", "dog"), result);

As we can see, the stream stopped after the condition was met. For testing purposes, we’ve collected the results into a list, but we could also have used a forEach call or any of the other functions of Stream.

4. A Custom forEach

While providing a Stream with the break mechanism embedded can be useful, it may be simpler to focus on just the forEach operation.

Let’s use the Stream.spliterator directly without a decorator:

public class CustomForEach {

    public static class Breaker {
        private boolean shouldBreak = false;

        public void stop() {
            shouldBreak = true;

        boolean get() {
            return shouldBreak;

    public static <T> void forEach(Stream<T> stream, BiConsumer<T, Breaker> consumer) {
        Spliterator<T> spliterator = stream.spliterator();
        boolean hadNext = true;
        Breaker breaker = new Breaker();

        while (hadNext && !breaker.get()) {
            hadNext = spliterator.tryAdvance(elem -> {
                consumer.accept(elem, breaker);

As we can see, the new custom forEach method calls a BiConsumer providing our code with both the next element and a breaker object it can use to stop the stream.

Let’s try this out in a unit test:

public void whenCustomForEachIsCalled_ThenCorrectItemsAreReturned() {
    Stream<String> initialStream = Stream.of("cat", "dog", "elephant", "fox", "rabbit", "duck");
    List<String> result = new ArrayList<>();

    CustomForEach.forEach(initialStream, (elem, breaker) -> {
        if (elem.length() % 2 == 0) {
        } else {

    assertEquals(asList("cat", "dog"), result);

5. Conclusion

In this article, we looked at ways to provide the equivalent of calling break on a stream. We saw how Java 9’s takeWhile solves most of the problem for us and how to provide a version of that for Java 8.

Finally, we looked at a utility method which can provide us with the equivalent of a break operation while iterating on a Stream.

As always, the example code can be found over on GitHub.

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