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Old 17 April 2009, 10:03 PM
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Icon24 McDonald's and Coca-Cola

One common fast food rumor is that the Coca-Cola served at McDonald's restaurants tastes "different" (usually described as having a greater cinnamon presence) than the Coca-Cola found everywhere else. For example, here's a previous thread on the topic from the old board:

http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/u...;f=58;t=001061

I posed this question to a McDonald's media relations representative today, and she provided the same answer that others have suggested: the difference in taste is due to a "syrup-to-carbonation ratio unique to McDonald's"."

However, this response raised a few more questions in my mind:

1) Is this a plausible answer? I've certainly had my fair share of over- and under-carbonated Coca-Cola, and none of it tasted like the Coke at McDonald's.

2) What benefit does McDonald's derive from offering a version of Coca-Cola that tastes distinctly different than that which is served everywhere else?
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  #2  
Old 18 April 2009, 12:46 AM
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FWIW, I was once talking to my dad about the Mr. Pibb at our local Dairy Queen tasting much sweeter and more cherry-flavored than I've ever tasted it anywhere else, and he seemed pretty sure that it was due to a different syrup-to-carbonation ratio (based on his experience working at McDonald's many years ago - he worked with the machines that mixed the sodas).

Seems plausible to me, although I don't know much about Coca-Cola and its taste (I'm not too fond of that particular drink, personally).
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Old 18 April 2009, 01:53 AM
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I am a little surprised that the Coca-Cola company would be ok with McDonalds having their own "version" of Coke (if it's true). The Coca-Cola people act like their formula is so amazing and top secret, so it seems weird that they would be fine with the taste being purposefully altered.

Also, aren't there only so many syrup-to-carbonation ratios that would work? So wouldn't there be other restaurants that could inadvertantly (or not) use the same ratio?
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Old 18 April 2009, 02:17 AM
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This metafilter thread suggests it's because of McDonalds' quality control.
http://ask.metafilter.com/23785/good...-taste-of-soda
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Old 18 April 2009, 03:31 AM
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It does seem surprising on the face of it, as Mrs. Matthews said; but I often suspect that that kind of talk from big corporations with an interest in "brand identity" is just rhetoric. The very fact that they're prepared to sell Coke (or other soft drinks) as a syrup to retailers, as well as in their own (or their licensed bottlers) bottles and cans to different strengths, and also that they have different recipes for different locales - the "corn syrup" versus "sugar" recipe is often mentioned and apparently tastes distinctly different although branded identically - suggests to me that they don't actually care that much what the product you drink tastes like, as long as it's got their logo on it and they're being paid.

The selling point is the brand, not the taste. The "New Coke" thing also seems to demonstrate that.

Last edited by Richard W; 18 April 2009 at 03:38 AM. Reason: The database errored when I tried to post and the wrong version ended up posted...
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Old 18 April 2009, 02:31 PM
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Not to mention that, in my experience, Coke from restaurants varies from city to city because the mineral content of the water varies. In fact, no two bottle batches of Coke are probably exactly alike chemically, unless the water is distilled, because cities vary how much chlorine and other chemicals they use depending on what bacteria they find in the water from day to day.
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Old 18 April 2009, 02:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs. Matthews View Post
I am a little surprised that the Coca-Cola company would be ok with McDonalds having their own "version" of Coke (if it's true). The Coca-Cola people act like their formula is so amazing and top secret, so it seems weird that they would be fine with the taste being purposefully altered.
Indeed. Coca Cola send out their own auditors (at least in the UK) to ensure uniformity of Coke served in restaurants.
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Old 18 April 2009, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
2) What benefit does McDonald's derive from offering a version of Coca-Cola that tastes distinctly different than that which is served everywhere else?
I don't know if McDonald's Coke tastes any different than anyplace else (I only drink diet and all diet fountain cola tastes similar to me regardless of brand or mixture) but there is one possible benefit of having a distinct version of Coke. It would be the same has having a distinct blend of coffee or hamburger or any other menu offering. Those that either get used to that taste or prefer it, have to go to McDonald's to get it.
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Old 19 April 2009, 06:50 AM
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Thank goodness I saw this thread! I thought it was just my imagination that coke products at McDonalds taste different. I have always thought so. I have been known to go out of my way to get a diet coke from MickyD's. It's more flavorful than many other places. I always thought they used more syrup in their mixture as diet coke I have gotten else where usually tastes watered down.

I went to the World of Coke museum recently in downtown Atlanta. It was very interesting. I wish they still had old fashioned soda fountains. I get the impression it was quite an art to get just the right mixture for a good soda.
I tried around 40 different drinks in the tasting room. Most countries don't have the diet drinks like we do here. I was feeling quite ill when I left the tasting room.

Wild~just give me a diet coke~Redhead
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Old 19 April 2009, 07:08 AM
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IMO it's two things. Well, maybe three:

1. There's a wee bit more syrup in McDonald's Coke than elsewhere and in bottles. Not much, but a little more. That makes it sweeter.

2. The straws you get at McDonald's are thicker, which changes the taste.

3. Unlike, say, 7/11 or a gas station, the syrup and carbonation at McDonald's is checked and changed regularly. A big part of this is McDonald's quality control, as has been mentioned, but another huge aspect is the simple fact that McDonald's sells so much Coke that they have to replace stuff pretty regularly.
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Old 19 April 2009, 04:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny Slick View Post
The straws you get at McDonald's are thicker, which changes the taste.
Sorry, but I haven't found that Coca-Cola from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carl's Jr. tastes any different when drunk through a McDonald's straw (or vice-versa).

Quote:
Unlike, say, 7/11 or a gas station, the syrup and carbonation at McDonald's is checked and changed regularly.
Probably so, but I doubt that no other restaurant chain which serves Coca-Cola has quality control comparable to McDonald's.

Quote:
another huge aspect is the simple fact that McDonald's sells so much Coke that they have to replace stuff pretty regularly.
There are plenty of other food/drink outlets that go through more Coca-Cola per day than some McDonald's outlets, yet I've never encountered one which offers Coke that tastes like McDonald's.
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Old 19 April 2009, 04:58 PM
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I very, very rarely buy Coke at McDonald's, because I'm a vegetarian, and there is NOTHING at McDonald's I can eat. Maybe once a year, I would stop by for just a drink on a road trip. So I'm trying to recall if McDonald's Coke has a distinctive taste. It seems to me that the difference between restaurant vs. bottled is greater than the difference between any one restaurant vs. another, but maybe I'll get a McDonald's Coke today just to see.

BTW, is it true that fountain diet drinks have saccharine? I recall reading somewhere that NutraSweet isn't stable enough to serve in fountain drinks, but this was some time ago, so maybe that's changed.

Going to search this.
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Old 19 April 2009, 05:07 PM
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Aha: http://www.boston.com/news/local/art...t_cola_drinks/.

Quote:
Unlike bottled Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, which are sweetened solely with aspartame, fountain Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are sweetened with a blend of aspartame and saccharin, which was once listed by the government as a carcinogen.
...
Coke uses a saccharin-aspartame blend in its fountain drinks because it creates a more stable sweetener, Crockett said.
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Old 19 April 2009, 05:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
I very, very rarely buy Coke at McDonald's, because I'm a vegetarian, and there is NOTHING at McDonald's I can eat.
Au contraire, I used to work with a woman who couldn't eat beef for religious reasons. On overtime the ever generous company would spring for a McDonalds take out, and she's ask us to get her a "Big Mac, no meat." Basically as you would think "special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles all in a sesame seed bun"

Now I'm thinking that probably isn't nice on any level, and we did offer always to get her something from one of the various other eateries we had to pass to get to McDonald's that would be acceptable to her, but that's what she wanted so...Also it was good fun to see the look on the counter assistant's face when one placed this special order.
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Old 19 April 2009, 05:39 PM
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The machine that manages the syrups at McDonald's is huge, much different than any other store. It's the size of a powder room. The syrup is sent in roughly milk crate size boxes.
It's different than in smaller stores.
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Old 19 April 2009, 08:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Sorry, but I haven't found that Coca-Cola from Burger King or Jack in the Box or Carl's Jr. tastes any different when drunk through a McDonald's straw (or vice-versa).
Without getting into any of the other points (mostly because I strongly dislike all fountain drinks and drink them too rarely to know whether I dislike them more from one chain than another- even if I do buy fast food, I'll drink whatever I've got at home with it. Which is to say, Coke from a can.) I can't help but wonder at this.

Do you commonly switch your straws around, or was this an intentional experiment?
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Old 19 April 2009, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by imjustasteph View Post
Do you commonly switch your straws around, or was this an intentional experiment?
I have, for the sake of convenience and the avoidance of needless waste (usually during long drives), occasionally used cups and straws obtained at one outlet to consume soda purchased from a different outlet.
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Old 19 April 2009, 10:41 PM
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Last week I did notice a high cinnamony content in my McDonald's Coke. At the time I thought it was some sort of taste fallout from having drunk a Simply Lemonade with real sugar in it (no, I don't know how that would work. It just stuck in my mind because I drank both items within a couple hours of each other). Perhaps some sort of blindfolded/straw-switching taste test is in order.
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Old 20 April 2009, 02:12 AM
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Quality control my hairy posterior! I dislike root beer and I can detect it pretty well, and I've been in many McDonald's (and other restaurants) where the Coke or Diet Coke has been "tainted" with root beer - sometimes so much so that I have to exchange the drink.

One thing I have noticed is that I rarely, if ever, get a "flat" soft-drink from McD's. Always lots of carbonation. But is the taste different? Once it goes flat, it's the same old thing.
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Old 20 April 2009, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hero_Mike View Post
Quality control my hairy posterior! I dislike root beer and I can detect it pretty well, and I've been in many McDonald's (and other restaurants) where the Coke or Diet Coke has been "tainted" with root beer - sometimes so much so that I have to exchange the drink.
Back when I was still drinking sodas with sugar, I often noticed some fast food places would have tainted machines. I think they didn't clean them often or well enough, because it was always the ones with a single nozzle (as opposed to one with a different one for each soda). I can't stand the taste of diet colas (although diet fruit sodas are quite nice), so I was very attuned to having the aura of diet coke in my regular coke. There was one place in particular where I could taste pretty much every soda in the machine in their "cola."

McDonald's, oddly enough, was never one of the restaurants where I had this problem. Even though I was a Coke fan, I never noticed anything particular about the Coke at McDonald's at all. I've been off sugared sodas for so long now, though, that the last couple times I had a sip of one, it tasted weird and unpleasant. So I couldn't try out McDonald's Coke to see if it tastes weird now.

There was another fast food restaurant that served Pepsi that I enjoyed particularly because of the high syrup content. It was like crack. My SO would get his drink there if I were getting food there, even if he was getting food elsewhere.
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