Refreshing, bubbly, and crisp—nothing compares to the first sip of a Coke under the Golden Arches. And we mean nothing.
If you’ve ever gone out of your way to get to a McDonald’s just to satisfy a craving for their tongue-tingling Coca-Cola, you know how special the fast food giant’s soda is.
The Coca-Cola from McDonald’s manages to taste crisper, sharper, even fresher than the same drink from other fast-food restaurants. It’s almost as if they make the Coke taste better so you’ll come in for a “medium Coke, please” and decide, “sure, I’ll take a medium fry.” (Who among us hasn’t?)
Truth is, the Coke from McDonald’s isn’t magic. They just use really smart storage tactics and clever drink-mixing strategies to make their Coca-Cola refreshments stand out among the many purveyors of pop.
Here, a step-by-step guide to understanding why McDonald’s Coke is so special:
McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have had a unique relationship since Ray Kroc had the dream to expand the little hamburger joint into a fast-food goliath. He asked Coca-Cola to join him on the adventure, and they agreed. The two have been inseparable since.
It’s no wonder then that Coca-Cola has helped McDonald’s devise special storage techniques that make their soda so distinct (techniques that no one else uses, mind you).
While most restaurants have their soda syrup delivered to them in plastic bags, McDonald’s Coca-Cola syrup is stored in stainless steel tanks. This preserves the syrup’s flavor and protects it from temperature, light, and air, all things that can degrade the flavor quickly. The stuff in the bags doesn’t stand a chance.
Consistent Water Filtration
McDonald’s operates almost 37,000 restaurants across the globe, and at each one, you can guarantee the Cokes will be almost identical. That’s in part because McDonald’s filters their water many times over to maintain consistent flavor and quality.
They have to do this because different municipalities have different water sources. That means the tastes can vary from one city block to another. But with the advanced water filtration system, McDonald’s can get a better result time and time again, no matter the quality they start with.
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Most fountain drink machines flash-chill sodas as they’re dispensed from the spigot. It gets them cooler, sure, but not cold.
McDonald’s pre-chills their syrup. (They also pre-chill the water—more on that to come.) Most restaurants leave the syrup sitting in the plastic bags in a hallway or under a soda fountain. The syrup bags are, at best, room temperature and, at worst, warmer because of the kitchen’s hot climate.
McDonald’s also mixes their syrup-to-water ratio to account for ice melt. That means the drink has a slightly higher ratio at sip number one to make sure that sips four, five, and six are supremely refreshing too. This is also why you should never order your McDonald’s Coca-Cola without ice. You’d be totally messing with the carefully designed soda experience.
In addition to pre-chilling their syrup and filtering their water through an advanced system, McDonald’s also keeps the water for their sodas incredibly cold. Insulated tubes carry water that’s stored at just above freezing from the fridge in the back of the restaurant to the fountain drink dispenser in the front.
The temperature of the water is also optimized for peak carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Indeed, CO2 doesn’t escape as easily from really cold liquids, so this temperature is designed to be both more refreshing and to keep your pop bubbly and crisp longer.
Compare a McDonald’s straw to that of any other fast-food chain, and you’ll see a size difference: McDonald’s is wider.
“It’s slightly wider than a typical straw so all that Coke® taste can hit your taste buds,” McDonald’s says on their website.
Perhaps it’s all about the flavor experience. Or perhaps it’s designed to make me drink more so that I wish I’d gotten the large instead of the medium.
Is that a lot of steps for something as simple as a drink? Sure. But if you’ve ever craved a Coke from McDonald’s, you’ve proved precisely why they go through the painstaking effort to make their sodas so special.