If the Cult Of Diet Coke were an actual cult, I would be Squeaky Fromme. (totally dedicated, strangely hot). Diet Coke and Oreos were my first food memories. I had yet to learn that the two beverages were of similar age. This week the silver can turned 40, which is too old and young. Unsurprisingly, I can imagine how it feels to turn 4o.
Diet Coke’s bubbly, tart flavor pairs well with sweet and savory foods. Diet Coke’s bubbly, acidic flavor pairs well with sweet and savory foods, including Thanksgiving Dinner. Diet Coke fans even drank her for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Now that I think about it, I don’t know anyone who drinks Diet Coke casually. We all have our little ranking system for Diet Coke, which we are happy to share with anyone (or no one) who asks. Cans and bottles are a matter of opinion, but almost everyone agrees that the McDonald’s fountain Diet Coke at the top of their list is the best. The other thing that we all agree on is? Diet Pepsi is never OK.
McDonald’s Diet Coke is perfect for three things: the temperature control, the consistency in syrup-to-water ratios, and that gorgeous straw. McDonald’s Diet Coke Fountains are not available to everyone, but you can still use their principles to make your own Diet Coke at home.
Syrup is the first step.
McDonald’s Diet Coke differs from other Diet Coke because of how the syrup is delivered to the restaurant. According to New York Times, most syrups are transported in plastic bags. McDonald’s provides theirs in stainless steel tanks which keep it fresher for longer.
There is also the issue of consistency (and cooling consistently). You might have experienced a bad experience if you had a soda fountain with an “off” syrup-to-water ratio. This is especially true if the soda is Diet Coke. McDonald’s avoids this by keeping their drinks super-cold and following a strict balance. From the website
Why is temperature critical?
Warm Diet Coca-Cola is disgusting. The taste is described as “blood-and-metal” and feels flat. According to New York Post, McDonald’s “soda waters are constantly recirculated in this tubing system, so they can stay between 33 and 38 degrees (just below freezing) at any time.
Cold liquids hold gases better than warm liquids, i.e., gas is more soluble in a cold drink. Cold beverages are better at retaining gases than warm liquids. This is because gas is more soluble when a liquid has a lower temperature. However, according to Scienceencing.com, changes in temperature or pressure can also impact pH.
McDonald’s is concerned about the temperature because warm Diet Coke lacks sourness, making it taste metallic and unbalanced.
The straw is only helpful for so much.
McDonald’s straws are perfect. The straw is more comprehensive than others, allowing for more bubbles to be produced per sip. However, even the best straws can only do a little if you are drinking a warm beverage or one that has been flattened. To test its power, I bought a large fountain of Diet Coke at McDonald’s and a 1-liter bottle of Diet Coke at my local Plaid Pantry.
I tried the Diet Coke in five different ways. From the McDonald’s Cup, using the McDonald’s Straw; directly from the 1-liter bottle without a straw, from the 1-liter bottle with a McDonald’s Straw; and poured with ice into a glass, with or without a McDonald’s Straw.
McDonald’s Fountain Diet Coke won out, but the McDonald’s 1-liter bottle came in second place, if only because the temperature was a little higher and therefore not as refreshing.
Diet Coke in a glass tasted terrible and almost flat, especially compared to McDonald’s soda. But that’s understandable. Pouring soda into a glass of ice and opening the can or bottle releases the pressure, but adding a nucleation site encourages fizzing. This allows the carbonation to be released into the air. Because of this, soda foams up so much when you pour it. This is also why I don’t ask for a drink with my Diet Coke can. The widest, best straw won’t be able to fix a nearly flat soda. It doesn’t matter how many bubbles the straw can hold if it’s not bubbly.
What should be done?
Although it’s impossible to duplicate the McDonald’s Diet Coke Delivery System at home, we can still learn a lot from their methods.
Store your Diet Coke in the coldest area of your refrigerator or place it in an ice bath before serving. Avoid transferring soda from the original container into a glass. You should avoid using larger bottles and cans, such as tallboys and 1-liter bottles. These bottles often require pouring into another container and lose carbonation each time they are opened.
Lifehacker senior health editor Beth Skwarecki (a Diet Coke lover) prefers the 500-milliliter bottle to “keep the cap on and maintain the fizz.” I, however, tend to choose the standard can because aluminum cools the beverage, and I consume them quickly enough to ensure they remain fizzy until the very last drop.
Know that not all soda machines are created equal. Find a machine you like and stick with it. Jake Peterson is Lifehacker’s senior tech editor. He says, “A good Fountain Diet Coke is my favorite, but I am always cautious because bad Fountain soda is bad..”
Getting an extra straw at the drive-through is always a good idea. This won’t fix a flat soda, but it does allow more carbonation per sip if any is available. It will improve your Diet Coke experience whether you drink from a can, a styrofoam 20-ounce bottle, or fancy glass bottles.