If you’ve ever ordered a Coke at McDonald’s and thought it tasted better than any other soda in your life, you’re not alone. And the taste difference isn’t in your head.
McDonald’s takes better care of its Coca-Cola than most restaurants. The companies have a tight relationship, so they can tag-team promotions and new products, according to the New York Times. And that close bond pays off every time a customer sips a soda.
It all starts with the packaging. Typically, restaurants get their soda syrups in plastic bags, but Coca-Cola does something different for McDonald’s. The fast food chain gets its Coke syrup delivered in stainless steel tanks. According to the New York Times, the material keeps the soda fresher, and your tongue can taste the difference.
Once the syrups reach the restaurant, soda doesn’t just become an afterthought. Both the syrup and the water (which goes through “proper filtration methods”) get pre-chilled before going into the soda fountain, according to the McDonald’s website. Other places might rely on the dispenser itself to chill lukewarm water, but McDonald’s uses insulated tubes to deliver the liquid from the fridge to the fountain, keeping the liquid as chilled as possible, according to the New York Post.
For one thing, this gives McDonald’s a head start in delivering the ice cold Coca-Cola you crave. But that’s not all—cold water is also better for the carbonation. As soda warms up, the CO2 wants to escape quicker, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara. So because the water is kept so cold at McDonald’s, that gas doesn’t escape, and you maintain your fizz.
Still, the fast food chain is well aware that your soda will start to go from refreshingly cold to lukewarm the moment you pour it out. Of course customers add ice to keep it chilled, but that can mean watered-down Coke. Ugh. To fight against that, the company says it makes sure it uses “the ratio of syrup set to allow for ice to melt.” At home, learn how to keep your iced coffee from watering down.
The soda itself isn’t the only difference, though. McDonald’s also has different straws than you typically use. “It’s slightly wider than a typical straw, so all that Coke taste can hit all your tastebuds,” writes the company.
And Coke isn’t the only food the restaurant does particularly well. Learn the secret ingredient that makes McDonald’s fries so addictive.