The Reason Soda Tastes Different At Fast Food Restaurants

Calling all soda lovers — do you prefer your drink in a bottle, a can, or from a fountain? While some may think none of this makes a difference, true soda fans know that the serving method makes all the difference in the world. In fact, Insider went so far as to investigate these nuances. 

It turns out there are a whole bunch of factors that impact the way your soda tastes. One key differentiator is that fast food restaurants make their own soda in their machines, according to Insider. They add flavored syrup and carbonated water right into the fountain that will pour soda into your cup. This in itself will lead to a difference in taste. 

Then comes the ice, which most of us don't even bother adding when we drink from a can. The amount of ice you add makes a massive difference in the taste, as it dilutes the flavor. This brings us to a third variable — the water. Fast-food joints use anything from filtered to tap water, which will also play a part in the soda's outcome. Not to mention, ice quality also varies depending on the water used to make it.

It turns out even your straw has a say in the way your soda tastes, as Insider notes, with wider straws allowing more of that syrup's flavor to hit your taste buds.

Soda varies from one fast food chain to the next

When you consider all of the factors that go into making fountain soda, it's not surprising that the taste will also vary among fast-food restaurants. As HuffPost writes, chains might mix their syrup and water in different proportions, making your Sprite sweeter at, say, Sonic than at Arby's. Chains will also slightly vary in how much they carbonate their water, and, as mentioned above, where they get their water from (via TODAY). 

People notice the difference which is why Mashed conducted a survey asking which fast food restaurant has the best soda. While Taco Bell earned a respectable 15.5 percent of votes, 40 percent of soda drinkers picked McDonald's as the chain with the best-tasting soda. 

McDonald's does, after all, have a special relationship with Coca-Cola, according to The New York Times. It appears that while Coke delivers its product to other chains in plastic bags, syrup arrives at McDonald's in tanks, keeping it fresh.

Essentially, if it's flavor you want, we'd suggest you stick with a can. But if you're out for dinner and you simply have to order a drink, then your best bet is to skip the ice.