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Why soda tastes better cold (PS: It’s not just a temperature thing)

Ice cold cola with bubbles

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Especially when it’s a hot day, or you’re just super thirsty, there’s nothing like a nice, icy soda. But have you ever wondered why soda tastes so much better when it’s cold?

Chill out, pop!

One thing that is well-known in the science and soda worlds: cold water holds a lot more carbonation than its warmer counterpart. Those delectable little bubbles won’t survive long in the heat.

Carbon dioxide is more soluble in chilled water, meaning it can create more and better fizz than when the water merely cool (or warmer). 

So what is the “best” temperature for your cola or other soda? While that’s often a matter of personal taste, a spokesperson for Pepsi told Michigan Live that their drink’s optimal temp is 42 degrees F.

Coke says that it’s important to be sure that all of their fountain sodas are is chilled to below 40° F when dispensed, because if they’re not, they tend to foam, losing their carbonation and delivering a flat-tasting beverage. Also, a warmer temp would make it more quickly melt ice, resulting in a weak, watery-tasting drink.

Woman drinking a cold soda at an outdoor restaurant table

What’s cooler than being cool?

If you’ve ever been around wine connoisseurs, you know people can be quite particular when it comes to the serving temperature of those beverages.

Wine needs to be consumed at its ideal temperature in order to appreciate the nuances of these flavors at their finest. Soft drinks do, too — except it’s all about the cold.

Many people think that restaurant servers add too much ice to drinks -– maybe to serve less soda per serving, or just to fill in after an underpour.

While we can’t say that’s not sometimes the case, it’s especially because those frozen cubes also help keep the soda at its ideal temperature. Ice cold? Not quite, but pretty close to it.

What's cooler than being cool (Ice cold) - Outkast
I say  — what’s, what’s cooler than being cool? (Ice cold!) – Outkast

Why soda tastes better cold

Our tongues don’t taste sweet things when they’re cold as well as we do when they’re warm, soda makers add extra sweeteners to maintain the flavor we know and love.

Not only does soda have to strike a balance between its sweet and sour and bitter flavors, but it has to do it when the soda is cold. That means, however, that when soda gets warm, more of the sweetness and other flavors come out, distorting the taste when compared to the chilled drink.

Offbeat liquid refreshments like hot Dr Pepper aside, for the most delicious drinking, that soda needs to stay cold. The whole experience is engineered to create a delicious experience within the human mouth (and mind).

Diet drinks: Cool is sweet, hot is not

If you’ve ever made the mistake of leaving your diet soda in the car during the summer, you might have learned this hard way: aspartame can’t take the heat.

The faux sweet stuff loses its flavor when exposed to heat, which makes warm diet soda taste about as good as dishwater. The heat issue is also why recipes that require cooking or baking don’t include aspartame.

Of course, not all diet sodas have aspartame (aka Equal or Nutrasweet), but it’s a common sweetener for pre-packaged and/or fountain drinks. 

Blood orange sodas with fruit slices
Photo by elenashashkina/Freepik

Warm soda? No thanks

All that said, there are plenty of people who prefer their soda to be closer to room temperature. In fact, in much of Europe, sodas are often served near room temperature, and usually without ice.

While some Americans have suggested that the difference is because Europeans don’t want their drinks watered down, it could simply be how they have always been served soft drinks, so that’s what they’re used to.

Particularly abroad, very small restaurants and cafes don’t always have an icemaker or an abundance of ice available — but whether that’s why people have become accustomed to warmer sodas or a result of this preference isn’t clear.

Bottom line: If you want to drink your soda the way that the peeps who make Coke and Pepsi and 7-Up suggest, you’ll have it chilled, on ice. A little paper umbrella is completely optional. 

ALSO SEE: Which soda is more popular: Coke or Pepsi?

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