Is McDonalds Coca-Cola formulated/mixed differently than at other restaurants?

Is McDonalds Coke “better” than the Coke served at other restaurants? I’ve heard this claim from several friends, in two variations: either McDonalds has somehow struck a special deal with Coca-Cola allowing them to serve inherently “better” Coke, or McDonalds sets their postmix soda fountains to use a higher concentration of the otherwise identical Coke syrup when they mix it, resulting in a yummier beverage. However, I find it perfectly impossible to believe that a massively marketing-savvy company like Coca-Cola would allow its product consistency to be discarded so blithely.

I’ve searched the Intertubes for something approaching a reliable response, but all I’ve found out is that the question seems to be pretty commonly asked. Two of the more plausible theories I’ve read are that McDonalds is the only chain that has struck a deal with Coke to be able to serve Coke on draft (like beer from kegs), so it’s not mixed from syrup at all; or that McDonalds is the only chain that chills the Coke syrup itself, which intensifies the taste.

Does anyone have anything resembling hard info on this?

I don’t drink soda, so this isn’t from experience, but something I’ve heard in the past is that if restaurants don’t change their water filters often it slows the water flow thus winding up with off tasting soda since the mix is wrong. Is it possible that they do a better job of keeping their water filters changed and the lines nice and clean?
It could also just be that they are drinking their favorite soda with salty/sugary fries and their favorite burger and it’s that combo that makes it taste better.
Or, and this is really only true if it’s location specific but they could just have better tasting water which results in the soda tasting better.

I remember the first time I tried New Coke was at a McDonald’s off of I-90 in Ohio. It was actually pretty good; I wondered why everybody hated it.

The Coke products they serve at McDonald’s come in the form as anywhere else that serves from a machine. Each restaurant or bar that serves Coke can control two things: the mix (how much syrup per final volume of drink) and the level of carbonation. Typically, anyplace serving Coke on ice will run the syrup a little heavy, so when the ice begins to melt you’ll get the same mix as you’d get from Coke in a can.

The Coke delivered to McDonald’s is in no way labeled as being different than the Coke delivered anywhere else.

My information on mixes comes from running a bar at the Elks club and my information on the McDonald’s products comes from having a daughter that used to manage a McDonald’s.

I agree that it tastes different. I agree that it’s better.

One key difference for me is that a typical McDonalds drinking straw is substantially wider than a standard drinking straw. This allows a more pleasing experience, IMHO, that might make the cola taste a little better.

I always imagined that Coca Cola (or McDonalds) provides better QC at McDonalds locations, providing a more consistent drink.

Can’t imagine that they would be selling Coke from kegs. Imagine the amount of overhead in shipping and manhandling so much soda?
A Mickey-D’s employee should be able to set that one straight, pronto.

True… I guess I meant that the theory was plausible in that it would be a reason for the beverage to actually taste different, not in a logistical sense. :slight_smile:

I work for McDonald’s operations. I can you straight up those two theories are false.

And here’s the thing, we don’t really understand why customer’s like our Coke so much. It is the exact same syrup that everyone else gets. But McDonald’s and Coke have had a close relationship for a long time. The machines just work right, and the syrup ratio is tested and calibrated a lot in the stores. (I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think it’s every other week). Plus they’ve got a good group of servicers. Part of my job is reviewing problems with servicers (i.e., people coming out and doing a bad job fixing something). I rarely see a problem with Coke.


That’s obviously the reason why I like McD’s coke the mostest! All the QC on the soda fountain machines! It’s pretty rare for me to have a bad Coke at a McD’s restaurant. I actually will go to a McD’s just for one on the way home from work if I have had a tough day.

But, then again, I am particular about my soda. I even test the coke before I fill the cup wherever I get a soda.

In this order I prefer: fountain, glass bottle, can, and finally, plastic bottle. I can taste the difference.


I don’t know about Coke from McDonald’s, but the Dr Pepper tastes like shit from them. The only thing do right are the flurries.

It surely has something to do with the fact that you’re often eating salty fries with it - salt always makes sweet things taste better.

Re: the ‘keg’ coke/soda, that is called premix and IMHO coke from a bottle tastes better, though the single variable, the carbonation level, may be set too high from where I get it from.

Premix is fine for low volume applications, but for a fast food place I would say it would be a royal PITA to change those things.

I’d never heard this said about McDonald’s. Only about Sonic, where even the water will often taste different.

The Coke Syrup facilities package their syrup in two ways, the bag-in-a-box (5 gallon and 2.5 Gallon bliss boxes are two popular styles), and the big honking kegs that go to McDonald’s. The concentrate mix is the same, but the contact with the poly bag vs contact with the interior of the keg may impart some difference in taste. I used to supply the box part of the bag-in-a-box to their largest facility in the states, the Atlanta Syrup Branch.

The store I used to work at (12 years ago or so), piped in Coke syrup directly from the truck to three 70-gallon drums. Only two had syrup in them at any time, the third was then sanitized. The rest of our drinks came in the bag-in-a-box format (I think they were 5-gallon size, but not positive). Not sure how they do it now.

Same stuff. But they keep their taps clean (a lot of dudes don’t do this, it gets moldy in there!), change their water filters, and use the proper mix. In other words, it does taste better as McD’s is cleaner.

I think the water is the thing that differs most from restaurant to restaurant.

Water is indeed different in different areas of the country. Short of energy wasting distilling or water wasting reverse osmosis, it’ll be very difficult indeed for a restaurant to make their water taste the same in every area of the country.

The amount of carbonation has a huge affect, too. Little mom and pop places are likely to let their CO2 bottles run out until nearly the very end (I’ve worked at a place like that). McDonald’s will take great measures to ensure that their CO2 farm is running in top shop (I’ve worked there, too).

Calibration of the equipment (the CO2 plant and the soda dispensers) is critical as well. Again, a place with an engineered system such as McDonald’s will tend to make this a priority.

Hygiene is important. During my time in McDonald’s decades ago, the machines were constantly being cleaned. Little mom and pops, maybe not so much.

I have a draft beer setup setup at home. If the serving pressure isn’t right, the beer doesn’t dispense right. In the course of time, the amount of CO2 in the beer will change, affecting its taste and mouth feel. For beer, serving temperature is more important than iced soft drinks, since I don’t tend to serve beer over ice. And lastly, hygiene is critical. The entire system gets sanitized with every keg change, regardless of how anxious I am to start serving the beer.

Does anyone else think the Diet Coke tastes awful? I agree that the regular Coke is better than normal, but the Diet Coke is well below par.

Hmm. I disagree. I’m a Diet Dr Pepper fiend … except at McDonald’s. Even now that I’m living in Oregon, where McDonald’s has both Diet Coke and Diet Dr Pepper on tap, I prefer McD’s Diet Coke.

Quality control at McD’s is top notch. Meaning not that you have sirloin in the burgers, but rather that corporate is all over the franchisees’ asses to make sure that they get it right. The other really big chains do this too. I know that if I go to McD’s, I’m going to get the exact same thing I got at another store on another continent.

Now despite regularly enjoying Jack In The Box, Burger King and McD’s, if I am in the mood for fries, McD’s has the best fast food fries by far. Sandwich depends on whether I’m in a Whopper or two BigMacs mood. Jack has good tacos and bowls.